It’s always fun to see the brown truck driving up our little country road in the woods, but yesterday morning was special, and I had muffins and coffee ready for the driver. That’s because I knew what was headed for my hot little hands. It’s always nice to get new gear to review and share the information with others, but when you’re having something delivered to you that’s considered a revolution in technology for its sector, well, that creates just a bit more anticipation than normal. So, I was extra nice to the delivery guy. The product of which I’m speaking is the Lifesaver Bottle manufactured and distributed by Lifesaver Systems. (Next Page For Entire Review)
Essentially, it’s a water bottle that filters/purifies water, but it’s so much more than that. I first heard about the Lifesaver Bottle last last year when I saw a news article about it on cable TV. Since that time, this product has been in extremely high demand and very hard to obtain. In the interim, it has already won several awards for its new and revolutionary technology. Michael Prichard, inventor and CEO of LifeSystems was inspired to create the LifeSaver bottle after seeing news about the Tsunami victims in Indonesia and then by the events that transpired after Hurricane Katrina that hit the United States. It was those two events that spurred on his three year effort to create a product that would not only fit in with recreational activities, but serve a more important purpose in providing products to aid third-world countries and natural disaster relief sites. That, in itself, deserves a nod of gratitude, because based on my experience today using this bottle, I truly believe they’ve got something really special on their hands.
I threw a couple of articles up on the site yesterday morning, and then I took off for the day to give the bottle a work-out and see what insights I could glean from its method of operation and from the way the components are put together. Having just recently moved back to my old home of West Virginia, I searched my mind for a good spot to use the Lifesaver bottle. I stumbled across a memory from my youth where we used to go fishing down by the Guyandotte River. I can still remember the chicken livers we used as bait as we drug them across the bottom trying to find some kind of mutie fish that would be a historic find. It never happened. But, they were fun and lazy days from the summers of my childhood and just revisiting that spot for the first time in over twenty years brought back a wave of nostalgia that took me back to those simpler days. It’s amazing how much smaller things seem when you’re an adult compared to how you saw them as a child. The river no longer looked as ominous as it once loomed in my mind. In all fairness to my memories, though, from the appearance of the surrounding banks, it appeared that the water level was much lower than during earlier times. As you can see from the GPS Plot in the picture, it has me standing right in the river. That would have been true if the river was at the normal levels that I remembered from before. I’m not sure if that’s something that has happened over the years or just a result of a moderately dry summer. Either way, it was good to be back home.
From the outside, the Lifesaver Bottle looks somewhat similar to some of the other water filter bottles that have been on the market for the past couple of years. But, once you dig into the technical specs on the bottle, you’ll gain a higher level of respect for this marvel of innovation. One of the problems with water filters in the past is that they typically do well to just filter out bacteria such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium. These are two varieties of bacteria that can cause some very nasty digetive tract problems in weeks following an outdoors jaunt. There have also been several other methods developed to take care of these bacteria as well. Chemical treatments such as iodine, potassium permanganate, and even household bleach have been used instead of or in conjunction with mechanical water filters. One of the problems with the chemical methods is that they usually leave a foul taste in the water. The other problem most don’t take care of viruses that you may encounter in water that’s stagnate or is ridden with animal or human conamination. It wasn’t until recently that another chemical treatment method hit the market that would allow for treating both bacteria and viruses.
Usually viruses aren’t a real concern in flowing water that’s found in most industrialized countries. They are typically encountered in locations where animals and humans drink and/or bathe in the same body from which they draw their drinking water. As mentioned, additional products have been introduced to the market to address the virus problem at the same time the bacteria is being eliminated. One example is chlorine dioxide tablets which kills both viruses and bacteria, but you have to wait up to four hours after treatment to ensure that the Cryptosporidum bacteria has been fully eliminated. These tablets, while handy on the trail for a few days of backpacking, aren’t the complete answer for someone needing a long-term treatment solution just because fo the sheer number that would be needed over time. And, they are somewhat inconvenient because you have to schedule your water gathering and treatment to account for the four-hour treatment time for Cryptosporidium. I discuss the pros and cons of several treatment methods in a recent review that I did on one of my favorite water purifying devices that I have found–the Hydrophton SteriPen.
However, the Lifesaver Bottle detours around all of the potential problems of an electronic purifying device and still retains the ability to instantly deal with both bacteria and viruses–no batteries required. The truly innovative component of the Lifesaver bottle that distinguishes it from other purifying devices is that it uses very, very fine membranes to separate both bacteria and viruses water from the water. They call these their Ultra Filtration Membranes which are housed in their UF Cartridge. Bacteria typically run from 100 nanometers to 200 nanometers, and viruses can be as small as 25 nanometers. That’s why most filters won’t work for viruses. The filter pores are simply to large to strain them out. That has been the shortcoming of filter systems for many years, but that’s finally changed. The filter that is employed in the Lifesaver Bottle has pores that are only 15 nanometers wide. By today’s standards, that size of pores in a water filter is a fantastic step forward in the industry because viruses can be elminated without the use of chemicals and/or electronic components such as UV lights, batteries and auxiliary chargers. Moreover, this makes the filtering process much simpler for the end user. And, if you think about it, the places where viruses pose the greatest threat in drinking water are usually the same places that do not have great experience with technology as an every day part of life. So, the straightforward and simple process that’s required to employ the Lifesaver Bottle can be quickly taught to and mastered by those that need to use them. It truly is a marvel of engineering that can change the quality of life for people all around the world!
Just about every water filtering device is subject to one common rule. Its service life is dependent on how heavily contaminated or dirty the water you’re treating is each time you use it. For that reason, the Lifesaver Bottle also has a pre-filter at the bottom of the bottle where you actually fill the bottle. That pre-filter is intended to help keep out the larger sediments that might be in the water and to increase the service life of the active filters within the bottle. It also helps to screen out larger sediments that can be in the water and give it a gritty taste. The pre-filter is a round disc that looks and feels like a sponge. In fact, the manual indicates one use for it might be as a sponge to sop up water from hard-to-reach places where your bottle might not fit. That’s a good thought and a nice touch to the whole set-up. Aside from having the Ultra Filtration cartridge that has the 15 nanometer pores to truly purify the drinking water and the Pre-Filter on the bottom, the Lifesaver Bottle also has an activated carbon filter that is mounted just below the drinking spout or "teat" as it’s called by the company. The activated carbon adds yet another step in the filtering process that’s a bonus for the end user. From the LIFESAVER Bottle’s User’s Manual, "The activated carbon filter is made of high specification activated carbon which reduces a broad spectrum of chemical residues including pesticides, endocrine disrupting compounds, medical residues and heavy metals." This particular use for activated carbon is not a trade secret and it has been used in the past by other companies’ water filters, and for good effect. An additional benefit of the activated carbon filter can help eliminate foul tastes from such sources such as hard water and water laden with chemicals like bleach and iodine. So, within the Lifesaverbottle, there are actually two separate filters, one that elminiates bacteria and viruses and a second filter to help remove chemicals and improve the taste of the water.
While the Lifesaver Bottle is very simple to master, it does employ some mechanical principles to work properly. Once you have dipped the bottle into the water source to fill it, you then screw on the main bottom cap to seal it up. Once that’s completed, you twist a thin pump-handle top that’s at the very bottom of the bottle under the main bottom cap. After you twist that pump top, it will slide out of some holding notches, and you simply pump it a few times to start the filtering process. You don’t have to pump it too much. It just takes a few strokes. The bottle works a bit like a Super-Soaker. For those of you that have worked with a white gas stove where you have to pump the bottle a few times to create enough pressure to feed the gas out to the stove, it’s just like that process as well. You’ll probably be surprised the first time you try it, because after you get done giving it a few good pumps, snap open the cap and then open the teat, the water is going to spray out of the bottle! Be ready to catch it in something or drink it quickly! In fact, if you pump the bottle too much, the teat will actually pop open on its own underneath the yellow snap-fit cap and when you open the cap you could immediatley be treated to a geyser of water spewing up without warning. That is actually a design feature to ensure that the bottle doesn’t contain too much pressure. But, if you’ve given just the right number of pumps, all you have to do is pop open the cap and then pull on the teat with your teeth and start drinking away.
After a bit, the pressure in the bottle will start decreasing and the flow will diminish, but that’s easily taken care of by giving the bottle a few more pumps to increase the pressure again. Drink and then repeat the pumping process until your thirst has been quenched. It’s just that easy! Once you’ve finished, you simply push the teat back in, close the snap-cap cover, and then push the pump handle in far enough so that you can twist is back into its locking notches again. All done! The one thing that I immediately noticed while pumping the water in the bottle through the filtering process is that you get a very good flow of water. The specifications listed on Lifesavers Systems website indicate an initial water flow of 2.5 liters per minute. Most hand-held fiters will typically give you around 1 liter a minute water flow. This bottle is very easy to use and provides little resistence when pumping water through the Ultra Filter Membranes. That means less fatique once you’re done, and that’s no small benefit after a long day on the trail! Each time I got done with the process, I did notice that there was still a small amount of water still in the bottle that would not come out. I suppose that the bottle requires a certain amount of water to be able to function properly. I would estimate that about 10 to 12 percent of the 750ML of water was left inside once I had run the course of filtering and emptying one full bottle of water. I saw that as no real problem as the bottle is just as easily filled again to repeat the process. On the trail or out in the field (for military), however, I think one would be wise to have a secondary storage container to dispense the filtered water into via the Lifesaver Bottle. While nice to have a bottle filter that you can drink from, 750ML isn’t a lot to carry with you between water sources, especially when approximately 10% of that amount will remain in the bottle after you’ve emptied it as much as you can.
One aspect of the bottle construction that I was curious about and paid attention to while filling the bottle was how water-tight the yellow snap-fit teat cover was during the filling process. In order to easily fill the bottle to the top from a stream, river or creek, you have to invert the bottle almost completely so that the top portion of the bottle where the teat and snap-fit cap are located is actually under water. My concern was that if you’re dipping the top of the bottle down into a contaminated source, it would leak and allow cotaminated water to get in around the teat from which a person would drink. It wouldn’t do much good to filter the water in the bottle but still get a mouth full of contaminated water that could have leaked in under the cap. I dried both the teat and the surrounding cap area and threads and then closed the snap-fit cap and plunged the top of the bottle down into the water to fill it quickly from the bottom opening. Once filled and with the bottom of the bottle capped off, I carefully opened the snap-fit cap to inspect the area around the teat to see if it was wet or if the threads in the cap were wet either. After several tests repeated the same way, I was satisfied that the snap-fit cap was watertight enough so that the contaminated water didn’t seep in and get on the teat from where the user would be drinking. For those that are just a little more "paranoid", one could use a cup to dip water out and simply pour it into the bottom of the bottle to fill it so that the snap-fit cap and teat area aren’t exposed to any contaminated water. That decision will have to be made by the end user.
First, I want to say that I was highly impressed and quite taken by the Lifesaver Bottle. It provides a vast number advantages over other systems which I’ll summarize below. However, I did make a couple of observations that I thought would be worth mentioning as improvements to future updates of the Lifesaver Bottle. Even though it is substantially larger than the typical 1 liter Nalgene-type bottle, the Lifesaver Bottle holds just 750ML of water. The majority of the bottle’s size is due to the pump and filter cartridge assemblies contained within it. In the picture to the left, you can see the size difference between the two bottles. Just like the white gas containers you use for personal camp stoves, once you get a little pressure built up inside of the bottle, it makes it just a little bit trickier to open–especially when the whole bottle is wet from being dipped into the water source. The bottom cap has ridges on it to help get a good purchase to unscrew it from the bottle. However, the bottle portion of the body is very smooth and somewhat slick when wet, so it takes some doing to separate the bottom cap from the actual bottle, especially when there’s still some pressure built up inside. If there was some kind of texturing on the sides of the bottle or ridges like on the bottom cap, it would give the user a little better grip to help open the bottle. The Lifesaver bottle comes standard with a grip strap, however the demo unit I received did not have that strap within the packaging. So, it’s possible that with the strap attached to the bottle, the user could have a better way to get a good purchase on the bottle to help unscrew it from the bottom cap. I’m not sure on that point, but it seems plausible to me. When we get the strap in the next couple of days, we will test that theory and see if it makes opening and closing the bottle any easier. However, the additional texturing on the sides of the bottle still wouldn’t hurt to aid in tightening or untightening the bottle when it’s wet.
The other thought that I had is something that would make me feel a lot more comfortable with filling the bottle by inverting it and dipping the top portion into the water source to fill it. Yes, I am just a bit paranoid about some things. That thought is to incorporate some time of rubber O-ring around the interior of the snap-fit lid to absolutely ensure that no contaminated water can leak in around the drinking spout. If that modification wouldn’t be possible, then maybe they could include some type of thin plastic tumbler that could be turned upside down and slipped over top of the bottle and extend down about 2/3rds to 3/4ths the length of the bottle while it’s not being used. The tumbler could be constructed to fit snugly by using the strap to keep a friction fit on the body. That tumbler could be slipped off and used to dip water out and poured directly into the bottle, thereby keeping the top portion’s cap and teat away from any contaminated water. A thin tumbler would add an insignificant amount of weight for the benefit gained. Something like that would be very inexpensive to make–somewhere along the line of pennies per tumbler. And, at the price point of the Lifesaver Bottle (read below), such a tumbler could easily be incorporated into the price structure.
Aside from these little quibbles and suggestions and with all things considered, my belief is that this is absolutely the best personal water-filtration device on the market. It is ruggedly built to withstand heavy use. It has attachment points for a strap that can be used to easily carry the bottle on the the person or even attached to a pack. It has three filtration systems including the pre-filter for sediments, the Ultra Filtration Membranes with the 15 nanometer pores and the activated carbon filter. Yet, with all of that, the water is still easily moved through the system with very easy strokes from the built in pump. It requires no batteries, bulbs, or wires, and it doesn’t require any type of chemicals for the treatment process. What you see is what you get, and that’s enough to keep you in pure water for a very long time!
The bottle can be purchased with either the 4000L filter cartridge or a 6000L filter cartridge. At 3.8 liters per gallon, those cartridge sizes would provide 2.8 years and 4.3 years respectively of pure water at the rate of one gallon per day. The nice thing about these filters is that you don’t have to track how many liters you’re running through them. The filter cartridges have an auto-shut off feature when they reach the end of their service life. That prevents the user from trying to utilize the cartridge beyond its recommended service life. Now, the activated carbon filter positioned just under the drinking spout or "teat" is rated for approximately 250 gallons, after which point it is recommended to change the filter out for a new one. I did not find anywhere in the company’s information whether or not the flow will be disrupted if using the activated carbon filter beyond the recommended service life. While you’re always safe to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, my primary concern with this kind of device would reside solely with the life of the primary filter that removes the bacteria and viruses from the drinking water. I don’t think I would be as concerned with having the activated carbon cartridge being used beyond its recommend service life–especially in a long-term emergency situation. But, that’s my thinking and applies only to me. I won’t recommend that to anyone else. My belief is that everyone has to do their own research and make their own determinations on how they will use their equipment. That kind of decision-making requires information and knowledge gleaned from careful study on the part of the user.
After watching a video that spotlighted Michael Prichard, the inventor, you can tell the sincerity in his message about wanting to provide this Water Purifier to people all around the world with the primary objective being to save lives by giving people pure water to drink and to use for cooking. That’s a noble objective, and this is one of the better attempts I have seen toward that goal. And, if it can be achieved, then Mr. Prichard will have accomplished something great with his lifetime that few others achieve. The only thing I can see standing in the way of achieving this objective is the pricing of the Lifesaver Bottles. Currently, a new bottle with the 4000L cartridge is right at $229.00 (U.S.) and the bottle with the 6000L cartridge is approximately $299.00 (U.S.). I’ll be the first to tell you that for someone like me, with the time I spend outdoors and my desire to always have the best equipment available, I think that price is well worth it. But, I wonder at the potential of wide-spread distribution to the types of locales that Mr. Prichard spoke of during his video interview. I have no idea how much money is spent in transporting clean drinking water to areas that need it, so it may well be worth providing each person in a village or community with their own Lifesaver Bottle to use. But, $300.00 per person does seem like a cost that might be hard for countries or communities to afford especially for those areas where the lack of employment opportunities and the living conditions are the main reason that the Lifesaver Bottle is needed in the first place. Maybe it will be possible through economies of scale as their production quantities increase to reduce the price of each individual unit. Hopefully, that will be something that can be achieved, because Mr. Prichard has a very special product here that can improve the quality of life for millions of people if a way can be found to get it into their hands. Also, that particular effect could put the Lifesaver Bottle within reach of the mainstream consumer who might not otherwise purchase such a high-end product.
As for serious outdoors enthusiasts who only rely on the best gear for their adventures and for military personnel that need a rugged filtration system that’s fairly compact, easy to use, yet compromises nothing in build quality, I don’t think there’s any question that the Lifesaver Bottle is now the king of the hill.