Review by Fiona McIntosh
Go Bottle RRP: R699
Personal Straw RRP: R399
I’m lucky enough to live in the Western Cape where, by and large, the mountain rivers and streams are clean and pure. So drinking straight from the source when I’m in the hills has never been a problem. Sure, I wouldn’t recommend drinking from the streams running down the main Table Mountain tourist routes like Platteklip Gorge or Kasteelpoort, but I’ve never hesitated in other climbing areas. Until this year, that is, when most of the regular water sources have dried up, or been reduced to muddy puddles.
Access to potable water is an issue worldwide, and we now have to consider treating water even in the Cape. This is a practice that I’ve long had to do in the hills of the more populated parts of the world like North America and Europe, and on mountain trips to Natal and Limpopo. So the arrival of LifeStraw in South Africa is a godsend.
Developed in Switzerland a decade ago as an emergency response tool to filter contaminated water following natural disasters, the LifeStraw technology of utilizing hollow fibre membranes to trap the pathogens is now used in water filtration products globally.
The 0.2 micron filters in the unit remove tiny particles, so even if you use heavily silted water, it comes out clean. More importantly, since most ‘baddies’ attach themselves to particular matter, it also filters out 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria like E-coli and Salmonella, and 99.9% of waterborne protozoan parasites like Giardia without affecting the taste of the water that you drink.
The Personal Straw is a simple, personal filtration system that allows you to suck water directly from the source – so it’s ideal if you know that there will be regular water on route, or as an emergency device when travelling in areas where the tap water is questionable. Lightweight (57 grams) and made of durable BPA-free plastic, it can be strung around your neck or stuffed into the side of your pack. Alternatively, if you’re heading to crags or to the higher reaches of the mountain where water is scarce, the LifeStraw Go bottle is just the ticket.
The downside is that LifeStraw doesn’t filter out viruses (or chemicals). That’s rarely a problem in the mountains in South Africa, Europe or other parts of the developed world, but if you’re travelling to the Himalaya and other regions where water-borne viruses are an issue, you need to take additional anti-viral precautions, like also using yucky tasting, but effective, iodine tablets.
With no mechanical parts, the system is simple and easy to use. To clean the filter, you simply blow air through it, so LifeStraw is a good solution for mountaineers and travellers on the go.
By eliminating the need to buy bottled water, LifeStraw is environmentally friendly. And, as part of their social responsibility, for each LifeStraw filter purchased, the manufacturers, Vestergaard, have committed to supplying a child in Africa with safe drinking water for an entire school year.