Aug172010

8 Comments

Product Review: The Berkey Portable Water Purifier

Guest post by Leon Pantenburg, Survival Common Sense

The spring in the Death Valley canyon was the only source of water for probably miles around, and my hiking partner and I had detoured to see it.

The Sport Berkey Portable Water Purifier can be a valuable addition to any urban and/or wilderness survival kit.

But the spring (a seep really)  looked and smelled like a hog wallow, with the muddy, filthy water polluted almost beyond belief.

The over-populated feral burros in the area had dug holes, so the water would seep in. But they also relieved themselves in the water while they drank. The desert bighorn sheep wouldn’t drink that filthy slop, and I was glad we didn’t need to re-supply.

Water is critical to survival, be it in the desert or during a flood such as happened after Katrina, or last week in my hometown of Ames, Iowa.

But frequently, the only drinking water source available may be muddy, dirty and polluted. If that’s your survival situation, then your choices are simple: Drink or die.

Or suppose you travel to a third-world country, where water quality is suspect at best. You need to be able to carry along a filtering/purification system that is compact and portable.

A dependable system for filtering and purifying water is mandatory for any emergency preparedness and/or survival kit, and it should consist of several inter-related components. One of these should be some sort of filter/purifier.

For the last couple weeks I have been field-testing the Sport Berkey® Portable Water Purifier bottle. The size of a standard bike or running water bottle, this system could be a valuable addition to your survival kit or emergency preparedness planning.

To quote the specs that come with the Berkey, the purifier bottle:

“Is the ideal personal protection traveling companion – featuring the IONIC ADSORPTION MICRO FILTRATION SYSTEM. The theory behind this innovation is simple. The bottle’s filter is designed to remove and/or dramatically reduce a vast array of health-threatening contaminants from questionable sources of water, including remote lakes and streams, stagnant ponds and water supplies in foreign countries where regulations may be sub-standard at best.”

If the water is really nasty, the Berkey folks recommend two drops of plain chlorinated bleach or iodine be added to each refill before filtering. This will kill minute pathogens such as viruses, according to the brochure, and the disinfectant will then be filtered from the water entirely removing its odor, color and taste.

This spring in the Central Oregon high desert is the only water source for miles. The water will require purification it can be safely used.

I could have filled the bottle from a local drainage ditch, drank the filtered water and let you know how everything came out in a couple weeks. But, dear reader, there are limits to what extent I’m willing to test any product! (I also considered filling the Berkey bottle with beer, to test how effectively the filter removes taste…)

So, until someone proves differently, we’ll assume the Berkey claims about eliminating viruses, heavy metals, toxic chemicals, microscopic pathogens,  Giardia, Cryptosporidium and other nasty water-borne nasties are accurate.

Subsequently, my field testing was limited to handling, ease of use and how the Berkey sport bottle could fit into an integrated survival water system.

Handling

Here’s the good part:

  • The Berkey bottle is a great size. It fits in the water bottle basket on my bicycle, in the side pockets of my fanny pack and daypack and fits my hand well. It is convenient to use and could easily be included in a suitcase or carry-on for overseas travel.
  • The bottle is easily secured, because of the ring built into the top, to virtually anything. It could be carried by the top, or have a carabineer or piece of cord threaded through it.
  • The bottle is soft and flexible. This allows the user to squeeze and produce more internal pressure. This, in turn, reduces the amount of suction needed to drink from the straw.
  • When the bottle was full, it was possible to squeeze filtered water out of the straw. You could fill other bottles with filtered water in this way, but it would be a long, laborious process. The good news is: You could filter water for young children or old people who couldn’t muster enough suction power to operate other filter bottles.

User Friendly

The Berkey is easy for me to use.

  • The bottle must first be “primed” before using, which amounts to squeezing the bottle until water comes out the top. I had no trouble performing this operation. For someone with weaker hands, the system could be primed by stepping very carefully on the middle of the bottle until water came out the straw. Obviously, stomping on the container would probably hurt the filter or the rest of the system!
  • Filling the bottle is easy – just dip the water out of the source, put the filter in, screw on the top and drink. You don’t need another container for that.

The Berkey as Part of an Integrated Survival Water System

This combination of water bottles works well. The rigid Nalgene in the middle is used for drinking and storage and the Paltypus soft bottle are used to store extra water in the pack.

As far as I’m concerned the Berkey is not the do-it-all, indispensible water filtration/purification system. Nothing is.  Here are some aspects of an integrated survival water system the Berkey does very well:

  • For quick conversion of questionable water into something safe to drink, the Berkey is superb. All you do is fill it and suck on the straw. With some water treatments, you frequently must wait a period of time while the chemicals work. If you or your child is dehydrated, he/she needs water ASAP. There is no waiting with the Berkey.
  • If you’re traveling along a creek, near a lake or along some other water source, the Berkey is all you need to take along. You can replenish the bottle as you go, and reduce the water weight.
  • There are no chemicals involved in the Berkey system, so you don’t have to be concerned about ingesting iodine, chlorine bleach or other additives.
  • The bad news is that the Berkey, like any bottle or bladder system, can be affected by freezing. That could remove the Berkey from consideration as a water source during freezing situations.

The Rest of the Integrated Survival Water System

No single item can guarantee that you will be able to purify water for drinking. (I’m not sure anything could have made that vile floodwater stew after Katrina potable!)

Here’s what I carry as part of my water purification system, and so far, everything has served me well. (Many of these items are multi-use):
  • Polar Pure or Potable Agua: These are chemical purifiers, and require a certain time period for them to work. I used the Polar Pure system exclusively on a nine-day canoe trip in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters and the system worked really well. Potable Agua comes in capsules and is easy to carry and use. Either Polar Pure of Potable Aqua goes on every outing.
  • Platypus flexible water containers. These collapsible water containers are available in various sizes as water storage units and they roll up into a small, lightweight pack when empty. I generally carry two or three extras in my daypack, since they weigh next to nothing and don’t take up much space.
  • Nalgene bottle: I like the wide-mouth, and modify mine with a paracord loop and duct tape. The loop is designed so the bottle can be carried on my belt, or tied to a cord to lower into a stock tank, depression or water source that is hard to get to. Don’t think you can just tie something onto the lid retainer – chances are it will break at some point, and as these things go, probably when you need it the most.
  • Tin cup for dipping water out of hard-to-reach places and/or boiling: Tin cups are great!  You can use them for a multitude of tasks, including boiling water. Boiling water is probably the safest, most effective method of water purification available, providing you have a heat source.
  • Six-foot piece of aquarium tubing: I got this tip from survival expert Peter Kummerfeldt. Peter recommends including the tubing in case you find water in a crack or crevice and can’t get to it. Just stick the tube in the water and suck it out.
  • Coffee filter and bandana: If you can filter the mud and debris out of the water, it will make any filter last that much longer. In especially turbid, muddy water, wrap the coffee filter around the bottom of any filter and attach it with a rubber band. It will help! The bandana has many uses, including serving as a water filter. A clean one, that you haven’t used to wipe your nose, is preferable!
  • Large garbage bag: Another multi-use item. Use this to catch rain, or as a reservoir for holding water. I wouldn’t waste my time or the materials to make a solar still. My experience is that solar stills don’t work well enough to justify construction.
  • Water filter: Some lightweight  method of filtering and purifying water can be incredibly useful. The Berkey excels  in this category.

Conclusion

My testing so far has shown the Berkey to be a durable, very useful survival tool. In October, I’m hunting elk in Unit 16 in Idaho, and my plan is to take it along in my daypack side pocket.

I’ll be hunting several promising-looking drainages with streams in them.  The plan is move a lot and  daypack weight will be an issue. Nothing is being taken along that doesn’t have a specific purpose and the idea is to cut weight wherever possible.

The Berkey Sport Bottle will allow me to hunt without carrying a lot of water, and I’ll be able to replenish it as needed. I’m betting the Berkey will handle my hydration needs without any problems!

 

There may be links in the post above that are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, which does not affect the price you pay for the product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

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I'm the original Survival Mom, and have been helping moms worry less and enjoy their homes and families more for 5 years. Come join me on my journey to becoming more prepared to handle everyday emergencies and worst case scenarios.

(8) Readers Comments

  1. Great review Leon.

    I could not find the specs on the bottle.
    How many liters (or gallons) of water will the filter process before needing to be replaced?

    Love the Playtpus idea too. Gotta grab a few of those!

    • RWM, a company that sells that Berkey water filter is a new advertiser. You can click on their ad to the right and check out their prices. (Welcome, Jeff!)

  2. Great post. I am reminded that many individuals think that if they have a filter, they can filter any water and it will magically become "safe to drink" Unfortunately, this is not the case. In addition to the proper filtering equipment and chemicals, a basic understanding of choosing good water sources, allowing the sediment to settle and where necessary, chemically treating and filtering will greatly improve your ability to make water safer to drink. Something to keep in mind is that each filter was designed to perform a specific job. Not all filters are the same. Check the specification and remember that even slightly dirty water will greatly reduce the life of your filter. In my experience, most of the filters I have had the opportunity to use, clog much sooner than you would think. First hand experience is the only way to really understand the capacity of your filter. Buy spares because you will need them.

  3. Which Berkley Water Filter do you recommend for home use and how many extra filters is advisable to purchase? If the answer is in your site, please redirect me (I don't want to waste your time with a lengthy answer).

    Regards,

    • Jeff, the Berkey Guy who advertises on my site has these recommendations based on how many people are in your family. The filters are good for 3000 gallons, so they’re very long lasting. We have a Royal Berkey, and my kids love the novelty of using it instead of faucet water. Check his website to see how many filter elements come with each Berkey, http://www.directive21.com/

      Travel Berkey, $220 dollars – 1.5 gallons – holds 2 black berkey elements. Great for up to 2 people.
      Berkey light, $220 dollars – 2.75 gallons – holds 4 black berkey elements. Great for up to 4 people.
      Big Berkey, $250 dollars – 2.25 gallons – can hold up to 4 black berkey elements. Great for up to 4 people.
      Royal Berkey, $275 dollars – 3.25 gallons – can hold up to 4 black berkey elements. Great for up to 5 people.
      Imperial Berkey, $302 dollars – 4.5 gallons – Can hold up to 6 black berkey elements. Great for up to 7 people.
      Crown Berkey, $317 dollars – 6 gallons – Can hold up to 8 black berkey elements. Great for 8 or more people.

  4. Please note that the instructions for the Berkey bottle say not to allow the filter to freeze, even if the filter is dry. This limits its usefulness in a car or bugout bag.

  5. The review really great and it’s very important for us. Water is one of the most important thinks for life and always we need to know more about the water filtering. Thanks.

  6. Your review is great. Recently, I plan to buy a portable water filter and don’t know choose which one. Your product review give me some ideas. Maybe I will buy a berkey portable filter.

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