This $20 Travel Essential Might Just Save Your Life One Day

More than 87,000 five-star ratings prove the LifeStraw is a must-have “just in case.”

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LifeStraw Personal Water Filter
Photo:

Travel + Leisure / Michelle Barnes

Ever been thirsty and surrounded by water — whether it was a lake, a river, or the ocean — but with nothing to drink? If you haven’t, you certainly don’t want to be. 

As a travel writer exploring East Africa, I can tell you that access to fresh, clean water is not always a given, and that it pays to be prepared in a travel emergency, especially if you’re an avid hiker and camper like me. That’s why I always carry the LifeStraw Personal Water Filter, which allows me to drink clean water from pretty much any water source. At just $20 at Amazon, it’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

Amazon

To buy: amazon.com, $20

The LifeStraw boasts a game-changing (or life-saving, in some cases) filtration system that filters out more than 99.99 percent of bacteria and parasites. Unfortunately, I’m familiar with both silent killers. In fact, I’m still battling with my health insurance over some hospital bills that resulted from waterborne infections I picked up in rural Thailand last February. My biggest regret is that I didn’t get a LifeStraw sooner.

Of course, the LifeStraw also filters out 99.99 percent of sand, silt, and microplastics, and other things you can see with the naked eye. The filter is made out of a membrane microfilter with tiny pores that physically block particles, even microscopic organisms like E. coli and Giardia, from passing through it. The water that comes out the other side meets drinking protocols set by the EPA and NSF International.

lifestraw-personal-water-filter

Travel + Leisure / Katie Jackson

Not only does the LifeStraw boast 87,000 perfect five-star ratings on Amazon, it’s also the top-selling water filter for the camping and hiking category. At first glance, the LifeStraw, which comes in four different colors, looks like a weighted diving stick. So, when it first came in the mail, I was surprised to see how light it was: just .22 pounds. Despite its compact size, it’s so small it can even fit in most pant pockets.

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

Amazon

To buy: amazon.com, $25

Here in Africa, local communities use LifeStraws every day. After all, the product was originally invented for people lacking access to clean drinking water. (And bonus: for every LifeStraw product sold, a schoolkid receives a year’s worth of safe drinking water.) While I’m fortunate to live somewhere with potable water, I do love having a LifeStraw because it allows me to venture off the beaten path in places where I travel whether I’m in the mountains behind my house or in the cloud forest in Costa Rica. I have peace of mind knowing that I probably won’t get infected with another pesky parasite, at best, or die of thirst, at worst. 

To use the straw, all I do is simply remove the caps at either end. Then I submerge the bottom of the straw into the body of water and suck from the other end. There is some delay as it takes a fraction of a second longer for the water to reach your mouth than normal straws do. But I think that’s a good thing because it means the water is really being filtered. I’m currently in Mozambique, where I take my LifeStraw with me when I paddleboard in the lagoon by my hotel, Sussurro. And just this morning, I met a man (who founded an NGO here called Water Underground) who told me he keeps one in his truck for emergencies.

lifestraw-personal-water-filter

Travel + Leisure / Katie Jackson

The only downside? The LifeStraw doesn’t remove waterborne viruses. However, those are pretty rare. It also doesn’t completely remove heavy metals. (However, LifeStraw’s carbon + ion exchange filter, sold separately, does reduce the presence and taste of some heavy metals including lead, and gasses including chlorine.) The LifeStraw filter is designed for up to 1,000 gallons of water to pass through it. Obviously, its shelf life depends on how much water you drink, but the average LifeStraw lasts more than five years. I’ll know it’s time to replace mine when water no longer flows through it.

Of course, you can also use the LifeStraw to simply drink a glass of tap water in a foreign country not known for having the safest tap water.  “I've used my straw to drink from the sink everywhere in the world, and I have never once gotten sick,” wrote one Amazon shopper who has used it in India, China, Colombia, and Brazil. Another shopper who left a five-star review said they used their LifeStraw to save money on buying bottled water while visiting Cuba. And even if you don’t use your LifeStraw regularly, it’s nice, and easy, to have on hand. Another review reads: “On vacation we carry two in the car just in case.”

Whether you’re a LifeStraw lifer, like me, who uses theirs on the reg, or you’re someone who simply likes to be prepared for emergencies, you’ll have no regrets about investing in a LifeStraw Personal Water Filter. Shop one now for just $20 at Amazon and you’ll never have to Google “Is the water safe here?” again.  

At the time of publishing, the price started at $20.

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