Loyal readers and random visitors (hello, you’re welcome) may have noticed I’ve spent the summer on something of a mission; to complete my kit bag. The essentials have long been there – layers, waterproofs, first aid kits (human and hound), penknife and duct tape – but I’m getting bolder, the treks are becoming longer and thoughtful gadgets are required to make outdoor life as seamless as possible.
Enter LifeStraw, a clever little filter adapter that doesn’t need a special bottle to work with. LifeStraw promises compatibility with brands you probably have in your own kit bag, including Hydroflask, Klean Kanteen and Camelbak. I frown at my old, unbranded water bottle from somewhere I can’t remember (Tesco?), guessing it will never work – but yes, it slots right in and screws, a little clumsily, admittedly, but tightly, into the cap, and I’m good to go.
LifeStraw, by Vestergaard, makes water safe to drink for day hikers, solo campers and, brilliantly, through humanitarian projects. From giving safe water to more than one million school children globally to currently supporting partners responding to Hurricane Dorian, the filters offer immediate and long term solutions to disease and disaster, with a donation made from every purchase.
And my LifeStraw Universal is just so simple to use. Comprising the filter, two mouthpieces of different sizes, a leakproof lid and a neat little carry pouch, you just screw the filter into the mouthpiece that best fits your bottle – standard or wide mouth – and start filling up from springs, streams and mountain llyns. Note that the filter needs a bottle with a height of at least 7.5”; my brandless bottle narrowly measures up, hence the cap screwing on at something of a squeeze. In comparison, I try it on my Hydroflask and it’s a perfect fit.
The cool shores of Llyn y Fan Fawr are the ideal testing ground. Next to a cheeky Gwynt y Ddraig cider chilling nicely underwater, I fill up my water bottle ready for the evening’s cooking and teeth cleaning. According to the blurb, stage one of the infiltration process removes 99.99% of bacteria, including E coli, and has a lifespan of 4,000 litres (1,000 gallons), while stage two reduces chlorine and improves taste, with a lifespan of 100 litres (25 gallons). I’ll know the filter needs replacing when I can no longer draw water through the straw.
In the morning I refill, ahead of the short trek off the mountain. My bottle holds one litre and, as I’m already carrying a tent, sleeping bag, gas stove and all that duct tape, I’m glad of the weight saved on last night’s uphill hike. For the rest of the summer it’s a constant companion, on waterfall scrambles and family strolls, lightening my load and, of course, reducing plastic waste were I instead to top up at shops and cafes along our routes.
At £40 the LifeStraw isn’t initially a low-cost outlay and for day hikes not too far from civilisation, I wouldn’t class it as an essential (although I’d certainly label it ‘darn handy’ if you have two teens who can guzzle a litre in the first half mile). But for long-distance hikers and overnighters, it’s an investment that, once used, suddenly seems as necessary as hiking boots and duct tape. I’d even put it up there with the Gwynt y Ddraig.