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#293952 - 10/27/19 12:30 AM EPA certified survival straw
CJK Offline

Registered: 08/14/05
Posts: 567
Loc: FL, USA
IIRC.....A number of years ago I remember there was a 'survival straw' that had claimed (EPA level) that it could "purify" water just drinking through it. I also IIRC remember that something like it (maybe the same one) that was quashed because of deceptive / erroneous claims of EPA level purification. My question....

Does anyone know of/have experience with...Are there any 'survival straw' style PURIFIERS? Filters?

Thanks. My searches aren't getting me anywhere.

#293955 - 10/27/19 02:32 AM Re: EPA certified survival straw [Re: CJK]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 7151
Loc: southern Cal

Are you thinking of this?: https://www.rei.com/product/860034/lifestraw-water-filter

It is small and reasonably compact. I have one but I have as yet not had to use it.
Geezer in Chief

#293963 - 10/29/19 06:38 AM Re: EPA certified survival straw [Re: CJK]
Burncycle Offline

Registered: 09/16/04
Posts: 539
Short answer, no.

The long answer is that most backpacking filters / straw type filters (that are vetted) are capable of filtering out larger biological threats, including oocysts like Cryptosporidium and common bacteria, but not viruses, which are typically too small for the filters to reliably stop.

As a result, common backpacking filters are an incomplete solution on their own if viruses are a potential threat. You will either have to treat chemically, use a UV purifier, or boil in addition to filtering to be positive. Incidentally, boiling and some (though not all) chemical treatments ARE stand alone solutions for the full spectrum of biological threats you're likely to encounter, but are generally less convenient on their own and of course won't help with other types of contaminants. Boiling requires you to be stationary, and of course requires fuel. Chemical treatments can be used while on the move, but iodine and chlorine based tablets are ineffective against oocysts due to their protective shell, and although chlorine dioxide based tablets will work, it can take an excessive amount of time (from 30 minutes to 4 hours depending on water conditions) in contrast to the ~15 minutes it takes to kill bacteria and viruses.

As a result, I find it's most convenient to filter first, then chemically treat with chlorine dioxide based tablets (or boil if I'm stationary).

Now and then a no name straw from China will pop up and claim to stop viruses, but then again these are the types of companies that claim their flashlights have a billion lumens. Perhaps there's a little iodine impregnated element inside someplace -- but considering the dwell time (basically zero) I wouldn't bet my health on it. Further, flow rates can be challenging even with larger diameter filters (Sawyer Mini, Lifestraw).

To be fair, viruses aren't always a major concern in the back country and hundreds of thousands of trekkers every year only filter and do just fine. The problem is, you simply can't tell just by looking at the water, and although rare, I don't like to take chances on something that's so easy to address -- so when there are humans (such as urban areas, and recreational areas where lots of hikers and travelers frequent), I always assume there is some degree of viral load in the water and treat accordingly just to be safe. One potential issue with a lot of hikers who only filter is that many may not carefully research the capabilities and limitations of their system and understand that there are potentially additional threats that are not biological in nature (such as contaminants), and some situations, in which filters will not help... but they'll often just buy a filter at the store and assume they're good to go anytime they need to make water safe.

Some examples where a backpacking filter that has served them well for years on the trail but may not render water safe to drink include post-disaster (especially in urban environments with flooding where there is often other contamination such as oil and fuel), traveling overseas to third world countries where viruses in the water are more prevalent than in the US, areas with industrial runoff, radiological threats and certain blue green algal blooms (not all algal blooms are harmful and have released the toxins, but there's no way to tell in the field and not even boiling will render those safe so it's better to avoid them entirely)

There are some more exotic filters that will filter out viruses, like the Sawyer point zero two, but these generally rely more on mechanical or gravity (and time!) to help push a useful amount of water through them making them incompatible with the "straw" approach, and they're also quite a bit bigger than most people want to carry backpacking. As such, they're more oriented towards home use.

Activated carbon filters can help with some of the other contaminants, heavy metals and toxins, but they rely on a certain amount of dwell time and volume to ensure adequate amounts of the contaminants have time to adsorb, and that's generally not something you're going to see backpacking. Besides, there's not really any way for you to measure contaminant levels pre and post filtering in the field to judge if it's safe. With that in mind, if a filter advertises a carbon element, it's generally to improve taste (which may certainly be worthwhile for palatability).

Hope it helps!

Edited by Burncycle (10/29/19 06:55 AM)

#293964 - 10/29/19 12:58 PM Re: EPA certified survival straw [Re: Burncycle]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 7151
Loc: southern Cal
Boiling works.

An example- Some years ago I was a fortunate member of a cave exploration team that spent a month in southern China, mapping and exploring some incredible passages. A registered EMT at the time, I was responsible for first aid and medical issues. I figured we would have lots of diarrhea, etc., especially given the waste disposal/fertilization system in use, all in close association with the water supply.

All the water that we consumed was boiled by our Chinese chefs. We had no, absolutely none, cases of runs during our month long stay, eating and drinking the local cuisine. My vast stock of anti-D pills went entirely unused.

Burncycle makes an excellent point about water sources in a disaster. The further downstream you are, the greater the chances for contamination, especially from items like petroleum, pesticides, and the like.

Most of my experience has been in back country, high up, and i have never experienced ill effects from drinking untreated water, a common practice of mine 40-50 years ago. That is historical data, and one might be a bit more cautious now.

Boiling works, and with a good iso-butane stove, gives you just enough time to smell the roses. I often cool down the boiled water by immersing the container in the nearby mountain stream - just takes a few minutes - or have a nice cup of tea right there.

Edited by hikermor (10/29/19 12:59 PM)
Geezer in Chief

#293967 - 10/29/19 03:36 PM Re: EPA certified survival straw [Re: CJK]
haertig Offline

Registered: 03/13/05
Posts: 2117
Loc: Colorado
I understand that there is probably no one-step-approach to getting safe drinking water. Boiling seems to be the closest, and least convenient, method to accomplish this. Filtering plus iodine (or other chemical) would work as well.

After a hurricane, fresh water will most likely be mixed with salt water. As far as I know, distilling is the only way to handle that. Except maybe for expensive desalination setups, which most people won't have access to. But distilling is still possible, although even less convenient to simple boiling. It would seem helpful to be set up for distilling in advance of any emergency situation.

In an emergency situation is there any way to effectively deal with contaminants though? Oil, other petroleum products, chemicals, etc.? Charcoal filtering may help to some extent, distilling might help some as well, but are these treatments enough? If you have no other source of water to choose from, can chemical/petroleum contaminated water be made safe?

#293975 - 10/30/19 12:25 AM Re: EPA certified survival straw [Re: haertig]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 7151
Loc: southern Cal
Not sure how comparatively inconvenient boiling may be. Much will depend upon the time required =I have seen sources that claim you should let the water boil for ten to fifteen minute.Most go for a shorter period.

James Wilkerson MD, author of Mountaineer Medicine, recommends bringing water to a boil and then letting it cool. stating that pasteurized milk is heated to 165F and held there for a bit.
this is hardly inconvenient if you are prepping coffee or tea, which i do often. Many alternative water treatments require fairly long intervals before ingestion, probably accounting for the popularity of filtering.

If push comes to shove, I will just go ahead and drink up. It will take a while for problems to develop, and by then I will be in contact with medical facilities (usually).
Geezer in Chief

#293991 - 10/31/19 04:25 AM Re: EPA certified survival straw [Re: CJK]
Ratch Offline

Registered: 08/05/17
Posts: 33
Good summation of filters and what they are capable of...


#293993 - 10/31/19 01:11 PM Re: EPA certified survival straw [Re: Ratch]
chaosmagnet Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/03/09
Posts: 3265
Loc: USA

Good share, thank you.

#293996 - 10/31/19 04:22 PM Re: EPA certified survival straw [Re: CJK]
Janysboy Offline

Registered: 03/20/19
Posts: 39
I can't seem to open the link, keep getting a message to close and reopen the browser window. Anyone else have this problem?

#294013 - 11/01/19 03:07 AM Re: EPA certified survival straw [Re: chaosmagnet]
EMPnotImplyNuclear Offline

Registered: 09/10/08
Posts: 354
Originally Posted By: Janysboy
I can't seem to open the link, keep getting a message to close and reopen the browser window. Anyone else have this problem?

Try the cached version

Originally Posted By: chaosmagnet

Good share, thank you.

It is good.
But its also weird smile
"Poop" is not the contamination of concern in an metropolitan urban creek
In the city I worry about chemicals, pesticides/fertilizer/household cleaners/petroleum... heavy metals

Also weird, is they don't appear to have contacted the manufacturers to see what they say about the lower reduction rates

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