We review three personal travel water filter products from Waki Waki – the Water Filter Bottle, Water Filter Straw and Upgraded Water Filter Straw.
Most of the outdoor experiences we offer in summertime – whether it’s canoeing, kayaking* or packrafting – are based on wild camping, where you’ll often need to be taking your drinking water from wild sources along the route. And while the water from flowing sources in many of these areas is often perfectly fine to drink untreated, it’s always a good idea to err on the side of caution when it comes to drinking water – why spoil your trip with an upset tummy when this can be so easily avoided?
(*You can’t use the products reviewed here on sea water, so this does not apply to our sea kayaking experiences!)
Boiling your water before drinking is one option, but this is time consuming and wastes fuel. Purification tablets are another, but tend to have an unpleasant taste (since my experience of 9 weeks backpacking around India as a teenager using iodine tablets, the smell of iodine turns my stomach now!).
Portable water filters offer a convenient, lightweight, long-lasting and environmentally friendly solution. So when the nice people at Waki Waki offered to send us some of their travel water filter products for review, we were keen to take a look.
Current price: $22.99 or $33.99 with spare filter cartridge
The Water Filter Bottle comes supplied with a carabiner to attach the bottle to your pack, a syringe (which is labelled “discard after use”, but I see no reason why it can’t be cleaned and used multiple times) for backwashing the filter when it becomes clogged or dirty, or at the end of a trip. Instructions for backwashing and cleaning are included.
The bottle holds 650ml of water, and has an integral filter which uses activated carbon and a hollow fibre membrane. The stated lifespan of the filter cartridge is 1500L, though in practice will probably be less than this, depending on how dirty the water you are filtering is and on your cleaning regime (it’s a good idea to give any water filter a good clean after any trip and dry it out properly).
Replacement cartridges are available from Waki Waki (currently $13.99) and the cartridges simply pull on and off. When cleaning the unit or changing the cartridge, ensure the filter is pushed in securely to the tube on the lid so there’s a tight fit.
Operation is very simple – remove the top, fill the main bottle with “dirty” water (being careful not to contaminate any parts you will touch with your mouth), replace the top, and drink. On first use, when the filter is dry, you’ll need to suck hard a few times before water begins passing through the filter.
The Water Filter Bottle has some handy features which I really like:
- Operation is one-handed for opening and closure. There’s a little latch at the top which locks the catch in place. Flip open the latch, press the button and the lid flips up to access the drinking nozzle. This not only means you only need one free hand to take a drink on the go, but also is very hygienic – you don’t need to touch the drinking nozzle with your hands at all. Time will tell how durable this mechanism is, but the bottle in general seems solidly made and built to last.
- The little compass inside is a cute touch. Of course, if you really need a compass for your trip, this won’t be it – but it’s good for a quick check that you’re still headed in the right direction when you stop for a break!
Current price: $12.99 or $19.99 including carry pouch (multi-packs also available)
A much smaller unit that the Water Filter Bottle, the Water Filter Straw is very lightweight and portable, and a convenient option if you want to drink directly from a water source, or use a conventional plastic screw-top bottle to hold the water.
The Straw comes with a strap, but an optional carry case is also available (like a semi-hard case for reading glasses) as an optional extra, either bundled with the Straw on purchase or sold separately (currently $9.99).
Like the Water Filter Bottle, the Straw uses an activated carbon and hollow-fibre membrane. The stated lifespan is substantially higher than for the Bottle (up to 5,000L, compared to 1500L for the Bottle), so it should last you for a good many trips. Unlike the Upgraded Straw (see below), the filter cannot be replaced, so you will need to buy a new one when the time comes.
There are a number of ways the Straw can be used, the most usable of which I think are:
- With the end directly into the water source.
- From a water container such as a bowl or cup.
- From a plastic bottle screwed directly onto the end (the screw will fit most standard-sized soft drinks bottles, etc).
The first two will only of course allow you to have a drink “on the go” – you won’t be able to take water with you – but the screw-on option means you can store “dirty” water in one or more plastic bottles and attach to the straw for filtration when you need it.
Current price: $13.99 (multi-packs also available)
We also received a second Straw, the Upgraded version.
Very similar to the standard Straw in terms of general use and performance, the Upgraded Straw has a few minor differences:
- It’s a slightly slimmer design.
- The Hollow Fibre and GAC filters at the top and bottom of the straw are replaceable, so when the filter reaches the end of its usable lifespan, you can purchase replacements from the Waki Waki website (currently $10.99).
- It comes with a drinking extension straw included, to make it easier to get down to water level if you’re drinking directly from a water source.
- The bottle adapter is removable, offering two sizes of possible screw thread to connect to a plastic bottle.
We took the Water Filter Bottle and Water Filter Straw on a day hike on Dartmoor to see how they performed filtering some rather uninviting-looking river water. When the spring comes again and its time for more wild camping adventures, I’ll be taking them packrafting in Sweden next May as well, but for now the wilds of the English South West had to suffice as our testing ground. In any case, I have far more qualms about drinking the water here in England than I do in Sweden!
It’s been a very wet and stormy autumn here in England so far this year, so the water from our test river was dark and muddy. Ideally, you should try to use a clearer water source where available to prolong the life of the filter, but this is what we had today!
In both cases, the Waki Waki products performed well. After a couple of initial sucks to get things going, as the filters were dry, the flow rate was good (particularly on the Straw) and the water tasted fine (and no upset tummy afterwards). That’s really pretty much all you need from a water filter!
Which is right for you will depend on how you use them – but they’re all very affordably priced, so you could get one of each!
For myself, I will probably use the Bottle most, especially on day trips, as it provides a convenient way to both carry and filter water. But I’ll also take the Straw as well on multi-day trips, as it’s lightweight and portable and provides additional options.
As the picture shows, using the Straw directly from the water source may often prove tricky (I got some wet knees!) so you’ll probably prefer to have a container with you such as a bottle to fill (the Upgraded Straw comes with an extension straw to make this a bit easier).
If you expect to be between water sources for some time and need to carry extra water with you, the Straw is also a good option – simply bring some screw-top bottles with you, fill them up when you find water, and take them with you to use as needed.
Overall, we were impressed with all three Waki Waki filters, and any or all of them could make a useful (maybe even essential), portable and affordable addition to your next outdoor trip. Filtration devices definitely have advantages over boiling or purification tablets and all of the products tested here filter down to 0.1μm pore size, with the claim that this will remove 99.9999% of harmful elements from the water.
- The Bottle is great for day trips and where you expect to have access to new water sources regularly (it holds 650ml). The one-handed operation makes it easy-to-use and hygienic. Of course, you could also bring additional containers with “dirty” water to top up the Bottle as needed if you can’t re-supply easily.
- The Straws are lightweight, portable and, when taking extra screw-top containers, allows you to be self-sufficient for longer periods between re-supply without needing the Bottle.
- The Upgraded Straw has the additional advantage of replaceable filter components. While this won’t save much on price compared to buying a new unit, it both reduces waste and means that you could carry spares if you wish.
There is of course plenty of competition out there, but the Waki Waki products reviewed here are very usable, very affordable and, unless you’re out and about every week needing to take your drinking water from the wild, will probably be more than enough keep you going for a good number of adventures!
Bob from the Nature Travels Team