How I Travelled Across America with This Water Bottle Filter
From east coast to west, I only used my SURVIVOR water bottle filter to drink from for an entire month. Here's what happened...
In getting ready for my trip I did the usual budgeting and planning for anyone doing a cross country drive: food, accommodations, attractions, gas. But one thing I didn’t have to worry about was paying for water.
Bottled water of course can get expensive and there’s the added cost to the environment as well. But as a former employee of Aquaspace (full disclosure) I was lucky enough to have first access to a new product they are developing called the Aquaspace Survivor Water Bottle.
It's a travel water bottle complete with a built-in water filter designed to remove bacteria AND chemicals (so basically anything found in tap or naturally occurring water).
In my 5 weeks of driving, 12 states, 6 national parks, and countless stops along the way, I didn’t pay for bottled water once! Not only did I not pay anything, I drank much healthier and higher quality water than basic bottled (don’t get me started on the crap still found in bottled water). So here is how I managed to go day to day only using a simple travel water bottle, and why you should too.
Plastic Bottles Add Up
We all know bottled water adds up. If you buy in bulk ahead of time, it can be fairly cheap, at $4-$5 per bulk pack. But always having a case of water on hand wasn’t realistic for me. In driving I didn’t want that much space taken up in my car.
Plus, not to mention the plastic waste!! More than anything that’s what bugs me the most about plastic bottles, the fact they are most likely to end up in the ocean. No thank you! I’ll stick with the one reusable filtered water bottle.
Filtered > Bottled > Tap
Filtered water is better than bottled water and tap water, and if you can get filtered water fresh from a mountain stream—that's the best! Especially with the capabilities of the new Aquaspace Survivor, not only does it incorporate the standard Aquaspace Compound which removes chemicals, it also has a special hollow fiber membrane designed to remove bacteria as well. So what that really means is it’s going to remove almost anything you might be concerned about. Off the top of my head:
- Lead from pipes
- Chlorine added to tap water
- Herbicides like glyphosate found in household weed killer
- Pesticides used to treat bugs from a farm or agricultural source
- Pharmaceuticals/drugs/hormones/antibiotics/antidepressants/pills that have been improperly disposed of (i.e. someone flushing them down the toilet when we all know that’s a bad idea).
- Industrial solvents from manufacturing processes that make its way into our water treatment facilities.
- Volatile Organic Compounds which are waterborne gases like chloroform and benzene found in many household products like cleaners, paints, oils, aerosols, and degreasers.
- Bacteria like E. coli & salmonella
- and Parasites & Cysts like cryptosporidium and giardia lamblia which can be present in a stream, spring, pond or any untreated, naturally occurring water.
It’s a long list… but that’s a good thing! That means pretty much anywhere you take the bottle, you don’t have to worry about what’s in the water, because it will take out anything bad that may be in it.
Easy Peasy Lemon Squeazy
In my journey I easily refilled my travel water bottle 100 times. It’s a lightweight water bottle perfect for traveling as it doesn’t take up much space, and fits into a standard backpack water bottle pocket, unlike those bulky Nalgene bottles. When I was on the road driving, I’d just have it in my cupholder.
When I stopped at places to eat, I pretty much only drank my filtered water (well... that or beer if I'm being honest) and when I went on a hike, I made sure to fill it up once before I left, and each time I’d come across a stream or fresh water source.
I found it super useful pretty much anywhere I went, and all you have to do is unscrew the top, fill it up to the fill line, then screw it back on.
The first time you use it you’ll have to squeeze the water out a few times to flush out the filter, which is normal for any carbon water filter. After that it’s good to go. Just fill it up whenever or wherever you like, then give the bottle a squeeze to force the water through the filter. What comes out is filtered, clean water.
Where to fill it up
Now we’re getting to the good stuff! As you can imagine, traveling for 5 weeks on the road I certainly found some interesting spots to fill it up. Here’s a list of locations I filled it up at, some specific, some generic:
- Kitchen & bathroom sinks
- Gas station & rest stop sinks
- Retail stores like Walmart and Target water fountains
- Local municipal park water fountains
- Gym water fountain
- Water spigots in national parks
- A household well in rural Idaho
- and lots of small streams and springs along my hikes in Shenandoah, Rocky Mountain, Zion, Yellowstone, Arches, and Crater Lake National Parks!
That fact that it removes bacteria from the water makes it a perfect hiking water bottle.
Better than the rest
What made this bottle work for me was there was no wait time in getting the filtered water. All I had to do was squeeze and it came out rather easily. I know other travel water bottles out there are made of stainless steel — but how do you squeeze the water out of a stainless bottle? You can’t!
Instead they have to use straws, requiring you to suck out the water through the filter, which to me sounds like a pain, especially if the filter starts to clog. I’ve had the bottle for about 2 months now and it’s still good as new. I’ll be looking to get a replacement filter in about a month.
For hardcore survivalists
There’s a few different types of technologies used for travel water bottle filters:
- UV lights
- Reverse Osmosis straws
- Dissolvable tablets
- Water pumps
- Boiling water
- Carbon filters
They ALL have their pros and cons.
Ultraviolet lights work well to kill bacteria but require batteries, reverse osmosis straws also work well but tend to clog easily, tablets don't take up any space but just take a while and aren’t reusable, water pumps are great for murky water but are bulky and cumbersome. Boiling water works to remove the bacteria, but not the chemicals or things like lead. Carbon filters typically only remove chemicals, not bacteria...
I know there's a lot of different types removing a lot of different things. But that's why I like the Survivor bottle, because it's quick and removes mostly everything.
According to the folks at Aquaspace, what makes the Survivor so unique is that the carbon is charge modified to remove lead and chlorine in addition to the chemicals (which is more than what most regular carbon filters can do), and the hollow fiber membrane tackles the microbial problems and removes bacteria, parasites, and cysts (again, way more than what most carbon filters can do).
Other things you should know
Because I care more about writing an honest review of this product and not one long product endorsement, I’ll name a few of the cons that I noticed. It only holds 20 something ounces of water. Which is good for daily use and fine for when you know you’ll be around a water source. But when I was hiking in Arches National Park, and there was no water source around, it’s tricky to make 20 ounces last a while. But anything larger than a 20 ounce bottle may not fit in a cup holder or backpack pocket.
Slightly slower flow rate than typical un-filtered bottle of water. Because the water must pass through the filter, it comes out slower than bottles without filters, which isn't that big of a surprise. But I suppose this is the trade off to getting truly clean water from any source. However, as I used the bottle more and more the flow rate did increase, and it got easier to squeeze the bottle for longer.
It doesn’t filter out viruses, only bacteria/parasites/cysts. Viruses are simply harder to remove, but also require a different technology to remove them. That being said, viruses in water are usually only a problem in developing countries. In my travels throughout the U.S. I never came across the need for virus filtration.
Lastly, and this isn't really a con at all, after squeezing the bottle it makes a little whistling sound as the air flows back in. I guess with the design of the mouthpiece, which makes it easy to drink from, when air flows back into the bottle it makes a cute little whistling sound. Just a small one, which I came to think of as it’s signature sound.
Cost break down
Again, getting my specs from the folks at Aquaspace, the Aquaspace Survivor water bottle will be sold for $49.95 and comes ready to use with one bottle and one filter. The filter lasts for 45 gallons or about 2-3 months of regular daily use and can be replaced at $39.95 for a new filter. Even as regularly as I used mine, it’ll probably last me the 3 months.
45 gallons is 5,760 fluid ounces. The daily amount we as humans should be drinking is about half our body weight (but in ounces). For a person weighing 200lbs, they should drink 100 oz of water. So for a 200lb person drinking their daily amount, the bottle would last approximately (5,760/100) 57.6 days, or about 2 months.
To put it into perspective that’s 5 refills a day of the Survivor bottle. I probably averaged 3 a day, with hiking days a bit more. (I know I should drink more!). But compared to how much buying a single 20 ounce bottle of water a day costs, and the amount of plastic you’re cutting down on, it was worth it to me.
The Aquaspace Survivor has become my go to travel water bottle not just for hikes but for everyday use. I usually try to fill it up before I leave home, or keep it with me in the car, or have it on my desk at work. But honestly I don't even have to worry about filling it up before I leave because pretty much anywhere I go will have a sink, faucet, or tap that I can fill up there.
If I’m walking on a trail here in my new home in the Pacific Northwest, or hiking in national parks, or climbing a mountain – it's always in my pack. There’s no better source of water than fresh from a spring or stream. In my experience, whether you’re on a local hike, camping off the grid, or just trying to avoid the nasty tap water at work, the Survivor bottle will give you the filtered water you're looking for.
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