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Let's assume I hike in a region with a lot of streams, rivers and lakes (South-Germany etc.) not longer than for two days. Am I supposed to use a life-straw as my primary water-source or should it be considered just as an emergency tool?

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You would want to be very sure about the availability of water (presumably non-muddy so as not to clog it). It should enable you to carry less though. Having seen people rely in summer on springs that turned out to be seasonal, it sounds like a bad idea. – Chris H Mar 29 at 7:40
You might want to specify what kind of hikes, in some places in Europe you can find drinkable water along the way in some others you have no water at all available. In the mountains some routes have sources where to refill your bottle but you cant limit yourself to drink only when you find them. Once you specify what kind of hikes you might get better info but as the question is now the Lifestraw is nice to have but you cant rely just on that. It could be your "primary filtering tool" but that's different than "primary water-source". – Erik vanDoren Mar 29 at 13:31
"am I able to go for a hike in Europe without water if I have a life-straw in my backpack" - is, pardon me, as naive as asking "am I able to go hunting bears with a pocket knife?" – Mr. Derpinthoughton Mar 29 at 13:32
Of course you can go hunting bears with a pocket knife. It's just a matter of what else to bring along with the pocket knife :-P – Daron Mar 29 at 14:20
Are you asking about raw survivability or a comfortable jaunt? You certainly could do it, but I'm sure carrying a water bottle is a more comfortable experience. – Erik Mar 29 at 16:55
up vote 24 down vote accepted

Generally speaking, no.

Arguably you should never go for out for any kind of extended exhausting activity without ensuring proper hydration, i.e. packing enough fluids at least for your immediate needs.

The life straw will allow you to purify water sources you find up to a certain degree, but some concerns remain:

  • You first need to actually find water sources. Depending on where & when in Europe you're hiking this will not at all be guaranteed (think southern France/Italy/Spain in summer).
  • Chemical pollution will not be cleared by the life straw. So you don't have a 100% guarantee that you'll be able to drink from every single water source.
  • While drinking with the straw directly might be entirely feasible, it will be impossible/very hard to get water for cooking, doing dishes, etc. using the life straw.
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If you are hiking in the mountains, there is a better alternative using the MSR microfilter. We use these in the Colorado Mountain Club when doing overnight trips. – Andrew Scott Evans Mar 29 at 16:59
Just thought I'd add that the Lifestraw Steel does filter out chemical pollution to a degree. Still agree with your answer though. – Dynadin Mar 29 at 17:52
Surely boiling water would suffice for cooking, dishes etc? – Tim B Mar 29 at 21:14
@TimB: Well, if the water was muddy and smells funny it'll still be that after cooking... So yeah, boiling water will help of course, but only if your source is reasonably clean to begin with. – fgysin Mar 30 at 7:16

Lets say you planned well all your hikes and you know you will have constant availability of water all along the route then you could rely only on the Lifestraw. That said even for the best planned hike you can find that a seasonal source is not available in that particular moment or that some sources you counted on might have been contaminated by chemicals and end with a long stretch without any water... So particular attention will have to be put in planning and researching. If you plan on sleeping in a refuge then those will have water, if its just one of the rest huts or bivuac then some might have water closeby but not all do. Local clubs can be a great source of info but you will still remain uncertain.

There is the Lifestraw Go (like other similar products on the market) that is basically a lifestraw integrated in a water bottle, that might give you a bit more freedom, it holds a bit more than half liter. Given how you use the regular one, you might want to still carry a bottle because you might not be able to suck directly from the river or lake, so you collect with that and stick the straw in it.

Honestly I don't see the pros of not carrying absolutely any water outweighing the cons and I would consider sensible to carry 1 liter of water with me, clean or dirty. You can use a rigid bottle, its useful for other stuff too, or can rig a flexible bottle or bladder with the Lifestraw so to make a sort of inline filter, refill at regular intervals so to always have water and if its just for one or two nights not carry meals that require a lot of water for preparation and dishes washed.

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I agree with fgysin's answer (no - water is very important - even with that equipment, you still need to find water, avoid chemical pollution, and access larger quantities of water for camp chores). I also want to add:

Redundancy. "Two is one and one is none" sounds silly until something breaks or is lost, and then you realize where that phrase comes from. If you only have one means of water purification and something goes wrong with it, you'll be very thirsty or drinking straight out of streams or bush-crafting some sort of container/filter (which isn't practical for a weekend hike, but you do need water on a weekend hike).

Versatility: An easy way to secure redundancy while also covering more necessary bases at once. You ask if a filtration device can replace water you'd normally carry, assuming there will be water 'stored' in nature and available for you to filter & enjoy. Having water storage is highly practical if not outright necessary. A canteen with a steel cup provides 2 water storage options, and at least one water purification option (boiling in steel cup).

Staying hydrated has a cascade of positive effects, and the opposite is true too (dehydration leads downhill fast). Having that convenient filtration device is good, but you shouldn't risk hydration by relying solely on that.

See for yourself: I recommend taking the lifestraw while also bringing a canteen you could fill, and try using the lifestraw as your primary/only water device to see how it works for you. It's worth challenging yourself as a learning experience - just be careful as water is key!

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I can't imagine carrying something as heavy as a steel cup while backpacking! I haven't made that mistake since my very first adult trip. Generally though I agree with the premise that you should never have only one way to purify water. – Russell Steen Mar 29 at 16:55
@RussellSteen I have a stainless steel cup for backpacking because it was very cheap, and it doubles as a pot. If money was unlimited, it would be titanium, and my pack would be a couple pounds lighter :-) – Karen Mar 29 at 17:35
@RussellSteen there are cup, canteen, small griddle setups that all nest together and are made entirely or partly out of stainless steel, which weigh less than 1lbs or half kg total. There are lighter, more flexible water bladders, but I prefer the endurance & ability to cook that comes with stainless steel cups. – cr0 Mar 29 at 17:53
Yeah, good point, I was thinking old style steel cups. Stainless is pretty lightweight. – Russell Steen Mar 29 at 18:40

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