Few things are as important as clean water when you’re roughing it in the wilderness. According to Healthline, you should be drinking about 2 liters every day… during your normal routine back home. Camping is much different, as hot weather and exercise can cause you to lose fluids at an accelerated rate. And if you’re backpacking long distances, you should probably aim to drink around 1 liter of water every hour.
How exactly are you going to access this amount of fresh, clean water? Generally speaking, you’ll need to find a river or lake and use some sort of filtration device – in the case of this review, that just happens to be the Lifesaver Wayfarer, a relatively new pump filter breaking onto the scene. After testing it on three different trips in three different states, here’s what I found:
Lifesaver Wayfarer Overview
In 2007, the first Lifesaver bottle was created by British inventor Michael Pritchard. Since then, Lifesaver has expanded its shop to include larger filtration devices, like the Cube and the Jerrycan, which are useful for carrying and filtering large amount of water at a time. And most recently, they’ve added a small, highly effective pump filter known as the Lifesaver Wayfarer. Here are some of the general specs:
Pump filters are ideal when you need to clean large amounts of water at once, since they suck water from the source, pass it through the filter, and spit it out the other end. As long as you keep pumping, the water will keep flowing into whatever container/s you’re trying to fill.
That being said, no style of filter is really better than another – a water bottle filter like the Water-to-Go Active is great for backpacking in locations where water is plentiful and you don’t need to fill up a bladder. However, you can’t use it to filter large quanties of water to save for later. On the other hand, a pump filter like the Wayfarer is amazing for filling up a water bladder, cookpot, or other container, but it’s a little too clunky to be ideal for backpacking. For car camping and travel, though, I’ve found it to be a trusty companion that gets the job done well, despite drawing water from some (relatively) questionable sources.
Where It Shines
The Lifesaver Wayfarer definitely has a few strong points that put it a cut above other filters on the market. In particular, I like its efficiency, portability, efficacy, and intuitiveness, which I’ll get into more detail below.
I’ve already touched on it, but efficiency is one of the biggest benefits to using the Wayfarer. Once you’ve dropped the “input hose” into a body of water, all you have to do is put some muscle into the pump and liters of drinkable water will be yours in a matter of minutes.
It does help if you have a flat and solid place to rest the main body of the filter while you’re pumping, as you may have to put some of your body weight into the motion. I’d also like to point out that, while the filtration process is faster than most, it will take some time to prepare a reasonable amount of water. After all, the tubing is only so large. There’s also a fair bit of resistance when pulling the water through the filter, and you’re limited by how much suction power you can produce with each pump.
However, despite all of those factors, the Wayfarer still gets the job done faster than any filter device that I’ve used in the past. So, if you need clean water in a hurry, this is definitely the way to go.
For all intents and purposes, the Wayfarer is a pretty compact water filtration device. The shape is a little odd to work with when it comes to packing, but it’s small enough to fit inside a backpack without too much trouble. For reference, I was using my 50 liter pack and didn’t have any difficulty with it; however, I have carried it in my 21 liter pack as well, and it fit nicely with my other gear.
Coming in under a pound, it’s fairly light, though some backpackers will probably cringe at the 11.2 ounce weight anyway. While it wasn’t an overnight trip, I did carry the Wayfarer with me on the Taylor Creek trail in Kolob Canyon, Utah. The trail is about 5 miles long with more river crossings than I can count. There wasn’t any crazy elevation change, but it seemed like a good chance to test how impactful the weight of the Wayfarer would be on a hike.
I had the items that I always bring on a dayhike: food, water, some first aid supplies, sun protection, and a knife. When I added the Wayfarer, I definitely felt it, but it wasn’t as overbearing as I expected. The 5 miles passed quickly, and at the end of it all, I didn’t feel too worse for the wear. On a longer trek with a larger pack and more gear, I’m sure my verdict would be a little different. But, be that as it may, it’s still not a bad option for shorter treks, car camping, and travel purposes.
Why do we even bother with water filters to begin with? Because we don’t want to get sick after drinking from contaminated sources! The effectiveness of a water filter is one of the most important features to consider, and I have to say, the Wayfarer does it right.
Making use of a hollow fiber medium and a replaceable activated carbon disc, the filter traps contaminants larger than 15 nanometers (0.015 microns). If the membrane gets blocked, built in FailSafe technology prevents more water from passing through, ensuring your safety.
While I haven’t had the chance to test its ability to filter super dirty and questionable water (and I probably never will, because I’m not fond of roulette), I have no doubt that it would perform well in such extreme circumstances. And since I have taken samples from various lakes and rivers across the US, I can say with certainty that it performs just as well as other giants in the water filtration industry, like Grayl and Lifestraw.
The Lifesaver Wayfarer has a pretty intuitive device. On the main body, there’s a place for you to attach the “input” hose and a place to put the “output” hose. You can tell the hoses apart pretty easily: the output hose is just a simple tube (clear in color), while the input hose (gray in color) has a foam flotation device and a prefilter attachment. Just shove these hoses into their respective spiggots, and you’ll be good to go.
It is worth mentioning that you’ll need to keep the prefilter fully submerged, otherwise you run the risk of pumping air into the filter. I had to push the flotation device a little further up the tubing to make sure the prefilter was fully underwater, which worked well, even in a fast moving river.
Assuming you do get air in your filter though (it’s bound to happen), there is a pressure release valve on the bottom of the unit. If it feels like it’s starting to get harder to pump water through the hosing, you may need to release any pressure built up inside the filter.
A Note About Priming: You will need to prime the Wayfarer before using it for the first time. Start by assembling the filter, and then submerge the intake hose into a clean source of water. Make sure that the out hose is spitting the water into a drain, and not a different container, as the water will be dirty.
Pump four times, leave the Wayfarer for roughly 2 minutes to allow the filter to soak, and continue pumping once the time has passed. It’s recommended that you pump an additional 8 liters through the filter to remove any vegetable glycerin that might still be coating the filter.
Potential Pain Points
Unfortunately, the Wayfarer isn’t flawless. Not only is it unsuitable for certain types of camping by design (a problem specific to pump filters, not just the Wayfarer), but there are a couple other factors that may cause frustration.
Gets Increasingly Harder to Pump
I’ll admit, those first few pumps after priming the Wayfarer were glorious. It took relatively little effort, and the water was coming at a steady rate… Until it wasn’t.
After the first couple of liters, it became exponentially harder to move the pump up and down. I made sure to release the pressure using the valve underneath the unit, and it helped (a little), but before long, even that wasn’t cutting it anymore. The water source was clean, the filter was clean, and there was no pressure in the filter, and I still felt like I was going to snap the pump handle when I pushed down.
I’m not too familiar with pump filters, so I can’t say how common this is among similar devices. However, it’s frustrating regardless of how common it is or not.
Questionable Filter Remover Tool
The Wayfarer comes with a little “U shaped” key that allows you to remove the internal filter – whether you want to clean it or replace it. It’s just a piece of plastic that fits into a couple of grooves on the underside of the unit. Once inserted, you’ll twist counterclockwise until the filter has released, and then lift to pull it out.
While I did get it to work (eventually) it was a rather painstaking experience. It took more than a little muscle to lock the tool into place, so it wouldn’t come off as soon as I started pulling. And as far as rotating the filter counterclockwise to release it, I had to use a stick for leverage to get it to budge.
At the end of the day, I understand that the filter needs to be tightly secured inside the unit; however, it would be nice if it was easy enough to release without depending on a stick… Just saying.
Good for Backpacking? I’m Not Sure…
I’ve mentioned how the Wayfarer fits nicely in a backpack. It’s also hard to complain about the weight, considering it’s a few ounces shy of a pound. At the same time, it’s definitely not something I would want to bring on an extended backpacking trip where I’m hiking 10+ miles a day.
That’s not to say it’s bad for backpacking in general. On the contrary, I think it would work great for short excursions with minimal amounts of hiking, especially if you need a lot of water for drinking or cooking. But as someone who’s backpacked 20 miles a day for 4 days straight, I can’t imagine carrying something of this size and weight with me.
As far as filtration devices go, the Lifesaver Wayfarer is a solid option for most types of backcountry living. It’s portable, effective at removing harmful pathogens, and pretty intuitive to use and put together.
Sure, you’ll probably need to push the pressure release valve more often than you’d like, and the filter itself can be a pain to clean and/or replace. However, the Wayfarer is an excellent choice when you need to filter large amounts of water at once, and in my opinion, the pros certainly outweigh the cons.
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