Already 12 days in Thailand and we have not bought a single bottle of water. I was very fortunate to have received a Lifesaver bottle as a gift from my colleagues from R&D at X-Flow when I left the company at the beginning of July. How does it work? It is a bottle with a “dirty” and a “clean” side separated by a cartridge made of X-Flow ultrafiltration hollow fiber membrane. You apply an overpressure on the dirty side by means of a built in pump. The pressure forces water to flow through the membrane onto the clean side. The membrane pores are about 25 nm large, meaning that 99.99% of the viruses, and literally all bacteria and any larger organisms are retained.
Viruses, bacteria and any larger organisms are retained on the dirty side, so you keep hydrated without the unpleasant side effects.
In essence, the LifeSaver does not change the flavor of the water (sea water will still be salty), it just sterilizes it so you don’t get sick. In Bangkok tap water tasted chlorinated and quite muddy, in Koh Phangang the taste of the water changed every day, since it came from a well on the grounds of the guest house. Whilst on the first day the water tasted a bit peaty, its taste improved after a thunderstorm, but then later stunk a bit like rotten eggs – probably due to contamination from the septic tanks. On Koh Chang we drank the tap water as well as water from the river.
People we met found the LifeSaver bottle quite fascinating, since literally no-one, not even the locals drink tap or surface water here as they are afraid of getting sick. A bottle of Lifeaver costs about €140 and is able to filter up to 6000 liters of water. That means that one liter of filtered water costs you about 2 cents! That’s about 10-20x less than a liter of water in the store, even here in Thailand. Plus, think about the amount of plastic waste saved if everyone did that!
Lifesaver at Koh Phangan
So how would I rate the Lifesaver? I think it’s a great idea and it keeps up to its promise since we did not get sick yet. On the other hand, it’s quite sizeable and heavy yet fills with only 0,75 liters of water. Furthermore, the operation is quite clumsy. If you want to drink, you first need to open the mouthpiece and then start pumping. Not the other way around which would be more comfortable. In case the bottle is still under pressure the mouthpiece will leak, so if you want to put it back into your rucksack it’s better when it’s decompressed by partly unscrewing the fill side. Also the more you drink, the less water comes out of the bottle, since the cartridge surface area is exposed less and less as the water level drops, and the last 75ml can’t be drunk at all. We will keep using the LifeSaver for the rest of the journey, but if a next generation of this marvel comes, it would be better to improve on these design shortcomings. Flo-Bro has already got something on the drawing board too…