Water is a pretty important part of our daily lives, and even more so when enjoying the outdoors. From summer heat to winter hill-climbing exertions, it’s vital to replace that lost water fast to keep spirits (and general enjoyment) up. While that’s an easy task at work, home and up the gym, not all outdoor locations have immediately drinkable water on tap, which is where the LifeSaver Liberty comes in.
The theory behind the device is that it’ll filter water that isn’t drinkable, removing 99.999% of viruses, 99.9999% of bacteria, and a mere 99.99% of cysts. Holding 400ml of filthy ditchwater that can immediately be consumed as if straight from a spring, it sounds like a perfect companion for many an outdoor adventure. We took it out on a day’s hiking to see how it holds up in reality, and is worthy of a place amongst our best water bottles for hiking ranking.
The first thing you need to know about using the LifeSaver Liberty outdoors is that it needs priming before you leave the house. This isn’t a big task, but an essential one. You basically fill the reservoir, empty, then refill and pump water through twice, leaving you with a damp but operational water filter system. The instructions also make clear that once primed, the membranes must be kept ‘hydrated’, by storing ‘at least 1cm’ of water in the bottle at all times – a potentially slightly faffy process, as well as something of a storage challenge.
Perhaps it’s a case of tester incompetence, but as a standalone water bottle the LifeSaver Liberty can be quite demanding. The reasons for this are both good and bad, based around the built-in pump, which is used to force the sketchy water through the filter and then out the top spout as clean drinking water. The good news is that you don’t need to suck to perform this feat, the bad is that it requires a careful hand to get the valve and internal pressure set for easy drinking. A fountain of filtered water rewards the less competent, and while it’s easier than you’d expect to pump and drink at the same time, it does need both hands and ideally to be stationary – drinking on the go is a challenge, even at walking pace.
Where the LifeSaver Liberty really shines is as a filter for a larger group, especially with the additional scavenger tube, a highly practical addition that means you don’t actually need to climb into the river or muddy lake to get water – a detail that seems unimportant until you’re actually trying to fill a bottle from a river without donning waders. With the scavenger tube dangling down into a babbling brook (of slightly suspicious-smelling water), pumping away soon slurps up enough to fill the 400ml capacity, and allows one person to sip from the water-fountain style top nozzle.
However, even in a small group, the clamour to ‘have a go too’ soon meant that attaching a…