Is the Lifesaver Liberty portable water purification system worth your hard-earned cash? Does it live up to all its claims and how practical is it in the field? Find out now in this comprehensive and HONEST review of the Lifesaver Liberty.
Table of Contents
My association with Lifesaver
I don’t have any affiliate or monetary association with Lifesaver. I bought the Lifesaver Liberty a little over a year ago with my own funds. It makes no monetary difference to me whether or not you buy a Lifesaver Liberty through links in this article as a result of reading this review. Why is this important? It means you will get an honest review. If I have nothing to gain, I have nothing to lose either by giving you a 100% honest review.
What does the Lifesaver Liberty do?
The Lifesaver Liberty is a portable water purification system. It’s important to note the difference between filtration and purification.
Filtration removes the larger solid impurities and sediments. Purification removes or kills everything microscopically small such as viruses and bacteria.
This is no easy task without a dedicated filtering and purifying unit. Generally, to filter the dirty water you would use various filtering mediums such as stone, moss, cloths, or sand. To purify that filtered water it’s then normally subjected to UV light, boiled, or has a chemical added to it.
The Liberty takes care of both filtering and purifying. It purifies using very fine filtering to remove almost all bacteria and viruses. Lifesaver themselves claims it removes 99.99% of viruses, bacteria, and cysts. I’ve had no reason to doubt this and that the water coming out is as pure as you’ll ever get.
The unit functions as both a bottle and an inline pump. This means you can use it to filter and drink the water straight from the unit itself. Alternatively, by attaching the supplied scavenger hose you can pump and purify water from one source into another. This makes it a little more versatile than other units which either do one thing or the other.
My use of the Lifesaver Liberty portable water purifier
So, I’ve had the Liberty Lifesaver for a little over a year. In that time I’ve taken it on three separate 2-day camping trips. I have also used it for water purification purposes at home 5 – 10 times. Lastly, I’ve used it at home to test the flow rate 4 – 5 times.
I would estimate having put around 300 liters of water through the first filter. The unit is not on that same original filter and was replaced just after 1 year. I have used the original filter with everything from very dirty to perfectly clean tap water.
I primed the original filter as per the instructions before I used it for the first time. The first water I purified with it was around 2 – 3 liters of very dirty water. This was both for the amusement of my young kids and to test if the unit could do what it claimed. On all other occasions, it was used to purify visually clean water from rivers or lakes. I have always used the unit as an inline pump using the scavenger hose.
When taking it camping I store it in a padded area in my pack. At home, I store it inside with a little water kept in it, which is recommended to stop the filter from drying out.
The Liberty has a rugged, solid-looking, almost military-style appearance. Overall the Lifesaver Liberty is a very nice-looking portable water purifier.
The bottle itself is a pretty solid piece of equipment. It doesn’t feel like a delicate piece of gear by any means. On the same token though I wouldn’t want to be throwing it around or anything like that. In summary, it feels solid but not indestructible I guess.
Having owned and used the Lifesaver Liberty for a year I can give some kind of input into its durability. This is an observation of durability over time, more than the amount of water put through it.
Only one part of the unit has given cause for concern in durability terms. That being a leak that developed in the main body of the unit itself. This happened after removing and replacing the top part of the unit. Something that needs to be done quite often to replace the carbon filter or for routine cleaning. In other words, it’s not considered an abnormal thing to do with the bottle.
This unit still functioned but it caused unfiltered water to leak from the bottle when pressurized. This presented the potential for that water to run down into the clean filtered water and cause cross-contamination.
In fairness to Lifesaver, they sent me out a replacement main body when I contacted them about it.
Other than that though all other seals and moving parts have been trouble-free and everything has held up fine with the unit.
Weight and size
At 10 inches long and 3.15 inches wide, this unit is by no means small and it certainly won’t go unnoticed in your pack.
Its dry weight is stated by Lifesaver as 425 grams, however, mine weighs around 600 grams when empty of any water. My guess is that the filter is around 175 grams heavier after saturating with water. With its 400ml capacity, the unit is around. In actual use, you can expect the Lifesaver Liberty to be about 700 grams at its lightest.
This weight and size are not small. However, the weight and size need to be put into real use, in the field context. In actual use, this unit combined with a 2-liter bottle of (refillable) purified water will most likely be replacing what was 4 liters of water in your pack.
For things like car and kayak camping where weight isn’t such an issue, the Liberty is well suited.
Ease of maintenance
In the field maintenance, as recommended by Lifesaver is to partially fill and shake the unit with the cleanest water you can source. Easy peasy lemon squeezy if you can source some cleanish water. Not so simple if you only have dirty water to hand, which is exactly when you’ll most likely need to do this. See the problem?
The at-home cleaning recommendation is to remove the filter from the unit and soak it in warm, clean, sterilized water. This involves removing the filter cartridge from the unit, soaking it in a mild Milton sterilizing fluid solution, and then reinserting. I have found this to be somewhat effective in bringing back up a reduced flow rate after in the field use.
All parts are fairly easy to disassemble for cleaning or replacement and require no special tools to do so.
Is the Lifesaver Liberty easy to use?
The unit itself is very simple to use.
- For bottle mode
- Screw the bottom off.
- Fill with water.
- Screw bottom back on.
- Pump the unit a few times to build some internal pressure.
- Remove the top cap.
- Flip the little tap switch to release water from the drinking nozzle.
- For inline pump mode
- Unscrew the base of the unit a little so it’s not airtight.
- Attached the supplied 5ft scavenger hose to the nipple near the base of the unit.
- Pop the end of the hose into the water source.
- With the unit upside down begin pumping to draw water up into the unit.
- Keep going until water fills the viewing window and then do one more pump.
- Tighten up the base.
- Place unit over whatever vessel you have to catch the clean water.
- Flip the little tap switch to allow water release from the drinking nozzle.
- Begin pumping the unit again until you have as much clean water as you require.
As you can see there’s nothing complicated about using it at all. The only real issues I have here are that the little tap switch can be a bit fiddly to reach. That however is a very minor complaint.
Lifesaver Liberty flow rate
The information in this section relates to the original filter cartridge that came with the unit.
For an inline pump, the flow rate is an important aspect of the unit. If you need an inline pump, you most likely want to process larger amounts of water, more than a bottle’s worth at a time anyway. In these situations a fast flow rate is important.
Lifesaver states the flow rate as 1.2 L/m (Liters/minute). That means it should purify 2 liters of water in well under 2 minutes which I consider as really impressive.
The best flow rate I’ve recorded is 2 liters in around 3 minutes. That’s the flow rate more or less straight out of the box. That puts the flow rate at around 0.66 L/m which is miles under what’s claimed but a rate I would still consider very acceptable.
After that though, the flow rate progressively dropped. I’ve recorded 2 liters in just under 10 minutes at its worst putting the flow rate at a dismal 0.2 L/m.
I first noticed the issue during my first 2-day campout. I planned to fill a 10-liter roll-up water bag with purified river water. Something I expected to take 15 – 20 mins at the most. After around 3 – 4 liters the flow rate noticeably began to slow. It took what seemed like an eternity to fill the rest of the bag.
When I returned home I tested and confirmed the flow rate as 2 liters in 6 min. After performing the recommended at-home cleaning on the filter the flow rate improved to 2 liters in 4 mins.
The same pattern of slowing flow rate continued since that. I now fill my 10-liter water bag with source water and just purify 2 liters now and then as required.
Flow rate test on the original filter cartridge after 1 year
I performed the final test of the flow rate on the original filter cartridge after performing the at-home cleaning procedure. Clean cold tap water was used to give the unit the best possible chance of achieving a good result. I purified 2 liters at a time and did this 5 times purifying 10 liters in total.
The results of this test were as follows –
- 1st 2 liters – 7m 55s
- 2nd 2 liters – 8m 20s
- 3rd 2 liters – 8m 42s
- 4th 2 liters – 9m 10s
- 5th 2 liters – 9m 15s
As you can see the flow rate was below the claimed 1.2 L/m, miles below it in fact. What’s also observable is how the flow rate is constantly slowing with a difference of 1m 20 secs between the first 2 liters and the last.
Reporting the flow rate issue to Lifesaver
Before publishing this review I contacted Lifesaver to report the flow rate issue. There’s always the chance I could have received a faulty filter perhaps.
I told them about the difference between the stated flow rates and the flow rates I actually recorded. They suggested I check the filter seal and perform the at-home cleaning procedure to see if that helped. I did this and then tested the flow rate again. It made little to no difference with the results as per the ‘Final flow rate test on the original filter cartridge’ section above.
I reported back with my results to Lifesaver. To their credit, they stated that the flow rate was way too slow and immediately sent me out a new replacement filter cartridge.
Fitting the new cartridge brought the flow rate back to around 2 liters in 3 minutes.
Flow rate test with a new filter cartridge after one month.
Once again the flow rate decreased noticeably after a few days of consistent use. I tested it by putting around 10 -12 liters of visually clean collected rainwater each day.
The first few days it held fairly constant at around 2 liters in 3 minutes. After around a week though it noticeably started to slow. Also, no water has gone into the bottle body without first going through the scavenger hose pre-filter.
It has come with me on one camping trip and filtered around 6 liters of clean-looking spring water.
The flow rate results after 1 month are as follows (test performed after performing the at-home cleaning procedure with visually clean rainwater)-
- 1st 2 liters – 5m 02s
- 2nd 2 liters – 5m 46s
- 3rd 2 liters – 6m 34s
- 4th 2 liters – 7m 37s
- 5th 2 liters – 8m 49s
As can be clearly seen the flow rate is still diminishing even with the new cartridge.
What’s in the box
The following comes as standard with the Lifesaver Liberty –
- Lifesaver Liberty bottle
- 1 Main filter cartridge unit
- 1 Carbon filter disc
- 5ft scavenger hose with pre-filter and sliding float
- Filter end cover
- Small bag to hold the hose and filter cover
You can purchase other packages that come with other protective items like silicone sleeves, cases, extra filters, etc.
How much does the Lifesaver Liberty cost?
At the time of writing (25/05/21), on the Lifesaver website, the standard package costs €116.66. Replacement filter cartridges cost €45.83. A pack of 3 replacement carbon filters costs €17.49.
How long do the filters last?
The main filter cartridge for the lifesaver liberty is what purifies the dirty water. It removes unwanted viruses, bacteria, and cysts. The carbon filter disc improves the water palatability by removing chlorine, tastes, and unwanted odors.
The main filter cartridge is claimed as being able to purify up to 2,000 liters of water. Once the filter has reached the end of its life it will no longer allow water to pass through it. For this reason, it would be advisable to keep a spare filter to hand if you were heavily depending on the Liberty.
The carbon filter discs are claimed to as being able to treat 100 liters of water. It should be noted that it is still safe to drink the purified water even without a carbon filter.
Bad points about the Lifesaver Liberty
- Very suspect flow rate
- Heavier than expected
- Slightly fiddly on/off tap
- Needs water in it always
- Difficult to effectively clean in the field
Good points about the Lifesaver Liberty
- Solid construction
- Purifies water as opposed to just filtering
- Looks good
- Functions as inline pump and bottle
- Comes with good length scavenger hose (5ft)
- Water will always be purified
- Easy to take apart and maintain at home
Lifesaver customer service
I had two issues with my Lifesaver Liberty that I referred to customer service. A filter cartridge that seemed too slow and a bottle body that developed a leak.
I contacted them by email only and Lifesaver responded at all times within a couple of hours or less.
I should also note that I did not purchase my Liberty directly from Lifesaver but from another authorized seller.
For both items Lifesaver quickly sent me the replacement parts after explaining the issues with them.
From my experience, their customer service is very good.
For me, it’s a bit too heavy, a bit too big, and a lot too slow. If it was half the price I could deal with those things, however, it’s priced at the higher end of the scale for water filters/purifiers.
I can understand that purifying water by filtering mechanism alone is never going to be quick. I don’t really have an issue with that. What I do take issue with though is false or misleading claims. To claim that this unit can purify 1.2L/m is not far off an outright lie in my opinion. If it can it’s straight out the box and for a very short time thereafter from my experience.
Keep in mind that Lifesaver uses – ‘Fast flow rate – 1.2 L/min’ as one of the selling points in the description section for the Liberty on their own website. This was in fact one of the main things that sold it for me.
Of course in the product manual, the flow rate is stated as “Initial flow rate” and you will find the expected statement there too – ‘Flow rates and service rating are dependent on the composition
and turbidity of the feed water’. However, I don’t feel it excuses how much the flow rate drops after such a short space of time for a filter unit with a service rating of 2000 liters.
Would I buy another one? I don’t think so.
Will I continue to use the one I have? Yes, I will, for the simple reason that it works and it cost me too much to just forget about.
Share your thoughts
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