As we’re all learning right now, the stuff you need for disaster preparedness is usually a lot more mundane than movies and TV shows would have you think. The most common drinking water emergency in this country? Boil water advisories created not by floods or fires, but by simple, everyday construction projects. Nationwide, there are nearly 7,000 of those a year. And this simple, affordable in-line water filter is exactly what you need to handle, not only that everyday stuff, but bigger emergencies too.
Based in Seattle, Washington, and owned by Cascade Designs, Mountain Safety Research (MSR) makes some of the highest quality tents, stoves, snowshoes, and cookware out there. The brand also has a sophisticated water lab, which conducts research for its own line of filtration products, the U.S. military, and other water filter brands. And, because fulfilling those military contracts requires American production, MSR makes its water filters in the same Seattle building that houses the lab.
Originally developed for a military contract over a decade ago, MSR has already shipped over 65,000 filters. “All we did was change the color,” says Owen Mesdag, Senior Product Developer for the brand. He didn’t design the filter, but is responsible for bringing it to civilian customers.
Inside the product is a hollow fiber filter and a container of activated charcoal. Those hollow fibers are only 0.2 microns in diameter, so contaminants like bacteria and protozoa, chemicals, or particulates like dirt and microplastics are unable to pass through. Hollow fibers achieve that filtration with a good flow rate: in this case, 1.5 liters per minute. After passing through the filter, the water flows through the charcoal, which helps improve taste. Like most filters, the Home Emergency Water Filter is not able to remove viruses, which are much smaller than 0.2 microns. If you need to use it to decontaminate water you suspect contains human waste, MSR advises you add eight drops of ordinary household bleach per gallon of water, after filtering it, and wait half an hour.
Like all MSR water filters, the Home Emergency Water Filter is equipped with a positive end-of-life indicator, so there’s no chance that you’ll unknowingly fail to clean your drinking water. In this case, the hollow fibers will become blocked and the filter will stop flowing water. Mesdag says the product has a minimum lifespan of 1,000 liters, but explains that’s in a worst case scenario, using heavily occluded water. If you’re using it to simply ensure that clear tap water is safe to drink, it should last much longer.
“The need here is for a solution to common, short-duration emergencies,” says Mesdag. He wasn’t trying to create a product for apocalypse preppers, but rather fill the realistic needs of every American home. Compared to boiling, using the filter will be faster, more convenient, and doesn’t require fuel. Events like earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, and floods can disable electrical or gas lines, but because most municipal water systems are powered by gravity, water often continues to flow from taps. The filter is also cheaper, easier to store, and less wasteful than buying a large amount of bottled water.
The Home Emergency Water Filter comes packaged in a hermetically sealed mylar pouch, meaning it should have an indefinite shelf life and can survive both long-term storage and exposure to contamination. “You could pull this thing out of a flooded basement, rip it open, and start filtering water immediately,” says Mesdag.
It’s equipped with a connector that fits all outdoor house spigots, in addition to the faucets on utility sinks, and outdoor cisterns or water storage containers. Mesdag explains that this standard can be found universally across all American homes, so designing for it, rather than the multitude of indoor faucet sizes, gives the filter the widest possible applicability.
That hose fitting and the filter’s outlet hose both connect via standard CPC fittings, which you’ll also find on most hydration bladders. That means, in addition to at-home use, you can connect the Home Emergency Water Filter to pretty much any hydration reservoir, and take its rapid water cleaning abilities with you. I also plan to carry one in my truck’s toolkit so I’m able to easily filter water I might find at remote gas stations when we go camping.
The Home Emergency Water Filter isn’t directly applicable to the current COVID-19 crisis. But, if at any point during this pandemic you do find your home subject to a boil water advisory, or if a natural disaster does occur, it should at least help ensure that you don’t use up your entire toilet paper stockpile.