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11 Ounces, 1,300 Gallons: LifeSaver Wayfarer Packable Water Purifier Review

Unlike many other filters on the market, the LifeSaver Wayfarer blocks viruses from passing through its hollow fiber membrane filters — it's rated to one of the highest levels of certified water protection.

(Photo/Will Brendza)
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We were about 20 miles up Gypsum Creek, pedaling deeper into White River National Forest aboard a pair of burly UBCO bikes loaded down with an obscene amount of camping gear. We had everything we needed for a weekend outing and gear-testing trip — except water. I knew there was a water source at camp, a favorite little fishing spot of mine. So, I was betting it all on a fancy new LifeSaver Wayfarer purifier.

Once camp was set up, I meandered down to the reservoir’s edge and started filling water bottles and bladders. Fish jumped in front of me, feeding at dusk, and insects hovered at the water’s surface. I could see small particulates floating around if I scooped a handful. And of course, there was all that I couldn’t see as well.

Normally, I use iodine tablets to clean my water to kill bacteria, viruses, and protozoa (except Cryptosporidium). It gets the job done, though it doesn’t filter out particulates. I’ve also tried a variety of water filtration.

But I do not normally use a pump-powered purifier. The Wayfarer from LifeSaver has a design similar to the Katadyn Hiker Microfilter, with one critical difference: Unlike most filters on the market. the Wayfarer blocks viruses as well.

I tested the Wayfarer over several months on numerous backcountry excursions, backpacking trips, and camp adventures — here’s how it fared.

In short: The LifeSaver Wayfarer is a camping and backpacking water purifier that removes 99.999% of viruses, 99.9999% of bacteria, and 99.99% of cysts and parasites from freshwater sources. It uses LifeSaver’s proprietary “FailSafe Technology,” so that once the filter membranes are blocked with contaminants, water cannot pass through. At 11.4 ounces, it’s a light means of water purification and one of the most effective. And at just $110, it’s competitively priced, too.

Shopping for water filters and purifiers? Compare the LifeSaver Wayfarer to others on GearJunkie’s guide to the Best Backpacking Water Filters.

LifeSaver Wayfarer


  • Filter type Pump
  • Filter medium Hollow fiber / carbon
  • Removes/Destroys Protozoa, bacteria and viruses
  • Pump force 14.5 lbs.
  • Pump strokes per liter 50
  • Output 47 fl. oz./60 sec.
  • Housing material Polypropylene
  • BPA free Yes
  • Field cleanable Yes
  • Dimensions 6.1" x 3.5" x 2.9"
  • Weight 11.2 oz.


  • Immediately filters water removing/killing all protozoa, bacteria, and viruses
  • Can filter 1,320 gallons before replacement
  • Won't pump water once the membrane is blocked
  • NSF/ANSI P231 rating


  • Heavy for backpacking
  • More work to assemble and use than squeeze filter

LifeSaver Wayfarer Water Purifier

Let’s make a distinction before we get too far into the review: Water filters and water purifiers are not the same thing. Water filters (like the Brita filter in your fridge and the Sawyer filter in your backpacking gear) eliminate protozoa and bacteria, and block particulates.

Water purifiers do all that and block viruses as well. Most waterborne viruses are too small for hollow-fiber membrane filters to catch. And if you catch a waterborne virus — like Cryptosporidiosis (Cryptosporidium), Giardiasis (Giardia), or hepatitis — you are going to have a bad time.

(Photo/Will Brendza)

Water coming out of a purifier like the Wayferer won’t have any of that. According to LifeSaver, it removes 99.999% of viruses, as well as bacteria, cysts and parasites.

The hollow fiber membrane technology in the Wayfarer cartridge exceeds NSF/ANSI P231 standards for water purifiers. That is one of the highest levels of certified water protection achievable. It’s what military bases, schools, restaurants, and food processing plants strive to meet.

(Photo/Will Brendza)

All that’s to say this is a powerful water purifier. And honestly, it was probably overkill for the clean Colorado streams, rivers, lakes, and reservoirs I used it on. But, one can never be too careful.

Wayfarer Purifier: Features and Functions

(Photo/Will Brendza)

The filter comes with the pump unit and UF Cartridge installed, an activated carbon disc, a 4.2-foot “In” hose (black) and a 1.6-foot “Out” hose (white), a UF Cartridge removal tool, and a travel pouch to keep it all together.

To assemble, plug the open end of the “In” hose into the bottom valve (labeled “In”) and plug either end of the “Out” hose into the top valve (labeled “Out”). It’s simple.

Then, drop the intake valve with its foam flotation device into your water source. Situate the Out hose over a receptacle, start pumping, and voilà! You’ve got clean water.

According to LifeSaver, the Wayfarer can pump roughly 1.4 L per minute — which lines up with my experience during testing.

Supposedly, this purifier is good for 5,000 L (1,320 gallons). That is significantly less than a Sawyer filter’s lifespan, which the brand claims is good for 450,000 L (100,000 gallons). But again, the Sawyer isn’t a purifier and won’t protect you from waterborne viruses like the Wayfarer claims to.

The replaceable activated carbon disc in the Wayfarer also reduces heavy metal content. Contaminants like chlorine, lead, nickel, and cadmium are minimized, which should also improve the water’s taste and odor.

You can purchase replacement cartridges ($45) and replacement carbon discs (three for $28) on the LifeSaver website.

In the Field

LifeSaver Wayfarer Water Purifier is more effective than water filters for backpacking and camping
(Photo/Will Brendza)

The Wayfarer came with me on numerous camping trips and a couple of backpacking trips. It’s easy to throw in a pack and while it weighs more than gravity filters or squeeze filters, a few ounces really don’t make that much of a difference to me.

Compared to the iodine tablets and gravity filters I’m used to, the Wayfarer was more instantaneously gratifying. I could fill my water bottle with fresh, clean, clear water in a minute and start drinking right away.

Around 50 pumps equal a full liter of purified water. The pump handle rotates out and its action is easy. If it does start to become hard to push water through, that’s likely because you need a new filter.

LifeSaver uses a proprietary technology it calls FailSafe that prevents water from passing through once the filter membranes are blocked with contaminants. I am still a ways off from reaching the 1,320-gallon limit, so I have not confirmed this function yet.

The polypropylene housing is durable and pretty light on its own. Most of this purifier’s 11.4-ounce weight comes from the cartridge on the inside. You can remove that with the nifty blue tool included with the filter. Just clip it in and twist it, and the hollow fiber membrane cartridge and carbon disc pop right out.

LifeSaver Wayfarer Water Purifier is more effective than water filters for backpacking and camping
(Photo/Will Brendza)

After each use, I shook out the hoses to drain any leftover water and gave the Wayfarer a few extra pumps to expel any excess. Then, it was back in the travel pouch, and I was back on the trail or back to the campsite.

On numerous occasions, I had friends who were using other kinds of filters ask to use this one. Not just because it blocks viruses, which is comforting on a health level, but because people liked how easy it was to use and how quickly they could fill their water bottles with it.

If you’re like me, you may have shied away from pump filters like this one because they look like too much work. You have to get the hoses out, plug them in, position your water bottle, and then pump your water. Honestly, the Wayfarer may have made me a convert on these devices. It was straightforward and fast.

Plus, knowing that this purifier was blocking viruses and all the other waterborne baddies offered peace of mind. As I said, this might have been overkill for the water sources I was purifying from. Colorado’s backcountry doesn’t have a ton of waterborne viruses.

However, if I were backpacking, camping, or even just traveling in a country that did, I would be very grateful to have the LifeSaver Wayfarer with me.

Compared to the Competition

This is not the only water purifier on the market. Grayl sells a Purifier GeoPress that kills viruses (though it’s rated to different NSF/ANSI standards). It is only good for 65 gallons of purified water, according to the brand. It retails for $100.

LifeStraw also makes purifiers for camping. It has the $395 LifeStraw Community purifier that is not packable or portable but will purify 4,755 gallons of water.

The most competitive purifier is the Lifestraw Mission, a high-volume gravity purifier and filter. It costs $130 and will likewise purify up to 4,755 gallons. However, it weighs 1.17 pounds, which is notably heavier than the LifeSaver Wayfarer.

LifeSaver Wayfarer Water Purifier: Who Is It For?

LifeSaver Wayfarer Water Purifier is more effective than water filters for backpacking and camping
(Photo/Will Brendza)

Backpackers and campers will easily find the utility in the Wayfarer. It isn’t the lightest or most compact way to get clean water out of a natural source — but as a purifier, it is more effective than any filter on the market that I’ve tried. If full protection from viruses, bacteria, cysts, and parasites is a priority for you, then I can’t recommend this purifier more.

Also, as a backup means for home filtration, this is a solid piece of emergency kit. Should you need some way to purify water during a natural disaster or other situation, this would be great to have on hand.

Likewise, as mentioned, this could also be an invaluable tool for travel in foreign countries where waterborne viruses are more common.

I am a big fan of the LifeSaver Wayfarer Water Purifier. It might not be my first choice for every backpacking trip I go on. But it has its time and place, and I’m glad I have the option to use it when I feel it’s necessary. And when you compare it to other water filters on the market, it is priced competitively. And if I’m going to spend $110 on a means of getting clean water, why buy a filter when I can get a purifier?

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Will Brendza

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