Why a Berkey May Not Be The Best Water Filter For Preppers
Kevin Felts 11.19.18
Over the past couple of years, we have talked about various types of water filters, and there seems to be one brand that is mentioned ad nauseam, and that is the Berkey, and sometimes the Lifestraw. For this article, we will be talking about the Berkey and its relationship with preppers / survivalist.
Before we begin, let’s take a few minutes and describe how a Berkey filters water. After all, not all of the readers will know the ins and out of the filter.
Berkey filters, such as the Royal, Light, and Imperial are gravity filters. This means water seeps through the filter using gravity. This means there are no moving parts besides the spigot. There are no pumps to break, and the only seals are those around the filters.
The Berkey elements (which do the actual purification or filtration) attach to the bottom of the top reservoir where the water is poured, the water seeps through the filters into a holding tank at the bottom of the unit.
Some units can have up to four filters (e.g., Royal Berkey), while larger units (e.g., Imperial Berkey) can have to up to six. Depending on water quality, each black Berkey element can purify around 3,000 gallons. Which means the Royal Berkey with its four elements can purify around 12,000 gallons, and the Imperial Berkey with its six filters can purify around 18,000 gallons.
Water Filter Life
While 12,000 and 18,000 gallons may sound impressive, some handheld water filters advertise 100,000 and 1,000,000 gallon life expectancy – such as the Sawyer mini and the Sawyer PointOne. Keep in mind life expectancy is directly related to the quality of the water source.
Awhile back, a buddy of mine and I were talking about water filters. He knows I have a Royal Berkey and it is my primary water filter here on the farm. When he started talking about the Sawyer Mini and its 100,000 advertised life expectancy, the 12,000 gallons of my Royal Berkey did not sound that impressive.
In all honesty water filtration technology has come a long way in the past decade. When preppers were using a handheld water filter, such as the Katadyn Hiker, 12,000 gallons was a lot. Then along came the Sawyer Mini and PointOne which blew everything else out of the water.
The one thing the Berkey black filters have the advantage with, they are purifiers a not filters. What is the difference?
Purifiers remove or kill viruses, while filters do not.
Please keep in mind there are several types of Berkey filters on the market. Some are advertised as purifiers while others are just filters.
Water Filter Cost
Let’s be honest, Berkey units can be expensive, and the replacement black purifiers can be equally expensive. The black purifier element cost is one reason why people opt for the less expensive filter elements.
The Royal Berkey cost around $300 and comes with two black elements; so that is an estimated 6,000 gallons. A pair of Berkey black purification elements can easily cost around $100. To achieve the 12,000 capability of a four unit filter, the consumer will have to buy the unit, then purchase two more black elements.
Using the Royal Berkey as an example, the consumer would need to spend around $500 to get started and to use the filter to its maximum output.
That Sawyer PointOne for around $25, or the Sawyer Mini for around $20 are looking very attractive at this point.
We could spend around $100 on four Sawyer PointOne filters, each filter has an estimated life expectancy of around one million gallons, depending on source water quality. This gives us a grand total of around 4,000,000 gallons of safe drinking water.
Or we could spend around $500 for an estimated 12,000 gallons of safe drinking water.
Berkey water filters are not very portable, as they are intended to be home based units for a fixed location. There are some personal sized Berkey filters which are somewhat portable. However, even the personal size units fail in comparison to various filters on the market for hikers and campers.
At this time my Berkey water filter has water in it, so let’s turn to amazon to get the estimated empty weight.
- According to Amazon, the Royal Berkey has an estimated weight of around 7 pounds.
- Sawyer PointOne – 2.45 ounces
- Sawyer Mini – 1.45 ounces
- Sawyer PointOne with platypus bag and tubing to make a gravity filter – 10.95 ounces
It is going to be a lot easier to carry an 11 ounce filter than a 7 pound filter.
Filter Flow Rate
Regardless of what the specifications say, Berkey Elements can have a slow flow rate. This means of the Berkey runs dry, it will take a little while for water to collect in the lower unit.
In comparison, the Sawyer PointOne has a wonderful flow rate. The Sawyer Mini has a slower flow rate than the PointOne, but is still very acceptable.
Related Article – Sawyer PointOne vs. Sawyer Mini.
Even though Berkey makes a wonderful product, the cost can put some people off. On a personal note, I have been using a Royal Berkey for close to 10 years. After I moved to the farm several years ago the Berkey has been my primary water filter.
This brings up several questions:
- How much water would someone need to filter?
- How many people will need the filter?
While a Berkey may not be the best water filter for preppers, maybe it should play a role in having a well rounded water filter plan?