Review: HydroBlu Versa Flow

Pros

  • Minimal moving parts makes it easy to use and hard to break
  • Light weight (2 ounces), small, and durable
  • Super versatile and easy to clean
  • 0.1 Micron Hollow Fiber membrane removes 99.999% of all bacteria and protozoan cysts
  • Direct-to-consumer pricing

Cons

  • Takes a bit of MacGyvering to get the ideal setup for gravity filter

Bottom line

I’ve thought a lot about the best water filter for backcountry trips and my first choice last year was a hand-pump because of the playability they afford for children. However, on our most recent family camping trip I rigged the Versa Flow up as a gravity filter, which made a self-serve water source for the children that they spent a lot of time interacting with, including doing refills of the water reservoir. Combining that with the low price point of Versa Flow at $19.95 and it’s terrific versatility and I think it’s a great first choice.

Review

There are a wide variety of hydration systems that can be used to make found water drinkable. From chemical purification to ultraviolet light, from the age old practice of boiling to gravity, straw, and hand-pump filters, the options are a bit dizzying–fortunately each system will keep you and your family safe. So how to choose?

When we’re out in the backcountry, simple routines like getting water become a nice focus of our day rather than a distraction. Cleaning water in particular is one of my favorite teachable moments. It’s also a moment that I want see improve my children’s relationship with nature, not erode it. With that in mind how I think about these systems is perhaps different than others.

My quick down and dirty evaluation from last year (find the long one here):

  • Chemical purification – tastes yucky, don’t want to scare the kids
  • Ultraviolet light – pretty darn boring, hard to explain how it works
  • Boiling – too easy for children to get a burned means a lot less participation
  • Gravity filter – have not used, expect to be boring
  • Straw filter – not sufficient to cover all needs
  • Hand-pump filter – more work than others, lots of playability for children

On our most recent backcountry camping trip, we camped along the Shrine Pass Road towards Redcliff, near Vail, Colorado, in the White River National Forest. We found a beautiful dispersed camping site next to the creek and we were fortunate to have received a Versa Flow filter from HydroBlu to test out.

I decided to set the Versa Flow up as a gravity filter for the children at camp. I filled up one of our hydration bags with water from the creek as our “dirty” bag, attached a hose from it to the inlet on the Versa Flow, and then hung it from a tree. The children could then release the tension on the hose clamp and water poured out of the Versa Flow into their cups. It made an awesome addition to our camp–I frequently spotted groups of children standing by the tree filling up their cups.

The Versa Flow can be used like this, as a gravity filter, and in a number of other ways: you can use it directly in the water source as a straw filter, you can screw one end to a bottle of “dirty” water and squeeze the water through the filter, or you can set it up inline with your hydration bag in your pack.

If you use it as a bottle filter, straw, or an inline filter it is a complete system. When you use it as an inline filter you do need specific additional equipment, but you will likely already have a pack and reservoir for that need. The downside I found with the Versa Flow is when using it as a gravity system because the individual unit does not come with a bucket or reservoir. The individual unit comes with just the filter, a hose, and a hose clamp. You’ll need to figure out how you want to set it up and make sure you have the other pieces. If you’re going to depend on it for your primary hydration system, it’s ideal to get a hydration bag or other “dirty” reservoir of water so that you can clean enough water for cooking, dishes, and drinking water all in one session. I ended up doing a bit of MacGyvering, cutting one hose to the length I wanted, using some other parts from my Katadyn Hiker hand-pump system and finally connecting with my Platypus hydration bag.

HydroBlu does sell a combo pack of the Versa Flow and a reservoir. Additionally, I hear that in the next month they are about to launch a gravity system that includes all the parts, Versa Flow, gravity system hardware, hose, dry bag with the hose connection, and straps. That is going to be an ideal package.

The Versa Flow doesn’t have moving parts, which makes it far more kid tough (I fear my children will break our hand-pump through general “kid” use any day now). Additionally, clean up is way easier with the Versa Flow than my hand-pump system. To clean my hand-pump I have to run a cleaning solution (like bleach, etc.) through the whole system. To clean the Versa Flow you just back flush it with clean water.

The company HydroBlu makes water filtration systems for outdoor enthusiasts, hikers, backpackers, and survivalists who “love being outside” (my kind of people :)). They sell direct to consumers and are on a mission to create water filters that don’t break the bank to buy, which I really appreciate as a father.

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