Survival Gear: Big Berkey Water Filter

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Regardless of the types of emergencies you and your family may face, safe drinking water is a constant need and a major issue in emergency preparedness. In the quest for a water disinfection strategy that would be safe, effective, and easy for my kids to operate, I recently invested in the Big Berkey Water Filter. Does it work as claimed? And could the kids operate it? Read on to find out.

The Big Berkey is just one of the water filters from New Millennium Concepts. You’ll often see these units for sale at gun shows and survival expos (that’s where I bought mine), but they are becoming increasingly easy to find. Other units made by New Millennium come in different sizes with different filters, but I went with the stainless steel, 2.25-gallon Big Berkey, which is the right size for my family. All Berkey water filters have two chambers. The top chamber is where you pour in the raw water, which can be from any groundwater source. Of course, the cleaner the water you are filtering, the longer the filters will last. Just don’t put sea water in there—it’s not a desalination unit.

My first tests were with the well water we normally drink at home. Often metallic tasting from the tap, the Berkey pulled out the iron and copper taste completely. Next, I ran some rainwater through the system. The results were smooth drinking and very clean tasting. Finally, I scooped up some water from a nearby creek. After passing through the Big Berkey, it tasted no different than the tap water I had filtered.

This unit is supremely easy to use: Just dump the raw water in the top, and gravity does all the work. The only issues that can occur with the unit are spillage from overfilling, and the filter clogging when trying to clean very dirty water. Prevent overflows by only filling the top chamber when the bottom is empty. Prevent clogs by back-flushing the elements periodically.

Here are the specs:
• The unit weighs 7 pounds (with 2 Berkey “black” purification elements)
• The unit body is made from polished AISI 304 stainless steel
• No electricity, chemicals, or pumping required
• The reservoir holds 2.25 gallons of filtered water
• The filter strips out 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria like Salmonella, V. cholerae and E. coli
• Removes 99.9% of viruses, plus larger organisms like giardia and cryptosporidium
• Each filter is rated for up to 3,000 gallons of water, and 6,000 gallons when both filters are installed. You can install up to 4 filters in the unit, which speeds up the rate of filtration.
• Exceeds EPA standards for water filtration
• The MSRP is $258

So at the end of the day, the Big Berkey filter worked as well (or better) than claimed and it really is easy for kids (and the rest of us) to operate. This unit could be just the thing you’ve been missing at your mountain cabin or bug out retreat. Stock up on a few extra filters and you could have tens of thousands of gallons of water, providing your creek doesn’t dry up.

Do you have a Berkey filter? Tell us which one you have and how you like it in the comments.