Travel Berkey Water Filter, by Thomas Christianson

Most SurvivalBlog readers are probably familiar with the rule of threes:

  • You can survive 3 minutes without breathable air or in icy water before losing consciousness.
  • You can survive 3 hours without adequate shelter/clothing in conditions of extreme heat and (especially) cold.
  • You can survive 3 days without water. Drinking unpotable water may extend your survival somewhat, but you may ultimately succumb to illness due to waterborne pathogens or toxins.
  • You can survive 3 weeks without food.

This rule outlines your priorities in a survival situation. If you fall through the ice into a frozen lake, obtaining an adequate supply of food is not your first priority.

In light of this, imagine that a severe weather event has taken down your local power grid and blocked avenues of transportation. You are safely at home. Your air supply is unaffected. Your home is undamaged, and is providing adequate protection from the elements. But your water supply is cut off, and it does not look like it will be restored for more than a week. What can you do to remain properly hydrated until your water supply is restored?

In my case, I have access to alternate sources of water. Among others, these sources include a pond, rain barrels, and a high water table that could be easily accessed via a shallow well. In someone else’s case, these sources might include rivers, lakes, swimming pools, and similar bodies of water. Unfortunately, it would not be advisable to drink water taken from many of these sources without treating that water somehow first. Fortunately, my wife, “Kari” and I have a Travel Berkey Water Filter. The Berkey would enable us to filter water from surface or near-surface sources in order to obtain potable water in a grid-down situation.

The stainless steel chambers of the Travel Berkey Water Filter are assembled in the USA from US and imported parts. The Black Berkey Purification Elements are made and assembled in the USA. The Travel Berkey Water Filter was on sale for $345 at the time of this writing from SurvivalBlog advertiser Directive 21.


The Travel Berkey Water Filter is about 19 inches tall and about 8.5 inches in diameter. It consists of two stainless steel chambers. The upper chamber rests on the lower chamber and has a stainless steel lid. There are four holes at the bottom of the upper chamber. Each of these holes can accommodate a purification element. Holes that do not accommodate purification elements are sealed with plugs. The standard configuration of the upper chamber is 2 purification elements and two plugs. Installation of additional purification elements allows the filter to purify water more quickly.


When the lid of the upper chamber is removed, unpurified water can be poured into the upper chamber. Gravity then feeds the water through the purification elements, from whence it drips into the lower chamber. Each chamber has a capacity of approximately 1.5 gallons. There is a spigot near the bottom of the lower chamber. Purified water can be released through the spigot by turning a lever. Each Black Berkey Purification Element can filter up to 3,000 gallons of water before it needs to be replaced. This enables a system like ours which is equipped with two purification elements to filter up to a total of 6,000 gallons of water before the two elements need to be replaced.


Kari and I received our Travel Berkey about four years ago or so as a gift from two very generous friends, “Cool Hand Luke” and “Betsy Ross”. Luke and Betsy gave us the filter because Betsy noticed how much Kari enjoyed the flavor of the filtered water that she drank while at Luke and Betsy’s home.

Several months after receiving Luke and Betsy’s gift, I won third place in round 88 of the SurvivalBlog Non-fiction Writing Contest. My two-part article was entitled Knives Under $50 That I Love. A Royal Berkey Water Filter was one of the five very useful prizes that I received for my Third Place finish.

Since the Travel Berkey was able to supply enough water for Kari and me, we gave the Royal Berkey to some friends who have a larger family.


Kari and I have been filtering an average of roughly a gallon of water a day through our Travel Berkey for the past four years or so. That means that we have filtered roughly 1,500 gallons so far. As I mentioned above, the two purification elements in our Berkey are expected to filter a total of roughly 6,000 gallons. So if we continue to filter water at a rate similar to our last four years of usage, we probably won’t need to replace the purification elements for another dozen years or so.

We clean the purification elements periodically when the filtering process begins to slow down somewhat. We also wash the chambers whenever we clean the purification elements. Other than that minimal maintenance, we just pour water in the upper chamber whenever water level in the bottom chamber is low. Then we turn on the spigot to take some purified water out of the bottom chamber whenever we are thirsty.

We currently use the filter primarily for its taste benefits. The purified water tastes significantly better than the untreated water. But it is good to know that if a grid-down situation interrupts our usual water supply, we will be able to maintain an adequate and safe flow of delicious water by continuing to purify our alternate water supply through our Berkey.

I find polished stainless steel to be a very attractive and practical material for the manufacture of many products, including water filters. It is durable and easy to clean. The two chambers of the Travel Berkey provide an excellent container for the purification system.

Berkey Water Filter History

In 1826, the Jones, Watts and Doulton firm began manufacturing ceramic column water filters in the United Kingdom.

In 1891 in Germany, the ceramic column was improved through the use of diatomaceous earth as the primary filter media within the ceramic. These filters were named “Berkefeld filters” after the name of the owner of the mine in Hanover, Germany where the diatomaceous earth was extracted.

By 1922, the Berkefeld Filter Company was marketing Berkefeld filters in the United Kingdom.

In 1985, Doulton Industrial Products acquired the British Berkefeld brand.

In 1998, New Millennium Concepts, Ltd (NMCL) of Arlington, Texas received a license to distribute British Berkefeld filters in the United States. NMCL marketed the Berkefeld filter under the Berkey name. By 2003, NMCL had developed their own “Black Berkey” purification element that incorporates coconut shell carbon and 5 other filtration media to achieve better filtration levels than diatomaceous earth alone is able to achieve. I suspect that two of the other filtration media in the Black Berkey purification element in addition to coconut shell carbon are diatomaceous earth and silver. I have been unable to confirm this conjecture or to discover the identity of the other 3 filtration media. Silver inhibits bacterial growth within a filter column. Filter columns that are not impregnated with silver need to be sterilized periodically.

Banned in California?

The regulatory environment in California tends to be oppressive, constantly-changing, and litigious. This is particularly true regarding the marketing of water filter systems. As a small, family-owned business, NMCL found operating within such a difficult environment to be economically unfeasible. As a result, NMCL has voluntarily opted out of registering and selling Berkey products in the State of California.

By making it difficult to provide water filters to its residents, California has strained out a gnat and swallowed a camel. Without a wide assortment of affordable and time-proven water filtration and purification options, California residents are much more vulnerable to a host of waterborne hazards and diseases.

Overregulation has had a negative impact throughout the United States. Products as diverse as gas cans and washing machines are less effective than they were previously due to the negative impact of foolish new regulations. Activists within and outside of the various governmental regulatory agencies constantly press for changes without carefully considering the unintended consequences of these changes. Mandating changes gives them a warm sense of both virtue and power, while gradually suffocating the society that they profess to protect and serve.

May a sufficient number of voters gain enough wisdom to say to their elected officials, “Please stop helping me! I was doing better on my own.”


A Travel Berkey Water Filter has served Kari and me well for more than four years. It is attractive, durable, and easy to use. It makes our water taste great, and is highly effective at filtering out hazardous chemicals and pathogens. I highly recommend Berkey Water Filters to those who would like to ensure access to potable water in a grid-down situation.


I did not receive any other financial or other inducement to mention any vendor, product, or service in this article.