Why I Purchased a Big Berkey Water Purifier

I mentioned in my Drinking Water Storage: 55 Gallon Barrels vs Sure Water Tank post that I really want need to store enough potable water in the event some prolonged calamity disrupts our domestic water supply. Redundancy is the mantra in SHTF preparedness, so having hundreds of gallons of water stored in my basement is one thing, but it’s important to have another layer of water security. Water is life.

I live within walking distance of a good sized river that offers easily accessible H2O 9 months out of the year (12 months if I chipped through ice), so that offers a layer of security to some extent, but my property does not border the river and it’d be an uphill climb from the river to my house which would make hauling water a real chore …. maybe I should buy a bucket yoke before I need one …. better yet, maybe I should buy one for the kids.

Assuming the catastrophic event was one that still allowed me to walk freely about, the river itself is a “redundant” water supply. What happens when I get it back to my house, however? How do I make sure it’s potable and the family won’t get sick with Giardia? I could boil it, but that would require precious fuel. In my opinion, a gravity fed water purification unit like the Berkey Products is ideal. You just pour the water into the top and wait for it to come out clean on the bottom. No electricity or heating fuel is required.

This post is, in part, a sponsored review. I say in part, because Directive21 gave me a discount on the unit in exchange for writing this post. Would I have spent the full $250 on the Big Berkey if I hadn’t received the discount? I don’t know. I’ve wanted one for a long time, but money is always tight. What ultimately sealed the deal for me (besides the discount) was knowing that we would get use out of this product now, not just when/if SHTF.

We have municipal tap water. Its quality is closely monitored, but though I wouldn’t look like it if you passed me on the street, I have some granola/hippie tendencies. Specifically, I know that fluoride is great for preventing cavities, but …. fluoride added to my drinking water? Fluoride in toothpaste is great, it’s in direct contact with my teeth. I brush and spit it out. It just seems, and I’m sure there is data that proves otherwise, that adding it to drinking water is a bit much.

It’s actually not that I’m too concerned about it impacting me, I’m thinking more about my kids. We buy a lot of organic juice for the kids to drink, which is a bit more pricey than alternatives, but it’s not loaded with nasty corn syrup and food coloring. In order to both stretch our dollar and prevent them from drinking too much juice, we usually dilute the juice with water. Now, with the Big Berkey on hand, we can filter out the fluoride, arsenic, and a whole pile of other stuff from the water we add to their juice. Directive21 offers some of the best deals around, with a variety of free products to choose from for your Berkey product. I opted for the Big Berkey with the fluoride filters and a Sport Berkey.

My first thought upon receiving the product was “THIS is a ‘Big’ Berkey?” It packages very small, see here:

It packages small, because the 2 parts store inside one another to reduce the storage size by 50%. If you wanted one on hand to have in your SHTF storage supply room, the Big Berkey won’t take up much space. Here it is fully assembled, sitting all shiny and pretty under the Christmas tree:

Note the Baroness figure (G.I. Joe’s sexiest character) sitting atop the unit for size comparison. The Sport Berkey, sitting next to it, is a great addition to any bug out bag.

It is possible to make your own Berkey filter for less money. You can go to Directive21 and buy just replacement filters for $99. Then you get few food grade buckets to sit atop each other (like the Berkey), buy a spigot, drill holes in the buckets so the filters will fit between the two and a hole for the spigot. Gravity takes care of the rest. You would have to pay extra if you wanted the fluoride/arsenic reduction elements and Sport Berkey, however.

Had I just been looking for a SHTF water purifier, I would have strongly considered building my own, but like I said, when I spend good money on a preparedness product, I like it to be something I can use every day, not just in a tough situation. The Big Berkey, as you can see, is attractive and looks nice sitting on your kitchen counter.

Two purification elements will 6,000 gallons of water! Granted if you dump a bunch of swamp water in the top it’s going to clog up much faster, but in a situation like that, you’d want to screen the water as much as possible first. The fluoride (and arsenic) reduction elements that I chose for this unit are good for 1,000 gallons.

THAT is why I bought a Big Berkey – to remove what I believe is unnecessary fluoride in our drinking water AND to further secure the equipment needed to ensure a potable water supply during difficult times. I can also easily pack the unit for camping trips in remote areas. What’s not to love?

- Ranger Man

BTW: U.S. rethinks pushing nuclear attack survival advice.

  • Spook45 December 16, 2010, 9:02 am

    Yea, I have thought about one of these or something like it. CTD sells a kit with a spout, filter elements and conectors that you can assemble on two 5 gallon buckets. They are supposed to be really good. Same Type of ceramic elements as in the Burkey. Before that I saw an article where people were doing the same thing with actual berkey filters. I am far moore concerned about the little blue posting at the bottom of the page.

    Reply
  • Rick December 16, 2010, 10:56 am

    I have been contemplating this for some time. We have several large lakes within walking distance. Another question… Anyone know if there is a difference between the ceramic and black element filters?

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  • Rick December 16, 2010, 11:55 am

    Thanks!

    Reply
  • Dee December 16, 2010, 12:47 pm

    Water has been my main priority for a while now. Yesterday I was reminded how important it is when the city cut off our water to replace fire hydrants – with no warning. At the time the washing machine was in mid-cycle, beans were cooking and I needed a shower. Sure I have several cases of water, 20 1 gal. jugs, all of the 2 L. bottles my friends give me and a 100 gal. Bathtub BOB (still in the box) however, I wasn’t EXPECTING it so minor panic was my first reponse. No way am I going to use drinking water to try to get the washing machine going-forget it for now. A 1 gal. jug is plenty to keep the beans going. Wet wipes and a 2 L. bottle are enough to feel relatively clean. I’m OK.
    Then the power went off! Beans are OK – gas stove, fire is laid in fireplace but wood bin not full – fill bin, it’s freaking cold now – add layers of clothes, it’s overcast and dark – get lanterns and lights distributed, gashed finger at wood pile – get First Aid kit and fix.
    By now it is 5pm and, miraculously, water and electricity come back on.
    Total elapsed time adjusting to outages – 7 hours!!!
    Survival is a very time consuming business. I am now busting ass to get everything staged better, planning some ‘drills’ for bug out, bug in and streamline a few things that took way too long to do.
    Be prepared – not just for SHTF but daily life.

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  • Northwoods December 16, 2010, 12:50 pm

    A water filter should be priority one.
    Of the beans, bullets and band aids, Ya can’t cook the beans without water much less survive without hydration.
    My Berkey is still in the box..hmm..good point, I’ll be testing it on some creek water tomorrow.
    Great post Ranger Man…

    Reply
  • j.r. guerra in s. tx. December 16, 2010, 1:03 pm

    Maybe you can pre-filter using those internet ‘Rabbit’ filters, clay pot filled with sand, then using the result in the Berkey? Probably extend the Berkey filter life.

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  • Jarhead Survivor December 16, 2010, 3:59 pm

    @Dee – it’s amazing how fast you can go from modern day American back to the pioneer days isn’t it?

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  • Dee December 16, 2010, 4:20 pm

    So true, Jarhead. Am now spending every spare minute reorganizing, reprioritizing and getting rid of useless junk that clutters my life and takes up valuable space. I live a very simple life but still absolutely freaked when I didn’t have water flowing at my command. We are overdue for our first ice storm of the season and I have been too focused on food and firewood.
    I have been half-assed prepping for 2 years now but it still took something like that to drive home the point that we don’t know when a disaster will strike and what will be found lacking in our preps and skills. Being an ‘arm chair’ survivor by reading dozens of blogs a day is not enough…although you guys help immensely!! Having some one to talk to about it is great too.

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  • craig francis December 16, 2010, 6:25 pm

    I must say this, Big Berkey is one of the best water filters on the market. They are especially good for outdoors. It is not only good for regular tap water but also other sources such as lake and streams.

    With over seven(7) different types of water filters, Big Berkey has a water filter for you.

    Reply
  • Chefbear58 December 17, 2010, 3:50 am

    RangerMan, Let us know how the Sport Berkley works! I am looking for a couple lightweight water purifiers for my girl and myself, but haven’t found a design that I like yet. How much water can the little guy filter?

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  • Ancient Woodsman December 17, 2010, 6:34 am

    Nice report on the Berkey. Thanks.

    Our solution was to keep the ‘old’ well when we built an in-law appartment and had to have a new well drilled. We kept the ‘old’ wellhead in the cellar of the new in-law; quality hand-pump from Lehman’s and we’re good to go.

    If you have four generations living under your roof, a good water supply is paramount. Good handpumps are quite an investment, but when that ice storm hit and we were without power for a week – and the LOLs (little old ladies) could still use a flush toilet, wash up & have coffee, they thought that there was quite a luxury. Being that they both lived through the Great Depression in dire straits I thought that was quite the compliment. Yes I have a generator, but when the priority is the home oxygen machine (told you; little old ladies), the well pump & furnace take a back seat to that.

    Too many ‘prepping’ folks have NV goggles, gas masks, a BOV to challenge the Mad Max parade and an arsenal to make their local PD pale by comparison, yet still don’t have even an adequate supply of water.

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  • irishdutchuncle December 17, 2010, 9:22 am

    where can you buy a bucket yoke? i’ll need to take a ride through amish country next spring, and look for them at the hardware store. in the mean time, a pack board would be a useful addition to my preps. my local surplus guy had a shelf attachment for the ALICE pack frame. i’m going to pay him a visit soon and see how much he wants for one of those. should be a convenient way to carry a water jug or fuel can . for heavier loads you need some kind of refugee cart, or garden wagon.

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  • Chefbear58 December 17, 2010, 9:49 pm

    BTW RangerMan, the “sexiest” GI-JOE was Scarlett! By far!

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    • Ranger Man December 18, 2010, 7:39 am

      Scarlett was hot, but she doesn’t have the same attitude.

      Reply
  • Dee December 23, 2010, 1:16 pm

    Just want you to know that, based on your reccommendation, I ordered a Big Berkey from Directive 21. Been meaning to for months but you gave me the ass kick I needed.
    They must have been out of the Big because they sent the Royal at no additional charge!
    They emailed to ask how I heard about them and I told them it was through you. Want to make sure you get credit for it.
    Merry.

    Reply
  • Kif Kannabis March 28, 2011, 2:51 pm

    I have a big berkey for 2 months and it is not working correctly. I have primed all filters multiple times and washed the unit multiple times and the water still has something weird on top of the water, almost like an oily substance. Everyone talks about how good these filters works but I have not gotten it to work yet. New Millennium Concepts said they would send me some new PF2 filters but I am not holding my breath that the new ones are going to work. I am probably going to have to return the whole unit, what a hassel. My advice, don’t buy a Berkey water filter.

    Reply