Off Grid Survival: Water Distiller Review

In a previous post, I went on a little long about water distillers.  Needless to say, I’m a fan.  But “is distilled water good for you?”  I went into that a bit too but have made a separate post about that altogether.  I also want to talk about home water distillers because I believe the need to purify water in the best way possible is a survival issue NOW.  The main theme of this topic, however, is to cover distillers that operate without electricity or ‘off grid’ as they say with….”Off Grid Survival Water Distillers”.

Now, I’m going to say right off the bat that the technology to make a water distiller that will fit into a backpack is just not there yet but I hope someone who knows how and has the means to do it will see this post and start to manufacture one.  I think it’s possible to make one for backpackers and bug out bag enthusiasts but I don’t have those skills myself.

In the meantime, there are some that come close.  If you are able to transport a few more pounds for a more medium and long-term situation off the grid there are some distillers out there, though I think it’s a very buyer beware thing at this point.  Survival emergency distillers are still a fairly new idea.

Anyway, there are three or four survival water distillers on the market today worth mentioning that can be run over a campfire and to my mind only one of them is up to snuff.  But first the others:

The Survival Still

The Survival Still will make distilled water.  All of them do.  And did I mention that all of them will not only clean dirty and even muddy water, but they will desalinate salty ocean water?  In fact, they can turn sewer water into clean drinkable stuff if you are so inclined and will do so dependably better than any portable filter, plus it won’t require any filter replacements.  Anyway, the big problem with the Survival Still that I see is that you need to provide a couple of really big pots.  And while the unit itself is very compact and lighter than the rest, I don’t know anyone who is going to want to carry a couple of kitchen pots that size around in an emergency.  I wouldn’t even want to take pots like that in my car.  Talk about awkward to pack space invaders rolling around!

The other problem with the unit and this is a big one, is that it could easily tip posing a very dangerous (scalding) situation especially if you are trying to heat the water in the boiling chamber over a fire.

There is no carbon filter for VOCs and gases

Other than the fact it makes distilled water like the rest of them I’m pretty disappointed with the design.

Product: The Survival Still

Price:  $259.00

Cheapest Place to Buy:

Weight: Under 5lbs

Best Thing About It:  It’s small and compact (without the needed pots)

Rating: 3 Out of a Possible 10

Waterwise WW 1600 Non-Electric Water Distiller

The Waterwise 1600 looks pretty cool I must admit.  The unique condensation ‘tower’ apparently cools a lot of steam and so it should as it exposes the water to the open air.  That is a small issue I have with the distiller since I don’t want to have to trust the air and dust in the wind.  I can see the cooling part of this distiller risking contamination unlike more enclosed distillers with the traditional coil.

You are going to need a fairly level surface (if not dead level) to make this unit work nicely, so you are going to need to use it on a stove of some sort.  And again there is the danger of tipping and spilling hot water.

There is no carbon filter for VOCs and Gases.

Product: Waterwise WW 1600 Non-electric Water Distiller

Price: $387.00

Cheapest Place to Buy:

Weight: 11.5 lbs

Best Thing About It: It can cool and make quite a bit of water rapidly.

Rating: 3 Out of a Possible 10

Notable Mention:  The Gravi-Stil Emergency Water Distiller

Product: Grav-Stil Emergency Water Distiller

Price: $325.00

Cheapest Place to Buy:

Weight: 17 lbs

Best Thing About It: It’s almost a Survivor-still at a lower price.

Rating: 6 Out of a Possible 10

The Gravi-Stil has a gravity fed system with a ceramic filter but I really don’t know why they would want to put a particle filter in distiller when that is what the distillation process does.  What the distiller needs is a charcoal or carbon filter to filter out what the distiller won’t and that is VOCs.  An oversight like this in the design tells me that they either aren’t putting much thought into the product or they are trying to sell replacement filters.

Other than that I like how it has locks on the components so that if it tips you won’t have water all over the place.  It is made of quality steel and without the fancy accessories that the Survivor Still has it is about 6 lbs lighter.

I like the idea of using gravity, like the Platypus does in my review of backpack filters and the Survivor Still does that too.

But while there is a ceramic filter, there is no Carbon filter that I can tell on this unit for Gases and VOC’s and that doesn’t make sense to a baffling degree.

The Survivor Still

Product: The Survivor Still

Price: $597.97- $949.00

Cheapest Place to Buy:

Weight: 25 lbs

Best Thing About It: It does what the others do and stuff they haven’t even thought about.

Rating: 9 Out of a Possible 10

Not to be confused with the SurvivAL still above, This is thing covers ALL my concerns and more.  It’s an expensive piece of kit but Wow.  The only two criticisms of this distiller are the price and the size.

Normally it goes for over $900 but right now they have a sale going and I don’t know how long that will be for.  I hope they aren’t going out of business as they are not as high profile as other distillers out there and that the sale price they have now stays that way.

This unit has versatility written all over it and you can tell the designer looked at as many possible scenarios as he could when he made it.  Unlike other models, it won’t tip as it can be hung.  And even if it does tip it won’t fall apart.  It functions just like a home distiller and can be used as one.  It will make more water in a day than a lot of larger and more expensive home distillers do.  It may be large (taking up about as much room as the other distillers listed, but it comes in a handy sealed bucket.  I like easy to pack and if I had to operate out of a car not knowing when I would ever get home again, I would definitely take this distiller with me.  Even if I was on foot and perhaps taking a cart I would take it with me, but it’s not going in a backpack anytime soon.

Here are some things that other distillers haven’t done that the Survivor Still does:

  • It has an automatic refill valve like automatic home distillers.
  • The spout is metal and holds charcoal for added VOC filtration.  I like that it is just a cup for the charcoal (and not a proprietary fit filter) so that you don’t have to buy a replacement filter and you could even make your own charcoal for it.
  • The spout will attach to a regular mason jar which is glass and therefore not toxic like plastics.  The one issue I have with using a mason jar is the small size and the amount you will have to empty it.
  • It comes with a TDS meter.  A TDS meter is the measure of Total Dissolved Solids.  It will measure the particulate matter of the water but not the VOCs.  This is an incredibly good idea so that you can have peace of mind that the distiller is working right.
  • It will make 18 gallons a day which is 2 gallons more than the Waterwise and that is pretty good.  My home distiller only makes 4 gallons a day which is enough for three of us (and our dog Madeline).
  • You can tell the inventor is a long time health fanatic and he made sure the distiller makes water to those standards.  Using glass as a collection container instead of plastic which could impart chemicals to the water is one example.  A solar panel and battery to speed cooling is another.  Small details like this tell me this was a product designed with a lot of care and thought.


Prime Water Filter

One possible backpackable distiller that I have not tried but will be trying is the Prime WaterPurifier.  It weighs 4 lbs and looks fairly compact. Since it looks like a pretty little bucket you might be able to justify taking it since you may be able to pack other things in it for camping or survival.  And yet there are the some of the same issues as with other distillers listed above like tipping danger on a campfire.  It says 2 quarts a day which will be bearly enough for one person just to drink and if I have to tend to a fire constantly refilling this thing all day just for that, it’s not worth the effort.  I suppose you could really get that water very hot but they say there is a danger of rapidly boiling water splashing into the clean water bowl.  Not good.

It looks too delicate for me but for the price it might be something to consider as well as for its compactness.  However, for such a small amount I would just go with standard filters because you won’t be able to last more than a very short time using what looks to me to be a very labor intensive thing.

It comes in a 4 and 6-quart model but those will be bulkier.  It almost hits the mark as far as size goes but I will still be looking for the perfect backpack distiller.

Product:  Prime Water Purifier.  2 qt Universal Desalinator

Price: $29.49

Cheapest Place to Buy:

Weight: 4 lbs

Best Thing About it:  It’s smallish, lightish and cute

Rating: 4 Out of a Possible 10



6 thoughts on “Off Grid Survival: Water Distiller Review”

  1. when I started reading this post, I totally thought it would be those cool mini portable filters that you can like put into the stream and have the sunlight power it to distill water or something. I was sorely mistaken. You’ve pointed out right away that we are still so far from achieving this, has there been any breakthrough or headway into making this happen?

    1. Yes there is sunlight powered distillers, but they are so slow and make such a small amount,…maybe for a life raft….But I can hardly believe anyone could survive long with one.  Maybe three of four.  Of course there are ways of making your own by digging a hole, putting a bucket in it, covering it with a large plastic and suspending a rock or weight on the plastic so that condensation drips into the container or bucket…but again, talk about slow…if only there was a lightweight alternative that could be faster.  If you see anything please let me know!  I’m always on the lookout

  2. Health is such a big thing these days and I remember when I was growing up, you got the water from the tap. Bottled water wasn’t sold in shops. It was unheard of.

    I now buy bottled water but I’ve been told that it’s not good for you only distilled water.

    Currently, we boil the tap water, let it cool then put it into a filter jug in the fridge.

    However, I have seen distilled water being sold in car stores. Its use is to top up car batteries, for steam mops, irons etc. Can this water be consumed or is this a different type of distilled water?


    1. Thanks for commenting Jacqueline, if you haven’t seen the article yet, try looking at Is distilled water good for you.  I describe my used distiller that I found for about $300 and it is fully automatic.  There are counter top models on Amazon and Megahome seems to be the most well known brand if you don’t mind filling it every day by hand.  It’ll do about a gallon a day.  There are cheaper ‘counter top” models for under $100 but I don’t know about them.  They should be ok…check the reviews.  For killing bugs and pathogens and getting the water to off gas things like chlorine boiling is a very good and prudent idea.  If you are trying to get rid of particles like heavy metals, boiling water only makes it more concentrated and all the steam (which is the really clean stuff) gets lost.  To get rid of all of everythin get a distiller with a carbon filter and drink your own made fresh.  (see my article listed above on why) Make sure the model you get has one.  Yes the stuff for steam mops and the like is fine.  Wal-Mart carries the bottles for cheap in the pharmacy section too.  I have heard people say that its fine to drink that stuff even though it will absorb the plastic stuff from the bottle, they say it will still be better than tap or other bottled.  And I know what you mean.  When I grew up we didn’t have bottled water either, in fact people never talked about the importance of even drinking water lol.  They said things like not to drink water before working out and it wasn’t until I was almost 20 and depressed and tired all the time I found out that coffee and pop was no substitue for pure water.  lol and should drink at least a quart and up to a gallon a day!  If you are drinking that much a day, you will be healthy is so many ways, but make sure its pure!  Good luck Oh and consider, if you spend $2 a day on a gallon of water, you will pay for a countertop distiller for about under $100 in about 3 months and the water will be higher quality than you get in the store.  Cheers!

  3. Hello. I’ve been looking for something like this for a long time. Such a distiller is very useful. I am going to go on a long journey, you never know what can happen. If I did not have access to water it would have to be somehow managed. Due to the fact that such a distiller can even clean the muddy water, it becomes almost the most important of all items. I am going to choose The Survival Still you think it’s a good choice?

    1. If you think you will have access to electricity of for short term emergencies try the packable water treatments.  However, if you think you might be caught without electricity for long periods and you have access to big pots and pans get the “survivAL still”.  The names are similar so it’s easy to get confused but my top choice is always going to be the “survivOR still” for long term off grid.  It will do everything the survival still will and more BUT its going to be bigger to carry just because you are carrying the equivalent of the pots and pans you will need to add to the survival still later.  Thanks for commenting and good luck on your adventure!  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *