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Big Berkey Water Filter Road Test and Review

berkey water filter wild drive life

A major part of living full time on the road is finding out where and how to source fresh potable water.

After 14,000 miles and counting traveled in our self-converted bus and staying in over 30 states along the way, we’ve tasted our fair share of flavors around the country. Like the people and the landscape, the water seems to be different in every state we visit.

Mineral content, salinity, contaminants, and treatment all play a role in how it hits the ol’ palette. The further west we go the harder it becomes to find water to fill our two 40 gallon tanks. Sometimes that means we have to take it where we can get it, occasionally resulting in less than favorable tasting water.

It’s in those times that our Big Berkey Water Filter System saves the day.

It is one of our all-time favorite bus tiny home and nomadic living purchases (tied with our Dwarf Wood Stove, of course).

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The Berkey Water Filter System transforms water from pretty much any source into safe and delicious drinking water. We used it in our apartment before moving into the bus full-time and plan to keep using it for the long term, wherever we end up living!

There was a time in Arizona where the only water source we could find was off a spigot on the side of a state park parking lot bathroom. It was borderline acceptable for showering and washing dishes, but was difficult (and potentially unsafe) to drink.

One pass through the Berkey water filter and it was like it came from a fresh mountain spring. This might sound like an exaggeration but, believe me, it’s not. The Berkey freakin’ works that well!

Big Berkey Highlights (to name a few):

  • Filters out bacteria, viruses, heavy metals, foul taste and more;
  • Comes in multiple sizes to suit different living situations;
  • Filters last for 6,000 gallons of water filtration;
  • Retains important minerals in water;
  • High quality materials and construction; and
  • Comes with a lifetime warranty.

Off-Grid Living

Our bus is completely off grid capable but water is the most important resource we need to stay out longer.

Electricity has always been plentiful with our solar panels and generator. Our main source of heat is from our Dwarf Wood Stove and we never have a problem finding fuel. We can store enough food reserves for a month or more if we really needed to.

We even have a composting toilet so we never have to worry about dumping sewage. With a ground clearance larger than most RVs we’re able to go pretty far in the middle of nowhere, it’s bumpy and slow but we get there.


Out of all things listed above, nothing determines how long we can stay more than our water supply. We have two 40 gallon fresh water tanks on board.

Safe, Tasty Water

Being able to safely filter water from remote sources allows us to boondock safely for longer periods of time. We can get all our drinking water from a lake or stream and reserve our tank water for showering and washing.

There’s no worry about viruses, bacteria, heavy metals, or chemical contaminants like pesticides and petroleum products.

If I were to list all of the things these filters eliminate to undetectable levels it would take up this entire blog post and then some. See for yourself (add link).

One of our favorite parts about the Black Berkey gravity filter purification process is that they don’t filter out essential minerals like a reverse osmosis system does.

Did you ever drink water that tastes like wet air?

It’s probably because it’s lacking important minerals that naturally occur in water. They are responsible for much of the unique flavors of water around the world.

Water from a Canadian glacier is going to taste much different than water from a spring in Georgia. Not better or worse, just different. It’s not that much different than tasting a particular region in a wine, minus the buzz of course. The point is the Berkey maintains the natural flavors of the water.

Berkey Works in All Living Situations

I’ve stressed the importance of fresh water in an RV but good water should really be a part of everyone’s lives.

We used our Berkey in our apartment before traveling because the old building we lived in had equally as old pipes. Wells can have natural contaminants like arsenic and fluoride*, municipal water supplies can vary in taste, and, as we’ve seen in Flint Michigan, vary in quality.

Now, public water supplies are heavily regulated and have strict quality standards, most will be safe to drink. Having a Berkey, however, puts you in control of the taste and only further ensures and implements the highest quality standards possible for you and your family. Plus, the high grade stainless steel construction looks great in a kitchen.

Financial Impact: Tap vs. Bottled

Okay, we’ve talked health now let’s talk dollars and cents (literally, it’s dollars compared to cents) of tap water vs. bottled water.

According to, the average consumption of bottled water per capita in the United States in 2017 was 42.1 gallons per year. That’s approximately 319 bottles of water per person per year.

Let’s say a 24 pack of bottled water costs $4.98. That equals out to be about $66.19 per person. For a family of four that’s $264.77 per year. source

That might not seem like much but let’s compare that to the cost of tap water…

According to the American Water Works Association a gallon of tap water costs $0.004 per gallon. That’s about $0.17 a year per person per year and $0.68 per year for a family of 4. Let’s not forget the 1,276 plastic bottles that were never used. source

A Big Berkey water filter pays for itself in one year and even more so if you factor in the reduction in single use plastic.

Final Thoughts

So friends, THAT is how we approach our frugal lifestyle purchase decision making (call us over thinkers but where our dollars go and how we impact the environment along the way matters to us!). It also prepares us to help YOU!

Remember, quality over quantity — how can we create the most value/impact with our deliberate purchases?  To us, an investment like this was a no-brainer for our mobile lifestyle.

If you have ANY questions about our experience using the Berkey in our apartment or our bus, feel free to contact us.

*An additional PF-2 filter is used to target and remove these from the water.

berkey water filter

After over a year of full-time testing and use of the Berkey water filter in our home and mobile lifestyle, we are now members of the Berkey affiliate team. We do earn a small commission for purchases made through our website at no additional cost to you. The proceeds help to keep our blog running. Thank you!

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