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Are Berkey Water Filter Systems Worth It?

Are Berkey Water Filter Systems Worth It?

Have you heard of Berkey water purification systems? There is a lot of hype by RVers and other nomads who enjoy talking about the Berkey water filter system. There are some products you buy because of the hype that surrounds them. 

So are Berkey water filter systems worth it? Let’s look and see if you should buy into the hype! 

What Is a Berkey Water Filter System?

Because Berkey water filter systems are gravity-fed water systems, they require no electricity or pressurization. It’s the perfect option for those who enjoy spending time off-grid for outdoor activities and in homes/cabins.

It’s also great for traveling in remote locations where access to water is limited. However, many Berkey owners are homeowners looking to increase the quality of their residential drinking water.

berky in home

Berkey water filter systems use two separate chambers that stack on top of each other. The upper chamber holds the unfiltered water and water filters. Gravity forces the water through the charcoal filters and into the lower chamber. The lower chamber has a spigot you can open to fill your cup with fresh purified water.

How Well Does the Berkey Filter Water?

The Berkey water filter systems get some pretty incredible reviews, but are they worth the hype? Does it really work?

Well, that depends on what you are looking at. While Berkey has made some incredible claims about their performance, third-party testing has shown they don’t always meet their claims.

Because the Berkey uses only gravity to force water through its filters, their pores can only be so small. Because of this, they have physical limitations that make it only so good. In fact, Berkey is not NSF or ANSI certified which has testing criteria that are much more stringent than the ones employed by Berkey’s tests.

If you would like to learn more about third-party tests and the lack of certifications we recommend this read by Wirecutter.

This is not to say that the filter does not work. It most likely just does not work as well as they claim. Any additional filtering, especially in unknown water supplies, is a great idea and the Berkey is convenient where water pressure or power is limited, like in an RV.

Berkey water system product shot from website
Keep your water safe to drink while on the road in your RV with a Berkey water filter system.

Can a Berkey Filter Viruses?

According to their website, Berkey water filter systems can filter out 99.999% of all bacteria, including viruses. Viruses won’t be your first concern if you’re filtering water from a residential faucet. However, unknown campground or water tank sources, filtering viruses is a good idea.

Again, however, this is not a certified filter and we are unsure how much these claims can be trusted. We personally prefer UV sanitization to verify water has been purified of bacteria and viruses.

We use the Acuva UV water sanitization system that is NSF/ANSI laboratory certified. They are a trusted partner of ours and even offer Mortons on the Move readers a 10% discount with code “Mortons” at checkout.

RV Faucets and Filters That Will Effortlessly Save & Purify Water - RV Touch Faucet

Why Is Berkey Not NSF?

When you buy a product with NSF certification, you can have confidence it meets some of the strictest standards for public health protection. These certifications aren’t cheap and only test for certain contaminants. 

Berkey claims that getting the NSF certification would add unnecessary costs, resulting in price increases for customers.

Again this is concerning as even many cheap water filters you find in other gravity-fed systems like Britta filters have NSF certifications. These are lower-level certifications however do not meet the claims that Berkey makes.

berky filters

Pro Tip: Unsure if a Berkey water filter system is right for you? Use these tips on How to Choose the Best RV Water Filter System before you decide.

Types of Berkey Water Filter Systems

There are different sizing options for Berkey water filter systems. You’ll have the smallest Travel Berkey, Big Berkey, Berkey Light, Royal Berkey, Imperial Berkey, and Crown Berkey. It’s important to think about your usage and specific water needs before purchasing a Berkey.

Woman drinking a glass of water.
Clean water while RVing is crucial!

Holding Capacity

There are Berkey water filter systems from 1.5 gallons to 6 gallons for holding capacity. The Travel Berkey holds 1.5 gallons, and the Berkey Light holds 2.75 gallons. They’re very compact and are great options for those traveling or worried about space.

Not concerned about space but want more holding capacity? The Big Berkey and Royal Berkey can create 2.25 gallons and 3.25 gallons, respectively. However, if space is zero concern, the Imperial Berkey and Crown Berkey are options as they can hold 4.5 gallons and 6.0 gallons, respectively. That’s a whole lot of water to keep you and your loved ones hydrated!

Pro Tip: We uncovered Should You Have a Reverse Osmosis System for Your RV to help ensure you have the best water quality.

Max Number of Filters & Flow Rate

As the Travel Berkey is the smallest in the Berkey lineup, it can hold a maximum of two filters and process 2.75 gallons per hour of water. The Big Berkey or Royal Berkey will require four filters, and it will process 7 gallons to 8 gallons per hour. The Imperial, with its six filters, can process 16.5 gallons per hour. However, the massive eight-filtered Crown Berkey can process 26 gallons per hour.

It’s essential to consider the tank size and the flow rate. You can empty the filtered water from the lower chamber into another container to build up a surplus of filtered water. 

Filter up to 6,000 gallons of water with a Berkey water filter.

People Served

Each Berkey water filter system comes with the recommended users per unit. The Travel Berkey is the perfect option for one to three people, and the Big Berkey is slightly larger at one to four people. Jump to the Berkey Light or Royal Berkey, and you’ll have enough water for two to five and two to six people, respectively.

The Imperial Berkey is an excellent option for average to large size families with enough water for four to eight people. However, for large families, or if you plan to host regularly, the Crown Berkey’s massive six to 12 person capabilities ensure you have plenty of water on hand!

Pro Tip: Keep your RV water fresh and clean with these 7 Easy Steps to Sanitize Your RV Water Tank.

How Long Do Berkey Filters Last?

A typical set of Berkey filters can filter up to 6,000 gallons of water. It’s important to remember that the lifespan of any water filter is greatly dependent on the water it’s filtering. The more impurities a filter has to filter, the shorter the lifespan. 

Berky water filters
Stay hydrated with filtered water from Berkey.

FAQ: Why Are Berkey Water Filter Systems Not Sold in California?

California has some of the strictest rules and regulations regarding water treatment systems. They require companies to get certification through third-party testing agencies, like NSF. Berkey water filter systems claim to get subjected to more intensive independent testing and pass with flying colors.

Berkey claims they are avoiding the costly process of getting the certification, maintaining status with the state, and jumping through legal hoops. Only select products that don’t require certification are available in California. 

One may wonder that if their intensive independent testing was indeed more stringent, then NSF tests would not be a problem. These claims of avoidance combined with other known failed third-party tests may mean that an NSF certification would require them to reduce their claims of filtration capabilities.

Are Berkey Water Filter Systems Worth It?

As we mentioned above, any additional water filtration is a great idea, especially when you are connected to unknown water sources. The Berkey has proven in independent tests to perform well with many common water contaminants.

However, due to the lack of NSF certifications and additional third-party testing that did not meet their claims, Berkey is more than likely over-stating its capabilities. These claims they make, without the need for complicated pressure systems, are what make the Berkey so hyped up.

So to sum it up, yes, for some it’s going to be a good easy option, but if you are looking for the best possible water filtration then you might want to keep looking. If you want to guarantee purified water we recommend reverse osmosis or at least a pressurized high purity filter followed by UV sanitization.

Do you use a water filtration system for your drinking water? Drop a comment below!

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Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of “Go North” on Amazon Prime Video, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

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Friday 24th of February 2023

The article doesn't mention the secondary filters directly below the charcoal filters. Also missing was fact that many first responders use the Berkey system. For example, they'll take water right of out a nearby creek and run it through the Berkey system. We use the big Berkey at home and the travel Berkey in the camper. The UV system can kill bacteria but does it eliminate chlorine?


Wednesday 9th of March 2022

We have had our travel Berkey for years & know 8 other families that had theirs before us. We all LOVE our Berkey's. I'm sure there's something better, there always is, but we are all very happy with our Berkey's & would recommend them to anyone & have.

Not So Free

Monday 7th of March 2022

We use a Big Berkey and only use two filters in it, and block off the other two holes. Of course, all we are filtering is our very good well water, so no fluoride or chlorine to worry about. Is it worth it? I think so.