As more of us are becoming interested in the environment and our own health, the popularity of walking, hiking and camping is growing fast. One of the biggest considerations for any hiker or camper is making sure you have enough water available to you.
Choosing a portable water filter means no longer worrying about carrying lots of heavy water bottles at all times and saving money at those shops nearby that charge a fortune for a small bottle of mineral water. A portable water filter means you can take advantage of natural sources safely, whilst getting the hydration you need to continue your journey.
Our Top Picks
Best Portable Water Filters of 2021
Portable Water Filters that are worth mentioning:
Our Top 10 Portable Water Filters
We’ve put together a list of great products on the market right now so that you can make a choice with confidence and start having fresh, clean and safe water wherever you are.
1. Waterdrop Water Filter Straw
The true definition of portable, this fantastic device is only 8 inches long and can be attached to a variety of water bottles or bags, making it a handy piece of kit to have in your backpack.
This filter will effectively remove the threat of dangerous bacteria and protozoa including salmonella and E.coli, as well as countless others.
The filter is reported to last for approximately 100,000 gallons of water, an incredible amount that makes this one of the longest-lasting portable water filters on the market!
One important point to note here is that you cannot drink straight from this unit, so if you wanted that kind of option then look elsewhere for an easier to use system.
2. Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration System
You will not be disappointed with this filtration system from Sawyer, as it is a compact solution perfect to carry in a rucksack on any long walk, camping trip or long-distance journey.
Its powerful filter removes up to 99.99% of bacteria in water sources and once more, lasts for up to 100,000 gallons, so you can travel safely, knowing it will do the job for a long time to come.
This water filter comes with a versatile adapter that allows you to attach it to water bottles, bags and faucets, so even if you’re staying somewhere on your trip, you can ensure you have safe and clean water to drink. A really nice touch from this manufacturer!
Just be wary of the water bag that comes with it, as we’ve had reports it can sometimes burst, so keep a water bottle with you.
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3. LifeStraw LSPHF017 Water Filter for Hiking, Camping
One of the most popular portable water filters on the market and that is because it is cheap, effective and small. The three things you want from a water filter that you take with you on a hiking trip.
The filtration system doesn’t use any kind of chemicals, meaning it doesn’t have a shelf life and can be stored safely for your next trip. The filter offers effective protection for up to 792 gallons of water and will remove up to 99.99% of bacteria in the water source.
We really struggled to find a downside of this product and ultimately the only issue is that it requires a fair amount of suction to get water through the filter system, so for those short of breath or at high altitudes, you may struggle.
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4. Katadyn Vario Water Filter
The first pump type of portable water filter on our list comes from Katadyn and it is a great choice because they have put a lot of thought into its design and functionality. It still fits into a backpack, weights relatively little and it’s too expensive, so it ticks the initial boxes.
Where this stands out is that it has a good size hose, a clip system so that you can attach it to whatever water bottle you’re using and a fast-acting water pump to filter up to 2 quarts of water per minute.
It will use charcoal filters to protect you from bacteria, as well as removing bad tastes and smells, making it nicer to drink from than certain other options. We have had reports that the pump can get air-locked at times, but this doesn’t seem too frequent and can be resolved relatively easily.
5. Sawyer Products PointOne Squeeze Water Filter
Another portable water filter from Sawyer and the PointOne is an all-around water filter for anyone wanting to go for a hike or simply prepare for an emergency situation.
What stands out on this model is its adapter, which allows you to safely connect to a 32 punch water pouch provided, allowing you to transfer the safely filtered water to a bottle, or simply connect it to a faucet or container in an emergency. What amazed us here is the longevity of the water filter, claiming to last up to 1 million gallons, an astonishing return on investment.
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6. LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle
This bottle filter from LifeStraw uses a two-stage activated carbon filter to improve the taste of the water and then a fibre membrane to protect you from 99.99% of the harmful bacteria in a water supply.
Its water bottle design means it will fit perfectly into a water bottle holder, backpack or even your hand as you hike or go camping, something we really appreciated about this easy to use portable water filter.
In terms of lifespan, it uses BPA-free plastic and soft silicone for the mouthpiece, so you know it’s a quality item. The straw filter will last up to 264 gallons of water and has a helpful system that simply stops taking water when the filter no longer works, so you can rest assured that it will always protect you.
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7. Survivor Filter PRO
Another pump type of portable water filter makes it onto our list and this is a superb little system.
Just like its competitors, it removes 99.9% of bacteria in the water supply, as well as 99.5% of metals found. Its all-around filtration of water is very impressive indeed.
Similar to other models, the filter cartridge lasts an impressive 100,000 litres of water, offering the longevity that is important for such products, but where it stands out is the speed at which it filters water.
You will be able to produce up to 17 ounces of water a minute with this machine, with everything you need arriving in the box and it will be ready to go in a matter of moments.
8. LifeStraw Family 1.0 Water Purifier
We end our top 8 list of portable water filters with another product from the filter powerhouse that is LifeStraw.
It is also a different type of filter because it uses the gravity system of filtration, so you simply pour water into the top and the clean, safe water comes out of the bottom of the device.
This model offers protection from up to 99.99% of bacteria, viruses etc in the water supply you are drinking from.
It will purify up to 12 litres per hour, offering a regular supply for larger groups such as family camping trips or friends travelling together. This means you don’t need to have everyone carrying a portable water filter and so saves space in backpacks.
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9. MoKo Portable Water Purifier
One of the main reasons we’ve chosen this portable water purifier is its safety record, on top of the performance and light-weight design.
It’s a 3-stage filtration system, designed to meet the highest safety standard makes it one of the best water filters out there. It will remove large pieces of contaminants first, such as sediment and then it uses activated carbon to remove other harmful minerals such as chlorine and chemicals. Finally, it uses a UF membrane to remove 99.9% of bacteria and harmful contaminants still in the supply.
An impressive flow rate of 600ml per minute, enough for most people but not enough if you want to share it around. A quick and effective way of getting safe, clean drinking water whenever you need it, no matter the water supply.
Made from aluminium, it is sturdy, secure and light-weight and comes complete with a backflushing filter so it will be a fantastic long-term investment.
10. General Ecology Xle Elite Purifier
The final best portable water filter to make it onto our list is this water treatment system from General Ecology.
Let’s start with its filter performance – a Matrix 3-stage purification process that removes harmful contaminants and minerals including bacteria, heavy metals, chlorine and viruses. This not only makes the water safe to drink but makes it taste and smell much better.
It has an impressive design feature that lets you clean out the system without having to remove hoses, uninstall sections or reverse the flow rate. This makes life much easier and that’s something we love. The manufacturers have thought about making this personal water filter easy to carry and use as well.
A strong performance when it comes to flow rate with this filter, delivering 1.89 liters per minute. You will get plenty of clean drinking water in no time with this water filter.
There are some absolutely fantastic portable water filters out there to choose from and no matter the type you go for, they will generally offer unbeatable protection from the harmful bacteria and contaminants found in water supplies. Having this kit with you on your hike or camping trip will be one of the best investments you will ever make and give you the peace of mind that you can have access to safe, clean water wherever you are.
Why do you need one?
The simple answer is we can never guarantee how safe a water source is in the wild, whether in remote areas or highly developed locations. Contaminated water can be highly dangerous and cause serious health problems.
There are five common contaminants that are found in untreated water, as well as poorly managed water supplies and these include:
This type of infection can cause fever, diarrhoea, nausea, muscle cramps and more.
This type of infection can cause fever, stomach pain, diarrhoea and vomiting, appearing very quickly or days after the initial contamination.
This can lead to giardiasis which causes stomach pains, diarrhoea and nausea.
This causes the infection Legionnaires disease, a potentially fatal infection which causes fever, muscle pain and more.
This infection can appear within 28 days of initial contamination and symptoms include nausea, stomach pain, jaundice and fever.
What types are there?
Choosing the right kind of portable water filter can seem quite daunting and confusing because there is so much choice out there, both in terms of branding and types available. We understand how important it is to understand the basic differences and so we’ve created a list below of the five main types of portable water filters and what you need to know about them.
The first on the list is the most portable solution because they are simply straws that you put straight into the water supply and drink from. Obviously, there is a little more to them than a standard straw and this is why they will be quite a bit bigger than a normal straw.
The filter is in the straw itself and contains a membrane that filters the bacteria, viruses etc, trapping them and stopping them from reaching you. It is a fantastic solution to keep in your belongings on long hikes through uncertain locations and there are only two real downsides that we can see. Firstly, it requires a stronger draw to get water through the filter but if you’re out hiking then you are likely to have the ability to deal with this. The second is that it isn’t the best at removing contaminants like chlorine or metals, plus the filters get a bit clogged up and will need replacing.
These filters are still small enough to carry around in your backpack and are relatively simple to use, with one line fed into the water and another up to the person wanting the water. You would then use a hand pump to draw the water through the filter and up to the recipient.
Pump filters utilise different types of filter, depending on the manufacturer and so it’s important to check the type they use and the relative strengths and weaknesses. For example, this type of portable water filter can come with a ceramic or fibre filter, as well as use activated carbon filters. In general, they will perform well and offer you the protection you need from contaminated water supplies, but it is important to note for some types of filter, they won’t remove all types of bacteria and some are prone to needing to be changed more than others.
This is a popular choice for those wanting a portable water filter because it operates as both a filter and a standard water bottle. If you’re using a safe supply, simply take out the filter and drink normally, and if you’re concerned about the water supply, insert the filter cartridge and have the peace of mind you need.
Most bottle filters use either a fibre filter, similar to the straw filters or an activated carbon filter, both of which are incredibly effective at filtering out harmful bacterial, minerals and other contaminants. The only real issue we find with these is they don’t get rid of fluoride but that isn’t a huge problem in the scheme of things.
An interesting option to go for is gravity-based portable water filters, which are perfect for those camping out or hiking in unknown locations. These filters utilise two containers placed above each other, with water being poured into the first before gravity is used to pass the water through filters made of ceramic and activated carbon, to the second container.
These are very effective at cleaning water and making it safe from harmful minerals and contaminants. Where problems can occur is if the first container is not used correctly, or stored in the right way, it can contaminate the second one, effectively ruining the system. Furthermore, it is bigger than other types of filter, requiring more space in your backpack and so may not be the most convenient solution.
This is perhaps the most rarely used type of portable water filter because they use batteries and cost more, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a good solution. A UV filter device is highly effective against the types of bacteria found in water supplies, as well as improving the taste of water you will be drinking.
The only real downside of this choice is as mentioned above, that it uses batteries so that is an extra consideration to make sure you have an adequate supply. Aside from that, the UV filters have been found to lose their effectiveness if the water is dirtier, as the debris in the water can reduce the ability of the filter to do its job.
Key Considerations when buying portable water filters
When choosing which are the best portable water filters on the market right now and then which one is best for you, there are some key factors to bear in mind. We’ve put together a list of the top ones to keep in mind and research in order to find the best portable filter for your needs.
Fundamentally everyone wants their portable water filter to be just that – portable! As a result, it is vital to consider the portability of a water filter and whether it fits into your requirements. Maybe you want the best backpacking water filter out there, or happy to put it into your equipment for a camping trip. It may be the case that you sacrifice performance for portability but the trade-off may be worth it if you want an extremely lightweight water filter.
This is something that many neglects to consider and that is how long the filter will last. You want an effective filter that removes harmful contaminants such as bacteria, protozoa, heavy metals, chlorine and more. However, if it only lasts for weeks and you’re on a long journey, this may not be the best choice. Water purifiers and water filters come in a range of types, whether it is a gravity filter, carbon filter or pump, each with their own performance range, from a few hundred gallons up to 100,000 gallons of water.
Very much in line with the key consideration of portability, you will want a lightweight, easy to carry and easy to use water filter. The very best backpacking water filters weigh barely anything, so it doesn’t feel like you’re carrying anything at all, whilst still have a clean water source at your disposal. Once more, do bear in mind that by sacrificing size and weight, you may lose some performance such as filtration levels, flow rates and longevity of filters.
Most of us have been there with water filters, sitting there getting frustrated by how long they take to produce even a small amount of clean water, let alone liters of water. As a result, it is very important that you check the flow rate of filtered water. If it is a single person water source then this shouldn’t be much of an issue but if you intend to support multiple people then you need to make sure its performance meets your requirements.
Ease of Use
Fortunately, the vast majority of water filters on the market are easy to use and quick to set up. However, this is not a guarantee and the worst thing in the world is to be in the middle of nowhere, with a questionable water source and you can’t get your filter set up. Whether it is a standard carbon filter, gravity filter, hand pump filter or any other design, make sure the instructions are clear and customer reviews mention its ease of use.
One of the most important considerations for every type of water filtration system, softener or water purifier – how effectively does it filter water. You will find some highly innovative and efficient 3-stage filtration systems in our list of the best portable water filters, as well as more generic filters that still clean up dirty water making it safe to drink.
You don’t necessarily need to go for the best filter on the market, but instead, go for the best water filter for your needs. This will be a combination of factors and no matter the choice, it is likely to deliver clean, safe drinking water when you’re out travelling.
What type of portable water filter do I need?
The answer to this question very much depends on the kind of user you are and what activity you need it for. Perhaps your a day hiking, camper or experienced backpacker in the wilderness. We’ve got a brief summary of the recommended types for you below:
Water Pump Filters
As the name suggests, these are water filter systems that use a small hand pump to draw the water through a line that goes from the water source, through the filter and then along another line into the water container.
You may think these are going to be heavy and not suitable as a portable option but the majority on the market now fit nicely into a backpack without causing too much of a problem. The filters in these water filter systems normally range from ceramic, fiber or activated carbon. Or a combination of two of these solutions. That means they are normally efficient at removing harmful contaminants such as bacteria, protozoa, heavy metals and more.
Perhaps the main downside of choosing a pump filter like this is that if you don’t clean it properly, then bacteria will quickly begin to form. Furthermore, it isn’t as portable as other systems so, for someone who wants to carry a portable filter for a quick drink, this isn’t the solution.
This is the most portable and lightweight of the water purification systems out there and its easy to see why they are so popular. They are normally designed like large straws and you simply put it into the water supply and suck the water straight up the filter. They are very efficient at removing contaminants and harmful minerals in the water, including bacteria, protozoa, viruses and more.
Perhaps where these fall down is that they don’t often last very long and the membrane within can get clogged up with sediment, so you will need to change them more frequently than others. Furthermore, you require a strong draw to get the water flow which can be tough if you’ve been travelling a long way or suffer from a medical condition.
Gravity filters are a popular choice for hikers and people planning for emergencies, as they are water purifiers that don’t require a power supply or flowing water. In general, they are designed as two containers placed above one another. The flow uses gravity to flow through the filter, into the second container which will have a tap or controller to allow access to the clean water.
They will often use activated carbon filters so that you can trust the water is free of harmful contaminants. Where this type of filter falls down is that it can be a little unwieldy, being made from multiple parts and larger in size than the more portable systems out there. Also, if you don’t store it or use it properly, then the first container may contaminant the second container.
These are perhaps our favourite of the portable water filters out there because they can be easily carried, work well as water purifiers and can even work as a standard drinks bottle even when you don’t need to filter the water supply.
The majority will have a filter straw inside the bottle so that when you drink from it, you draw the water through these filters. Removing the harmful contaminants and leaving you with filtered water making its way up to the straw to your mouth. It may not deliver liters of water at the speed that other systems will do, but as a single person water bottle, it definitely performs well.
The only real downside of these is that they do require more effort to drink from than a traditional water bottle, as you have to draw the water through a filter straw.
Certainly far less frequently used than the other types of filter on our best portable water filter list, but still an option to consider. The first thing to be aware of is that these water treatment solutions require a power source to deliver clean water, usually batteries which increase the operating costs.
Where these perform so well is the UV filters are highly effective against bacteria, making them a fantastic water treatment option.
Frequently Asked Questions
We’ve put together a list of the most frequently asked questions and our responses to help you understand key terms, factors or considerations that form the purchasing decision for portable water filters.
What do these water filters remove?
- Each water purification system will have its own design and this means they will filter slightly different minerals and contaminants. In general, all of them will filter out the majority of harmful contaminants such as bacteria and protozoa, heavy metals and chlorine. However, it is important to check just exactly what they do filter, to make sure that they protect you from the types of contaminants found in water supplies where you are travelling.
As a backup, many people carry purification tablets in case their water purifiers fail or get lost.
What is the best one to go for?
- This isn’t an easy question to answer and very much depends on your individual requirements. That is why we have developed this review page, not only for the best products on the market right now but also to help you understand the key considerations and filter types out there.
Once you have understood what to look out for and mapped these against your individual needs, you will easily shortlist the most effective candidates.
Are they difficult to clean?
- The majority of the systems on our list are easy to clean, or simply require a little bit of reading on how best to perform the cleaning and maintenance process. What is important to be aware of, no matter the filter you buy is that a filter has a lifespan and you must make sure that you maintain it until the point you need to replace it.
Cleaning and caring for your filter will help ensure that the filter works at its optimum level until you need to replace it and reduces the chances of bacteria and protozoa forming inside the water container or filter.
The other point to note here is that you should always replace the filter if you notice a drop in performance or when you track it is time to do so. If you don’t, then you run the risk of drinking dirty water and potentially unsafe water that could cause illness.
How much do I need to spend?
- The prices range a great deal for water filters, going from only a few dollars for water purification tablets, up to water filter straws and then all the way up to hi-tech UV portable filters.
It is likely you have a budget you want to spend and it doesn’t always require you to buy the most expensive system out there. Before buying any products, you should consider what you want it to do and what your expectations are. For example, you may prioritise portability over performance, in which case some of the cheaper portable filter bottles will do the job.
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