Best Portable Water Filters: Decontaminate Your Drinking Water

Water is necessary when camping or hiking, but you usually can’t carry a lot of it at one time.

byMike Knott|
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Water is necessary when camping or hiking, but you usually can’t carry a lot of it at one time. That is why you need a portable water filter. This device purifies natural water, eliminating all pathogens and particles and rendering it safe for consumption. In this guide, we picked the best portable water filters on the market.

Best Overall

Sawyer Products Squeeze Water Filter System

Summary
This kit is designed for hikers, fishers, scouts, campers, and other outdoor enthusiasts. With a 0.1 micron filter, this device can remove 100 percent microplastics and 99.999 percent of bacteria in the water. Additionally, it has a lifespan of up to 100,000 gallons.
Pros
  • It features a built-in and removable push/pull cap for easy water removal.
  • It is also small, easy to carry, and backed by a lifetime warranty.
  • This kit comes with a collapsible, reusable pouch for easy packing.
Cons
  • Some users claim that the squeeze bag leaks.
  • The water flow is very slow for some users.
  • The kit is very expensive compared to others on this list.
Best Value

Sawyer Products MINI Water Filtration System

Summary
The Sawyer water filtration system is an economical gadget ideal for hiking, scouting, and other outdoor activities. It features a 0.1 Micron inline filter that traps 99.99 percent of protozoa and bacteria.  
Pros
  • It measures just two ounces, making it lightweight for traveling.
  • It is cheap and comes in a variety of colors.
  • It is easy to use and filters up to 100,000 gallons.
Cons
  • It does not remove any chemicals or heavy metals.
  • Some users claim that sucking water from its straw is very difficult.
 
Honorable Mention

LifeStraw Steel Personal Water Filter

Summary
This two-stage filtration unit gets rid of microplastics, bacteria, and parasites via a hollow fiber membrane. It eliminates odors and tastes in water. It features a sturdy, sleek design and is made of sustainable stainless steel.
Pros
  • This water filter has a hollow fiber membrane that filters virtually all bacteria and protozoa.
  • It contains an activated carbon capsule that decreases chemicals such as chlorine and other organic compounds.
Cons
  • The filtration mechanism becomes useless if you drop or strike the bottle against a surface.
  • It’s not clear whether it filters heavy metals such as lead and chemical contaminants.

Summary List

Best Portable Water Filters: Reviews & Recommendations

If a portable filtration system is on your wish list, consider the Sawyer Squeeze. It is lightweight and offers unmatched versatility. Featuring a three-in-one design, it is ideal for one or two people. You can use it to drink water directly from the source, squeeze water into another bottle, or attach it to your hydration bladder. The water filter has a certified 0.1 micron filtration system with the ability to eliminate protozoa, bacteria, E. coli, and cysts from drinking water. Wherever you are in the U.S., this filter will be sufficient if you use it properly. It can filter up to 100,000 gallons of water. It’s also backed by a lifetime limited warranty. This filter doesn't remove heavy metals or waterborne viruses from water, but it will keep you safe on trips in the backcountry. The BPA-free collapsible pouches it comes with are not of high quality and may break after a couple of uses.

One of the most reliable filtration systems for personal use, the Sawyer MINI works in many configurations. Its hollow fiber membrane filter has a 0.1 micron pore size. It can filter out particulate matter, as well as protozoa and bacteria, including cryptosporidium and giardia. The water filter performs well in clear water sources and does not clog after a few uses. It can purify up to 100,000 gallons of water and is easy to clean. It can also be adjusted to fit a water bottle, which is a better alternative to using its drinking pouches which are not very durable. Avoid using this water filter in areas with high sediment because you’ll have to keep unclogging it using the syringe. It is only ideal for light backpacking trips where water supply is sufficient. It doesn't cleanse water of viruses and its narrow output nozzle prevents it from filtering water easily.

If you're looking for a portable water filter that purifies water on the go, it's the LifeStraw Steel Personal Water Filter. It contains a hollow fiber membrane that gets rid of protozoa and bacteria, including E. coli. It features a sleek design and can filter up to 1,000 liters of water. It also requires no batteries, which is great. Of course, this isn't your mother's LifeStraw that was filled with excessive and unnecessary components. To use the water filter, remove the caps at both ends and place it upright in a container of water or in a water source. Leave it for 15 seconds and you're good to go. It contains no chemicals and is BPA-free. It also filters up to 99.9999 percent of chemicals and bacteria out of your water. If you still have trouble figuring everything else out, the water filter comes with an instruction booklet that is easy to read and interpret. One thing to keep in mind, however — if you happen to drop the bottle or strike it against a surface, the filtration system may stop working. Additionally, the manufacturer doesn't state whether it filters heavy metals like lead.

Types of Portable Water Filters

Bottle Filters

These filters have one big advantage. When you don't want to filter your drinking water, you can remove the filter cartridge and use the bottle as a normal water bottle. But only do this when you are sure the water source is safe and healthy. Bottle filters usually have fibre filters or solid block activated carbon filters that clean and purify the water. 

Fiber bottle filters have straws that filter out the contaminants and ensure that only clean water reaches the mouthpiece. Activated carbon filters contain activated carbon which has been treated and compressed. It efficiently traps bacteria and parasites in water and absorbs more chemicals.

Straw Filters

These are currently the lightest portable water filters and resemble overly large straws. They also work like straws. To use a straw water filter, simply put its back end in the water source and suck water through the straw. However, the straw in this portable filter does not work like a regular straw. You have to suck using powerful force in order for the straw to work. 

The filtration process is simple and straightforward. Portable straw filters contain cartridges made of hollow fiber membrane. The fibers are tightly woven together and the water passes through a lot of layers before reaching the straw you suck. As the water passes through the fibers, viruses, bacteria, and parasites are removed.

Pump Filters

While these portable water filters are not small, they are small enough to fit in a backpack. To get clean water using the filter, you have to connect a lead line to the source of the water and another line to a water recipient. A small hand pump is used to draw the water. Pump filters rely on different types of filters: fibre filters, ceramic filters, and activated carbon filters. Ceramic filters perform mechanical filtration and are also porous. Their tiny holes block all the contaminants and can also block asbestos. 

However, ceramic filters do not prevent organic compounds from contaminating the water. This is why they are mostly used together with activated carbon filters. Carbon filters have extremely tiny pores between their carbon atoms which trap all contaminants in water. Fiber filters mechanically stop the contaminants from getting in your drinking water. 

Key Features

Filter Capacity

Every filter cartridge usually has a set lifespan. Some cartridges last a few days while others can be used for several weeks or even months. The best portable water filters have long-lasting filter cartridges. Some water filters have cartridges that can clean 264 gallons of water before requiring replacement, while others have cartridges that can purify up to 100,000 gallons of dirty impure water. Some manufacturers give the estimated filter capacity for their cartridges, so be sure to look at that feature. 

Filtration Speed

A portable water filter removes the impurities in water at a certain rate. Some water filters produce five ounces of clean water every minute, while others produce as much as 30 ounces of water in the same amount of time. Be sure to get a unit that can filter water quickly, especially if you're planning to go camping or traveling with your family or a group of friends. 

Weight

The main point of buying a portable water filter is so that you can carry it around when you travel. Before settling on a particular model, carefully consider its weight. While most portable water filters are compact, their weight varies. The weight depends on the filtering technology used, the construction materials, and the design. 

Other Considerations

  • Ease of Use. While almost all portable water filters are compact, not all are convenient and easy to use. Some units come with clear instructions which you have to carry everywhere to ensure you set up your filter properly. They can have a negative effect on your outdoor experience. However, some water filters are very easy to use. All you need to do is suck the water and drink it.
  • Convenience. When you're choosing a water filter, it's important to know the circumstances in which it will be used. If you need a filter that removes bacteria, a standard water filter like a straw filter or a gravity filter is ideal. If you're traveling internationally, you need a water filter that is powerful enough to block viruses, bacteria, heavy metals, and other contaminants.

Portable Water Filter Pricing

  • $10-$50: These water filters mostly have 2-stage and 3-stage water filtration systems. They remove many contaminants, including chlorine, iodine, sediment, and waterborne contaminants. However, the lower-priced models don’t eliminate heavy metals in water.

FAQs

You've got questions. The Drive has answers.

Q: How do portable water filters work?

A: Portable water filters have a replaceable cartridge that contains layers of permeable material. Water is made to pass through this filter, and contaminants such as mercury, lead, iron, dust, protozoa, and most bacteria are filtered out.

Q: How should I maintain a portable water filter?

A: Some maintenance practices include washing your portable water filter with hot water to kill bacteria every time you use it. During the winter, keep your kit at body temperature to ensure it does not freeze and become ineffective. Also, remember to replace the cartridge when necessary. 

Q: How can I tell if my water filter needs replacing?

A: First, check its lifespan rating. If you have achieved the gallons it is rated to filter, then it's time to replace it. Also, be aware if the flow rate drops significantly. The filter gets clogged with particles, and if the speed of filtering drops, you have to replace it.

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