Did you know that according to the World Health Organization, 80 percent of all sickness and disease worldwide is linked to contaminated and unsafe drinking water?
Most hikers and campers want to travel light. There is only so much you can carry and you definitely do not want to carry a whole lot of water on you if you have other camping gears like a portable toilet, a big backpack etc.
In such cases, a portable water filter can be a life saver. In this exhaustive review, we find out which is the best portable water filter that you can find in the market.
Some of the best pump and gravity filters available in the market are listed below:
Some of the best bottle and straw personal water filters available in the market are listed below:
Some of the best water purifier tablets and drops available in the market are listed below:
According to WebMD, a 150-pound person needs 75 to 150 ounces of water per day. This requirement can increase if you are living in a hot climate or physically demanding activity such as backpacking and hiking. If you are a hiker or a backpacker, an outdoor enthusiast or love going on camping, you would want to carry your own drinking water. 150 ounces roughly translates to 1.17 gallons which are equal to 3.785 liters. One liter of water weighs close to one kilogram, so 150 ounces is equal to 4.43 liters and will weigh 4.43 kilograms (about 9 pounds). That is a sizeable weight for one person to carry, and if you are the mule in the group or you are out for more than a couple of days, you may have to carry much more than that. That is precisely why most of us do not prefer to carry enough water.
Mostly, while camping you can come across water sources in the form of rivers, lakes, ponds or you can find water collected in shallow beds. The problem with these sources of water is that they cannot be considered safe for direct consumption. You can run the risk of water contamination. Many disease-causing organisms-bacteria, protozoa and sometimes viruses can contaminate these water sources.
Boiling water is one of the most foolproof ways to make water safe for drinking. But boiling water is a time-consuming process and you cannot set up a stove anywhere and start boiling your water. Moreover, after boiling, you will have to wait for the water to cool before you can consume it or transfer it to your carry bottle.
Due to these reasons, a portable water purification system is a must carry if you are serious about your health and well-being. If you have water sources available around the trail or near your campground, carrying a portable water purification system is much easier than carrying all that load of water you will need.
Before we look at the factors to consider while picking the best water filters, let us look at how water filters differ from water purifiers.
Water filters are primarily meant to remove dissolved impurities, bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella and protozoa such as Cryptosporidium. They do this by passing the water through microscopic pores with a size of as little as 0.2 microns. Water filters do not provide protection against viruses such as rotavirus and Hepatitis A virus. Bacteria and protozoa are the most common pathogens that you would find in water in the US and Canada. So a water filter is sufficient to carry in these regions.
Water purifiers go one step further by providing protection against viruses as well. They do it by using UV or similar mechanisms that eliminate these viruses. Water purifiers are also generally costlier when compared to filters. If you intend to travel around the world, you should consider getting a water purifier instead of just a water filter.
So as discussed above, unless you are globetrotting, a water filter should be your choice while exploring the outdoors in the US or Canada.
When picking a portable water filter system, we need to look at the following criteria to arrive at a decision,
Portable water filters are of three different types,
Apart from this, there are two other water purifying water systems
Pump based water filters are the most common type of filters that are used for water filtering. These filters operate by pumping water through a filter which has a very small pore size, small enough to not allow bacteria and protozoa to move through it.
These filters can allow you to pump and filter an endless amount of water. Pump filters are a good choice when you want to have clean water for multiple days for a single person or a group. The filter used in pump filters is a generic ceramic piece infused with carbon or silver.
Cleaning these filter is very easy, it can be scrubbed clean to remove any blockage or can be boiled and dried to clear them. These filters have pore sizes of 0.2 microns which is more than enough to filter most bacteria and protozoa.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of portable pump water filters?
It consists of a silver impregnated ceramic element filter which is effective in removing bacteria and protozoa, using a Micro-Filtration method.
It can filter up to 1 liter of water per minute and the filter will last up to 50000 liters depending on water quality. This portable pocket water filter is the ideal choice for campers, hikers, and outdoor enthusiasts.
Due to its features and portable size, The Katadyn Pocket Water Filter is our Editor’s choice pick for the best portable pump water filter.
The Survivor Filter PRO is designed for frequent and heavy use. It is easy to clean repeatedly without the usage of any tools. It has 3 filter elements – an ultra filter, a cotton filter and a carbon filter to give unmatched filtration. It can filter up to 0.01 microns which can clear out even viruses. The filter lasts for 1000 litres of water.
Due to its unique and unbeatable filtration and heavy duty system, The Survivor Filter PRO is our Best value pick for the best portable pump water filters.
These type of filters use gravity to push water through a filter from one bag to another resulting in filtered water, ready for consumption. This mechanism eliminates the need for a pump to filter the water. They are fast, easy and effortless. Their filter mechanism is similar to a pump but without the manual pumping. You hang one bag on an elevated platform like a tree branch or hold it high while gravity pushes water through a filter into another bag used for collecting the filtered water. You can also collect the water into a drinking bottle. Generally, a glass or hollow fiber filter is used.
Gravity filters are compact and are lighter than a pump filter. Generally, their filters do not last that long, but using the clearest water possible helps increase their longevity.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of portable gravity water filters?
It provides clean drinking water faster than most pump water filters averaging 1.75 liters per minute.
Cleaning the unit is also very easy, just reverse the bags for seconds and you are done.
You can even attach a bottle at one end and store clean water in as many units as you want. The Platypus GravityWorks 4.0L Filter System is our Editor’s choice pick in the portable gravity water filters.
It has a simple design where you add water to a 2-liter feed bucket and clean water comes from the other end which can be stored in different units. The filter has a life of 18000 liters and cleaning is very easy.
Another great feature of this filter is that it can filter out viruses from water apart from bacteria and protozoa.
The LifeStraw Family 1.0 Water Purifier is our Best value pick for the best portable gravity water filters.
Straw filters are compact, inexpensive and simple to use personal water filters that have become popular among outdoor lovers in the past decade.
As the name suggests, such filters consist of a cylindrical plastic or steel tube, which is about 1 inch in diameter. One end of the straw is put in the water and the other end can be used to suck water through the mouthpiece. And if you do not want to suck the water directly, you can fill up the water bottle or bladder with filtered water.
Such filters generally have two (activated carbon filter, followed by a hollow membrane) or three stages (additional pre-filter) of filtration and can last anywhere between 1000 to 1500 liters for Lifestraw and Etekcity to 350,000 liters for Sawyer filters. The filters are not replaceable, so once the flow from the straw stops, you would have to discard it and get a new one.
Straw water filters are more popular among solo hikers and ultralight backpackers.
The major advantages and disadvantages of water filter straws are listed below:
It is lightweight and easy to use. It can filter up to 1000 liters of water before the filter needs to be changed.
The filter can filter particles up to 0.2 microns without the use of any chemicals. Just stick it and suck it is all it takes to give you clean drinking water.
The LifeStraw Personal Water Filter is our Editor’s choice pick for the best portable water filter straws.
The Etekcity filtration straw provides an efficient 3-stage filtration system which can filter up to 1500 liters (396 gallons) of water. The 0.01-micron UF membrane is superior to that found in other filtration straws.
Though its flow rate is less than the LifeStraw filter, it can filter 50% more water before needing a replacement. Moreover, each filtration system comes with a foldable water pouch, straw-extension and a syringe for back-flushing, making it a complete package. You can use the pouch and extension to fill in the filtered water and then consume it as per your convenience.
You can read more about it in the full review of Etekcity Filtration Straw.
The Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration System is the ideal filter for camping, hiking, and outdoor activities. It is an ultra-portable device weighing just 2 ounces but do not get fooled by its size. It can filter up to 100000 gallons of water before the need to replace it.
The filter consists of a 0.1-micron hollow fiber membrane which is capable of filtering bacteria and protozoa. It comes with a 16-ounce reusable squeeze pouch which can be used to scoop water and use the filter to drink from it.
It also has a 7-inch drinking water straw and a cleaning plunger. The Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration System is our Best value pick for the best portable filter straws .
Chemical based water filter make use of chemicals to clean water by killing any living micro-organisms in them. They are extremely cost effective in terms of their cost and the amount of water they can filter. They can of course not remove any sediments.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of chemical based water purifiers?
Due to its ultra-portable size, it is an ideal solution while backpacking, hiking or camping and you want to purify a large amount of water. Water is ready for consumption in 30 minutes.
Two 1 ounce bottles can purify up to 113 liters of water. Due to its ultra-portable size, it is an ideal solution while hiking, backpacking and camping when safe drinking water is not available.
The Aquamira – Water Treatment Drops is our Best value pick for the best chemical based water purifiers category.
When shopping for the best portable water filter, it is important to consider not only the size of the filter but also other important factors like outflow per minute, treatment capacity, filter pore size, ease of use, cost and the type best suited for your needs. In this guide, we compared some of the best portable water filter options available in the market and help you choose the best filter that suits your needs.
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