Imagine this: you're hiking for hours and develop a thirst only to find that your water bottle is empty. You see a water source, but you don't want to end up reliving scenes from Into The Wild while you're alone in the wilderness. What do you do?
Choice A: you drink the water that can also be a host to many dangerous bacteria, microplastics, or protozoa.
Choice B: you avoid this situation altogether by investing in a portable water filter. Not only are these much lighter to carry with you in replacement of heavy, energy-sucking, water reserve bottles, but they're useful in circumstances of survival if your situation turns into Man Vs Wild.
They're not only beneficial for the wilderness, either. Do you know how people are always questioning whether the water is safe to drink in a certain country or region? Who wants to be on vacation only to spend the entire time over a toilet? Portable water filters take safety out of the question and leave you with 99.99 percent filtered water.
Whether you need reliable and clean drinking water in the deep wilderness or a bustling city with undrinkable tap water, we’ve rounded up the top ten best portable water filters.
Check out the varying options of portable water filters, from ceramic to UV, and choose which one will keep you from regretting your life choices.
Best Portable Water Filters of 2023
Here’s our list of the best portable water filters on the market today.
1. Platypus GravityWorks – Best Overall
The Platypus GravityWorks High-Capacity Water Filter System is made in the US. This gravity filter helps to keep you prepared during camping, hiking, and other outdoor adventures.
This system can remove 99.99% of bacteria and protozoa from 4-liters of water in less than three minutes.
It has a hollow-fiber microfilter cartridge with a filter pore size of 0.2 microns that filters out waterborne microplastics and bacteria like E. coli, salmonella, giardia, cryptosporidium, and cholera. The filter cartridge should be replaced approximately every 1,500 gallons (5,700 liters).
Instead of pumping water, use gravity to filter your cooking and washing water. The Platypus GravityWorks System is made up of two bags connected by hoses that contain the filter.
To use, hang up the bag labeled “Dirty” higher than the “Clean” bag. The untreated water inside of the Dirty bag will flow down through the hose, through the filter, and into the Clean bag for safe and drinkable water.
We love this option for a portable water filtration system because it works well for drinking water and to use for showering, cooking, and cleaning. Choose between the 1-gallon (4-liter) pouch or the 1.5-gallon (6-liter) pouch, depending on your group size and water usage needs.
2. LifeStraw Family 1.0 – Best for Versatility
The LifeStraw Family 1.0 Portable Gravity Powered Water Purifier can be used in versatile ways. Whether you set it up in a trailer, hang it on a tree, or use it in your kitchen, this filter is capable of producing usable clean water quickly.
The filter in this portable water purifier is 0.2 microns and filters out certain viruses alongside bacteria and protozoa. At only 1.17 pounds, this device weighs less than carrying a liter of water. It has a lifetime capacity to filter approximately 475 gallons (18,000-liters).
The LifeStraw Family 1.0 Portable Gravity Water Filter is made of a 2-liter vessel where untreated water is placed. To use it, hang the untreated water jug in a high area. Next, place the LifeStraw nozzle into your water jug or water bottle and turn the dial to let purified water stream through.
The design of this version of gravity water filter is slightly bulky, as the vessel for untreated water is not collapsible. However, this system can filter around three gallons (12-liters) of water each hour, making it a valuable companion for backcountry hikes and missions trips.
3. Survivor Filter Pro – Best for Outdoor Use
The Survivor Filter Pro is a hand pump water filter that filters out viruses, bacteria, parasites, protozoa, and reduces heavy metals. This system has been independently tested in the United States and is small yet durable.
It has three layers of filtration with a pore size of 0.1 microns that filter out 99.99 percent of contaminants. All three filters are replaceable and help to improve the taste and smell of your drinking water.
Survivor Filter is passionate about bringing clean drinking water to anyone who needs it. With a convenient carrying case and a weight of only 8.16 ounces, this hand pump water filter is highly portable. Use it for hiking trips, traveling, camping, fishing, or homesteading.
The Survivor Filter Pro hand pump has a filtration rate of 17 ounces of water per minute that can be taken directly from the water source. Simply pump the easy-to-use handle, and water will flow through the hose, filters, and into a jug, water bottle, or camelback.
The Survivor Filter Pro is easy to clean in the field by backwashing, which helps extend the life of your system. This water filtration system can withstand approximately 26,417 gallons (100,000-liters) before new filter cartridges are needed.
4. LifeStraw Go – Best for Traveling
The LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle is a handy thing to have on hikes and travels. One of the features we love about this BPA-free portable water filter is that it looks just like a classic reusable water bottle, making it easy to remember to pack.
- Sleek design
- Immediate and easy use
- No pumping required
- Does not filter heavy metals
- Does not filter water for bathing or cooking
The aptly named LifeStraw filter allows you to suck water through the straw as it filters the water before it reaches your tongue. Some reviews mention that it takes slightly more effort to suck on this straw than traditional straws, as the water must pass through the different internal filters.
The LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle has two different internal filters that are made of a microfiltration membrane and activated carbon filters. Both filters are replaceable and can filter up to 1056 gallons (4000-liters) and 26.4 gallons (100-liters) respectively as you drink.
Instead of hand pumping or waiting for gravity, you can easily dip your bottle into a river or stream, insert the LifeStraw filter and close the cap, then drink. No waiting is required.
The LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle filters out 99.99 percent of waterborne microplastics, bacteria, parasites, and certain chemicals. It is available in 22 ounce or 1-liter bottles, making it an ideal travel companion.
5. MSR MiniWorks – Best for Convenient Clean-up
The MiniWorks EX Microfilter by Mountain Safety Research is a tested portable pump water filter system that can be adapted to any environment where clean drinking water is needed.
Small but mighty, this system is designed to withstand heavy use and is easy to clean with no tools needed. It features a Marathon EX carbon/ceramic filtration system that produces safe, taste-free, and odorless drinking water.
To use the MiniWorks EX Microfilter, place the inlet funnel into a stream or river and the outlet funnel into any water-carrying container. Pump the handle and watch as water moves from one hose to the other.
Each drop of water produced passes through a filter with a pore size of 0.2 microns and is 99.99 percent free of iodine, chlorine, pesticides, protozoa, bacteria, and particulates.
This system can pump one quart (1-liter) per minute, which generally takes about eighty-five strokes of the pump handle. Each cartridge has a longevity of approximately 528 gallons (2,000-liters).
6. Sawyer SP181 – Best Compact Filtration Kit
Every Sawyer SP181 PointOne Filtration Kit is tested three times before going to market. This high-performance portable straw water filter can be used as a gravity filter or as a squeeze bag.
The hollow fiber membrane filter is made up of tiny U-shaped tubes that create a large surface area to enable water to easily flow through while trapping hazardous particles. With a pore size of 0.1 microns, this filter enables smooth flow while removing 99.99 percent of bacteria and protozoa.
We love how versatile and portable this filtration system is. Weighing only two ounces, this small filtration kit can fit in the palm of your hand, but once the collapsible pouch is filled, it can carry 32 ounces or be adjusted to other sized water pouches.
To use, simply fill up the bag and attach the filter, then squeeze the bag and watch clean water flow out of the device. You can also use this filter for large groups, attaching it to the spout of a 5-gallon bucket so that each pour is drinkable water.
This device comes with a syringe filter cleaner that makes it field maintainable and has a general lifespan of 540-gallons (2,000-liters) before needing cleaning or replacement.
7. Katadyn Pocket Water Filter – Best Lifespan
The Katadyn Pocket Water Filter is meant for long-term and repeated use and comes with a lifetime guarantee to prove it. It is an easy-to-use hand pump filter that can be used with a variety of water-carrying containers.
It features a ceramic filter with a pore size of 0.2 microns to remove bacteria and protozoa from your drinking water.
This device boasts a lifespan of a whopping 30,000-gallons (50,000-liters) before needing to be replaced, which justifies the slightly larger price tag in comparison to some of the other models on this list.
The ceramic filter can be cleaned repeatedly by easily wiping and washing it with clean water to increase the flow speed when pumping and increase its longevity.
The Katadyn Pocket Water Filter is 10-inches by 2.5-inches with a weight of only 20 ounces. True to its name, you can carry this lightweight device in your pocket or an easy-to-reach pouch of your backpack.
To use, simply insert the end of the hose into an untreated water source, place the outlet hose into your water-carrying container, then pump the handle. This handpump produces approximately 1-quart of water per minute.
Some reviews reported damage to the ceramic filter after storing it with water, especially if the water inside freezes.
8. Membrane Solutions – Best Budget Option
The Membrane Solutions Straw Water Filter is a BPA-free portable water filter shaped like a large straw.
To use the Membrane Solutions Straw Water Filter, simply place the bottom end into untreated water and drink through the mouthpiece as you would a straw. As the water rises, it travels through the internal filtration system cleaning the water of harmful properties.
Unlike other straw filters on the market, this option has a filter pore size of 0.01 microns, enabling it to filter out more waterborne contaminants than the competitors.
The Membrane Solutions portable water filter features a four-stage filtration system that includes a coarse screen, pp cotton, activated carbon, and hollow fiber membranes. These together remove 99.99 percent of bacteria, pollutants, and harmful substances.
The cylindrical design on the Membrane Solutions Straw Filter is 6.7-inches by 1-inch, making it easily storable. Weighing only two ounces, this tiny device can fit in the palm of your hand, your pocket, or your survival bag. The lifespan of this BPA-free device is 396-gallons (1,500-liters).
The price tag on this device makes it an attractive option for budget-friendly water filtration; however, this device must be cleaned after each use.
9. Katadyn Hiker Microfilter – Best User-Friendly Filter
The Katadyn Hiker Microfilter is worthy of being on the top ten best portable water filters list because it is easy to use, durable, and affordable.
The pumping system has a low resistance that makes it easy for any age and pumps approximately 1-gallon of water in four minutes. It weighs 14.3 ounces and is 9-inches by 10-inches making it small enough to fit in a backpack but not inside a pocket like other popular options.
With a pleated glass fiber filtration system and an activated carbon core, the water that filters through this easy-to-use system is clean, odorless, crisp tasting, and safe to drink. The filter pore size of this device is 0.2 microns.
Cleaning the Katadyn Hiker Microfilter onsite is as easy as moving it back and forth in clear water to remove trapped particles. Before storing, run the system with chlorine and bleach and dry. Each cartridge can withstand around 200 gallons (750 liters) of water before it needs replacing.
10. SteriPEN ULT-MP-EF – Best Features
The SteriPEN Ultra UV Water Purifier uses a lithium battery and UV light to sterilize water from 99.99 percent of contaminants.
We love this model because it makes water purifying feel like a sci-fi movie. The small screen offers detailed information about the device. You can see the battery life, lamp life, and notifications when the water is sterilized.
To use, remove the cap, insert it into a one or half-liter water bottle, press the button to turn the UV light on, and stir. The device will display a happy face after 60-seconds when the water has been successfully sterilized.
The SteriPEN has a USB charger that enables you to recharge it on a computer, a wall, in a car, or with a solar panel. The battery life of one charge can sterilize 13 gallons (50-liters) of water. In the device’s lifespan, it can sterilize approximately 4,000 gallons (15,000-liters).
Some reviews did mention that this portable water purifier can malfunction at times. The SteriPEN is a better option for traveling in countries where water may not be safe to drink rather than long backcountry expeditions with no recharging stations.
How to Choose the Best Portable Water Filter
Buying a water filter can seem overwhelming. There are numerous options, designs, varying prices, and thousands of consumer reviews.
Worry not. We’ve created a checklist of things to keep in mind when looking for the best portable water filter for you.
Level of Portability
Consider the weight and size of the system. If you have strict weight restrictions for your packing, remember that a 500ml bottle of water weighs the same as many systems on this list and produces gallons of drinkable water.
Consider how long the device takes to filter water. Some portable water filters can do it instantly, while others need time. If your style is more on the go, then a straw filter might be a better option for you than a gravity filter.
When buying a portable water filter, consider how much work you would be happy to expend to replenish your water supply.
If you like the sensation of working for your water, a hand pump water filter will give you that. However, some enjoy the idea of letting gravity do the work instead.
When choosing which water filter is best for you, consider how often you plan to use it and if the filtration capacity can accommodate that.
Some portable water filters can purify thousands of gallons of water before needing to be replaced or thoroughly cleaned. Others might only last a few hundred gallons.
Your Personal Preference
With so many designs and options on the market, you should choose one that is convenient for you and meets your preferences. If you are not keen to drink from a river through a straw filter but don’t want to pump, choose a UV or gravity filter.
Types of Portable Water Filters
Remove waterborne bacteria to create safe drinking water in a variety of ways. Below we’ll discuss the different types of filters and how they work.
Ceramic filters are composed of tiny pores that sediment and bacteria get attached to as the water moves through the intricate system of holes.
A ceramic filter is low-cost and easy to clean.
Ceramic is breakable, so be mindful not to drop it when cleaning and packing.
To clean and care for ceramic filters, use a toothbrush or cloth and clean water to wipe the outside of the ceramic filter. This brushes off built-up sediment allowing for better water flow.
Avoid using coarse brushes or cloths as this can damage the pores and ruin the filter.
Gravity filters use the pressure from gravity to push untreated water through the filtration system and into a clean container.
Gravity filters contain bags or a plastic jug where the dirty water is placed. Some include a storage bag for the purified water, while others have a pouring nozzle.
The filtration system in a gravity filter is made from ceramic, hollow fibers, activated carbon, or a combination of filtration techniques.
Cleaning and caring for gravity filters is a matter of simply placing the clean bag higher than the dirty bag, opposite to how it would normally function.
This backwashes the filter, pouring clean water the opposite way through the system. Repeat this process until the water in the dirty bag is clear.
Straw Filters are the easiest option for on-the-go water filtration but have a lower lifespan than other portable water filters.
They use multiple techniques for filtering water like activated carbon and hollow fibers to quickly filter out contaminants by the time it reaches your mouth.
Using a straw filter is as simple as sticking it into untreated water and sucking. However, not everyone likes the idea of watching murky water be sucked up from a straw.
You can clean and care for straw filters by disassembling the straw and soaking the filters in warm water.
Depending on your model, you can add bleach, vinegar, or even coconut milk to a solution of warm water to help sterilize the filter.
Pump filters look and function a lot like old-school water pumps.
By pumping the handle, you provide the pressure needed to suck up the water from a river or stream. Then the water passes through a filtration system composed of hollow fibers, ceramic, activated carbon, or multiple materials.
Pump filters have the downside of requiring your energy to get them working. However, the input nozzle can suck and filter water from shallow water sources that might not be deep enough for other methods.
Backwash your portable water filter to clean and care for your pump filter.
Backwashing is done by first disassembling it and wiping down the filtration device and hoses. Then connect the filter device backward, so the water flows in the opposite direction. When you pump, it will help clear out blockages.
UV water filters use light to remove bacteria from water. The light from UV filters emits at a wavelength that can disrupt the DNA and RNA of bacteria and microorganisms. This DNA disruption hinders 99.99 percent of harmful microorganisms from reproducing.
To clean and care for UV filters, soak the bulb in a solution of vinegar or limescale remover to clear off any sediments that have stuck to the bulb.
Regular cleaning will ensure the UV light has no obstructions and successfully sterilizes your water.
Hollow Thread Filters
Hollow thread filters are made up of hundreds of tiny hollow fiber tubes arranged in a closed loop. The closed-loop design gives this filtration system a large surface area that traps sediment and bacteria while allowing clean water to flow through the hollow tubes.
Cleaning and caring for hollow thread filters require regular backflushing. Adjust your system to push water backward through your hollow thread filter. If you have large sediment build-ups, repeatedly tap your filter against a hard surface to help dislodge them.
For a deeper clean, backwash the system with a solution of bleach and water.
You can even store it away with the bleach and water solution inside to allow it to stay disinfected until you need it next.
Be careful not to let a hollow thread filter freeze since water is stored in the fibers and can expand and ruin the system if frozen.
Portable Water Filter Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the frequently asked questions from consumers to help you decide if a portable water filter is right for you.
Who needs a portable water filter system?
Portable water filter systems are used by hikers, campers, fishers, and outdoor enthusiasts who spend time in areas with water that may not be safe to consume.
Missionaries and travelers planning to visit areas where water is not safe to drink use portable water filtration systems to use on their travels. Leave the system behind to support a family who may need it or bring it home and use it to filter rainwater.
Do I need more than one water filter?
It’s better to be safe than sorry, so always have a backup option for clean drinking water.
We’ve rounded up the best portable filters so that when you are in the middle of nowhere, you can still have a reliable source of drinking water. That said, bring along some purifying tablets or a secondary water filter just in case your primary one gets a particularly nasty clog.
Do portable water filters remove viruses?
Viruses are approximately one hundred times smaller than bacteria. They can range in size from 0.5 microns to >0.1 microns.
The pore size of a portable water filter needs to be 0.1 microns to remove most viruses from a freshwater source. While some options have this pore size, most contain filters with 0.2 microns and do not filter out all viruses.
How long does a portable water filter last?
The lifespan of every portable water filter is different based on the model, frequency of use, type of filtration system, and the number of moving parts.
Smaller filtration devices, like straw filters, tend to need the filters to be cleaned or replaced more frequently than other models.
Cleaning any portable water filter regularly will prolong the life of your filter. If you use the device in glacial streams or murky water with lots of sediment, clean your system more frequently.
Regardless of where your travels take you, clean and safe drinking water should always be on hand.
Portable water filters offer a convenient way to safely produce drinking water without adding to the weight of your backpack.
Whether you want something that looks like a regular reusable water bottle or a futuristic UV lamp, there’s a filtration system for you.
Water filters help to protect you and your companions from 99.99 percent of waterborne bacteria, protozoa, chemicals, heavy metals, and viruses.
Order a portable water filter today to be fully prepared for your next great adventure.