I have fond memories of learning to camp in Windermere, Missouri, near the Lake of the Ozarks. It was the first time I had camped outdoors for more than four days at one time. We packed as much clean water as we could but, naturally, our supply list wasn't complete without the best portable water filter.
Good thing, too, because we must have pushed at least 50 gallons of water through the filter before we made it back! And when we did finally make it back, ice had never tasted so good.
Whether you’re planning a day hike, a camping expedition, or just want to be as prepared as a Boy Scout, having the best portable water filter is crucial to a safe adventure. But where do you start?
Why You Need the Best Portable Water Filter for Your next Outdoor Adventure
Water is crucial to sustaining life. Though you can prepare by packing extra bottled water and filling up the tank on your RV, you never know what the future will hold.
Whether you’re camping or hiking, it’s good to have a backup plan, so you don’t get stranded without anything to drink.
As the Boy Scouts say: Be prepared!
There are two primary contaminants that make drinking unfiltered water dangerous: bacteria and protozoan parasites.
For example, one such contaminant is Giardia, which is a parasite that targets your small intestine. While its colloquial name, beaver fever, might not sound very menacing, this parasite can leave you suffering out in the woods.
Additionally, some water contains trace amounts of heavy metals that are hazardous to your health.
6 Things You Need to Know About Portable Water Filtration
Unless you’re a water treatment expert, it’s likely you have a few questions. Here's what you need to know about how to drink water on the go safely:
1. Do I need iodine to purify my water?
No, not necessarily. The best portable water filter doesn’t require any extra means of purification.
Nevertheless, if you want to be fully prepared, keeping spare iodine on hand is never a bad idea.
2. How long does the best portable water filter last?
The longevity of the best portable water filter depends on how much you use it. Each model is different, though manufacturers typically rate the internal components and filtration mechanisms by how many gallons can pass through the filter before it needs to be replaced.
If you want to know how long a specific filter will last, check with the manufacturer.
3. Does the best portable water filter require replacement parts?
Most models have modular internal filtration units that do need to be replaced. Again, how often you'll need to replace these pieces will depend on the type of filter and manufacturer.
4. How is the best portable water filter powered?
The best portable water filter can be powered in several different ways. Some require suction through a straw, some require some elbow grease with a hand-pump, and some just use gravity to pull the water through a filter.
Take your preferred power method into consideration when shopping for the best filtration system for your needs.
5. How does a portable water filter actually clean the water?
The best portable water filter models have different stages and types of filters, including hollow fiber membranes and activated carbon filters.
In simple terms, hollow fiber membranes use extremely small holes to filter contaminants out of the water. While the water particles can pass through these holes, most contaminants cannot.
On the other hand, activated carbon filters use a process called adsorption to actually trap the contaminants in the carbon's pores.
6. How are portable water filters tested for effectiveness?
Quality water filtration products need to meet rigorous domestic and international standards. These standards are set by organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), and American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).
If a filtration product meets any of these standards, it will be listed on the packaging.
How We Reviewed
We reviewed the options for portable water filtration in several ways, including researching how the best portable water filter works. In addition, we researched common contaminants found in water, such as Giardia, and how water filters remove protozoa and other parasites.
Although we couldn’t find any mention of individual products on ConsumerReports, we were able to find testimonials from independent bloggers and soberly critical reviews.
Naturally, we also combed through Amazon customer reviews to compare positive and negative feedback, as well as each product’s overall Amazon rating.
The 12 Best Portable Water Filter Options for Campers, Hikers, and More
The best portable water filter units come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and are designed for a range of uses.
While the following list is numbered, the products are in no particular order. These are the best portable water filters you can buy, so each should be a contender for your next purchase.
- Award-winning LifeStraw water filter is a must-carry tool for hiking,...
- Filters up to 1000 liters of contaminated water without iodine,...
- Removes minimum 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria, 99.9% of waterborne...
LifeStraw's flagship product is our first candidate for the best portable water filter, and it’s incredibly inexpensive. Believe it or not, it’s less than the price of a meal for two at a casual restaurant!
We think the company’s mission is great, too. LifeStraw claims that for every product a customer purchases, a child in need will get safe drinking water for an entire school year.
Of course, as one of the best portable water filters, this product removes bacteria and parasites from unclean water. The manufacturer even claims this product’s micro-filtration membrane will remove 99.999999 percent of waterborne bacteria and 99.999 percent of waterborne parasites.
The types of bacteria and parasites it claims to remove include E. coli, Salmonella, Giardia, and Cryptosporidium.
In addition to harmful bacteria and parasites, this product also filters out microplastics down to 0.2 microns. To add credibility to this filter, LifeStraw verifies all claims with the U.S. EPA, NSF, and ASTM.
This filter earned 4.6 out of 5.0 stars on Amazon, although a critical review claimed there are better alternatives on the market. However, a positive review claimed this product is a must-have for any outdoor excursion.
2. Brita Premium Filtering Water Bottle
- Great-tasting water: This premium water bottle filters as you drink,...
- Filtered water anywhere: This sleek, car cup holder friendly premium...
- Convenient hydration: featuring durable, BPA-free, hard-sided plastic,...
The next best portable water filter is the Brita Premium Filtering Water Bottle. Brita is a household name when it comes to drinking water filters, though this model is different than the standard Brita filter.
Instead, this system is actually a convenient water bottle with a filter built inside. As you drink through the top of the water bottle, it filters out contaminants.
If you're an avid RV camper, you'll love that it fits in a cup holder. The water bottle is made from BPA-free plastic, so you don’t have to worry about hazardous toxins.
Furthermore, this water bottle is good for the environment. The manufacturer claims a single water bottle filter replaces up to 300 standard plastic bottles. And unlike some of the more complicated filters out there, this bottle is dishwasher-safe and easy to clean.
Amazon customer reviews give this portable water filter 4.3 out of 5.0 stars. One leading critical review claimed it was difficult to drink through the filter of this water bottle.
On the other hand, positive reviews said it doesn’t leak, the water tastes good, and it helped them save money on bottled water.
3. LifeStraw Flex with Gravity Bag
- Hollow fiber Membrane: 0.2 micron pore size. Removes 99.999999% of...
- Carbon fiber capsule: improves taste while reducing lead, other heavy...
- Performance: exceeds US EPA drinking water standards for bacteria and...
The next model on our list of the best portable water filter is another LifeStraw product.
This model has a drastically different design than the two filters mentioned above. Instead of a water bottle or pump filter, this model is a gravity filter.
To operate, you fill a pouch with water and hang it up. Then, gravity does the work for you and pushes purified water through a hose and nozzle attached to the pouch's bottom.
The filter in the LifeStraw Flex with Gravity Bag uses a hollow fiber membrane with 0.2-micron pores. And, like the previous LifeStraw product, it removes bacteria, parasites, and microplastics from contaminated water.
We were pleased to see this filter doesn’t only meet but also exceeds the U.S. EPA drinking water standards. It also exceeds the NSF-53 standard for the reduction of lead and other heavy metals.
Also, the manufacturer claims this single filtration product is good for 500 gallons with a single hollow fiber membrane. Additionally, the carbon capsule lasts up to 26 gallons.
Overall, this portable water filter earned 4.0 out of 5.0 stars on Amazon. Positive reviews repeatedly commented that it works as expected and does a good job of cleaning water. However, a negative review commented it was too slow.
4. GRAYL Ultralight Purifier
- Ideal for global traveling, outdoor adventures, emergency...
- Fast and easy-to-use, simply Fill. Press. Drink. No sucking,...
- Award winning [ONE PRESS] design makes clean, purified drinking water...
The GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier is the next suitable choice for the best portable water filter. Like the Brita model, this is a combination water bottle and filter.
GRAYL designed this water filter for global traveling, outdoor adventures, hiking, backpacking, survival, emergency preparedness, and more. However, this model costs more than many of its competitors.
One thing we liked about this model is you don’t have to suck the water through the filter. Instead, you can press against the sides of the semi-soft bottle to push water through. Also, the manufacturer claims it can filter water in as little as 15 seconds after filling.
As far as removing contaminants, this filter cleans out viruses like Hepatitis A, SARS-associated coronavirus, and rotavirus, and well as bacteria like E. coli, Salmonella, and cholera. It even filters out protozoa like Giardia and Cryptosporidium.
The GRAYL water filter also removes non-biological contaminants like silt, sediment, chlorine, benzene, lead, and arsenic.
It fares well on Amazon, where customers gave it an average rating of 4.3 out of 5.0 stars. Several positive reviews said it was great for travel, and it’s easy to use.
Conversely, a mixed critical review said even though it does a good job of cleaning water, it’s a pain to use.
5. Sawyer Products MINI Water Filtration System
- Ideal for outdoor recreation, hiking, camping, scouting, domestic and...
- High-performance 0. 1 micron absolute inline filter fits in the palm...
- Attaches to included drinking pouch, standard disposable water...
Next for the best portable water filter products is the Sawyer Products MINI Water Filtration System. This system is very inexpensive and compact and ideal for outdoor recreation, hiking, and camping. It only weighs two ounces and easily fits in the palm of your hand.
One quality of this product we loved was the effectiveness of its filter. Unlike some of the previous filtration systems, this model filters fine particles as small as 0.1 microns.
In addition to the filtration system, this model also comes with a drinking pouch. Also, it easily attaches to disposable water bottles and hydration packs. To aid in cleaning, the manufacturer also includes a plunger to make it easier to clean.
We admired the longevity of this filter, which lasts for up to 100,000 gallons.
Amazon customers were pleased with this product, as evidenced by its 4.5 out of 5.0 stars rating.
Unfortunately, a critical review claimed this model leaks, and it fell apart upon first use. But a positive customer review claimed that it worked well and even fits in their CamelBak.
6. Survivor Filter Cleanable Water Filter Straw
- BETTER FILTRATION AND OUR USA TESTS PROVE IT. Proven protection...
- LASTS LONGER THAN THE COMPETITION: Never throw it away thanks to the 3...
- ULTRA LIGHTWEIGHT AND INCLUDES PROTECTIVE MOUTHPIECE TO KEEP BACTERIA...
The Survivor Filter Cleanable Water Filter Straw is another suitable choice for the best portable water filter. However, there are two things we wish the manufacturer would improve on:
First of all, though it is inexpensive, we wish it were cheaper. Second, we wish it had a finer-micron filter.
While a previous model filtered particles as fine as 0.1 microns, this version only goes as small as 0.5 microns.
Nevertheless, we do admire its longevity. There are multiple stages of filtration in this model, and the Membrane Ultra Filter lasts up to 25,400 gallons. Meanwhile, the carbon filter lasts up to 264 gallons.
The manufacturer also designed the mouthpiece to keep bacteria out due to its special flip-top. This also model won’t weigh down a backpack either since it only weighs 3.5 ounces.
The Survivor Filter Cleanable Water Filter Straw earned 4.5 out of 5.0 stars on Amazon. A leading customer review commented that it was still working well after 18 months of use. On the other hand, a critical reviewer claimed the screw at the bottom of the filter stopped working.
7. Membrane Solutions Water Filter
- ADVANCED AND SAFE TECHNOLOGY: With Membrane Solutions's advanced...
- PORTABLE: This straw filtration at only 6.7" long and 1.1" in diameter...
- OPTIMUM PORE SIZE: Our pore size is 0.176 microns. We all know that...
As far as the best portable water filter goes, the Membrane Solutions Water Filter is a fairly inexpensive option. Interestingly enough, this filter uses a straw with four separate phases of water purification.
The phases are divided into a coarse filter screen, polypropylene non-wovens, coconut shell activated carbon, and hollow fiber ultra-filtration membranes.
The manufacturer claims this process removes all visible sediments and 99.99999 percent of harmful substances. Plus, this filter helps drastically reduce the odor of natural water.
Additionally, we were pleased to see this filter removes extremely fine particles. Its filtration system has a pore size of 0.176 microns to balance flow rate with filtration accuracy.
Customers will also enjoy that this product comes with a spare coconut shell activated carbon pack, which can filter up to 264 gallons of water. With the extra filter and the one supplied in the filtration unit, it can filter 528 gallons of water in total.
Membrane Solution's contender for the best portable water filter earned 4.6 out of 5.0 stars from Amazon customer reviews. Several positive reviews said it was a must-have for any water bottle and it’s a great disaster preparedness kit add-on.
One disgruntled review, on the other hand, complained they didn’t think it was very compact.
8. Platypus GravityWorks 4.0L Water Filter System
- High-capacity, gravity-fed, hollow-fiber water filter system is ideal...
- Meets all EPA/NSF guidelines for removal of 99.9999% of bacteria and...
- No pumping required; reservoir fills easily and hangs from a tree to...
Another of the best portable water filter systems is unlike any of the ones we’ve discussed yet. As a dual-bag gravity-fed system, the Platypus GravityWorks 4.0L Water Filter System cleans up to one gallon of water at a time.
To filter water, it uses a hollow-fiber system, which is ideal for camping and outdoor adventures. Most importantly, it meets all EPA and NSF standards to remove 99.99999 percent of bacteria and 99.9 percent of protozoa.
The main advantage of this filtration system is it doesn’t require any pumping. Instead, gravity does the work for you. If you find yourself exhausted and unable to physically pump water, this filter will save you a lot of aches and pains.
As far as longevity is concerned, each of the replaceable filter cartridges sanitizes up to 1,500 gallons of water. Furthermore, the flow rate of this filter is close to half a gallon per minute.
This model earned 4.7 out of 5.0 stars from Amazon customer reviews. Satisfied customers claimed they loved how fast this model filters and how effortless it is to use. Conversely, a negative customer review claimed they didn’t get an additional filter with their unit.
9. Sawyer Products All-in-One Squeeze Water Filtration System
- Lightweight, easily portable 0. 1 absolute micron hollow fiber...
- Highest level of filtration on market - removes greater than 99....
- Built-in and removable push/pull cap; spray water straight into mouth...
The Sawyer Products All-in-One Squeeze Water Filtration System easily claims the next spot on our list of the best portable water filter models. This model is slightly more expensive than the average portable water filtration system, but the extra cost is definitely worth it.
We like that this system is small and portable and that it has a hollow fiber membrane capable of filtering particles up to 0.1 microns. The manufacturer claims it has the highest level of filtration currently available on the market.
It also removes up to 99.99999 percent of bacteria from the water. In addition, it also claims to remove up to 99.9999 percent of protozoa and 100 percent of microplastics.
We also liked that it comes with three pouches of varying sizes to store water, each of which can be reused hundreds of times. And if the filter ever breaks, the brand offers a lifetime warranty.
Altogether, this filter earned 4.4 out of 5.0 stars on Amazon. Positive reviews claimed this product is highly effective and an inexpensive way to avoid tainted water. Conversely, a critical review claimed their product was missing a push-and-pull valve.
10. SimPure Personal Water Filter
- 5-STAGE FILTRATION：Made up ultrafiltration filter, GAC filter, PP...
- FOOD GRADE MATERIAL: Build out of strong food grade plastics,...
- PORTABLE & LIGHTWEIGHT: Our straw filter up to 1500 liters...
The SimPure Personal Water Filter is another of the best portable water filter options out there. This model is unique in its use of a five-stage filtration system.
It has an ultra-filtration filter, followed by a Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) filter, a polypropylene fiber filter, a high-iodine filter, and a joint preset filter system.
Also, take note that this is one of the most inexpensive options for the best portable water filter. It also comes with a carabiner, a pouch, and a syringe for easy cleaning.
The manufacturer designed this model with food-grade materials and BPA-free plastic that filters out particles up to 0.01 microns. Keep in mind, however, that this model doesn’t have a pump. Simple suction pulls water through the filter, instead.
The SimPure Personal Water Filter earned an impressive 4.8 out of 5.0 stars from Amazon customers. Several positive reviews said it was great for backpacking and it should be part of everyone’s emergency kit.
11. MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter
- Microfilter water filter pump for hiking, backpacking, camping,...
- Replaceable carbon and ceramic filter removes bacteria, protozoa,...
- Pumps at a rate of one liter per minute; compatible with a variety of...
The next of the best portable water filter options is the MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter. This filtration system is different than all of the ones mentioned above because it uses a hand-lever pump for more efficient filtration. Most other models require suction or rely on a combination of time and gravity to filter water.
However, be aware this model is significantly more expensive than the average portable water filter.
But it can filter up to 1/4 gallon per minute, and the manufacturer claims 1 filter cartridge purifies up to 528 gallons of water.
Like most other water filters, it's compatible with a variety of standard wide-mouth water bottles and hydration bladders. It's modular, too, so it’s easy to replace its carbon and ceramic filters. The pump module has a fairly long hose, so you can pump water to a vessel over a foot from your water source.
Also, we admired that it meets NSF Protocol P231 for the removal of bacteria and protozoa.
Overall, this model scored 4.1 out of 5.0 stars on Amazon. Positive customer reviews said it was worth every penny and it’s the best water filter they’ve ever used.
On the other hand, negative customer reviews said there are better water filter alternatives available that don’t cost so much.
12. Survival Hax Water Purifier Bottle
- FILTER STRAW - Removes dirt and contaminants from rivers, lakes,...
- .1 MICRON PURIFIER - Eliminates 99.9999% of parasites and bacteria.
- WORKS WITH BOTTLES - This filter can screw directly onto to any...
Our last contender for the best portable water filter weighs less than half a pound. The Survival Hax Water Purifier Bottle, interestingly enough, has one feature all of the preceding models lack. That is, a handy compass.
Given that most of these filters have applications for hiking and camping, we were surprised none of the other filters thought to include a compass or other survival tools.
We were also impressed that this model filters particles up to 0.1 microns and that it directly screws into any standard 28-millimeter water bottle.
At only 7.5 inches long, this filter won’t take up much space in a backpack or day bag. And in addition to its compass, it has several ancillary survival features. Not only does it come with a carabiner, but it also comes with a signaling mirror, a bear whistle, and a tourniquet.
The manufacturer claims this model is adept at filtering water from rivers, lakes, ponds, creeks, mud puddles, and unsanitary tap water.
Altogether, this inexpensive model earned 4.1 out of 5.0 stars on Amazon. Negative customer reviews claimed this model is cheap, and the customer service is subpar. However, positive customer reviews said this model is superior to LifeStraw, a leading competitor.
When Will You Use Your Portable Water Filter?
At the end of the day, every outdoor adventurer should have a portable water filter in their kit. Even if you own an RV, having the best portable water filter is a necessity.
Whether you use it for hiking, camping, or just chilling at an RV park, you never know when you might run out of water!
Have you ever found yourself in the woods or somewhere else where you needed freshwater? Let us know your stories in the comments below!
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