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Getting a portable water filter may easily seem like a waste of money. Why pay for a special water purifying device when there are tons of clean, fresh water either in the tap or on any shelf of your nearest store?
Campers, hikers, and other outdoor enthusiasts probably won’t say a word. They know better than anyone how cumbersome it is to hoist those tons of water and try to shove them into your vehicle among tons of other stuff. Plus they know what happens when you run out of your bottled water supplies.
Who Else Needs a Portable Water Filter (Beside Campers and Hikers)?
Why, preppers of course! And not because they are an easy target for just about any invention that could potentially add to their self-sufficiency.
Preppers and survivalists need water purifiers and containers because you never know when the tap is gonna run dry. Be it in your urban sanctuary or in your backcountry bug out shelter, water is something most of us take for granted. It is also a natural resource that we’ve been treating like a commodity for far too long. And one of these days, it’s going to start biting us in the back.
And as we’re very fond of mentioning on this blog, everyone should start thinking like a survivalist. When s*it hits the fan, it won’t care whether you call yourself a prepper or not. It will rain on each and every one of us with equal force – and equal stench.
Everyone needs to breathe. So, get an assortment of face masks up your sleeve for when the air gets foul (isn’t it already?). Do you need to eat? Either stock up on essentials or learn to grow your own food – or better yet, do both to cover all sides. And do you need to drink? A good portable water filter is possibly the most elegant solution that will allow you to drink almost any water without fear of imbibing some nasty bacteria. Another solution is storing enough clean water in your basement. But that’s a short-term fix, unless your basement is a proper warehouse that could keep you going for months.
If you live in an area with frequent floods, hurricanes or other bad atmospheric jokes that the heavens have inflicted on us, you need a portable water filter, and you need it now. Flood water is lethal, and you don’t wanna be messing with that!
Buyer’s Guide – How to Choose the Best Portable Water Filter
Before we dig in, a word of warning. Opting for a high-quality, dependable product is extremely important in this case. If you were in the market for a new phone and made a bad pick, big whoop! A lousy phone can be unnerving, but your life won’t depend on it (at least not most of the time). But a bad portable water filter can literally make you die precisely because you trusted it to do something it can’t do. That’s why we decided to sift through dozens of options and test them out, to help you save some time (and sanity).
And now, let’s see what makes a good water purifier.
How Effective Is Portable Water Filter?
I’m not being cute with this question. I’m just referring to the fact that many products out there are fake. And, like I said, you just can’t take that risk when it comes to the water you drink.
Can you trust product reviews? Up to a point, yes. But you can’t just entrust your health to a product, no matter how good people claim it is.
That’s why it’s wisest to have two water purifiers at any one given moment, and a bunch of spare filters. If one of the purifiers fails or can only purify mildly contaminated water, you won’t be left in the lurch.
How Portable Is It?
Unfortunately, bug out bags can’t house an infinite amount – or mass – of objects. (If they could, our emergency kits would grow from the size of an elephant to the size of a hotel.) As with everything else, you’ll have to rationalize with your water filters.
Luckily, most filters are truly small and made to fit in a backpack.
How User-Friendly Is It?
Some filters work on pumps, which means that the water flow is automatic, without any physical input needed from you. Others (mostly the smallest, straw-like filters) will require you to suck the water in so they can filter it. And there’s no telling which type is better. It just depends on your personal needs and preferences. However, some models of the latter type may require the jaw strength of Conan the Barbarian to suck the water in when they get clogged. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
How Dirty Are We Talkin’ About?
Note that your average portable water filter that costs well under $100 won’t deal with just about every contaminant. It will filter out physical dirt, silt, microplastics, algae and moss, as well as most bacteria. But it won’t get rid of viruses (which are smaller than bacteria) or chemical contaminants.
So, the best bet is to use your filter on water from rivers, lakes, streams and other natural sources. Don’t play with your health or even life by trying it on industrially polluted water.
Best Portable Water Filter – Our Top Picks
HydroBlu Versa Flow Water Filter System Package
Like its name suggests, this product’s greatest strength is versatility. You can screw it to a bottle and purify your water, or even use it as a straw and drink directly from a water flow. Best of all, if you backflush the filter on a regular basis (whenever it gets clogged up), its lifespan will be almost indefinite. Which eliminates the need to stock up on filters or go to a store at precisely the worst moment.
The manufacturer uses the so-called hollow fiber technology to get rid of 99.99% of bacteria, including E. coli and salmonella, as well as protozoa such as cryptosporidium, Giardia. And other evil guys bigger than 0.2 microns.
It’s a small contraption, so it wouldn’t be fair to expect it to purify hundreds of gallons per minute. The best you can hope for is one gallon per five minutes. But considering the price, it’s an overall excellent buy.
- Extremely versatile
- With the right maintenance, the filter can last for life
- Very lightweight (2 ounces)
- Great value
- Reasonably priced
- A bit slow
- Doesn’t include a cleaning plunger (you’ll have to make do with a syringe)
LifeStraw Personal Water Filter
There is a reason this little thing is the most popular portable water filter on Amazon.
Actually, several reasons. Its compact (like, really compact!) size is one of them. But just because it’s small, it doesn’t mean it does a poor job. On the contrary – it can purify up to 1,000 gallons of water. It’s about a year’s worth of water for one person – more than good enough for any camper or hiker, but less than enough for a survivalist who has just taken to the wilderness without the slightest idea when (or if) they will come back to civilization.
Considering that its lifespan isn’t very long, preppers should treat it as a backup tool to another, more durable filter.
It’s also worth noting that LifeStraw will donate a year’s worth of clean water to a school child in need per every purchase one makes. (Come to think of it, why don’t they do it anyway? But well, who am I to nag.)
- Great for drinking straight out of a water source
- Cleans up to 99.99% of bacteria
- If you buy one, a child in need will get a year’s worth of clean water
- Big lifespan (1,000 gallons) for campers (less so for preppers)
- A bit difficult to break in
Sawyer Products MINI Water Filtration System
This system is most similar to HydroBlu Versa Flow in that the package contains a drinking pouch, hydration packs (sold separately, mind you!), as well as a straw and a cleaning plunger. A great thing about it is that it will filter up to 100,000 gallons of water without needing a replacement cartridge. It’s also very compact and lightweight (2 ounces), so you can easily shove it in a pocket on your backpack.
Like most other cheaper water filters, it also works with the hollow filter technology. Which is basically a very fine net that captures most of the contaminants. Plus, these fibers are protected, which provides another layer of safety.
The only reason why it isn’t our number 1 option is that some users report that it broke on them easily. While that wasn’t our experience, it’s still good to be cautious.
- Very efficient in getting rid of contaminants
- Versatile – use the pouch, hydration packs, or the straw
- Great lifespan of the filter cartridge (up to 100,000 gallons)
- Compact and lightweight
- Hydration packs are sold separately
- Some users complain that it broke on them quickly
Katadyn Vario Water Filter
This thing is the most powerful portable water filter option on our list. Not only will it remove most small particles, but it will also kill off some chemicals, pesticides and bad odor/taste thanks to its activated Carbon. The filter itself is a combination of glass fiber and ceramics. Another great benefit is the capacity, up to 2 quarts per minute. But to prolong its life, the slower flow mode of 1 quart per minute is recommended.
A cartridge will filter out up to 300 gallons before it needs replacement. Doesn’t sound as fancy as the 100,000 gallons for the above Sawyer product. But, knowing how trustworthy the brand is, I suspect their estimation is a bit closer to the truth.
- Advanced filtration technology, with a ceramic pre-filter, a glass fiber filter, plus activated Carbon
- It kills bacteria and protozoa, but also some chemicals and pesticides
- Will process up to 2 quarts per minute
- Pumps very easily and swiftly
- Very reputable brand
- A bit on the pricier side compared to other models