Very often we, the spoiled users of modern gadgets passionate for travelling, find ourselves in rather harsh and uncompromising natural conditions. You might not literally walk to reach the Great Lakes of Africa but even the most harmless and well-planned journey is fraught with many dangers. One of them is a problem with clean drinking water in the wilderness.

That’s why we have selected the best 8 representatives in the portable water filter category for different occasions. Among them you will find personal filters for individual or group hikes, a filtration station for marching camps and a filter that will cope with even the dirtiest water infested with bacteria.

How Does a Portable Water Filter Work?

Despite the apparent complexity of the design everything works very simply

  • Mechanical cleaning

Ceramic and activated carbon are the main elements of most modern portable water filters. The pores in the ceramic are quite dense, their diameter reaches about 0.2 microns, as it is them that stop harmful particles, protozoa and bacteria. Activated carbon is the ultimate way to deal with organic contaminants. Many scientists believe that a combination of activated carbon and ceramic is the most beneficial for water purification from most bacteria, viruses, sediments, VOCs, most heavy metals, chlorine, radon, and reduce odor and bad taste s in water. They complement each other and become the most efficient filter material.

The combination of various filters with the membrane Ultra Filter (UF) also proves excellent results. The latter is able to purify water from the smallest particles of 0.01 microns in size, as confirmed by the specialists conducting research as a part of one of the national programs of West Virginia University. Such UF filters are used for the most meticulous cleaning when the water is too dirty.

Also the filter elements of any water purification gadget contain fiber which contributes to its safety and additionally percolates water. Do not forget to promptly clean and replace the filter element. The detailed manual is usually supplied with the device.

It doesn’t matter whether a purifier’s body is a pump or compact "tube" through which you can sip water even out of the swamp, its principle of operation will still be the same. Pocket filters, which top the Amazon.com sales, can purify 1 000 liters of water at average.

  • Chemical cleaning

Classic soluble capsules with chlorine dioxide acting as an active ingredient are able to kill all the microorganisms in the water in a matter of seconds. This is a safe and easy to use method. The method, though fast, but regular use of chemically treated water is not recommended as the active elements can completely destroy not only the harmful bacteria, but also their useful counterparts in our body. Disinfecting tablets are more likely to become an emergency solution in case of filter breakage.

Picking the Best Portable Water Filter

The “Portable Filters” category is not the vastest one out there, so it will be hard to get confused there. Despite the abundance of manufacturers on the market "home" stationary filters, the situation is much simpler when it comes to their portable analogues. To help you avoid encountering a counterfeit product, we picked the best brand-name filters in the following categories:

1. Best personal water filters. These are a compact solution for those who go on short-term sortie into the woods or fishing. The filters are represented in the top 3 categories:

  • A traveller’s personal filter straws;

  • A hiking bottle with a built-in filter;

  • The most productive portable water purifier.

2. The best filtration station for marching camps, which will allow cooking soup for a group of 5-10 people.     

3. A filter for the dirtiest water with 0.01 micron pores, which is useful in places with water which is particularly unsuitable for drinking, such as marshes, swamps, jungle.

There are 4 leaders among the manufacturers: 2 Swiss (LifeStraw and Katadyn) and 2 U.S. (Surviror and Sawyer) companies. All of them made it to our rating.

Best Personal Water Filter

In this category 2 models made by different manufacturers compete for the title of a leader. There is a straw filter, which enable you to drink water straight from the water source, and a product with a small capacity (0.5 liters) to collect some water with you. Their functioning principle is almost identical, but, as they say, the devil is in the detail, and every manufacturer strives to stand out and come up with something extraordinary. One of them produces filters for humanitarian missions; the other is a pioneer in the field of portable water filters production. Choose which one is right for you.

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

 lifestraw personal water filterThe most popular item in the «personal water filter» category on Amazon.com is rated 4.7 stars out of 5 with nearly 5000 customer reviews. Why so popular? Its compact size and ergonomics are the first two aspects to grab your attention. The filter looks like a small straw. The device works similarly to a cocktail straw as well, with the built-in purification system and is able to turn any muddy water body in an invigorating source. It can only be used as a personal hiking or survival water filter. According to the University of Florida scientists, you won’t be able to process many gallons of water for cooking and cleaning like that. That’s why we’ve found other filters for purifying large amounts of water. You can learn more about them in the Best Filtration Stations for Marching Camps section below.

The purification goes as follows: you pour some water from a natural source into a jar or any other container, place your Personal Water Filter in it and relaxingly sip the poured water through a straw. Simple, isn’t it?

personal water filter

LifeStraw device is aimed at protecting you from any type of bacteria, so you can forget about E. coli and other nasty microorganisms typical for hot and humid climate. But it does not filter chemicals, salt, viruses, heavy metals or taste. Some thrilled enthusiasts even used this device to purify waste water in one of the cities, so the gadget certainly will cope with rainwater or spring water. The filter’s purifying capacity of 1 000 liters is sufficient, but as the scientists from Florida continue to claim, the service life of such straw filters is only 1 year. It is better not to use it any longer out of sanitary-hygienic reasons.

personal water filter

The model has been acclaimed as the best in its category also because of its simple design: unlike many other models which are to never be disassembled, the filter can be cleaned at any moment, and the job is piece of cake. Not only the immense customer feedback proves that this filter is a best seller, but the heritage and experience do. LifeStraw is a brand owned by the Swiss manufacturer Vestergaard Frandsen which specializes in the production of goodsfor humanitarian missions in developing countries since 1990, and before that it was engaged in the military equipment manufacturing.

Price:- ~$19.95 Check the current price

Survivor Filter - Reusable Portable Water Filter with Triple Absolute Filtration to 0.05 Microns

survivor water filterThis personal filter is rated 4.7 stars out of 5 and there are two different ways to use it.

The first one is to use it as a classic drinking tube; a traveler’s straw, similar to the above mentioned item. By the way, it is equipped with a very important detail neglected by many manufacturers, namely a special cover protecting the hole of the tube from infections. The second one is to use it as a filter-nozzle dispenser, which will easily fill any container. The filtration capacity of this product is really huge as it reaches 100 000 liters while cleaning 2 liters per minute (but do not forget that the shelf life of such tubes is only 1 year!).

survivor eater filterThis is the most compact and convenient pocket filter of all presented, and the military design contributed to this, as the model is ideal for the fans of sticking in the mud while hunting or fishing due to its robust construction and complete seal of all caps. Read over 500 customer reviews to make sure that it is worth buying.

survivor water filter

Price: ~$25.84 Check the current price

The Best Backpacking Water Bottle with a Filter

LifeStraw Go Water Bottle with Integrated 1000-Liter LifeStraw Filter

lifestraw go water bottle with filterIf you don’t feel comfortable drinking through a straw, here is a bottle that will suit active lifestyle fans. Unlike a personal water filter, you won’t need to look for a water tank as the filter is already built into a bottle. The cleaning ability of a 0.2 microns dense mechanical filter is similar to its LifeStraw predecessor and starts from 1000 liters. The manufacturer describes the product as a backpacking water filter.

LifeStraw Go won’t make you regularly stop and search for a creek, as you’ll simply have to pour the liquid into a flask in advance. This becomes a competitive edge for those who conquer snowy peaks as such a device will easily melt the snow. Perhaps the shock-proof bulb and is a major advantage of LifeStraw Go over other personal filters, in case you don’t want to carry around a separate water tank. It also affects the price as the product is almost $10 more expensive than the same manufacturer’s filter straw.

lifestraw go water bottle with filter

Although LifeStraw Go turned out to be less popular on Amazon.com, its rating is still quite high, as over 900 rated the flask 4.3 stars out of 5.

Price: ~$28.86 Check the current price

The Most Productive Portable Water Purifier

Katadyn Vario Water Filter

katadyn vario water filterThis is a portable pump with a 0.5 liter flask and the carbon filter with a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars. The filtering system resembles other stationary household cleaners - you have to manually pump water that passed through the filter is stored in the bulb after having passed through the filter. Unlike its Lifestraw analogue, this is a combination of a ceramic pre-filter, carbon filter and glass fiber. Each of these filters performs its function and strains all sorts of particles, viruses and bacteria. All of that becomes crucial in dry climate areas, where there are no large bodies of water and the water is very filthy. The users state that it cleans even the dirtiest swamp water. Read over 400 customer reviews to find out more.

katadyn vario water filter

The water filter’s total capacity is 2000 liters, which is enough for several expeditions into the unknown wilderness. The speed of cleaning and the materials in the filter contributed to making this water filter quite premium-priced: $74.99. Still, it is not overpriced as this is a product of a pioneering company on the market, Katadyn group, established in 1926 in Switzerland. Unlike LifeStraw the Katadyn brand doesn’t have military roots, but is has broken new ground in the production of portable water purification filters.

The most notable detail about this filter is that the device is able to clean up to 2 liters of water per minute, which will pass through the three stages of cleaning, setting a record for the compact models.

Price: ~$74.99 Check the current price

The same manufacturer also produces Chlorine Dioxide-based water purification tablets which are effective against all waterborne pathogens, as proven by the University of Virginia scientists. Of course, it’s not a filter, but it can be used as additional insurance in very extreme conditions in order not to waste your filter’s resources on the water for brushing your teeth or washing. We still don’t recommend drinking water treated with such tablets.

Katadyn Micropur MP1 Purification Tablets

katadyn micropur purification tabletsThese disinfecting tablets work in an obvious way: 1 tablet is capable of effectively purifying a liter of water from all microorganisms and disinfecting it within 30 minutes. This is a great solution if you need to clean the water for washing and thus pumping water out of the filter is not wanted. It is not recommended to use the water purified like that for over a week as the chemical elements will adversely affect the micro flora of your body.

Price: from ~$11.49 (20 pack) to ~$13.29 (30 pack) Check the current price

The Best Filtration Station for Marching Camps

LifeStraw Mission High-Volume Gravity-Fed Water Purifier

LifeStraw Mission High-Volume Gravity-Fed Water PurifierIf you’re going hiking with a few friends for a couple of weeks, Mission will solve all the problems with finding the life-giving water for your camp and will allow to cook a fragrant fish or mushroom soup without carrying around a water tank. The model is a 5 or 12 liter in capacity rubber bag with a hand pump which purifies the water from the organic debris and bacteria. You’ll spend ~$121-$123 (depending on the capacity), so it is more profitable to obtain a 12 liter item as there is almost no difference in price.

The filter acts using a similar technology to LifeStraw portable water filters and is able to purify 2 liters per minute. The device is hung on a special handle; the design is robust enough to be mounted on one of the most enduring members of your squad. In this way you’ll always have a mobile clean water tank at your disposal. It is its large capacity and deployable design that makes the Mission a perfect option for a hiking camp out in the wild.

LifeStraw Mission High-Volume Gravity-Fed Water Purifier

I still don’t recommend producing life-giving water with it from swamps, as it is mostly adapted to the rivers and lakes where there is no accumulation of heavy particles. The installed filter is too sensitive for them. The lifetime filtration capacity of the filter is 18 000 liters (4 755 gallons).

Price: ~$121-$123 Check the current price

Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration System

Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration SystemThis is the most capacitive representative of personal water filters with the filtration capacity reaching up to 100 000 gallons or 378 541 liters which will be enough for traveling your entire life. If your passion for conquering the wildlife will cool off, you won’t regret a cent spent on the filter as its starting price is only ~$19.

Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration System

The filtration system is supplied not only with the mechanical tip, but also with a drinking pouch similar to the rivals’ bulbs and a special tube permitting to drink literally from anywhere. The tip itself is portable; it will fit into your palm and comes with a supplementary tube for filling the tank. The product though is not suitable for ultimate cooking outdoors; the previous LifeStraw Mission is more adapted to the purpose. Still, it is its filtering capacity (the largest in the personal water filters category) that will make it irreplaceable when hiking. It is not in vain that the consumers rate it 4.7 stars out of 5 on Amazon.com. You can read nearly 3200 customer reviews to learn more about this station.

Price: from ~$19 Check the current price

Best survival water filter (0.01 Micron Nanofiltratin) for the most polluted water

Survivor Filter PRO - 0.01 Micron Nanofiltration Water Purifier

Survivor Filter PRO - 0.01 Micron Nanofiltration Water PurifierIf are going to surf the remotest corners of Africa or India you might want to forget about the problems with finding pure water. The best water filter in our review will cope with this task and will clean the filthiest water. Given the reasonable price of ~$59.95this becomes the most feasible investment for such an extreme adventure.

What we can safely say about this model with a unique three-stage water purification system, similar to that used in stationary household filters, is that this filter is not afraid of mud. It works as follows: the first external pre-filter stops the largest particles, preventing them from reaching the next stages. In this way it provides for durability and becomes a natural load permitting to sink the tube deep into the water. At the second stage the liquid passes through the classic activated carbon filter. During the third stage, the water passes through a special "eternal" UF membrane filter that keeps the remaining particles out even if their size is 0.01 microns, which is one of the best performances on the market. As a conclusion, we get the perfect system for the purification of any, even the filthiest water source occupied by the entire bacteria colonies.

Survivor Filter PRO - 0.01 Micron Nanofiltration Water PurifierThe water filter’s capacity is 200 ml per minute. This might not be too fast, and this is the slowest water filter covered today, but the reason for such speed is many purification stages, which is a forced measure due to high water pollution level. Mind that the filter is neither pocket nor portable so you’ll have to find some room for it in your camping backpack. Unlike the same old LifeStraw Mission this model might seem too voluminous. Its advantages, though, are obvious: as no filter from this review has shown better performance. To learn more about Survivor Pro’ efficiency you might want to read nearly 600 customer reviews on Amazon com.

Price: ~$59.95 Check the current price

The comparative table of best portable water filters

Model

Type

Output per minute

Durability: how many liters of water can be purified

Price

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

Personal filter

500 ml

1 000

~$19.95

Surviror Portable

Personal filter

2 liters

100 000

~$25.84

LifeStraw Go

Personal filter

500 ml

1 000

~$28.86

Katadyn Vario Water Filter

Personal filter

2 liters

2 000

~$74.99

Katadyn Purification Tablets

Purification Tablets

1 liter per tablet

30

from ~$11.42

LifeStraw Mission

Camp filter

2 liters

18 000

from ~$121

Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration System

Personal filter

1 liter

378 541

from ~$19

Survivor Pro

Camp filter

200 ml

100 000

~$59.95

We have covered filters for various purposes and picked the best ones available on the market at the moment. Remember to keep them clean and functioning so that you never end up not having drinking water. Good luck in conquering the wilderness!