If you spend a lot of time outdoors, one thing you’ll need to make sure you always have is access to clean and fresh water.
Unfortunately, when there’s no convenient purified water source nearby, runners, hikers, campers, and backpackers have to rely either on multiple reusable or single-use plastic water bottles.
Both of these options are cumbersome and impractical, and one is damaging to the environment – so, what to do?
For those who frequently find themselves in any situation without accessible clean water, we recommend investing in a portable water filter.
Most of these are roughly the size of your average reusable water bottle and they turn undrinkable water into clean water that’s safe for you to drink in a matter of seconds or minutes.
To find out which portable water filters are the best, read on! We’ll be reviewing 5 of the best portable water filters on the market currently and walking you through the process of choosing the perfect one for your lifestyle.
We’re also going to answer some of the most important questions about portable water filters, so be sure to check our FAQ section at the end!
The 5 Best Portable Water Filters
|Survivor Filter Pro Water Purification System|
|Platypus QuickDraw Microfilter System|
|Katadyn BeFree 1.0L Water Filter|
|Sawyer MINI Water Filtration System|
|LifeStraw Water Filter |
This isn’t necessarily the most lightweight or streamlined portable water filter out there, but the reason we’re recommending the Survivor Filter Pro Water Purification System as our top choice is because in addition to being a water filter, it’s also a water purifier.
If you want to know more about the difference between a filter and a purifier, we have more information in our FAQ section.
For now, though, what you need to know is that this purification system filters out microbes and viruses as well as bacteria, ensuring that your water is extra clean and safe.
The shell of the water filter is made from ABS plastic material, which is BPA-free and, most importantly, very durable. This means that you won’t have to worry about your water filter breaking on you, which could be a disastrous situation depending on where you are.
There are a couple of features that make this water purification system one of the best money can buy. For one thing, in addition to the carbon filtration, the Dual Hollow Fiber Membrane allows water to be filtered at 0.2 microns.
This means that no particles larger than 0.2 microns can pass through the filter, so only incredibly small particles can find their way through and all the dangerous substances will be blocked.
We should also mention the filtration rate of 500 ml per minute, which is very impressive and means you can always access clean water quickly as long as you have a nearby fresh water source.
A carrying bag is included with the purchase of this water filter, so you can always easily transport your filtration system while you’re on the move.
Please bear in mind, however, that the filter does tend to clog quite easily, so make sure to bring what you need to clean the filter between uses so that it doesn’t lose its functionality.
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Next on our list is the Platypus QuickDraw Microfilter System. This is a great portable water filter for any outdoor activity, whether you’re a runner, a hiker, or a backpacker.
Like our top-rated product, this filtration system relies on Hollow Fiber Technology, which is highly effective and allows the system to filter out all particles larger than 0.2 microns. It removes all protozoa and bacteria to NSF P231 standards.
This should give you some peace of mind when drinking water from unfiltered sources.
The reason we’ve chosen this product as one of our top 5 is how practical it is. Not only does it have a wide mouth, which allows for easy cleaning using either the shake or backflushing method as well as easy filling, but it only weighs 0.23 lbs, so it’s lightweight and practical to carry around.
This system filters water at the impressive rate of 3 liters per minute and the filter cartridge has the capacity to filter up to 1,000 liters of water before it needs replacing, so this should be a long-lasting purchase.
With that being said, we recommend inspecting your Platypus Quickdraw Microfilter System thoroughly on arrival.
Most customers have been blown away by the quality and efficiency of this product, but there have been some quality control issues with the structure of the bag reported, so it’s best to check for defects at the earliest opportunity.
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Best for Backpackers
If you’re looking for a portable water filter specifically for backpacking, we recommend checking out the Katadyn BeFree Water Filter.
First of all, this is one of the most effective water filters we’ve ever come across. It filters out any particles that are larger than 0.1 microns, which means the chances of any nasty protozoa or bacteria getting into your drinking water are basically nil.
In addition to the superior level of filtration, the Stay Clean nozzle is designed to allow you to squeeze water into your mouth without having to risk ingesting any dirt particles from your environment.
We love that this water filter is so easy to clean thanks to the Ez-Clean membrane.
You don’t need to do any backflushing or complicated cleaning procedures – you can just shake your water filter clean in seconds!
The reason we recommend this particular water filter to backpackers is because of its collapsible design.
Since the flask is made of a flexible plastic material, you can fold it up when it’s not in use and put it in your backpack, where it will take up minimal space alongside your other belongings.
Because the cartridge that comes in the Katadyn BeFree Water Filter lasts for up to 1,000 filtered liters of water, you won’t have to purchase any replacement parts for a long time.
It’s worth noting that some customers have reported a strange aftertaste when drinking from this filter.
While this is not an indication of a problem with the filter or any health risks, it can be off putting, especially at first.
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Best for Trail Runners
Trail runners are another group of people who could really benefit from a portable water filter. If you’re running for long distances, especially in hot weather or challenging conditions, you’ll need to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
However, the last thing you want when you’re trying to hit a personal best is to be weighed down by an enormous water bottle.
Therefore, being able to refill a streamlined, portable water filter from natural sources can be very useful, and that’s exactly what you get with the Sawyer MINI Water Filtration System.
This filter will be able to treat 100,000 gallons of water before it needs replacing, so the longevity is really good, especially for the price.
Sawyer’s MINI Water Filtration System can filter out particles down to 0.1 microns, so whether you’re worried about protozoa, bacteria, or even microplastics, you can fully trust in this filter’s ability to provide you with clean, safe water.
Included with the filter itself is a drinking pouch and a straw, so you already have everything you need to drink your filtered water on the go.
However, if you prefer, you can also attach the filter to a water bottle and drink it that way. The versatility of this product is one of its best features, in our opinion.
When it comes to cleaning the filter and drinking pouch, you don’t have to worry about that, either, because a practical cleaning plunger is included in the package.
Unfortunately, there is a downside to how lightweight and portable the Sawyer MINI is, and that’s the water capacity of the pouch.
It can only hold 0.5 liters at a time, so if you’re running for long distances, you’ll definitely need to refill it during your run.
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Some of the advanced portable water filters on the market can definitely set you back a significant sum of money, which most of us want to avoid if possible.
If you’re limited to a budget, the portable filter we recommend you buy is the LifeStraw Water Filter.
The LifeStraw filter means you don’t have to carry water around with you while you’re trekking, running, or camping.
Instead, you can simply insert the straw into your chosen water source and let the advanced technology do the work while you drink.
Admittedly, it does require a fair amount of suction to work, so it doesn’t provide the easiest or most natural drinking experience, but it’s great if you don’t want to be burdened by a container full of water during your trip.
LifeStraw’s water filter has the ability to reduce turbidity to the level of 0.2 microns, while removing microplastics larger than 0.1 microns.
Overall, LifeStraw is 99.999999% effective at removing unwanted particles, including bacteria, from your water.
The filter will last for up to 4,000 liters of water, so it’s a durable product, especially when you consider how affordable it is.
And speaking of the price, every purchase goes to fund the provision of clean drinking water for school children around the world, so your money really makes an impact.
Because it only measures 8.66 inches in length and 0.98 inches across, the LifeStraw is incredibly portable and very lightweight, so it’s perfect for outdoor activities of any kind.
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A Buyer’s Guide to Portable Water Filters
Torn between a few of our portable water filter recommendations? We don’t blame you – they’re all great choices. To help you choose the best one, we’ve broken down the selection process into 6 categories:
First of all, what do you intend to use your portable water filter for? Are you a trail runner or a backpacker, for example?
The answer to this question matters because your needs will vary depending on what kind of activity you’re doing.
If you’re going to be running, for instance, you’ll need something lightweight and easy to hold in your hand. Ideally, you’ll also want something that can be refilled quickly.
Backpackers, on the other hand, will likely want to prioritize a design that can easily be folded away and stored in a backpack.
If you’re going to be camping away from home for multiple days or nights, you’ll also want to prioritize a design where the filter doesn’t get clogged too quickly because the last thing you want to spend time doing on a trip is trying to get gunk out of your filter.
Once you’ve established what you’ll be using your portable water filter for, you can start looking at other features in filter designs that suit your needs.
Micron filtration ratings are important to pay attention to when you’re looking for a portable water filter.
Microns are the units of measurement in which microscopic particles are measured. The smaller the micron filtration rating, the more effective the filter is.
You should only invest in portable water filters that remove particles measuring 0.2 microns or less. A micron rating higher than this indicates that some smaller particles may be able to get through.
It’s also a good idea to consider the filtration rate of a portable water filter before you buy it.
If you’re going to be running, for example, you don’t want to have to wait half an hour for your filter to product 500 ml of clean water for you to drink, and the same goes for basically any situation when you’re outdoors and need regular access to clean water, especially in warm climates.
The filters we’ve reviewed in this article have different filtration rates. Some can filter 500 ml of water per minute while others are faster, filtering up to 3 liters per minute.
Consider how much water you’re likely to need and why before you make your purchase.
Most portable water filters come with an attachment for you to carry your filtered water (with some exceptions), so be sure to consider the capacity based on how much water you anticipate needing.
Capacity also refers to how many liters of water the cartridge can filter before it wears out, so bear this in mind, too.
As mentioned previously, your portability needs will vary depending on your activity.
For running, you’ll probably need something easily handheld, while backpacking typically calls for something compact and easy to store.
We recommend a foldable plastic flask system for backpackers and a lightweight, streamlined design for runners, as indicated in our review system.
Ease of Use
Think about how easy a portable filtration system will be to fill, drink out of, and clean before you make your decision.
Some designs are easy to clean but require a lot of suction to drink from, for example. Others require backflushing to clean, and some may take a while to fill up.
Do your research on these points and make your decision based on how much time and effort you’ll be able to spend on any of the above.
Some portable water filters come with additional attachments like pouches and straws, while others are designed to fit onto separate water bottles.
Think about whether you already have a suitable attachment or whether you could benefit from extra accessories before purchasing.
A cleaning plunger is another useful addition we think you should consider, as is a carrying bag, particularly if your filter includes multiple components.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I Really Need a Portable Water Filter?
This is a question only you can answer for yourself. If you have a convenient way of transporting clean, tap-quality water with you wherever you go and don’t find yourself inconvenienced by it, you may not necessarily need a portable water filter.
However, if you do a lot of backpacking, trail running, or similar activities and don’t want to rely on bottled water (particularly if doing so involves single-use plastics), buying a portable water filter is probably a good idea.
Not only will it be more convenient for you, but depending on your current arrangement, it might also help the planet.
Which Particles Need Filtering Out of Drinking Water?
Before water can be considered safe to drink, there are several kinds of particles and substances that need to be filtered out.
That’s why it’s never recommended to drink water directly from streams and similar water sources, no matter how clean it looks.
Obviously, anything that can make water look visibly dirty, such as sediment and debris, needs to be filtered out of water before it’s safe to consume.
However, you also need to think about bacteria, viruses, protozoa (parasites) and microplastics. If any of these things remain in your drinking water, you could become very ill, which is why water filtration systems are so important.
Are Portable Water Filters Safe?
All of the portable water filters recommended in this article meet the required standards for safe filtration levels, meaning that water filtered using these products will be safe to drink.
If you want to be sure of whether a portable water filter is safe, you should look at the micron filtration.
A micron is a unit of measurement equal to one-thousandth of a millimeter, and this is what microscopic particles are typically measured in.
If you want to ensure that your drinking water is safe, you should stick to filters that remove particles larger than 0.1-0.2 microns.
At 0.1 microns, you should be safe from infectious viruses as well as bacteria and parasites.
What is the Difference Between a Water Filter and a Water Purifier?
Most portable water filters are designed to stop bacteria and parasites from passing through the filter, meaning your drinking water will be free from these contaminants.
However, your average water filter doesn’t remove viruses. If you want to be sure that there are no viruses in the water you drink, you’ll need a water purifier, which should have a micron filtration rating of less than 0.2 microns.
With the help of our carefully curated product selection, buyer’s guide, and FAQ section, you should now be able to choose a portable water filter to suit your specific outdoor lifestyle.
Remember, when it comes to drinking water, safety comes first, so pay special attention to micron filtration ratings, cleaning/hygiene features, and the distinction between water filters and water purifiers when making your decision.