Adam holds a Bachelor's and a Master's degree in Linguistics, and creative writing has always been his greatest passion. For more than 25 years he's been working for several well-known automobile and travel magazines as an editor and expert consultant, but when Adam started his writing path here, at WisePick, it turned out that he's capable of writing practically anything about everything.
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Last updated: January 11, 2021
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Whether you are packing for a family camping trip or a solo hiking expedition, it is essential to have a portable water filter with you. These devices eliminate bacteria and other contaminants from water and make it drinkable. That means you will have clean water wherever you are, which can be essential for your survival.
In this article, we are focusing on finding the best portable water filter on the market. We reviewed 47 products, and our top choice is the Sawyer Products MINI Water Filtration System. The item can purify up to 100,000 gallons of water and eliminate various bacteria and protozoa. Our team also gathered nine other great products available on the market. We hope that it will make choosing the most suitable filtration system for you much easier.
We spent more than 60 hours preparing this article. Our experts browsed official websites, read user reviews, and considered relevant factors to analyze the pros and cons of each product. In our detailed reviews, we considered the filter types and their capacity, as well as the capability of removing various contaminants. We didn’t neglect dimensions and weight, which are important because you will use these products on the go. Before you dive into detailed reviews of portable water filters, check out our table to get a quick overview of selected products. Our extensive buying guide offers more information on the crucial features of these devices. Make sure to browse it thoroughly to learn how to pick the most suitable water filtration device for your needs!
The first thing you notice is that the Sawyer Products MINI Water Filtration system is tiny. It fits your backpack easily, and it is lightweight so that it won’t add an extra burden. The filter fits standard bottles, which makes the filtration process simple.
You can rely on the product to filter out protozoa, bacteria, and even cysts. That is because the item is equipped with a 0.1-micron filter. The result will always be clean water of decent taste that is arguably much better compared to using purification tablets. Due to the absolute filtration, this is a great portable water filter for survival enthusiasts. Although it is not the fastest filter out there, you can rely on it to turn any water into drinkable quickly.
The manufacturer used premium materials to ensure that the product lasts for a long time. The filter meets the EPA standards when it comes to removal rates, and it can process up to 100,000 gallons of water. Drinking through the straw requires a bit of effort, but you probably won’t mind that in emergency situations. Overall, the item features a great value for the money and a long-term investment.
Etekcity Water Filter Straw might come at an affordable price, but it still delivers admirable results. The advanced filtration design starts with a 0.01-micron inline membrane. The product also features a pre-filter system against big contaminants, as well as an ion-exchange resin and activated carbon mixture. That implies the fitter will remove bacteria and protozoa, but also heavy metals, chlorine, and unpleasant odors.
A single straw has a 1,500L capacity, which ensures it will serve you for a long time. Please note that you get the cleaning equipment, but read the instructions before using it. Maintaining the filter is crucial to its longevity and consistent water quality. The system is rather quick, and it will deliver approximately 400 milliliters of water per minute.
The product is EPA and FDA compliant, and a German Institute also controlled its quality. The materials are durable and long-lasting, but the water bag could of better quality. However, it will serve when you need to store some more water to go. The extension tube is very useful when the water level gets low, and you can’t reach it.
What we liked:
EPA and FDA compliant
0.01-micron inline membrane for efficient removal
It comes with the required cleaning equipment
A decent water flow
What could be better:
The water bag could be of better quality
You need to follow instructions closely to clean the device properly
MSR MiniWorks might be the best portable water filter for camping when taking the entire family on a trip. The product might not be the smallest in its category, but its performance exceeds all expectations.
The manufacturer implemented a pump to accelerate the filtration process as much as possible. The result is a device capable of delivering one liter of drinking water per minute. If you want to make water as clear as possible, make sure to use Aquatabs, which are included in the package. With the 2,000-liter capacity of the filter, you will get fantastic results. Fortunately, the carbon core is replaceable to maintain consistent filtration results.
The product utilizes a 0.2-micron filtration system to eliminate bacteria, sediments, and other particles, but also bad odor and taste. The addition of activated carbon ensures to keep chemicals away from the water you drink. The unit is simple to use since all you have to do is to attach the bottle or a water container to fill them. The device looks cool and features a modern design with the black color dominating the exterior.
What we liked:
Very fast and capable of delivering one liter of water per minute
It removes bacteria and other particles, but also odors
Admirable water quality and taste
The carbon core is replaceable
What could be better:
Shorter lifespan when with some models
It is not the smallest filtration system on the market
LifeStraw Go is a portable drinking water filter with a two-stage system for efficient sediment removal. The manufacturer promises that the product will remove 99.9% of bacteria, protozoa, and other undesired chemicals present in waters from streams, lakes, and other sources.
The initial filter utilizes a hollow fiber membrane and has a 1,000-liter capacity. However, the activated carbon capsule is only capable of processing 100 liters of water. Fortunately, the capsule is replaceable, although that is an additional investment.
The product itself is made of BPA-free materials, which means you won’t consume any harmful compounds that way either. The straw works like a charm, and it is easy to drink water from the bottle. The capacity is 23 ounces of water, but you can also use bags and other bottles to increase the quantity you process. Be careful of the lid because it becomes prone to leaking after a while if not being closed properly. That could cause problems because both clean and dirty water will leak.
The product is light and doesn’t take a lot of room. You can choose from numerous color designs to match your preferences.
What we liked:
Two-stage filtration for efficient removal of chemicals and particles
BPA-free materials used
Numerous color designs available
Easy to use and drink water from it
What could be better:
It might be prone to leaking after a while
The activated carbon capsule only filters up to 100 liters of water
Are you an outdoor enthusiast that likes to put their survival skills on a test? You can make things easier with the Survivor Filter Squeeze Water Filter Kit. This portable water filter is one of the most efficient ones out there.
It features a 0.05-micron triple filtration. Apart from bacteria, protozoa, and dangerous chemicals, it will also remove heavy metals and viruses. The high ratings received at tests guarantee this product will deliver consistent results over time. However, the default flow rate of 200 mL/min might reduce as time passes.
The pre-filter acts as the initial barrier for harmful substances. The second stage includes a carbon filter to eliminate pollutants and heavy metals. The final phase is an internal filter that works on removing viruses. Please note that the overall filter capacity is 100,000 liters, but the carbon section can only be reused up to 2,000 liters.
It will be easy to pour the filtered water into any other bottle, thanks to its design. The device should last for a long time because the materials used are of exceptional quality. The outer shell is the same material as car bumpers for shock absorption, and BPA-free items ensure that the water remains safe.
What we liked:
The system eliminates viruses and heavy metals
It utilizes a 0.05-micron triple-filtration system
Highest quality materials used in the construction process
It comes with two canteens and 5 extra pre-filters
SurviMate designed a reliable portable water filter bottle with a capacity of up to 1,500 liters. Next, the product offers a detailed filtration system that includes four steps. Apart from activated carbon and hollow fiber membrane, the device comes with cotton and beads filters for improved results.
The filtration accuracy is set at 0.01 micron, which means you don’t have to worry about water quality. However, you can expect it to be a little hard to suck water through the straw, which is normal for these devices.
The bottle itself is made from Tritan copolyester, which is a material that is FDA-approved and doesn’t contain BPA. The product is resistant to heat and shock, which makes it very durable. It also features three color combinations and attractive design. The bottle is fairly lightweight, and it will be easy to store it in your backpack.
The flow rate is at an average level, with 550 millimeters processed per minute. The only downside is that the lid is not detachable, and you need to hold it when filling the product.
What we liked:
It features a four-step filtration system
The components are FDA-approved and BPA-free
A decent filter capacity
Attractive design and easy to fit in the backpack
What could be better:
You need to hold the lid when filling up the product
The straw requires strength to suck water through it
The portable water filter designed by miniWell comes with everything you need when you are outdoors. Whether you are camping, hiking, or fishing, it only takes a couple of minutes to get drinkable water with this product.
The flow rate is 600mL per minute, and the system is simple to use even if you are a newbie. You get a reservoir to store dirty water, a silicone hose, and a clip to connect it to a clean water bottle. That bottle is collapsible and can store up to 1,000 milliliters of water. You can even use a tree strap to take advantage of gravity and minimize your time invested in the filtration.
The overall filter capacity is 2,000 liters, but you will need to backwash the system frequently. Fortunately, that doesn’t take a lot of time, and you can use the water from the bottle.
This product is reliable, but it is restricted to 0.1 microns. While that will deal with protozoa and bacteria, extremely tiny particles might still find a way into the clean water bottle.
What we liked:
The hose and the clip make it easy to pour the water into any bottle
If you are looking for a small portable water filter, Membrane Solutions designed a suitable one. Additionally, this is the best cameo-like design filter on the market.
The price might seem a bit high, but note that you will get six units in a single package. Each of them can deliver approximately 264 gallons of clean water. You don’t get a clean water bottle, but you can use the straw for drinking directly from the source. The process requires putting the unit in the water and holding it for quick sips. That can become tedious after a while, which is why this product is only suitable for true survivors. However, please note that you should store the product at a temperature below 86F.
As for the filtration system, it features four stages and a 0.176-micron filtration. The water goes through a pre-filter, PP nonwovens for small impurities, activated carbon to remove bacteria, and an ultra-filter to deal with protozoa.
The product is lightweight and so small that you can place it in the chest pocket or wear it hanging around your neck.
What we liked:
Unique camo design
Excellent filtration system
Lightweight and extremely portable
You receive six filters in a single pack
What could be better:
Not the easiest filter to use
It is not suitable for storage in conditions above 86F (30C)
Here is another portable water filter designed by Sawyer Products. The company calls him personal because you can carry it in your pocket or backpack. Additionally, it stores enough water for a single person since the capacity is 34 ounces.
The filtration system will eliminate any compounds that are within the 0.1-micron size. That includes cholera, salmonella, E. coli, protozoa, and other bacteria. The product doesn’t require any pumping to get the water out of it. That guarantees minimal effort, and the high flow rate shortens the time to get drinking water.
The quality of water is admirable, as well as its taste. Drinking from the straw feels like using a regular straw, although it might have a distinctive smell the first time using it. The manufacturer secured two replacement straws to prolong the longevity of the product. A small downside is that you can’t pour water from it to other bottles or cups.
The bottle is made of durable BPA-free materials to ensure maximum longevity. You will also receive a backwashing syringe for simple maintenance.
What we liked:
No pumping required to use the product
Easy to drink
It comes with two replacement straws
Durable and resistant material
What could be better:
You can’t pour water to other bottles or cups
The straw might have a weird smell the first time you are using it
The first thing you notice is that this portable water filter has a distinctive design. Once you try it, you realize you drink water differently than usual, too. Instead of using suction to pull the water through the straw, you can squeeze the bottle to drink water.
The filtration system gets rid of all contaminants down to 0.2 microns, which makes it suitable for both viruses and bacteria. Apart from the filter, the product also works as a purifier.
The manufacturer used food-grade materials that are very durable and free from BPA and other harmful compounds. However, the bottle might have a distinctive smell out of the box. Fortunately, it will go away after a while.
The compact size of the bottle allows you to put it in a backpack. The strap makes it convenient for carrying around. Lastly, the total capacity of the bottle is 28 ounces of clean water.
What we liked:
Filtration up to 0.2 microns
The carrying strap is a very convenient addition
You can squeeze the bottle to drink
What could be better:
The materials might have a distinctive smell out of the box
Impossible to pour water in other containers
Things to Сonsider
A portable water filter is essential because it allows you to count on clean water wherever you are. However, that is only true if you buy a reliable product. If you want to make a smart purchasing decision, check out our buying guide to learn all the details about water filtration systems. We focus on the crucial features of these products and explain how to choose a fitting item. Our guide will also mention the prices, as well as answer the most common questions users might have about these devices. Your search for the most suitable portable water system starts with our guide below!
Reasons to purchase a portable water filter
Are you still having second thoughts about purchasing a portable water filter? If that is the case, we have a list of reasons why everyone could benefit from owning this device!
Here is the list of portable water filter benefits:
Secures clean water from lakes, streams, etc. – if you end up in a remote part of the woods, you will need clean water to continue your journey. Portable filters will secure it from streams, lakes, and other sources you find.
Filters out a wide range of contaminants – depending on the product, water filtration systems can eliminate bacteria, protozoa, heavy metals, viruses, and other harmful compounds.
No illnesses when traveling – your body might not like water from a new area. That is why filtration can secure that you don’t get stomach issues and other illnesses when on the road.
Suitable for transporting – the compact and lightweight design of portable water filters makes them suitable to fit in a backpack, attach to the belt with a strap, or even hang around your neck.
How to find the best portable water filter?
The crucial thing to have is patience. You don’t want to rush a decision that might make a difference between being able to drink clean water or not. Whether you are getting ready for camping or a survival journey, we have a list of features to consider for filtration systems.
We will start with filter types, their reliability, and longevity. Your choice also might depend on the contaminants you are aiming to remove, as well as user convenience. Additionally, those features include ease of use, flow rate, and portability features. Here are the main factors to consider during the purchasing process!
Depending on the product, the filtration might have one or multiple stages. The general rule is the more phases, the better. For example, the MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter has three filtration stages, but you will also find devices with two and four phases.
Let’s take a look at the most common filter types and stages.
Pre-filter – this is the introductory phase in most filtration systems. It serves as the first line of defense and filters out big contaminants that are usually larger than 0.1 microns.
Activated carbon filter – this filter aims to eliminate pollutants, chemicals, and heavy metals. Although it is effective, it has a shorter lifespan than other filters.
Hollow fiber membrane – this filter is in charge or removing various waterborne bacteria, such as salmonella and E. coli, as well as protozoa like giardia.
Ultra–filter – these go under different names, but they add an extreme protection layer and usually eliminate viruses and staph. In most cases, that requires 0.01 micron or harsher filtration.
The lifespan of a water filter depends on many factors. The primary is how frequently you use the device, but it also matters how well you maintain it. For example, the Sawyer Products MINI Water Filtration System can filter up to 100,000 gallons of water if maintained properly.
That is rather an exception than a rule since most filters have capacities from 1,000 to 5,000 liters.
Activated carbon filters don’t last as long as hollow membranes and other filters. It is important to check out the product description for more information about the capacity of a particular filter.
The cleaning process shouldn’t be demanding. Most items come with a syringe used to backwash the system to ensure it works properly.
While you are there, don’t forget to check if filters are replaceable. That will increase the overall lifespan of the portable water filtration device. If you notice that the flow rate is not as high as before, that is the first sign of filter degradation.
What contaminants can it remove?
Portable water filters remove harmful compounds from the water and make it suitable for drinking. That is important when you are camping or hiking through the forest. If you get into remote areas, and there is no water nearby, you can filter the one from a lake or stream.
That water will have waterborne protozoa and bacteria, such as giardia or E. coli. Most filters will remove 99.9% of these contaminants. Depending on the system’s quality, the product might also be capable of dealing with other toxins. For example, the SurviMate Water Filter Bottle is a great choice if you want to eliminate heavy metals from the water.
It is important to get rid of bacteria, protozoa, toxins, heavy metals, and any other contaminants before you drink the water. If you drink water containing harmful compounds, you risk stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea, and other serious illnesses.
Portable water filters might have an instant flow rate, but most of them require a bit of patience to have a sufficient amount of drinking water available. The manufacturers usually use millimeters per minute as a measurement.
The average flow rate is anywhere from 300 to 600mL/min, which is the rate of the miniWell Portable Water Filter. In rare cases, the rate can go to one or two liters per minute. Those products are suitable portable water filters for camping because they secure clean water for multiple people quickly.
The reason why filters can only produce a limited quantity of water every minute is that it takes time to pass the water through all phases of filtration. That is why you want to look for the best balance between filtration and quality. A bit of patience might be worth it if your water is of better quality and taste.
Ease of use
Are the best portable water filters user-friendly? That seems to depend on the product since some require more effort to process the water and make it drinkable.
The most common way of consuming water from a backpacking water filter is by using a straw. The product might come with a bottle, collapsible bag, or another container for storing water. Straws might require various suction power. While some need you to suck on the straw hard, others apply squeezable technology, such as the Seychelle Water Filter Bottle.
Water filtration devices can also use the gravity-fed extraction method. These units utilize gravity to process water. You get a strap to tie them for a tree or another place, and that’s where your role finishes. Have some patience, and you will get filtered water without making an effort. Alternatively, some devices use pumps that you have to activate manually. Each time you press the pump, you push the water through the filters.
Portable water filters are compact-sized, which makes them suitable for carrying around. However, their size can still significantly vary. For example, some products might come with a bottle that takes a significant amount of space. Alternatively, some devices include a collapsible water bag that takes minimum room when not in use. You should also consider the space required for additional equipment, such as the backwash syringe, hose, etc.
As for the dimensions of the water filters itself, they rarely exceed ten inches in height. Also, they don’t have to be wider than a couple of inches.
Depending on the compactness of the unit you choose, you can wear it hanging on your neck, carry it in your pocket, or use a strap to place it on the belt.
Apart from the size and look of your device, you should also consider its weight. The good news is that portable water filters are usually light. Their weight might vary from two to over ten ounces. The devices themselves are light, but another consideration is their weight when loaded with water.
The bottle capacity might vary from as little as 8 to over 30 ounces. While it is nice to have a generous quantity of water available, that also increases the overall weight of the unit. If you plan to carry it around in your backpack, consider every ounce. The other items are already heavy, which is why you should avoid adding extra load with your water filter.
Portable water filters are compact devices, and their sheer size means they cannot be incredibly expensive. However, the price will still vary significantly between affordable and premium models. The Etekcity Water Filter Straw is a genuine bargain deal, and these items frequently remain under $20.
If you are ready to pay more than $50 for quality products, you can go for an option that includes multiple straws, such as the Membrane Solutions Water Straw Filter. Alternatively, you can go for a premium unit like the MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter. That type of units won’t only eliminate bacteria and protozoa, but also viruses and other contaminants.
The important thing is that you ensure the product delivers good value for the money invested. Start by considering the features, quality of materials, and filtration stages. Compare that with the price, and see whether it is a worthwhile investment. That is a great way to ensure you invest your cash smartly.
That will depend on the quality of the filtration system in your device. However, the idea is that you make water from outdoor sources drinkable. That means you can filter water from lakes, rivers, and even puddles. If it seems highly contaminated, you might need advanced filters, such as the ones present in MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter. You can filter tap water with these devices to get rid of heavy metals and other harmful compounds. However, the filters won’t catch salt, which means you can’t process seawater. You also shouldn’t try to process urine and try to make it drinkable because these devices are not capable of doing that.
Every time you use the device, your filters will get a bit clogged. As time passes, that clogging will become more evident. The easiest way to notice that is by analyzing the system’s flow rate. It will be the highest the first time you use the product and will drop over time. If you feel like the flow rate is significantly lower than before, it might be time to replace the filters. And if you can’t seem to get any clean water, that is an obvious sign that the filters need a replacement. Another way to know when you should replace them is to keep track of its use. Most filters come with expected longevity on the label. Based on that, you can monitor the quantity of water filtered or use the good-old judgment call.
Portable water filters have problems working at freezing temperatures. Most products will come with the specific temperature range suitable for using them, but they usually don’t work well at below-zero C or 30-degree F temperatures. That is why you need to find a way to prevent them from freezing. Storing them in a plastic Ziploc bag and your inner pocket might be a good way to start. If the temperature drops overnight, store it in your sleeping bag, and use body heat to prevent freezing. A frozen filter won’t work, and its longevity and future performance could also be compromised by the cold.
Whether you haven’t used the filter for a long time, or you returned from an outdoor camping or survival trip, the time has come to clean the filter. Most units come with detailed maintenance instructions, which is why you should read the product manual first. Some products have a cleaning syringe that is used to backwash the filters. That way, you prolong their lifespan and ensure optimal performance. Some filters cannot be cleaned, but only replaced. Once the time for replacement comes, the process should be simple. It includes detaching any components to get access to the filter, removing the filter and placing a new one. Finally, return all the components, and you are ready to go.
The only thing left is to remind you of our top portable water filter choices.
Our favorite is still the Sawyer Products MINI Filtration System. It meets all expectations, and it’s also a durable and reliable product you can count on in case of an emergency. Apart from eliminating a wide range of harmful compounds, it also delivers water of admirable taste.
The Etekcity Water Filter Straw is a great choice for all those looking for bargains. It features a three-stage filtration for efficient contaminant removal. The product is also easy to use, and it will deliver a decent quantity of water per minute.
Finally, you can also try the MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter. It is a premium pick for those who are looking for plenty of clean water every minute, which makes it suitable for camping.
Ultimately, the best portable water filter is the one that meets your expectations. That should be your leading consideration when choosing your favorite model!