A highly packable and portable water filter is a pivotal survival item EVERY outdoorsman and traveler should own. If you enjoy spending time in the great outdoors or in parts of the world where water quality is questionable, then owning a water filtration system is an absolute must.
Lightweight and packable water filters allow you to carry less packed water while hiking or traveling and of course, provide you with emergency access to clean water. Those who hike even a few miles from the beaten path are wise to own a portable water filter for both convenience and safety. Packing water is heavy, and going without it for any duration is simply not an option.
All of our selected filters have been chosen for their portability, effectiveness, and lifespan, so don’t rule these units out for at-home emergency use!
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1. Best Water Filter For Large Water Quantities: LifeSaver Liberty Bottle Water FilterPros:
- Includes a five foot scavenger hose
- Filter cartridge and carbon discs are replaceable
- Extremely easy to operate -- just fill bottle, pump twice and drink!
- Built with a fail safe (low flow/no flow) that indicates when the filter needs to be replaced
- Removes 99.9999% of all bacteria and 99.999% of all viruses
- Fast flow rate -- 1.2 Liters per minute
- Can easily filter large volumes at once with the hose
- A bit bulkier than some of the other highly portable water filter options at about one pound and 13 inches in length
- Although still an excellent value, this filter is more expensive than a lot of other options
- Replacement filters are fairly expensive
The Liberty Botle from LifeSaver is a seriously cool innovation in safe water filtration that’s particularly well suited for filtering large quantities of water.
This is a super easy to use portable water filter that travelers and outdoorsmen alike are raving about. LifeSaver recently sent me out a Liberty Bottle to sample and I’ve been impressed with its functionality.
This is our pick for international travel because of the impressive level of filtration as well as lifespan, and portability. When you’re a long way from home, you can’t afford to fall ill from unclean water — this is a serious filter for the serious traveler that hasn’t cut any corners.
The Liberty Bottle employs a dual system of filtration that uses hollow fiber membrane technology and Carbon disks to produce exceptionally safe water. Both components of the filter are replaceable so you can keep this bad boy going for years of use.
Using this filter is a total breeze – it’s as simple as filling the bottle, pumping the pump a few times and drinking! LifeSaver has even included their five-foot “Scavenger Hose” with this unit that allows you to access harder to reach water sources. The hose is, in my opinion, a brilliant innovation that makes a ton of sense for inclusion with a filter like this making the Liberty Bottle an excellent value.
The rate you can purify water is also quite impressive with this filter. You can turn contaminated water into clean drinking water at a rate of 1.2 liters per minute with the hose attachment. This is ideal for larger groups and for filling containers.
There’s no intensive pumping or pressing involved with the Liberty Bottle – it’s a fast and easy filtration system that’s built to last due to its inherently rugged design and replaceable filter components. There’s even a two-year warranty on the product!
It’s certainly a bit more cumbersome and expensive than a lot of other portable water filter options, but this is a mindfully designed unit with pivotal features that’s built to last.
For some more detailed info on how the filter works, check out the attached video below!
2. Most Packable Water Filter: Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration SystemPros:
- Super lightweight (2 ounces) and fits in the palm of your hand
- Highly affordable
- Is easily cleaned and therefore has an incredible lifespan (100,000 gallons of water!)
- Can be attached to a Sawyer squeeze pouch, water bladder or even a normal water bottle and drank directly through the filter or squeezed into another container
- This filter is not as effective as some of the other units listed here at filtering particularly suspect water sources
- It's small size and light weight make this unit more susceptible to damage if crushed or dropped -- be careful with this one
- Lower flow rate makes this unit more suited for personal rather than group use
The Mini Filter by Sawyer Products is a seriously compact water filter that’s awesome for backpacking trips of any kind where you’re short on pack space and can’t afford to bring a bulky unit.
This option might not provide you with the same level of filtration that a unit like the Liberty Bottle does, but for the vast majority of possible scenarios, this unit is more than you need.
At just two ounces and built small enough to be held in the palm of your hand this is the ultimate packable water filter. The Mini takes up practically no space making it perfect for all sorts of wilderness and travel applications.
You won’t want to drink from particularly suspect water sources with this filter because it does not remove chemicals or viruses, however, it is more than safe for use with regular freshwater sources. Customer reviews rave about the ease and simplicity of filtering stream water in the backcountry to tap water in the third world.
You can use this filter as a straw and drink directly through it or use a Sawyer squeeze bag to fill other containers. The Mini has a somewhat slow filtration rate so this is more of a personal unit than a filter for group use.
Perhaps the most innovative feature of the Mini is that it’s been designed to attach directly to regular water bottle threads and hydration bladders as well as the Squeeze Bags offered by Sawyer Products. This is a go anywhere, use anyway type of filtration system that has proven itself effective and versatile.
Take a closer look at the Mini in the attached video below – you’ll be impressed with its size to ability ratio!
3. Best Filter For Camping: Sawyer Products One-Gallon Gravity Water Filtration SystemPros:
- Gravity-based water filtering system
- Includes MINI Water Filter, 1-gallon bladder, cleaning plunger, cleaning coupling, and gravity hose with adapters;
- High-performance 0. 1 Micron absolute inline filter fits in the palm of your hand (2 ounces)
- Lightweight wide-mouth bladder for fast, easy filling includes an integrated carry handle
- Dual-threaded MINI allows you to screw the push/pull cap onto the filter for easy on/off functionality
- Impresssively portable
- Fairly expenisive
- Does not remove chemicals or pesticides
- You could more or less utilize a Sawyer MINI filter in this way without purchasing the Gravity System
The Sawyer Products One-Gallon Gravity Water Filtration System is the same Sawyer MINI filter previously listed but integrated with a gravity-based reservoir for filling larger containers for group use.
The dual-threaded MINI filter allows you to screw the push/pull cap onto the filter for easy on and off functionality, so it’s a breeze to use the included MINI without the bag if you choose to. The reservoir bag, however, has a full gallon capacity, so it’s the preferred option for group vs. solo use.
Simply fill the bag with the water you wish to filter, set it up hanging and the water will filter through the MINI into your water bottle, bag, or vessel. The bladder is both lightweight and wide-mouthed for fast, easy filling and includes an integrated carry handle for easier functionality. Sawyer Products has really hit all the bases to ensure your filtering experience is as simple as possible.
The high-performance 0.1 Micron absolute inline filter fits in the palm of your hand and weighs a remarkable 2-ounces, so this is a super portable system with the (rollable) gravity bag and an exceptionally portable system without it.
Another reliable and highly practical filter from a well-trusted and renowned brand.
4. Best Value Water Filter: LifeStraw Personal Water FilterPros:
- The narrow design is highly packable and weighs just 2 ounces
- Capable of filtering 4000 liters which is excellent for the cost
- Highly affordable
- Super easy to use - just drink!
- Protects from bacteria, microplastics and parasites
- LifeStraw claims that for every filter purchased a school child in need recieves clean water for an entire school year
- Does not include any accessories of any kind nor does it attach to regular water bottles
- Relatively fragile
- No hose or straw for extra length to reach harder to access water sources
The LifeStraw Personal Water Filter is perhaps the most popular portable water filter on the market, and for good reason. It’s an affordable, highly packable and easy to use device that you’ll wonder why you’ve never owned.
This bad boy can filter some nasty looking water, so wherever there’s a water source you’re likely good to go. The LifeStraw removes a minimum 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria (>LOG 6 reduction) and even surpasses EPA standards for water filters. Without using chlorine, iodine or any other chemicals, a single LifeStraw can filter up to 4000 liters of contaminated water throughout its lifespan.
I have furthermore read some customer reviews that claim the lifespan of their LifeStraw was more than doubled by securing a regular paper coffee filter to the end of the filter with a rubber band. By doing this you can drastically reduce the amount of sediment that initially passes through the LifeStraw – smart idea!
Using the filter is super simple – just lean in and use the filter like you would a regular straw!
The total weight is a mere two ounces and the inherent design of the LifeStraw is narrow and highly packable. This is a filter that can truly go anywhere.
For a more than reasonable cost you can purchase a LifeStraw for your backpacking equipment, home survival kit or regular camp gear. For such a low price it’s in my opinion absolutely worth owning several of these filters for at-home emergency preparedness.
5. Best Cheap Portable Water Filter: Etekcity Water Filter StrawPros:
- Cheaper alternative to the LifeStraw
- Includes accesories like a water pouch, longer reaching straw and cleaning syringe
- Lightweight and highly portable
- Can be screwed onto a water bottle
- 1500 liter lifespan is not very impressive. Better for “if you need it” use than as a long term water system
- Filter and accessories are not built very durably, be careful with this one
- Very low flow rate - not the filter you want if you plan on using it often but excellent for emergencies
Here’s a handy dandy personal water filter from Etekcity that’s laughably inexpensive and easy to use. This packable filter is highly comparable in every way to the LifeStraw, but comes at a lower price and even includes some accessories.
This is a three-stage filter straw that removes 99.99999% of waterborne bacteria like salmonella, cholera, and E.coli and removes 99.9999% of protozoa like giardia and cryptosporidium. It’s just as effective as most other filters on the market but has a shorter lifespan at just 1500 liters.
The first stage of the filter or “pre-filter” removes larger particles like silt, rust, and bloodworms. The second stage is an antibacterial activated carbon filter that removes chlorine, heavy metal ions and THMs. The third stage is a 0.01-micron hollow fiber UF membrane that filters out 99.9999% of waterborne pathogens and protozoa.
Operating this filter is also a total breeze – just place the straw into freshwater and drink! This unit, unlike the standard LifeStraw, can be attached to any regular water bottle or paired with Etekcity’s included water pouch.
This would honestly be the ultimate filter if its lifespan was longer and the flow was faster. With only a 1500 liter lifespan this water filter won’t be around for years of hiking or travel. As an emergency “just in case” portable water filter, however, this is the perfect affordable option.
6. Best Quality Water Filter For Longterm Use: Katadyn Pocket MicrofilterPros:
- Perhaps the most reliable and durable portable water filter on the market
- All metal moving parts and ceramic element are easily cleaned for an essentially unlimited lifespan
- Includes a hose for accessing hard to reach water and for simplifying use in general
- Silver-impregnated ceramic element in the filter stops any bacterial growth
- Includes a 20 year warranty!
- Very Expensive
- Fairly heavy for backpacking use at 20-ounces compared to a lot of other filter options
- Must be careful to not allow the ceramic filter to freeze
The Katadyn Pocket Microfilter is the option that countless home emergency preppers and backpackers consider to be the gold standard in safe water filtration.
Katadyn is one of the most highly respected brands in the business whose products are even used by military personnel worldwide.
It’s the quality of construction that makes this filter so above and beyond. It’s built with all metal moving parts and a silver-impregnated ceramic element in the filter making it both incredibly rugged and essentially without lifespan. This is a filter that’s easily cleaned and used for years and years of safe water filtration. Katadyn even includes a 20-year warranty with this product which is a sure sign of confidence in their product.
The Pocket Microfilter filters all microorganisms larger than 0.2 microns producing impressively clear and clean water at a rate of about one liter per minute. There’s a lot of pumping involved if you want to purify larger quantities of water, but this is still a solid filter for group or family use.
The price tag is staggering yes, but you’re paying for a nearly indestructible filter designed for flawless, longterm use.
Although this Swiss-made device is far “fancier” than the competition, its one of the most easily operated portable water filters on the market. You place the hose into any freshwater source and then simply pump the handle. The outlet hose can furthermore be attached to containers with a clip.
If you’re looking for the best of the best and want to purchase a filter that won’t let you down after even years of extreme use, look towards Katadyn. For a more compact and affordable unit from this industry-leading brand, check out the Hiker Pro Microfilter, it could be more up your alley.
7. Best Water Filter For Wilderness Use: Sawyer Products Select Series Water PurifiersPros:
- Have the choice to choose which level of filtration is right for you (and pay accordingly)
- Although not exceptionally compact, this is a filter and a vessel for clean drinking water which saves you big time on pack space
- Only 10 seconds for 20 ounces of filtered-water output
- Foam membrane is replaceable and microsqueeze filter has a 100,000 gallon lifespan!
- Very lightweight at only about half a pound due to the foam construction of the bottle
- Fairly expesive
- The Chlorine in tap water will reduce lifespan of the foam core therefore this filter is better for use with wilderness water
- Although you can compress this unit because of its foam construction, it could deform if stored smushed for very long
The Select Series Water Purifiers are a really neat line of portable water filters from Sawyer Products that allows you to choose the level of purification you want to pay for.
There are three filters in the series. The S1 will remove bacteria, protozoa, chemicals, and pesticides while the S2 will additionally remove viruses. The S3 furthermore removes heavy metals making it a pretty darn impressive filter – portability aside.
They are all around the same cost, but it’s still nice that you have the option to pay less if you know the water source(s) you plan on drinking from are free of viruses and/or heavy metals.
This filter system employs absorption foam technology paired with Sawyer’s 0.1-micron absolute hollow fiber membrane to REALLY purify freshwater sources. You simply unscrew and fill the bottle, re-screw and close the cap to the micro squeeze filter and then squeeze the foam bottle in an alternating motion. This works the water into the foam material for enhanced filtration.
You can then open the cap to the microfilter and drink directly from the bottle or dispense the water into another container.
Although it’s somewhat cumbersome, you have to consider the fact that this is both a filter and vessel for water which will save you on pack space. You won’t want to put anything other than water into the bottle, but for regular hydration purposes, it’s an awesome compact system that travels really well.
Sawyer Products recommends this filter system for wilderness water rather than tap water because the Chlorine levels in tap will clog the pores of the absorption foam sooner. It can still be used with suspect tap water if traveling internationally but if you’re looking for a portable water filter for travel in particular rather than use in the great outdoors then you’re better off with a different unit.
If this highly portable purification system fits your needs for water filtration then it’s an excellent value product that won’t let you down. Consider the applications of the Select Series Water Purifiers for you and choose your model wisely.
If you’re interested in this filtration system make sure to watch the attached video below for a closer look at its capabilities, ease of operation and required maintenance.
8. Best Water Filter Bottle: LifeStraw Go Water Filter BottlePros:
- Filtered water bottle that both stores and effectively filters your water supply
- Durable, 23-ounce, leak-proof bottle built with BPA-free Tritan and a food-grade silicone mouthpiece
- 2-stage activated carbon filter reduces odor, chlorine and leaves zero aftertaste
- Hollow fiber membrane water filter removes 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria, and 99.9% of waterborne protozoan parasites
- Both the filter component and the water bottle can be used apart from eachother!
- Replacement filters available
- Wide color selection available
- Fairly expensive option
- 22-ounce size is conveniently portable, but not the largest capacity
- Does not reduce lead or heavy metals, nor does it remove viruses
This is essentially a LifeStraw that’s simply integrated into the cap of a durable, 23-ounce, leak-proof bottle built with BPA-free Tritan. The filter extends almost all the way down to the bottom of the water bottle but is designed with a small gap between the filter bottom and base of the water bottle in order to avoid sucking up sediment that might be in the water.
The filter and the 23-ounce water bottle can furthermore be used apart from each other, making this a particularly versatile option. Replacement filters are available (4000 liters per microbiological filter / 100 Liters for carbon capsule).
The 2-stage activated carbon filter reduces odor, chlorine and leaves zero aftertaste, it is a LifeStraw after all! The hollow fiber membrane water filter removes 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria and 99.9% of waterborne protozoan parasites – some impressive filtration power for the cost.
There is a nice variety of colors to choose from, so the brand makes it easy to select your favorite aesthetic. All in all, a great (replaceable) filter for both adventurous outdoor use, as well as for international travel and regular hydration applications.
9. Most Versatile Water Filter: LifeStraw Universal Water Filter Bottle Adapter KitPros:
- Water filter bottle adapter kit with different sized caps for attaching to virtually any bottle!
- Kit includes a 2-stage filter, threaded wide mouth, standard caps, standard and sport mouthpieces and a leakproof lid
- Replaceable microbiological filter removes 99.999999% of waterborne bacteria, and 99.999% of waterborne protozoan parasites
- Compatible with YETI, Klean Kanteen, Hydroflask, Nalgene, Camelbak and more!
- Replaceable activated carbon capsule removes chemicals, chlorine, and improves taste (up to 25 gallons)
- Carry bag included
- Does not reduce lead and heavy metals nor does it remove viruses
- If you lose your water bottle, you lose your filter!
- While the brand has almost every water bottle type covered here, your favorite bottle might not be compatible with the Universal if it has a unique design
The LifeStraw Universal Water Filter Bottle Adapter Kit is a series of different water bottle caps paired with a powerful filter that allows you to use your existing water bottle as a vessel for the filter.
The kit includes a 2-stage filter, threaded wide mouth, standard caps, standard and sport mouthpieces, and a leakproof lid. The included lids are compatible with YETI, Klean Kanteen, Hydroflask, Nalgene, Camelbak and more, so whatever your favorite water bottle is, chances are it’s a go with the LifeStraw Universal.
The replaceable microbiological filter has 1000 gallon lifespan and removes 99.999999% of waterborne bacteria and 99.999% of waterborne protozoan parasites – not too shabby! A replaceable activated carbon capsule furthermore removes chemicals, chlorine, and improves taste (up to 25 gallons), taking the Universal to the next level of crisp, clean filtration.
A simple, but brilliant concept from one of the most respected brands in the industry – the LifeStraw Universal is a stellar choice of filter for all sorts of outdoors, travel, and emergency contexts.
10. Best Filter For Trail Running: MSR TrailShot Pocket-Sized Water FilterPros:
- Ultralight (5 ounces) and compact (6x2.4 inches), fits well in a stash pocket for trail running, hiking, and biking
- Filters one liter in 60 seconds
- Hollow fiber technology allows water to pass through but traps harmful protozoa, like giardia and cryptosporidium, and bacteria, like salmonella
- Effective against bacteria (99.9999%), protozoa (99.9%) and particulate
- Filters up to 2,000 liters without iodine, chlorine or other chemicals
- Replacement filters available
- Fairly expensive
- 2000 liter filter lifespan is not terribly impressive
- Flow rate is preferred for personal, rather than group use
The MSR TrailShot Pocket-Sized Water Filter is an ultralight, yet efficient personal filter option that features impressive portability for its capabilities.
This filter option is remarkably light at just 5 ounces and quite compact at only 6 by 2.4 inches. It fits well in a stash pocket for trail running, hiking, and biking, and even better in an emergency survival kit. MSR has engineered a filter that’s ready for action with this one
Hollow fiber technology allows the water to pass but entraps harmful protozoa like giardia and cryptosporidium, as well as bacteria like salmonella. The TrailShot is effective against 99.9999% of bacteria, 99.9% of protozoa and particulate matter.
This unit filters up to 2,000 liters without iodine, chlorine or other chemicals, but only has a 2000 liter lifespan, so consider purchasing some replacement filters.
For those who need an on-the-go water filter for action-packed hydration applications, the TrailShot is without a doubt a solid go-to option.
11. Best Included Acessories With a Filter: Boston Fortis Explorer Pro Personal Portable Water FilterPros:
- Includes a neat (and potntially lifesaving) array of survival accessories like a flint, compass, light and knife
- Very compact at 6.6 by 3.1 by 1.8 inches and lightweight at 9 ounces
- Employs a four stage 0.1 micron filter (prefilter, ceramic, Carbon Fiber and KDF)
- Reasonably priced considering the quality of the filter and included accessories
- Easy to both operate and clean
- Includes a hose for ease of access to the water source your pumping
- Limited lifetime warranty
- Only about a 2000 liter lifespan
- Fairly slow rate of filtration at 17-ounces per minute
- Lithium batteries of the flashlight likely won't last very long
Here’s an affordable yet highly capable personal water filter from Boston Fortis. The Explorer Pro is a 2000 liter lifespan four-stage filter that even includes some additional survival features for the great outdoors.
It’s compact size (6.6 by 3.1 by 1.8 inches) and lightweight (nine ounces) make it great for use both in the wilderness as well as traveling, but the included survival features definitely gear this unit towards the great outdoors. There’s a compass, flashlight, small knife, and fire flint and even a whistle! Considering the fact that a portable water filter is a survival tool, why not include some other potentially life-saving features?
The filter itself is also pretty darn impressive for the cost. Boston Fortis has upgraded the Explorer Pro to a four-stage filter. The water is sent through a pre-filter, ceramic, carbon fiber, and kinetic degradation fluxion section. It’s a 0.1-micron filter that contends with the best on the market in terms of purification.
The Explorer Pro is an easy to use pump filter that has a flow rate of just 17 ounces per minute – it’s not a terribly fast filtration system and best used for personal use. That being said, the hose design allows for easy filling up of containers so you can absolutely go ahead and use it for group camp or travel use as long as you don’t mind pumping for a while.
The body of the filter and hand pump are well built and positively reviewed for durability. This is a filter you can knock around in your pack and not worry about being too fragile.
For at-home use, I’d look towards something with a longer lifespan and faster flow rate but for backpacking purposes, the Boston Fortis is an awesome budget unit with some killer extra features.
The Importance of Clean Water
There's nothing more important than clean water in each and every survival scenario you can think up - a portable filter is an easy solution to this fact.
You can go on for days or even weeks without food, but the human body requires clean freshwater for survival in as little as 24 hours. Carrying a device into the field that ensures you stay hydrated should be rule number one for any serious trekker.
Falling ill from ingesting unclean water will furthermore be the morbid end to any survival situation and is easily avoided given modern technology.
Drastically trim your pack weight and ensure you always have the ability to create clean water with one of our top picks of portable water filters. They're affordable, add very little volume or weight to your gear load and just might save your life in a jam!
Operating Your Portable Water Filter
If you think learning to use and operating modern-age portable water filters is difficult or confusing, you'd be wrong.
The filters available on the market today are remarkably easy to use, some are even as simple as just leaning into the target water source and drinking!
Don't let the technology intimidate you - the filters included here on this list are user-friendly for anyone and everyone!
Filtered Water Bottles
Portable water filters come in all shapes and sizes, some even doubling as water bottles and filtration systems.
If you like the idea of owning a reliable water bottle and filter in one, easy to operate device, then we've pinned down the best options worth checking out.
Our favorite filtered water bottles include:
- LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle
- SurviMate Filtered Water Bottle
- GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier Bottle
- Sawyer Products Select Series Water Purifiers
Most Versatile Portable Water Filters
While all of the included options here feature impressive versatility due to their filtration power and portability alone, some water filters offer a particularly diverse array of different filtering methods and capabilities.
For example, the Sawyer Products Mini Filter can be attached to the Sawyer squeeze pouch, water bladder or even a normal water bottle and can furthermore be drunk directly through the filter or squeezed into another container.
Some other options that offer impressive versatility when it comes to filtering your water on the go include:
Ultralight Water Filters:
All of the options listed here have been selected for their impressive portability, but there are a few filters in particular that are truly remarkably compact and lightweight.
These are the best filters for adventure travelers and outdoorsmen who are seeking an option that will take up virtually no pack-space.
- Sawyer Products Mini Filter
- LifeStraw Personal Water Filter
- Sawyer Products Squeeze Water Filter System
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