A top-quality and budget-friendly portable water filter can improve your camping experience by a hundredfold. But with so many water filter products out there, how do you find one worthy of your investment?
I’ve spent five months reviewing and testing the most popular portable water filters to help you pick the perfect one for your next wilderness adventure.
Here’s what I found.
1. Survivor Filter Pro Portable Water Filter Pump (9.87/10)
- High-performing, certified
Featuring three filtration stages, a 26,000-gallon filter life, NSF certifications, and a lifetime warranty, the Survivor Filter Pro pump effortlessly ticks all the boxes for the best portable filter.
There’s a lot to like about the Survivor Filter Pro unit.
This pump-style filtration system filters dirty water through its three-stage design, which can trap contaminants as small as 0.01 micron. I couldn’t find any other on-the-go filter with such precise filtration capability. It can remove 99.99% of various bacteria and viruses, as well as 99.5% of mercury and 93% of lead.
Its three filtration stages include a top-quality 0.1-micron prefilter that traps solid particles, dirt, debris, algae, and microbes. The next stage is responsible for giving the water a fresh and clean taste through an efficient carbon filter that removes chlorine, heavy metals, and chemicals. And the last stage is an ultrafilter that banishes staph and viruses, making the water healthy and safe to drink.
What you’ll really appreciate about this filter is that it’s certified for log-5 reduction of microbes according to NSF standards. Unlike many brands in this class, Survivor is transparent about its claims, and you can check out the test reports here.
While the prefilter and ultrafilter can clean about 26,000 gallons of water, its carbon filter will last 528 gallons. The replacement filter kit will cost you around $48.
In just sixty seconds, this filter system can produce half a liter of clean and fresh water. Plus, it weighs only half a kilogram, or approximately 1.1 pounds, and is made of sturdy ABS plastic that won’t crack or damage in your backpack, making it super convenient for campers and hikers.
Setting it up took me only 70 seconds precisely (I used a stopwatch). If you’re new to the pump-type filters, check out this detailed YouTube tutorial to learn how to use them.
On top of it all, Survival Pro gives its customers a whopping lifetime warranty and a 60-day money-back guarantee.
The only downside to this unit is you have to pump to filter water, and it might become tedious if you’re mid-hike or can’t find a place to sit your filter pump on a plain surface. About 60 up-and down-pumps are required to filter eight ounces of water. But considering it filters out all the disease-causing matter, it’s worth the effort.
Survival Filter Pro is a beast against bacteria and viruses, along with other pollutants you’ll find in wilderness water, like dirt and heavy metals, owing to its 0.01-micron filter pore size.
For $70, you’ll get decent filter life, a lifetime warranty, and a 60-day money-back guarantee. You can use it to filter rainwater, lake water, or even tap water coming from a sketchy faucet in a hotel.
For more information, explore the website here.
2. LifeStraw Peak Series Straw Filter (8.87/10)
- Efficient, affordable
If you’re looking for a filtration straw, I have the best suggestion: LifeStraw’s Peak Series Straw. It is certified to remove all types of bacteria, viruses, and heavy metals in water. Plus, it offers a decent water-filtering capacity of 1,000 gallons at an affordable price.
LifeStraw’s filtering straw uses a 0.2-micron filter to trap 99.99% of bacteria, viruses, and parasites in water, along with microplastics, dirt, and debris. It is independently certified in Lifestraw’s own lab and a few other accredited labs against US EPA & NSF P231 standards for removing microbes from water. If you want more evidence, you can find a performance sheet on Lifestraw’s website.
I always look for a filter that has a way to indicate its expiration date so that I don’t inadvertently consume dirty water. This filter actually goes one step further to stop allowing water inside it at all when it reaches a 1,000 gallon mark. Quite impressive.
While sticking this straw directly into dirty water and sipping on clean and fresh water sounds intriguing, you can actually attach it to standard gravity filters and water bottles using the removable threaded cap at the bottom.
Besides making your water squeaky clean, the most enjoyable part of investing in this filter is its giving back program. Your purchase will translate into one year of clean drinking water for underprivileged children. Plus, LifeStraw provides on-site education while dropping off its filters.
LifeStraw offers a three-year limited warranty on all its products and a 45-day money-back guarantee.
This filter can easily get damaged on the slightest impact. Protect it in a soft bag while traveling, and don’t place pressure on it.
If you want to store this straw for over three months, you’d need to soak it in saline solution, or it’ll dry out and stop filtering water.
Another downside is it can easily clog with dirt, so you may need to blow air through the mouthpiece quite a few times during your trip.
With all these limitations, it’s disappointing that the warranty is only for three years.
Still, LifeStraw is a top-performing filter straw that works against bacteria, viruses, and microplastics. It’s affordable and offers a great life of 1,000 gallons. Moreover, it provides a decent-enough warranty for a product that’s only $25.
Buying this top-performing filter means you’ll be indirectly helping the underprivileged children in the world access clean water, so I love it.
Learn more about LifeStraw here.
3. Grayl GeoPress Water Purifier Bottle (7.79/10)
- Super convenient
The Grayl GeoPress water bottle is synonymous with ease and convenience. It can produce 24 ounces of bacteria- and virus-free water in just eight seconds. It requires no pump or sucking, just fill your water bottle, press the filter down, and chug clean water.
Grayl’s GeoPress water bottle boasts a stylish design and high-performing and durable filtration comprising activated carbon, ion exchange, and electroadsorption. It can remove 99.99% of bacteria and viruses and filter particulates, microplastics, heavy metals, and all kinds of objectionable tastes and odors.
And these claims are backed by Grayl’s NSF/ANSI 42 and 53 certifications and the US EPA’s standards for water purifiers.
The filter can clean about 65 gallons of water, which roughly equals 350 presses. The replacement cartridge costs $29.95.
GeoPress claims that its bottle can withstand a six-foot drop onto hard ground. I had to test it out myself, and to my utter surprise, the bottle sustained five six-foot drops on concrete. This is amazing. This bottle is made of BPA-free ABS plastic and polypropylene and weighs only 450 grams, or approximately 15.8 ounces, making it perfect for hikers.
Like LifeStraw, this company is also part of a few eco-friendly initiatives. As a member of 1% for the Planet, Grayl gives 1% of its annual sales to environmental causes. You can explore more about its giving-back programs here.
Lastly, this bottle comes with a 10-year warranty. Not too shabby.
You may find it a bit expensive compared to the other portable filter options.
Plus, sediment will shorten the life of this filter. If the water is too murky and full of solid debris, you must filter it through a cloth before using this bottle. You may want to find the least silty water to filter.
Also, it cannot remove high levels of lead, mercury, high tannin concentration, or toxic algae. You may need to research common contaminants in the water at your destination if you plan to use this bottle filter, and expect to need other accommodations.
The Grayl GeoPress water bottle can remove all types of bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and other pollutants from water in just eight seconds. Due to its strong body, the bottle can withstand falls and even the most heavy-duty jostling.
It’s a bit expensive, but considering the company owns quite a few certifications, gives back to the environment, and provides a 10-year warranty, it’s worth the price tag.
4. LifeStraw GO Water Filter Bottle
Here’s a decent alternative if you like LifeStraw’s vibe but want a water filter bottle instead of just a straw.
LifeStraw’s GO 22-ounce water bottle will filter out bacteria, viruses, microplastics, chlorine, dirt, and heavy metals using a 0.2-micron filter and activated carbon. Its micron filter can filter up to 1,000 gallons of water, while the activated carbon filter will last only 26 gallons.
The bottle costs only $25.95, and the replacements are also affordable. The carbon filter costs around $9, while the micron filters cost $25.95, the same as the original price of the bottle.
LifeStraw’s water bottle is rigorously tested against NSF 42 standards and the EPA’s and NSF P231 standards for drinking water.
You’ll get a three-year warranty on this filter, which excludes the carbon filter. LifeStraw’s carbon filters come with a limited 60-day warranty. Kinda sus.
Other downsides of this water bottle include that it leaks a lot and is not equipped with any kind of insulation. In summers, you might want to fill it up with ice cubes and enjoy only a few hours of cool water before it turns warm. This will be difficult if you’re in the middle of nowhere.
5. HydroBlu Versa Flow Water Filter
A portable filter like the HydroBlu Versa Flow filter can be attached to water bottles, gravity bags, and bucket filters, or used as a straw.
For only $22.95, you will get 0.1-micron hollow-fiber tubes to capture E. coli, cryptosporidium, and giardia as well as other pollutants larger than 0.1 microns. However, it can’t remove viruses because they are smaller than 0.1 microns.
This filter is equipped with a flow rate of one gallon per five minutes, which is a tad slow compared to the top contenders on my list.
I like that it has a filter-life indicator at the bottom and features a small transparent window through which you can track the micron filter. You can also backflush this filter once it maxes out to increase the filter’s life.
Hydroblu claims this filter lasts around 100,000 gallons, meaning you won’t need to buy another for a lifetime as long as you consistently backflush it. I was a bit skeptical about this, so I tested it and found out that its efficiency gradually decreases with time. So, there’s no way it can last for a lifetime.
However, at just $22.95, it’s a pretty decent option, especially since you’ll also be getting a limited lifetime warranty.
6. Sawyer Products Squeeze Water Filtration System
Sawyer’s Squeeze Water Filtration System is a durable system with certified 0.1-micron hollow-fiber filter technology that captures 99.99% bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and microplastics.
The package comes with a lightweight filter, a 32-ounce pouch, and a backwashing syringe, which you’ll often need to clean this filter.
It’s very easy to set up. You just have to fill the pouch with dirty water, screw in your filter and squeeze the pouch to let water flow through the filter into your clean water bottle.
One downside to this filter is that you will need to take the backwash syringe with you and some clean water, which you’ll use to backwash this filter a few times on your trip.
If you’re out of clean water for backwashing, you won’t be able to clean your filter and might consume toxic pollutants as a result. This might be too inconvenient for the average hiker.
Furthermore, this filter is not made to remove heavy metals and chemicals from water.
Still, this Sawyer Products squeeze filter is affordable. It costs $29 and comes with a lifetime warranty.
7. MSR Guardian Purifier
The MSR Guardian Purifier is a sturdy pump-style filter that can make the dirtiest water safe for drinking through its 0.02-micron hollow-fiber filtration system. I’m a fan of how it cleans itself and doesn’t require backwashing or manual scrubbing.
The system is certified against NSF P248 protocols for cleaning bacteria, viruses, protozoa, chemicals, heavy metals, and dirt. Plus, it’s been rigorously tested to withstand heavy drops and freezing cold temperatures.
The MSR cleans 25 liters per minute and is made to last about 10,000 liters.
However, it costs a whopping $358, making it the most expensive on my list by a longshot. On top of it, MSR is not very transparent about its warranty. You’ll have to send an email asking about its return policy. Sketchy, I say.
You can get better value at less than half the price with the Survivor Filter Pro pump-style unit.
8. Membrane Solutions Straw Water Filter
Membran solution straw filter, priced at only $12.99, filters dirty water through five stages, including sediment filters, activated carbon, and a hollow-fiber membrane. It is capable of filtering pollutants as small as 0.1 microns, such as bacteria and viruses.
The filter can clean about 1,320 gallons of water, but its cleaning efficiency significantly decreases as it approaches its expiration date.
I didn’t like its slow flow rate. You will have to wait about a minute for it to filter only 500 ml of water. Also, it requires backwashing with clean water after every use. Not very convenient for hikers.
9. Etekcity Water Filter Straw
Etekcity’s Water Filter Straw, priced at $17, features a complicated combination of sediment filters, ion exchange, and carbon filters to remove bacteria, viruses, chlorine, and heavy metals. It is tested in the German TüV SüD Examination Institute.
The Etekcity filter is only suitable for about 1500 liters and has the slowest flow rate at only 400 ml per minute. This filter clogs up quickly, so you’ll need to backwash it after every use. Not a fan of such a high-maintenance filter.
It cleans well, but I had a hard time screwing it in my water bottle, which I had to use because I damaged the pouch in the backpack. Come to think of it, I’m not really sure why they even include the pouch. See? Complicated.
10. ZeroWater ZP-010 Water Filter Pitcher
Lastly, I have a portable filter pitcher for you that you can pack in your backpack and use to clean your hotel’s tap water.
It is independently certified against NSF/ANSI standards 42 and 53. It’s easy to clean and maintain. But it doesn’t have any way of showing the life of the filter.
The ZeroWater pitcher, priced at $37.99, will clean out dirt, chlorine, lead, total dissolved solids, and PFAS/PFOS from your water, making it taste delicious. However, it’s not designed to remove bacteria, viruses, or harmful cysts, so I don’t recommend it for untreated water. It’s only good for municipal water supply.
After five months of meticulous research, I can safely say that out of dozens of brands, the Survival Pro Pump Filter has the best quality and filtering performance.
It filters dirty water through three top-quality filtration stages: sediment filter, carbon filter, and a 0.01-micron ultrafilter trapping all kinds of nasties in the water. The filter has a huge filtering capacity of 26,000 gallons and is NSF certified.
This pump-style portable filter is easy to set up and maintain.
All of it for only $70 with a lifetime warranty and a 60-day money-back guarantee.
One major downside you should consider before buying this filter is that all your hiking buddies will want to use your awesome filter instead of their shabby ones.
Best Portable Water Filter Methodology
This section will walk you through the research process I followed to identify the best portable filter on the market.
Step 1: A big list of portable filtration systems
As with all my researchers, the first step involved making a list of the most popular portable filters on the market with the highest sales. I scoured the internet, searched online websites like Amazon, Wal-Mart, and Target, and also pinged my outdoorsy friends and family to give me their suggestions. I made sure I included all types of portable filters:
- Straw filters
- Pump filters
- Gravity-fed filters
- Squeeze-bottle filters
- Pitcher filters
By the end of the day, I had a meaty list of 20 portable water filters.
Step 2: Online reviews
After making the list, I started my research by getting to know the brands and their unique features. For this, I read online reviews and the feedback left by users from all over the world on e-commerce websites as well as the brands’ websites.
I took my time understanding people’s concerns about the products, noted what would help me identify the top contenders, and carefully analyzed what was lacking.
Step 3: Product/service analysis
Before I started striking filters from my list, I learned what made a portable filter the best on the market by analyzing the filter technology and understanding what each certification meant.
Here are the questions one should ask while looking for the best filter:
- What’s the pore size of the filter membrane in this filter?
- Is this filter tested and certified against the US EPA or NSF standards?
- Does it remove disease-causing bacteria and viruses?
- Does the filter remove chemicals and heavy metals?
- Would I have to wait an hour for the filter to clean the water?
- Is it easy to use, handle, and maintain?
- Will it sustain damage if I drop it?
Step 4: Interviews with real customers
I decided to hold a one-on-one meeting with customers to get the answers to these questions.
It took a few weeks to find customers who were willing to share their experiences. Luckily, I found a few good people who sent me photos and videos of filters. Some even shared their water test results with me and updated me about their experiences some months later.
Once I finished the interviews, I struck off seven filters from my list.
Step 5: Interviews with the companies
Next, I sent an email asking a few questions about the products to the companies on my list. A few responded quickly and even followed up a few weeks later, while others did not respond satisfactorily.
Now I had 10 filters left on my list.
Step 6: Test drives
The next step was to test the filters myself. For this, I bought all the filters left on the list and borrowed my cousin’s water-testing kit. Then, I gathered my friends on a weekend to set out to find the dirtiest and sketchiest water in the backcountry. We decided to test the filters outside in a camp.
During the tests, I noted the flow rate, ease of use, and the filtered water’s color, taste, and smell.
We took a few pictures and called it a day. It was good fun.
Step 7: Ratings
At this point, I had ample knowledge about each product on my list. It was time to score each filter against the following factors:
- Filter technology
- Filter performance
- Flow rate
- Ease of use
- Warranty and guarantee
The Best Portable Water Filter
The Survivor Pro Pump Filter effortlessly ticks all the boxes that make a portable filter the best on the market.
Here are a few things to love about this filter:
- Features three stages of filtration, including a sediment filter, an ultrafilter, and a carbon filter
- NSF-certified to remove all kinds of disease-causing bacteria and viruses from water
- Lasts about 26,000 gallons
- Easy to maintain and clean
- Lifetime warranty and 60-day money-back guarantee
If you want a portable filter that can clean even the sketchiest of water during your trip to the mountains, get yourself the Survivor Pro Pump Filter today.