What’s The Best Portable Water Filter?

Introduction – Finding the Best Portable Water Filter

Campers and hikers looking to get off the beaten path face a number of problems. One of the most pressing is ensuring access to a dependable source of fresh drinking water. Often it has been necessary to boil water from lakes and streams to create safe drinking water, however recent advances in technology have created a number of affordable and lightweight devices to filter water from just about any source. We’ve had a look for the best portable water filter that you can pack in your bag to ensure you never get stuck with out water!

How They Work

Early water filters used Iodine to treat water. While this can be a very effective way to kill Bacteria, Viruses and Protozoa, it does have some negatives. Iodine does not remove sediment from water. It is also not recommended to use iodine for prolonged periods, and those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or have a thyroid issues should stay away from iodine. Iodine also can leave an after taste that many people find unpleasant.

Most of the best portable water filter’s work by using  micro-filtration. That means they have a very fine membrane with very very fine holes in, typically 2 micros across (there are 1000 micros in a mm). This in effect sieves out any bacteria, protozoa, dirt or silt. Micro-filtration’s main drawback is that it doesn’t remove viruses. It is recommended to use micro-filtration in conjunction with another method to sterilise water if you are travelling in an area known to have viruses.

UV Walter Filer diagramUV filtration is another new technology which aims to make safe, dirty drinking water. UZ filtration uses UV rays to break down contaminants at in their core (DNA). It has some major advantages in that, if used correctly, can effectively treat bacteria, protozoa and viruses. Uv filtration can’t be relied upon 100% of the time.  For UV filtration to work the UV rays need to hit the microorganisms head on. This means that it might not be the best portable water filter method if the water is particular cloudy. Also many portable systems reply on solar energy from the sun, which is no use if you need to purify water at sundown, or on a very overcast day.

The Best Portable Water Filter’s Out There:

Best Portable Water Filter Life Straw

The life straw is our favourite portable water filter, and what we took when we went hiking in Nepal. It uses micro filtration to effectively remove sediment and microorganisms from water.


  • Small and Very light weight (approx. 50 grams or 2 oz) – Easy to Carry
  • Any natural source of water can be instantly filtered
  • Lasts a long time will treat 1000 litres of water – if used every day it would last over a year
  • Automatically stops the flow of water when filter needs replacing – You won’t accidentally drink contaminated water
  • Will allow you to get completely off the beaten track as no outside power source required
  • Micro Filtration means there’s no nasty after taste
  • Company has a strong ethical foundation. Profits reinvested into providing clean drinking water to the third world.


  • Will need to be protected if taken to cold climates as freezing temperatures will damage the filter.
  • Won’t filter out Viruses

Over all we found the lightweight design made this a very convenient portable water filter. It’s cheap and we really liked that the profits go to help schools in India and Kenya with clean drinking water.


best portable wster filter CamelBak UV

This is our pick of the UV filters. Its obvious advantage is that you can take water with you if you’re on an outing, rather than having to drink directly from the source. Water purification is quick, it takes just 60 seconds and it also takes care of viruses. It does have a battery which claims to last 80 cycles, although in real world tests we found the batter life meter came on after about 40 cycles. It is rechargeable with a USB power bank though.


  • Takes care of 99.999% of microorganisms including viruses.
  • USB rechargeable
  • Water treated confirmation displayed on bottle
  • UV process means there’s no nasty taste


  • Due to UV process won’t work in cloudy water
  • Requires charging every 24-48 litres of purified water
  • Won’t filter sediment or heavy metals from water

3. Sawyer Two Liter Gravity Water Filtration System

best portable water filter gravity

This is our pick for the best portable water filter if you’re  spending any amount of time in one place. It’s simple design means you can hook the two bags off tree branches, leaving gravity to do the hard work. The water flows between two bags through a membrane that removes most microorganisms. Two liter’s of water takes under two minutes to filter.


  • Powered by gravity alone meaning there’s no need to recharge
  • Micro Filtration means there’s no nasty after taste
  • Water reservoir means you’ll always have a ready source of water
  • Available in 4 liter capacity for large groups
  • The 0.1 micron membrane removes silt and dirt
  • User cleanable filter meaning no need to spend extra money on maintenance.


  • Relatively expensive compared to Life Straw
  • Not guaranteed to remove viruses
  • Design means it’s not practical for day trips

4. MSR Guardian Filter

Guardian best portable water filter

This water filter is not going to win any prizes for being light weight however it makes up for it in reliability. It uses the latest technology to nano-filter water through hollow fiber’s which trap 99.9999% of all microorganisms including viruses. These fibers are highly resilient and can be frozen or knocked and still work perfectly. This makes for a very sturdy device that can survive all but the toughest conditions. If you’re travelling with children, or need to be 100% confident in your fresh water then this gets our pick.


  • Incredibly hardy design means it’s ultra reliable
  • Uses nano filtration to remove viruses while not adding any nasty taste to the water
  • Hand pump means there’s no need to rely on batteries of any kind
  • Self cleaning so you’ll never need to clean the filter yourself
  • Quick filtration, filtering up to 3 liters a minute


  • Certainly not the cheapest option
  • Relatively bulky and heavy, weighing approx 1 kg


While portable water filter’s are becoming an ever increasing essential, finding the best portable water filter will depend what your needs are. With many different technologies available there’s a plethora of options to the wilderness camper.

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One thought on “What’s The Best Portable Water Filter?

  1. I must say, finding clean water is a challenge to every hiker and camper. These filters look great, thanks for pointing them out.

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