Best Portable Water Filter Reviews and Buying Guide 2020


If you are planning a trip into the great outdoors, investing in the best portable water filter is a must. But which one should you use?

Finding the best portable water filter is a requirement if you are a planning to got for a long hiking trip.

Potable water is a basic essential. Experts suggest that we should be drinking a minimum of two liters a day, and more in hot climates or when doing physical activity.

For any outdoor activity, you should keep your body hydrated, even if its cold.

Yes!, your body also dehydrates on cold weather.

However, getting enough water whilst you are out in the wild can be challenging.

Thing to consider are:

  • maintenance complexity.
  • Filters performance and quality.
  • Overall weight and size, and
  • Portability.

Of course, there are many other thing that can be a deal breaker, but they depend on what you need.


Best Portable Water Filters in 2020

Before buying any of the alternatives available in the market, I have shortlisted five (5) best portable water filters in 2020. This is just a solid summary, so I suggest reading the full reviews.

 

Etekcity Water Filter – Best for Day Travel

Etekcity Water Filter - best for day travelRead review
Benefits

  • Broad range of pollutants can be filtered from fresh waters.
  • It is equipped with all required elements for proper usage and maintenance.
  • Filtration system is rated for 400 gallons, which is very good.
  • Protecting cap to avoid cross contamination.

Limitations

  • It could be frustrating to have a good amount of water without sucking for long time.
  • Included elements (foldable bag and syringe) quality may not be as expected.
  • Pre-filter will get clogged easily if the water has a lot of sediments.

Etekcity water filter is one of those little outdoors devices that fits easily in any backpack.

It is not common to see a portable filter to have three (3) filtration stages.

This one does. It will come with a pre-filter, followed by activated carbon, finishing with a micro fiber.

This is great because it will ensure a wider range of contaminants being removed from fresh water lakes and streams.

Nonetheless, this could be also a bit of a bummer as mentioned in the limitations.

As such, this portable water filter is great for a day trip rather than an extended trekking.

 

Katadyn Hiker Pro – Best for Trekking

Katadyn Hiker Pro - EasyFill™ bottle adapterRead review
Benefits

  • Easy to maintain and operate.
  • It was designed with the user in mind, meaning it can be deployed easy in any surface water body.
  • Flow rate is very high, which will allow you to fill up a few bottle to carry for the cooking time.
  • Filter is made of the best materials possible for this type of system.

Limitations

  • Inlet fitting could be fragile, so you will need to be careful how you place it inside the backpack.
  • Not suitable for very fresh water with high concentration of sediments.
  • Silicon hose can built up biofilms overtime, so it should be replaced.

Katadyn is one of the top brands in filters for 2020, manufacturing the best for outdoors adventures.

Katadyn Hiker Pro is one of their products. It was designed with a three (3) stage filtration system capable of treating approx 300 gallons of water, if required.

I would say, this outdoor water filter is great for any trekking expedition. Compact enough, lightweight for its class, great flow rate.

In other words, it performs really well if you require a large water volume for cooking in remote areas.

The quality of the materials could be another story. To make it lightweight, 90% of the product is made of plastic, meaning some of its elements may be fragile.

Don’t worry, it is BPA free.

Lastly, what I love most is the included adapter, which suits most water bottles.

If you haven’t already, I strongly suggest you read our review about this water filtration system product.

 

Sawyer Mini – Best for Emergencies

Squeeze pouch and syringe and filter kit for Sawyer Mini Read review
Benefits

  • Very versitile when it comes to carry in any short adventure.
  • It can filter approx 100,000 gallons of fresh water.
  • Its filter is easy to purge after every single use.
Limitations

  • You will have to do an extra effort when sucking through it.
  • Only usefull in freash water with very low sediment concentration (almost crystalline).
  • Loosing the syringe could complicate purging the system (backwash).

The Sawer Mini water filter is another well known product among hikers.

It may look small as its name states, but it is nothing about that when it comes to filtration requirements.

The main reason of its popularity is the size. You can just put it in your pants pocket if necesarry.

Similar to the Etekcity model, this mini portable water filter comes with all the gatgets to fill up a foldable bag and to safly purge the filter itself.

Obviously, it comes with some flaws. The main one I have to flag is the lack of adjuncts to facilitate reaching the water source.

You will have to get your face very close to suck some water.

Lasty, I know the Sawyer Mini was built with a fine hollow micro fiber, which can remove a lot of common contaminats. Nonetheless, I’m not 100% convinced on its effectivity.

 

Survivor Filter Pro – Best for Survival

Survivor Filter Pro Review portable water filterRead review
Benefits

  • Will filter a ridiculus amount of fresh water before requiring to replace any stage.
  • Easy to manipulate with a long silicone hose to access most streams.
  • Very lightweight for the actual size.
Limitations

  • You will ahve to have enough room in you backpack to bring it over.
  • Handle is not sturdy so it may break if not gentle when pumping.

The Survivor Filter Pro is another strong competitor when it comes to handpump outdoor filtration systems.

As its name suggest, it could be the best portable water filter for survival.

What makes it interesting is the independet filter configuration that allows the user to replace them individually as they get useless.

This means you don’t have to expend on a complete set of filters and also it is less waste to dispose off.

Not only that impresses but also the huge volume of water that can be treated before replacing any of the filters.

Its operation is also simple. Nevertheless, doing the backwash to clean the filters may not be straightforward.

Of course, we have cover this in the full review.

The quality of the material and connections may be a deal breaker. It body was made of BPA plastic, which will be fragile.

Regardsless of the benefits and limitation, I’m sure the Survivor Pro will help you out when most needed.

 

Lifestraw Go – Best for Camping

Lifestraw Go 2 Stage Portable Water Filter reviewRead review
Benefits

  • 25 oz of water available anytime while you are camping.
  • Two stage filtration process to remove most contaminants.
  • Many colors available to suit any person’s ego.
  • Bottle itself is very sturdy.
Limitations

  • It is not simple to backwahs the filters.
  • The suction point may hold bacteria growth overtime if not maintain properly.
  • Straw cannot be detached from the lid.
  • Filter’s lifespam is short compared to other portable water filters.

The Lifestraw Go water filter bottle is the last, but not least, portable device to consider in 2020.

I know it may not be the most special one at first sight but its performace is great.

All this lands on the filter distribution where activated carbon and hollow micro fiber is involved.

What I like most about this system is its versatility. You can either use the straw with or without the bottle.

Clearly the bottle is great if you want to carry water everywhere.

However, due to its design, the filtration process is better when is fully sumerged.

Another factor that will stop you from buying the Lifestaw Go is that the lid is attached to the straw itself.

It is a bummer not being able to detached the straw but these guys have a guide range of filtration systems available, if you are a fan of them.


Buying Guide 2020: Getting the Right Portable Water Filter

The type of portable water filter that you choose will depend on:

  • The outdoor activity you want to do.
  • Your budget.
  • How many people are going to benefits from it and,
  • The contaminants you could be facing.

There is a lot of alternatives to choose from but the performance can be a peeving point.

Here are some of the portable water filtration system configuration.

 

Straw Configuration

Offering water on-demand service, a straw filter is definitely one of the simplest and more compact options.Typical straw filter design

Shaped like a traditional straw, this type usually features tightly woven fiber membranes inside.

It can remove waterborne bacteria and nasty organisms such as giardia commonly found on untreated surfaced water.

A straw water filter can have a few limitation, as with this configuration, you will not be able to fill a bottle to take with you (unless you use the Go model).

Although, if you are likely to be come into contact with multiple water sources during your trip, then the lightweight nature of this device can be very convenient.

Pump Mechanism

To get clean water, you will need to pump it yourself as water is pulled from the water source through the filter. Handpump portable water filtration system mechanism

This can be a bit of a chore, so this may not be the right choice for a larger group.

The more the filter is used, the more difficult the pumping action becomes as the pores get clogged.

Furthermore, pump type outdoor water filters are often slightly larger than other types.

Usually they are still small enough to fit in your pack, with different sizes available.

Bottle Design

Filtering the water as you drink it, the filter is built into the water bottle to provide a quick and easy system.Water filter bottle configuration

Often more affordable than larger setups, and more convenient than a straw option, these are a great choice for backpackers and camping activities.

The filter is often removable, so you can easily use the bottle like a normal drinking vessel when filtering is not necessary.

However, it should be noted that the abilities of this type of filter to get rid of all the bacteria can be limited, particularly when compared with handpump or gravity alternatives.

Gravity fed portable water filter

Utilizing one of the basic laws of the universe, gravity does the hard work in this set-up.

Despite of its clever design, finding the right spot to hang the system can be a challenge.

Outdoors gravity water filter

The ability to filter large volumes of water while doing other activities, makes a gravity fed outdoor water filter one of the best options when camping with a group.

With UV Filtration

Purifying the water rather than filtering it, a UV filter utilizes ultraviolet lights (similar to the ones featured in reverse osmosis water filtration systems) to remove harmful bacteria and viruses from the water source.

Whilst this quick and easy treatment can get rid of a significant amount of microorganisms and pathogens, a pre-filter may also be required to remove sediment and debris.

I know this can be a time-consuming process, and a UV filter is not likely to be able to treat large quantities of water, nonetheless, it is never a bad idea an extra treatment step.


Considerations When Choosing a Portable Water Filter?

The Bottle

One of the key points to consider is the type of bottle or vessel that comes with the portable water filter, with key points including:

Material

Usually either plastic or glass, the material of your bottle will depend on several factors.

Plastic is the most common, as it is lightweight and not easily breakable, but glass is preferred by many due to its hygiene characteristics (less chance of bio-films building-up).

Design

If you are using a pump or gravity type outdoor water filter, you may wish to check the compatibility with your water bottle.

It is also important to consider how easy the filtration system is to set up, and whether the design will allow you to pump from shallow water sources.

Size

If you are looking to filter water for a group of campers, you are more likely to need a larger capacity than if you are trekking alone.

However, if you are just going to need water for yourself, taking a large set up would only add unnecessary weight and take up valuable pack size.

The portable water filter performance and quality

The filter refers to the internal element of your system, which features microscopic pores that have been designed to catch debris, protozoa and bacteria.

Some filters also contain active carbon which can improve the smell and the taste as well as absorbing chemicals.

Other points to consider regarding the filter include:

Pollutants removed

Check out the micron size and material, and what common contaminants the filter of your choosing is able to remove.

Filters containing KDF-85 and fine membranes can be very effective removing micro-organisms.

Flow Rate

If you are just filtering water for yourself, a low flow rate will not make much of a difference.

However, when it comes to filtering large capacities to produce potable water for a group, you will need a higher flow rate or it can take a significant amount of time.

If your flow rate slows down over time, this is usually a good indication that your filter needs to be replaced.

Characteristics

Outdoors filters can be made from a range of materials, including fiber, glass, and plastic amongs others.

Glass is a typical choice, but you may prefer a tough plastic if there is a potential risk of damage.

Life Span

Some of the outdoor water filters reviewed have removable components. It is recommended that you change them regularly for the best results.

Others, such as the straw filter, are not replaceable, which is reflected in the price.

Check what the manufacturer indications are regarding the lifespan of the filters. 

Filter or Purifier?

The vast majority of portable water filters are able to remove bacteria, to around 0.1 – 0.3 microns, but only purifiers, such as the UV option, can destroy 99.9% of all viruses.

Depending on your country, most day hikers and backpackers will only require a water filter but if you are traveling abroad, a purifier may be essential.

Do some research before your trip and check to see if the area is known as a high risk for non-common contaminants.

Do I need a pre-filter?

Some consider a pre-filter to be a valuable necessity, as it works to remove sediment and debris from the water first.

Whether you need a pre-filter or not will depend on the area that you are likely to be in, but using one can also extend the life span of the system.

Alternately, if you are shopping for a filter with detachable filtration components, regularly using a pre-filter will mean that you will not need to change it as regularly.

Some of the top brand systems already have this feature built into the device.


Anything else to Consider?

Maintenance

Ease of use and simple maintenance is also important. Check to see whether you will need to clean your set-up in the field and whether you are able to backwash for ease of cleaning.

To ensure longevity, always start with the cleanest water that you can find, regularly disinfect your portable water filter, and ensure that you read the manufacturer’s care instructions thoroughly.

Value for Money

Whilst usually price equals quality, with water filters it is possible to get excellent functioning setups at a low price.

It all depends on the environment that you plan to be in, and how many people will be in the group, in comparison with the overall cost.

To get the best possible deal, research your choice online, check out users reviews and most importantly, ensure you understand the capabilities of the outdoor water filter and what you are looking for to remove from the water.

Brand Reputation

The top branded water systems are made by some of the world’s most well-known outdoor companies, and shopping with brand reputation in mind can provide you with that extra peace of mind.

Whilst a cheaper unknown brand may be just as effective, it may just not be worth the risk. Do your research and always look at reviews online to see what experiences other users have had.

Weight and Portability

If you are keeping your pack light, the weight and portability of your new water filter can be very important.

Whether you are trekking through the great outdoors or planning a camping trip with your kids, if you are carrying a lot for a long distance, it is important to choose a lightweight device that will not take up too much space.

Warranty

The warranty and customer service are also important. Manufacturers commonly offer an extended warranty over the main components. This is because their durability is great.


Portable Water Filter Bottom Line

Treating fresh water from the source to ensure that it’s safe for you to drink, an outdoor water filter is a handy thing to have when camping, backpacking or overnight hiking.

Even clean looking water can house harmful bacteria, and a filter is a great way to ensure that you are able to stay hydrated, wherever you are.

Choosing the right portable water filter for travel does not need to be difficult; just consider the environment you are going to be in the most, the number of people, and the types of water sources that you are likely to come into contact with.


Portable Water Filter Reviews Summary Table

NameSawyer Mini
Sawyer Mini Water Filter Review ACW
Katadyn Pocket
Katadyn Pocket Water Filter Review ACW
Lifestraw Go
Lifestraw water bottle
Etekcity
Etekcity Water Filter review
Review & GuideRead reviewRead reviewRead reviewRead Etekcity water filter Review
Main FeaturesFilter lifespan is up to 100,000 gallons.It has a hand mechanism to pump and filter the water.You can fill up the bottle and drink the water anytime you go.- It is a three (3) stage filter system.
Pollutants RemovedBacteria, parasites, dissolved particles (limited) and some other micro-organisms.Small particles, micro-organisms, bacteria and parasites.

Does not remove heavy metals.
Most VOCs, chlorine, sediments (at some degree), bacteria, some inorganic compounds and micro-organisms.Mainly bacteria, some heavy metals, chlorine and some organic compounds.
Flow rate- 0.3 lpm.1.0 lpm.1.2 lpm.- 1.0 lpm.
Size/design- Super compact.
- H: 8'; L: 4'.
- Overall weight: 56 g.
- Small.
- W: 2'; L: 9'.
- Overall weight: 538 g (19 oz).
- Medium small.
- W: 3.14'; L: 9.25'.
- Overall weight: 222 g (0.49 oz).
- Small.
- W: 5'; L: 7'.
- Overall weight: 59 g.
Filters made ofOne (1) stage 0.1 hollowed fibers.One stage silver ceramic infused filter.Two (2) stage activated carbon and hollowed filter.- Cotton pads (pre-filter), activated carbon and hollow 0.01 micron fiber UF membrane.
Filters LifeLast years considering the ability to clean-up the filter.Years based on the filtered volume.The minimum is 25 gallons, which is for the activated carbon filter.400 gallons.
Water sourceMost clear surface water sources.Any surface water body and municipal sources.Not muddy water sources.Municipal and surface water bodies.
WarrantyLifetime warranty.20 years.1 year.2 year.
CertifiedEPA regulation compliant.Not found.US EPA compliant and NFS/ANSI standard 42.Complies with FDA Food by 21 CFR 180.22.