The Best Portable Water Filters

Portable water filters have improved in recent years — manufacturers are now producing units that filter contaminants the size of nanometers (a billionth of a meter).

The best portable water filters available today are:

Another reliable method of killing all pathogens in water is using chlorine dioxide tablets, such as Katadyn Micropur Purification Tablets.

The Details

Portable filters are designed primarily to remove pathogens from outdoor water. Some units also include carbon filters to reduce VOCs and toxic metals in the water.

These are the three type of pathogens you want to remove from wilderness water:

Protozoan Cysts (Cryptosporidium parvum, Giardia lamblia)

Size: 1 – 20 microns

Type of filtration needed to remove: Micro-filtration, ozonation or reverse osmosis, UV (ultraviolet light)

Bacteria (E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter jejuni, Yersinia entercolitica, Leptospira interrogans, etc.)

Size: 0.1 – 10 microns

Type of filtration needed to remove: Micro-filtration needed, ozonation or reverse osmosis, UV (ultraviolet light)

Viruses (hepatitis A, rotavirus, enterovirus, norovirus, Norwalk virus)

Size: 0.025 – 0.1 microns (25 nanometers to 100 nanometers)

Type of filtration needed to remove: Ultra-filtration needed – ozonation or reverse osmosis, UV (ultraviolet light)

Notes On Pathogens

  • Pesticides, herbicides and other toxins and pollutants associated with agriculture and urban development do not normally impact water sources found deep in wilderness areas
  • Viruses are rarely encountered in North American wilderness waters
  • Bacteria (including beneficial bacteria) is naturally present in surface water
  • Protozoan cysts and viruses are found in water contaminated by animal or human waste (principally feces)

The Best Portable Water Filter: Katadyn Pocket Water Microfilter

The Katadyn is a dependable filter which has been used by back country hikers for many years. The filtration member is rated at 0.2 microns.  The silver-impregnated ceramic element is effective against bacteria and protozoa, and it will filter 50,000 liters (13,000 gallons) before a replacement is needed.

The Katadyn Pocket Water Microfilter is available from Amazon for about $340.

Another Alternative: Sawyer Products Complete 4-Liter Filtration System

The Sawyer Filtration System is an excellent kit, that filters down to 0.02 microns, using a hollow fiber membrane. That’s almost on par with the Lifesaver, with it’s 0.015 micron filtration. Thus, the Sawyer can filter out most pathogen, including viruses.

What’s great about this system is that it almost never needs a replacement filter. The manufacturer has a guarantee that it will filter one million gallons before replacement. However, long-time users report the water reservoir bags need replacing after a couple of years.

The Sawyer System is gravity-fed, and allows you to purify 4 liters of water in about 10 minutes.

The Sawyer Products Complete 4-Liter Filtration System is available from Amazon for about $180.

Chlorine Dioxide Tablets

Chlorine dioxide tablets are a good choice for water purification. They will destroy all pathogen in water. Also, they leave no taste in the water (unlike iodine tablets). Like all water treatment tablets, these take 15 minutes to destroy viruses and bacteria, 30 minutes to destroy Giardia, and 4 hours to destroy Cryptosporidium.

I recommend the Katadyn Micropur MP1 Purification Tablets. This is only tablets registered with the EPA.

Boiling Water

You can boil water for one minute to destroy all pathogens. It is a foolproof treatment method. Only one minute of boiling is required. The most heat-resistant pathogen out there is the virus hepatitis A. Even hepatitis is believed to die in less than one minute in water heated to 98°C/208°F. It is because of hepatitis A (or maybe just tradition) that some health organizations and wilderness rangers persist in recommending at least 1 minute of boiling time to purify water, and 3 minutes at higher elevations.

19 thoughts on “The Best Portable Water Filters”

  1. Very helpful, thank you. We use Waterdrop for years, and very cost-effective with good value. Use advanced activated carbon for high-efficiency filtration and maximum removal of impurities.Easy to carry out, also can meet the daily requirements:)

  2. Thanks for the post!

    For emergencies or camping, the Lifestraw is a good option. It’s basically a super lightweight water filter that’s lightweight and affordable. They also donate one for each one purchased!

  3. People need to start educating themselves on Nanofiber Filtration Technology if they want the best filter at removing the most contaminants. It is NOT a mechanical micron filter that relies on pore size, it is an electropositive adsorption filter that creates and electrical charge when water makes contact with the filter media, no power source needed.

    Reduces virus at 99.9999% reduction at flow rates 300 times faster than that of a mechanical (micron) filter, EPA certified Lab Tested, IAPMO Certified to NSF standards. Available at Water Pure Technologies, and they are Space Technology Certified, which ensures the end user they are the actual media being used by NASA on the ISS.

  4. I would like to try your new product Nano Electropositive Water Filters. I am a Hunter Education instructor and I am very interested in recommending your product in my classes for the survival portion. I would like to try it during my back country hunts.

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  6. Personally I’m somehow skeptic about water filters in general. I trust them to remove impurities and make the water clean but definitely not safe. That’s why I would rather always boil my water after filtering. What do you think about this Justin?

  7. Hello would you be wiiling to test, and do a review on our Nano Electropsitive Water Filters? Our filters were co-developed by NASA for use on the International Space Station. These Nano filters are the only ones I’m aware of that can filter viruses at fast flow rates. Up to 300 times faster than that of a mechanical filter that is capable of removing viruses.

    When water makes contact with our filter it turns into a positive, electrically charged field, and it pulls negative charged bacteria, viruse, crypto, giardi heavy metals, RNA, DNA, hormones, drugs, and many more contaminants in like a magnet. The contaminants are then trapped into multiple layers of nano material. These Nano filters deliver water up to 300 times faster and last up to 25 times longer, than that of a mechanical filte which relys on pore size to contain contaminants. Our filters are also impregnated with carbon, and silver as well as being wrapped with an outer pre- filter so they can be rinsed off and reused for longer lasting life.

    I would be willing to send you a sample for testing.

    The filters have been tested by an EPA certified Lab and NASA uses them on all manned space flights.

    You can contact me at:

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  9. Save your money and improve your safety by purchasing the most excellent Sawyer Mini water filter. I bought mine in Canada for $27, and I see them listed on for $20.21 with FREE shipping. It catches smaller baddies than the ones listed above for wayyyyy less money and the damn thing is guaranteed to filter 100.000 Gallons of water so with my usage, that equates to my lifetime of hiking and biking.

  10. Just wondering if you were going to add to the lifesaver review , not to be it as there is a product warning for them
    All stock is quarantined and the company is in liquidation

  11. I just saw a YouTube video where they said not to take these, because it creates melamine in the body, which is that toxic poison that’s been found in China products. I’m confused now…is this stuff safe or not? The video said it caused liver failure, I think it was.

    1. You lying troll bullshit name jamie, I’ve heard you on other sites with other products saying the same thing. You are probably a computer generated spyopp for the alphabet drone agencies. If not you sound like one. Sodium Chloride has been used in hospitals and water supplies all over the world for more then 70 years. It is one hundred percent affective on ALL pathogens, and also picks up heavy metals in the body and eliminates them safely. No side affects at all. This is all easy research you computer generated head dick.

    2. Wow- Jim you make a good point. And ignore poor manners of people who don’t even know the difference between sodium chloride and chlorine dioxide. Here’s what the New Jersey Dept of Health has to say about adverse health from chlorine dioxide: and go here for our ATSDR report:
      These are not for routine use and I wouldn’t ever put a toxic substance in my body unless it were a real emergency and I’d run out of all other options for killing microbes. Honestly don’t think it should be used in the same sentence as “water purification.” Cheers!!

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