The Best Portable Water Filters For Backpacking & Survival In 2022

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Your portable water filter is designed to give you clean, bacteria-free drinkable water in the middle of nowhere. Having drinking water is a must, and these portable filter systems serve for remote camping, backpacking, and backcountry activity.

These systems also purify water from streams and rivers in emergencies, for example, during a natural disaster. We’ve broken down everything you need to know about portable water filters. Here are the best available.

The best portable water filters

Editor’s pick: RapidPure 9L Gravity Filter System

rapidpure 9l gravity filter system

  • Replaceable filter cartridge
  • Gravity system filters up to 9L at a time
  • 99.99% protection against viruses, bacteria, parasites


  • Lightweight and packable
  • Requires minimal effort
  • Replaceable cartridge


  • If the bag is punctured, the system will not work as well
  • If there is nowhere to hang the bag, you must hold it

Topping our list today is the RapidPure 9L Gravity Filter System, one of the best water filters available and an excellent companion for hiking, camping, or backpacking. Gravity filters are simple to use and require less work than pump filters. To use, set it up, fill the bag and let gravity do the work. I took this to Mount Hood National Forest on a backpacking trip and was impressed with the 9L capacity.

Many filters remove heavy metals, bacteria, and protozoa, but few systems remove viruses too. This system offers it all.

Another feature I love is the replaceable filter cartridge. Each cartridge is good for 200 gallons of water. Replacement filters are easy to pick up.

See RapidPure 9L Gravity Filter System on Amazon

See RapidPure 9L Gravity Filter System on RapidPure

Best straw filter: LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

lifestraw personal water filter

  • Filters to 0.2 microns, exceeding EPA filter standards
  • Perfect alternative to chemical water treatment techniques
  • 1,000L water filtering capacity
  • Destroys 99.99% of all waterborne bacteria and 99.9% of all pathogens


  • Lightweight and convenient
  • Extremely inexpensive
  • Small, ideal for an emergency kit


  • If you don’t bring a container for grabbing water, it’s a little awkward to use
  • Requires a lot of suction to get water flowing; jaw aches after prolonged use

The legend that started it all: the LifeStraw. The LifeStraw Personal Water Filter is very affordable and can be stored on your shelf indefinitely. There’s no expiration date and it is more lightweight than most portable filters. However, it doesn’t have a huge filter capacity.

We love this product, but using this will hurt your jaw after a while if you’re trying to get a big drink from a river or stream. We recommend bringing a pitcher to scoop water from the river. Then filter what you need and dump the rest back in.

The membrane microfilter strips 99.999% of bacteria from the water. The Lifestraw is great to have in your pack, but it isn’t ideal for filling water bottles like pump or gravity water filters do. However, for a quick drink, this is the king of portable water filter systems.

See LifeStraw Personal Water Filter on Amazon

See LifeStraw Personal Water Filter on Walmart

Budget-friendly: Sawyer Products MINI Portable Water Filter System

sawyer products mini portable water filter system

  • Removes 99.99% of all bacteria and protozoa
  • Removes 100% of microplastics
  • Device can be re-used and has recyclable parts
  • Comes with a straw to drink directly from the water source
  • Undergone a rigorous independent testing


  • Palm-sized, lightweight, and easy to pack
  • Attaches easily to water bottle brands you already have
  • Competitive price


  • Cleaning this in the field is difficult
  • Backflushing syringe is flimsy

Next, we hop into something a bit more practical than single-use. Hand pump portable water filters can filter gallons of water at a time. Both cost-friendly and lightweight, this filter fits in the palm of your hand and easily attaches to just about any plastic or wide-mouth water bottle. It comes with a 16oz drinking pouch and straw.

However, when it comes to backflushing, the syringe is quite fragile and has been known to break. If you’re heading out into the wilderness, this filter is difficult to disassemble and clean, so you’re better off servicing this at home once you get back.

You get to filter 100,000 gallons of water through its lifetime, removing 99.999% of waterborne illnesses and bacteria. Overall, one of the best portable water filters around.

See Sawyer Products MINI Portable Water Filter System on Amazon

See Sawyer Products MINI Portable Water Filter System on REI

See Sawyer Products MINI Portable Water Filter System on Walmart

Best pump filter: Katadyn Vario Dual Tech MicroFilter

katadyn vario dual tech microfilter

  • High-performance glass fiber filter
  • Replaceable Katadyn carbon core and cleanable ceramic disc
  • Offers two modes of water delivery
  • Dual piston technology for maximum water output with minimal effort
  • Activated charcoal for extracting and removing odors


  • Filters one gallon of water every two minutes
  • Ceramic pre-filter lets you use this again and again between cleanings
  • Folds up simple and small for easy packing


  • Pump is prone to air-locking, which requires intervening to correct
  • Takes time to clean after a trip

Thanks to a ceramic pre-filter, you can pump without cleaning this between cycles (though it is recommended). Also good for emergencies, this system uses a ceramic filter and carbon filtration combo to remove harmful bacteria, heavy metals, and chemicals from contaminated water. The dual piston system makes it easy to use and the replaceable filters and washable ceramic filter make the cleaning and filtration process as easy as can be.

It has an impressive flow rate but is prone to air-locking. You can pump up to a gallon every two minutes. Thanks to the O-ring, you’ll be able to see the filtered bacteria, so you know what to clean when the time comes. Cleaning can be slow, so we advise you to do this back at home.

See Katadyn Vario Dual Tech MicroFilter on Amazon

See Katadyn Vario Dual Tech MicroFilter on Walmart

See Katadyn Vario Dual Tech MicroFilter on Cabela’s

Lifestraw dupe: Etekcity Portable Water Filter Straw

etekcity portable water filter straw

  • FDA-compliant foldable water bag capable of holding 480ml of water
  • Filters 99. 99% of waterborne rubbish
  • 70cm extension tube for easy connection
  • Tested by the German TUEV SueD Examination Institute
  • Meets all EPA Water quality standards and is FDA compliant


  • Competitive pricing with the LifeStraw
  • Includes a viable fold-up water pouch
  • Compact and lightweight, easy to bring anywhere


  • Requires a lot of suction to get water out
  • Carrying case is essentially useless

The Etekcity Portable Water Filter Straw comes with a fold-up water pouch for collecting additional water from the stream before you head up the trail or back to camp. All Etekcity straw filters have three filters inside. First, you have a filter screen to pre-filter and remove large particles. Then, the interior activated carbon filter removes heavy metals, chlorine, odors, and other chemicals. Lastly, a hollow fiber UF Inline membrane removes 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria, completing a thorough filtration process.

The Etekcity water purifier features a filter capacity of 1,500L through its three-stage filtration system, but that’s going to take some time. It requires a lot of suction to use and can be exhausting if you’re parched. That said, for this low price, there are bound to be some downsides. It’s still one of the best portable water filters in this price range.

See Etekcity Portable Water Filter Straw on Amazon

See Etekcity Portable Water Filter Straw on Walmart

Best water bottle filter: LifeStraw Go Portable Water Filter Bottle

lifestraw go portable water filter bottle

  • BPA-free plastic bottle
  • Two-stage water filtration
  • Removes 99.999% of waterborne bacteria and protozoan parasites


  • Removes most contaminates
  • Cost-effective water filter bottle
  • The convenient lanyard allows you to hook this from your backpack


  • Because of the position of the filter, tipping it can cause leaking
  • Because of the membrane filter, water may taste off

The LifeStraw Go Portable Water Filter Bottle comes with a filter capacity of 4,000L, making it ideal for camping as well as home use. Since this is a unique membrane filter, it will have a bit of a taste to it, even after you’ve used it a few times. Still, according to most reviewers, water tastes great.

Filter bottles are perhaps the easiest water purification method to introduce into your day-to-day life. As always, this water bottle is BPA-free and rated to remove 99.999% of bacteria. The center membrane bottle filters are a bit heavy, so don’t be surprised if it adds a bit of weight to your pack. The attached lanyard is simple to hook onto your pack.

See LifeStraw Go Portable Water Filter Bottle on Amazon

See LifeStraw Go Portable Water Filter Bottle on Walmart

See LifeStraw Go Portable Water Filter Bottle on Bass Pro

Small but mighty: Sawyer Products PointOne Squeeze Filter System

sawyer products pointone squeeze filter system

  • Removes 99.99 of all bacteria and protozoa
  • Can be used with the pouch or water bottles
  • Comes with a 64oz portable pouch
  • Lifetime warranty straight from the manufacturer


  • Versatile, can also be used for cooking
  • Takes about twenty seconds to fill up a bottle of water
  • Only weighs three ounces; folds up nicely in a backpack


  • Gaskets have a short life, bring a spare
  • Included pouches have a short lifespan

Want to filter small amounts of drinking water, but also have a filtration system to use for cooking on your camping stove? Sawyer’s got the answer. The main issue folks have with LifeStraw and other straw water filters is the inability to filter water for cooking (unless you filter and spit into the pot, which nobody wants to do). Sawyer’s simple system is applicable when drinking water sources from other countries or hiking/camping anywhere in the world. Fill the pouch and squeeze through the filter, that’s it.

It only takes about twenty seconds to fill up a standard bottle of water, so you’re not stuck crouching at the stream all day. On top of that, it rolls up very small and weighs next to nothing. Our main issues are with the short lifespan of the pouches. When cleaning, keep an eye on the gasket, as they have a short life expectancy.

See Sawyer Products PointOne Squeeze Filter System on Amazon

See Sawyer Products PointOne Squeeze Filter System on REI

See Sawyer Products PointOne Squeeze Filter System on Walmart

Perfect for your emergency preparedness kit: Survivor Filter Pro

  • Filters up to 100,000Lsurvivor filter pro
  • Triple filtration system
  • Removes 99.999% of bacteria and waterborne illnesses
  • Triple filtration system to 0.01 microns
  • Independent USA-lab tested


  • Filters well, plus improves water flavor
  • Lifetime warranty backed by the manufacturer; this is built to last
  • Don’t be fooled by the intricacy; this is way easier to clean than it looks


  • Lengthy process to pump your water
  • You have to monitor hose bending to keep flow sustainable while in use

Survivor Filter Pro gets a little more involved. This three-stage filtration system is backed by a lifetime warranty straight from the manufacturer and has been rated as one of the best emergency water filter systems. You’re rated to filter up to 100,000L in this system’s lifetime, but that process does take some time. On average, under the right conditions, you can filter 17oz of water per minute, but if your hoses are slightly bent or you don’t have someone to assist you, that flow rate is cut in half.

It comes with a 0.01% micron rating, which is the culprit for the lengthy pump time but ensures you’re getting everything out of the water. Despite how it looks, this system is easier to clean than we thought, but it’s recommended to do that indoors so you don’t lose parts. The price tag is a bit steeper than most, but it gets the job done and gives you peace of mind when you’re out in the middle of nowhere.

See Survivor Filter Pro on Amazon

See Survivor Filter Pro on Walmart

See Survivor Filter Pro on Survivor Filter

Best for groups: MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter System

msr miniworks ex microfilter system

  • Removes 99.999% of bacteria and protozoa
  • Replaceable carbon and ceramic filter
  • Manufacturer’s lifetime warranty included
  • Cartridge life of 2,000L before needing to be replaced


  • Pumps one liter of water per minute, ideal for group trip fill-ups
  • Only weighs one pound
  • A sturdy, well-designed water filter will last you a lifetime


  • Builds up pressure in the chamber, slowing water flow; monitor this when using
  • Filters need to be cleaned frequently

The MiniWorks EX Microfilter System is designed for high-volume, high-capacity water cleaning. You can clean one liter of water per minute, making this ideal for group hiking and camping trips. At one pound, it’s lightweight, giving you plenty of saved storage space in your pack. It does the standard job of removing 99.999% bacteria from water, but this filter has a few downsides.

For one, it builds up pressure relatively easily, which can slow the water flow. It can be aggravating to continuously open and decompress. After pumping about two or three liters, your filter will be full. It means that it’s working, but it also means that you’ll have to clean this frequently.

You get MSR’s lifetime manufacturer-direct warranty and a rating of 2,000L of filtered water per cartridge. MSR focuses on high-quality gear for backpackers, alpinists, and mountaineers.

See MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter System on Amazon

See MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter System on REI

Great backup system: Platypus GravityWorks 4.0 Liter Water Filter System

platypus gravityworks 4.0 liter water filter system

  • Gravity-fed design
  • Removes 99.9999% of bacteria and 99.9% of protozoa
  • Hollow-fiber water filter
  • Meets all EPA/NSF guidelines
  • Works in 2.5 minutes
  • Delivers four liters of clean water
  • Comes with a carrying case


  • Delivers plenty of clean water for the day
  • No pumping required, super-easy to use
  • Works quickly


  • Would be better with a spare filter
  • Cleaning the clean bag takes some time

The Platypus GravityWorks 4.0 Liter Water Filter System is among the best portable water filter options on the market. This isn’t the quickest water filter system or the easiest to set up. Rather, it is designed for those situations where you’ve set up camp for the night and you’ve got some time to get prepared. It provides you with four liters of clean water and folds down into a tiny little bag, saving you precious space.

The product works using gravity to feed the water through the system. No pumping, just hang the four-liter dirty water reservoir higher than the clean reservoir and let physics do the rest. The hollow-fiber water filter system removes 99.9999% of bacteria and 99.9% of protozoa (giardia, E.coli, etc). In short, this gravity filtration system is the product you need if you’re going on multi-day hikes or long camping trips.

See Platypus GravityWorks 4.0 Liter Water Filter System on Amazon

See Platypus GravityWorks 4.0 Liter Water Filter System on REI

See Platypus GravityWorks 4.0 Liter Water Filter System on Moosejaw

Why trust us

Our team knows gear inside and out. We’ve spent years testing and researching a huge variety of products. We love the nitty-gritty details, supplying our readers with all the critical information they need to make the right purchases.

Who this is for

This guide is perfect for anyone looking to add the best portable water filter to their arsenal for their next trip, or simply to add to their hurricane kit. If you don’t find the perfect portable filter on our list, we hope our buyer’s guide can point you in the right direction and provide valuable care information.

How we picked

Selecting the best water filters starts with looking at our personal favorites and bestsellers. We spent many hours researching, reading reviews, and sorting through the world of filtration systems to ensure we had something for the backpacker, the hiker, the germaphobe, the doomsday prepper, and everyone in between.

How we tested

To test, we first started with our water at home. It’s best to know how your filtration system works before heading out. After that, we took our filters out to the Mount Hood National Forest for a backpacking trip.

man holding portable water filter

Features to look for in portable water filters


Water volume and physical size dictate how easy a filtration system will be to use. Something bulky and complicated will be a pain to take on a trip.


Every ounce counts when you’re stuffing your hiking backpack.

Ease of use

It’s water; you want to filter, drink, and be done. Unnecessarily difficult screw caps and filters that must rest a certain way are a pain. Take a look at how complex the system looks to reassemble after use and after cleaning. You may be using your portable filter in snow, wind, or rain and any element of difficulty will be ramped up with adverse conditions.

Filter capacity

Filters come in different sizes. They’ll hold varying amounts of water and filtrate that volume all at once, working it through the carbon or charcoal system to reach your mouth. The filter capacity will also influence the viability of our next item: flow rate.

Flow rate

This is affected by the lifespan of the filter (see the guide below).


Nine out of ten people are buying these for the outdoors, so will they hold up to the elements? While you probably won’t be swinging this around and dropping it, you want durability.

kid drinking water through portable water filter

Portable water filter FAQ

Q: What is a portable water filter?

Portable water filters are either active carbon or charcoal-based systems (in some cases, there are other unique systems in place) that remove harmful bacteria and viruses from water. Their primary use is for cleaning water found in nature, allowing you to drink it and cook with it when you’re out in the wilderness.

Alternatively, these portable water filtration systems are also used to help purify water that we already drink out of our faucets. In the United States, there is a lot of leniency regarding what’s allowed in our water supply. Bringing a portable water filter allows you to enjoy clean water and remove unnecessary additives from water processing plants and facilities. We’re also big fans of bringing these into the gym to cut down on single-use plastic.

Portable filters are also a great addition to your emergency preparedness kit. If water lines are damaged in a natural disaster, you’ll have the ability to turn dirty water into clean drinking water.

Q: How to care for a portable water filter during freezing weather?

What happens when the water trapped inside your filter freezes?

Filtration systems are very susceptible to the cold. To keep freezing at bay as as much possible, use it sparingly. If your backpack rests against you, you’ll want to keep this right up against your back to keep the filter warm with your body heat. At night, sleep with it in your sleeping bag to keep it from freezing. Your body heat will keep it at the proper temperature.

Q: How do you tell if a portable water filter needs to be replaced?

One way to immediately tell is if your flow rate has dropped significantly. This indicates that the filter is getting clogged because it’s housing loads of bacteria that prevent water from getting through as easily.

Apart from that, you will have to use your judgment. If you can monitor how many gallons it’s rated for and keep track of your cleaning and use, you’ll be able to determine when it’s time to get a new one. We toss out the filter when it’s within 10% of its expected end of life.

Q: What do portable water filters remove from water?

Oh boy, get ready for a gross science lesson. You’re stripping all this junk out of the water you drink:

  • Chlorine
  • Chloramines
  • Salt
  • Chemical Filter Residue (Found in most water supplies)
  • Sediment
  • Sand
  • Fluoride (Some filters)
  • Pesticides
  • Iron
  • Sulfur

By removing all the items listed above, you’re also eliminating the possibility of encountering these diseases, viruses, and bacteria:

  • Giardia
  • Dysentery
  • Traveler’s Diarrhea
  • coli
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis E
  • Cryptosporidium
  • Campylobacter
  • Cholera
  • Typhoid Fever

It’s worth it to filter your water. You can’t see or smell, and in most cases, you can’t even taste differences in the water that would give these away. They piggyback on bacteria and make it into your water, and while your body can sometimes fight this off, it’s not guaranteed.

Q: Should you wash your portable water filter?

Absolutely. Every time you use this on an outdoor excursion, you should be cleaning out your portable water filter. If you’re grabbing one of these to use for the gym so you can cut down on bottled water, then you’re already working with filtered water from your faucet, so you’re providing a second level of cleaning. If this is the case, you can usually use your bottle about five times a week before cleaning it.

Q: How and how often do you clean your portable water filter?

Given the materials used and the critical necessity for clean, potable water, we’re only going to recommend one cleaning method. It’ll break down and kill every spec of bacteria and protozoa in your portable water filter, so long as you follow the protocol properly.

For this example, we’ll assume your portable water filter has a 32oz capacity. Fill it up with 32oz of hot water, then drop two tablespoons of unscented bleach right into the water. The heat will help water rise out of any stubborn bacteria resting in the carbon filters (or alternative) filtration system.

If the filter said, “good for 1,000 gallons of water,” it’s not kidding, but you’re going to be cleaning and rinsing after every use, so that isn’t going to be 1,000 gallons of drinkable water.

After letting this sit for about five minutes, you’re going to shake gently and let the water run through the filter. To get all the bleach out, you’re going to be using at least three full rinses, so out of one of your gallons of usage, you’re filtering one quart of drinkable water, and three quarts of rinsing water to keep the filter clean. It may seem like a bum deal, but try to picture 250 gallons of water and the associated cost. Now, look at your filter, and it doesn’t seem so bad.

After you’re done rinsing, it’s important to let this air dry.

Q: What is potable water?

It’s what you’re aiming for with your portable water filter. Potable water is defined as being safe to consume without incurring any negative effects to your health. Potable water doesn’t necessarily have to taste good. It just has to be healthy enough for you to drink.

If you’ve ever fired up a camping stove to boil water, making it safe to drink, then you made it into a potable source. Alternatively, it’s important to understand that water doesn’t have a specific taste when it’s potable; it can taste unusual. This is why it’s ultra-important for you to monitor your filter, and ensure it’s functioning properly before you hit the hiking trail.

Q: Can portable water filters purify snow?

Snow and rainfall each carry traces of pollutants that are not water-soluble, meaning they’re going to transfer and lock in when that water turns to snow.

If you circle back and check the list of chemicals and pollutants above, you’ll have a better understanding of what does and what does not get filtered out. If the snow appears white and pure, you can throw it into your portable water filter and exchange some of your body heat to melt the snow and turn it into drinkable, sustainable water.

Q: Can a portable water filter render urine drinkable in emergencies?

Well, I suppose it’s on everybody’s mind, right? Technically, yes, you can purify your urine (to an extent). We produce urine to evacuate bacteria and unnecessary components from our body, whether toxins or waste from the beverages we consume or the moisture packed into the foods we eat. Your body doesn’t absorb it all, so part of it ends up in your bladder.

Urine depletes because even if you drink its most purified form, your body will use whatever electrolytes and pure hydration it can extract. Then, you’ll be left with even more concentrated levels of bacteria and bodily waste. If you end up drinking your own urine, you can purify it in your portable water filter, but you won’t produce even 1/10 the same amount of fluid during your next urination, meaning it truly is a last resort.


Our writers, editors, staff, and webmasters are not responsible for anything you may do with your portable water filter. This guide is not written by trained professionals in the art of survival or nutritionists with relevant degrees. These are the opinions of people who have personally tested these products, declaring their first-hand accounts and experiences. This article should be read for entertainment and buyer’s knowledge only, and any additional information you require on drinkable water, filters, their properties, and other entities residing around the subject, should be researched independently.


  1. What Do Water Filters Remove? – US Water Systems
  2. Making Water Safe In An Emergency – CDC
  3. What Is Potable Water? – Water & Wastes Digest

Tuesday Kirby Kahl

Tuesday Kirby Kahl is a native Texan now residing in Portland, OR. In addition to her work as a writer, she’s a competitive climbing coach for youth and adult athletes. When she’s not working, you’ll find her rock climbing, exploring, skiing, and paddle boarding all over the Cascades. When at home, she’s usually tending to her collection or houseplants or painting with a cup of tea in hand.