Best portable water purifier of 2020

  Comparison

Product Size Weight Price range
GRAYL Water Purifier GRAYL Water Purifier 12.6 x 2.7 x 5.3 inches 15.5 ounces $
Platypus GravityWorks Platypus GravityWorks 13.2 x 2.8 x 5.8 inches 15.2 ounces $
Survivor Filter PRO Survivor Filter PRO 3.2 x 2 x 6.5 inches 8.2 ounces $$
Sawyer Squeeze Water Filtration System (All in One) Sawyer Squeeze Water Filtration System (All in One) 3.5 x 6.1 x 6.1 inches 2 pounds $
LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle 3.1 x 3.1 x 9.2 inches 7.8 ounces $$
Sawyer MINI Water Filtration System Sawyer MINI Water Filtration System 4 x 3 x 8 inches 3.52 ounces $
LifeStraw Water Filter LifeStraw Water Filter 8.7 x 1 x 1 inches 1.4 ounces $
Whether you’re traveling, camping, hiking, or taking a safari trip, there’s one thing that you should have access to at all times: clean water. We are talking about those trips into the wilderness, but also, any other kind of trip that doesn’t require a hotel reservation. 
Fresh, clean water is something that we take for granted nowadays, as most of us have access to clean water in our homes. But international travel or outdoor adventures are not the only reasons to think about access to healthy and clean water. 

Most people don’t think about it, but emergency situations can occur, such as an earthquake, a tornado, a pandemic, or a hurricane. During those times, the municipal water system could also be affected, not to mention that supermarkets can deal with low stocks or can be out of stock for a long time. 

Although today we are far better prepared for such situations than we were 20 or 30 years ago, it’s always wiser to be prepared in advance and make sure you have the essentials for surviving or even just for making your experience easier. 

So, we’ve established that pure, clean drinking water is a necessity, not a luxury. When you’re in the middle of nature, even the most pristine-looking water can be deceiving because, unfortunately, the water clarity doesn’t necessarily indicate a clean, drinkable or safe source. Bacteria, protozoa, viruses and other microorganisms can be found in nature’s water sources. That’s why, the best way to make sure you have access to drinkable water at all times, is buying a portable water purifier or filter. 

Yes, you could also carry lots of water bottles, but aside from the fact that plastic is the number one pollutant and the world is full of it already, carrying liters of water can add a lot of weight to your backpack. Either way, no matter how much water you take with you, it is bound to finish at one point.
So, let’s establish what a water filter is and what is a water purifier, as people tend to use these terms interchangeably, but they are not one and the same thing.

Water Filter vs. Water Purifier


A water filter works by physically straining impurities through a cartridge or other materials that have small-enough holes that can retain even microorganisms, like bacteria or protozoa. But they do not eliminate viruses. This is the main difference between a filter and a purifier. Filters are also retaining different minerals, like copper, nickel, iron, mercury, as well as all dust particles and other impurities, such as microplastics.

Water purification implies a water treatment, and this process can also annihilate viruses, which is something that the standard water filter cannot do. How? Usually, by using Reverse Osmosis, distillation or deionization, but the technology has evolved and now we can find more efficient water purifiers that we can use in our homes or on the go. Purifiers can also use chemicals such as iodine or chlorine to kill bacteria and viruses or other contaminants.

Note: According to the World Health Organization, there is no evidence (to date) that the COVID-19 virus can be transmitted through water or that it can even survive in water, due to its fragile membrane that is susceptible to oxidants, such as chlorine. There are lots of other reasons that lead to the conclusion that the new coronavirus has no known waterborne transmission. 

Many filters and purifiers also use activated carbon (among other elements) to get rid of all unpleasant smells, as well as neutralizing the aftertaste. The bottom line is, there is no perfect product, only the ideal product for a specific situation. The risk of virus contamination via a water source is generally reduced, at least here in America and Canada, that’s why we say that the level of filtration should reflect the situation you are in and the purpose you have. Some filtration systems can retain the “good” minerals that are beneficial to your health, like magnesium or iron, which you need in order to maintain a healthy and balanced life overall. So, as a rule of thumb, balance is key. You should choose your method of filtration based on long-term benefits and the places you travel most. 

When should you use a portable water purifier?


You can take a portable water purifier with you in the countryside, or less accessible areas in which people don’t practice proper water sanitation, or there are no water purification systems in place. It’s also a good idea to have one on hand if you’re traveling to less developed countries, as you don’t know if the water is drinkable or if any viruses or bacteria are present in the water system. If you are an adventurer, and you often find yourself in the middle of the wild nature, a water filter can help you stay healthy and able to turn any water source into drinkable water.

Today we are going to look at some of the best water purifiers and filters for backpacking. Such purifiers are small, inexpensive and can become your most valuable trip companion while you’re hiking, camping, or exploring the wild nature.

Before we dive right in, there are some things you should look for when searching for the best water filter or purifier.

1. Size and capacity


There are different kinds of portable purifiers. Some of them have the size of a straw, some are gravity-based filters and thus, they are larger. Some of them are based on pumps. There is just such a large variety these days. First, you have to decide what you are going to use it for. If you need a water purifier to drink small quantities at a time, then you can get away with smaller filters. But if you are camping and you need to cook or shower, larger products that can hold and filter larger amounts of water are more suitable.

2. Lifespan 


How many liters/gallons of water can it filter before you have to replace the cartridge or replace your filter system completely?  The filter’s life and the way you replace it is essential, and you should always read the reviews, as well as the manufacturer’s instructions to make sure you’re getting the best out of your purchase. 

3. End result 


The water quality, aka what you get after filtration, is different from one filter to another. Make sure you are paying attention to the product’s claims when it comes to the end result, as some of them can remove impurities, but maybe they won’t change the taste or smell of the water (usually, this is achieved with an activated carbon filter). Look for the ones that have the most benefits in the long term and fit your requirements.

4. Price


You would think that portable water filter systems would be less expensive than at-home filters that need installation, and partially, that’s true. However, many factors can influence the price, besides brand names and marketing. Good filtration or water purifying systems are still not cheap, but, again, consider how you would use them. If you are a frequent traveler, camper or hiker, you might want to consider your cost per use, and that might mean you would need to pay a larger amount of money upfront to be able to enjoy the long-term benefits.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the best backpacking water purifiers and filter that you can take with you wherever you go.

Remember that we talked about purifiers vs. filters? Well, this one is a water purifier, which means that besides bacteria and protozoa, it removes 99.999% of viruses, like Hepatitis A or SARS. This is a Bottle Purifier that works by pushing down a cylinder (filter) inside. That’s it. No sipping or squeezing needed. It’s a fill-press-drink system that provides you with fresh and clean water in about 15 seconds.

You can purify 16 ounces at a time, that’s the bottle’s total capacity. The GRAYL bottle is light and easy to carry with you wherever you go. If you are hiking, camping, fishing, or you’re out for adventure, this is a great product to have on hand, especially if you’re exploring wild places that have untrusted water sources. This one is great because it keeps away viruses, something that a regular water filter can’t do. It also filters chemicals and other heavy metals.

It uses three purifying technologies to ensure maximum efficiency. First, there are two layers of non-woven ceramic fiber. It also has a layer of positively charged mesh of ions for impurities, and finally, an activated carbon filter that gets rid of the odor and any aftertaste. Moreover, each replacement cartridge displaces 300 regular single-use plastic bottles, and, to top it all off, when you buy a GRAYL purifier, 1% of purchase goes to environmental non-profits. 

PROS:

Fill, press, drink system
Removes bacteria and protozoa (99.999%)
Removes viruses (99.999%)
Uses three purifying technologies
You get 16 ounces of fresh purified water at a time
Removes odor and aftertaste
Easy to use, no need for adapters or other devices
1% of your purchase goes to environmental non-profits

CONS:

Some users say it’s a bit hard to push down the cylinder (filter)
It’s expensive
It’s not versatile. You cannot connect it to larger containers or use it any other way.

You have to love the only thing that pulls you down to Earth – that’s gravity. Gravity can also be used for water filtration, and this is a product that allows you to enjoy your outdoor time without worrying about fresh water. In other words, if you are camping or going on a trip to the backcountry, you can count on Platypus to filter your drinking, cooking or cleaning water.

This is one of the best gravity water filters out there, because it consists of two four-liter bags (one labeled “dirty”, the other one “clean”) that can fold into a compact form. Hence, it’s easy to carry around in your backpack and you don’t have to deal with plastic containers that can take space. How does it work? You hang both bags anywhere (on a tree or a tent) and gravity takes care of the rest. The water falls down into the filter and comes on the other side, clean.

This gravity filter can produce approximately 59 ounces of fresh water per minute, so it’s pretty good for a product that uses just gravity to do the work. It removes 99.999% of harmful bacteria and 99.9% of protozoa. So, this gravity filter is best if you need larger amounts of fresh water at a time. For example, if you are camping or staying in a place with questionable water quality, the small bottle filters won’t do you justice if you need to cook dinner. This one will.

PROS:

Easy to use, convenient (no pumping or squeezing)
The bags fold into a compact form
It removes bacteria and protozoa
Great for camping or when you need a large amount of clean water

CONS:

It’s expensive
If you fill the bags all the way up, the holes for the straps can tear

This Survivor Filter is a little pump that can help you collect water even from the shallowest stream. Even though it’s bulkier and looks more complicated than other filters, it’s actually very portable and small. This one uses a triple filtration system to eliminate harmful bacteria, protozoa, viruses, odors and aftertaste as well. That being said, it’s a great companion to have when you are outdoors.

Unlike other portable water filters, this one has a faster flow rate, providing you with 17 ounces of fresh water per minute. Yes, it’s a lengthy process anyway and it can get tiring to pump continuously, but the hose allows you to collect water from shallow streams and the end result is healthy, drinkable and fresh water.

It can filter up to 26.417 ounces of water with some help from the 0.01-micron filters. The price is higher than what you see in most filters, but it does the job right and it’s backed up by a lifetime warranty, so if you encounter any problem, just reach out to the manufacturer and get a new one.

PROS:

Eliminates bacteria and protozoa
Eliminates viruses
Takes away odors and aftertaste
Triple filtration
0.01 microns filter
Lifetime warranty
Fast flow rate – 17 ounces per minute
Filters up to 26.417 gallons

CONS:

It’s pricy
It can be tiring to continuously pump
Some find it complicated to use
You have to pay attention to the hose because it can bend and affect the flow of water

Whether you are a frequent hiker, camper, you go on mission trips or in the backcountry, or you want to build an emergency kit, this all-in-one water filtration system is all you would need to ensure that you would turn any kind of water into safe, clean and potable water.

This Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter System comes with a powerful filter at 0.1 microns that gets rid of any bacteria and protozoa. This all-in-one kit is incredibly versatile, as it comes with different adapters so you can attach it to the squeeze pouch, to a standard five-gallon bucket and even to the faucet. You can even turn it into a gravity system, and you would get 540 gallons of clean water per day. The faucet adapter is convenient when you go on international trips. If you fly to a less-developed area of the world, you can never be sure that what comes out of the faucet is risk-free, so, the faucet adapter lets you filter the water before drinking it, that way you can be safe from any contamination that may occur.

In this kit, you will also find a large 32-ounce water pouch, but if you don’t like it or you want a larger container, you can attach your Sawyer filter to a regular water bottle, or any other container that fits with the adapters provided.

This water filter is extremely lightweight and small, so it can fit anywhere. It’s versatile and should be a must-have in any emergency kit. If you don’t need all the extra adapters, you can choose the standard system, or you can pick whatever adapter you want, as you have different packages to choose from. The system is extremely easy to use and will get you through 100.000 gallons of water without having to replace any filter. Just make sure you are backwashing it with your included syringe after every use and you’re good to go.

PROS:

Lightweight, small filter, portable
0.1-micron membrane that retains bacteria and protozoa 
Built-in & removable push/pull cap
Versatile: inline hydration kit, gravity kit, faucet adapter, bucket adapter
Fast & easy to use
Filter up to 100.000 gallons
Backwash syringe included
Many packages to choose from

CONS:

The flow rate might decrease with time or if you are not diligent with the backwash
The filter it’s made out of plastic, so it can break if you force it

This is another excellent option for backpacking, camping, hiking or building emergency kits. The LifeStraw filter comes in a bottle that looks great and performs well. Before we go into specifics, we have to mention that you have a wide variety of colors and designs to choose from. 

In this refillable water bottle, you will find a 2-stage filter. The first one has a microfiltration membrane that can filter up to 1000 gallons of water, and the second is an activated carbon filter that gets rid of any odor and aftertaste and can filter up to 26 gallons of water. Together, the filters can retain bacteria, protozoa and other chemicals so you can have fresh and drinkable water as an end result.

The bottle itself is leak-proof and it has a carabiner so you could attach it to your backpack. However, leak-proof might mean that it won’t leak yucky water through the cap, but some users found that if you tipped your bottle, or somehow was laying on the side, it leaked, so be careful and try to keep it upright so you won’t have any problems.

Overall, this is a great option for traveling. However, it’s not as versatile as the other water filters out there, as you cannot convert it into a gravity filtration system, drink directly from the source through a straw, or try to fill larger containers using the filter. But overall, this is a good alternative and a handy and cool-looking accessory to have on hand when you are out in the woods, hiking or on a shorter trip that doesn’t require having access to large quantities of water. Moreover, with every LifeStraw product you buy, a child in need receives water for an entire school year.

PROS:

2-stage filter that also removes odor and aftertaste
Plenty of bottle colors to choose from
Great accessory to have on short trips
Your purchase has an impact

CONS:

It’s pricy for what it does
The plastic is not very sturdy, so you have to be careful not to drop it too often
Sometimes it can leak if you tip it over

This filtration system from Sawyer is a hyped product for good reasons. First, it’s an ultralight backpacking filter that you can fit anywhere. It’s so small that it fits in the palm of your hands and it only weighs 2 ounces. It’s also the most versatile filtration system that you can find, making it perfect for backpacking, hiking, camping and any activities into the nature that you could think of, as well as for emergency preparedness kits.

It can filter through up to 100.000 gallons of water from any stream, lake or other water sources. That is amazing considering its size and price, which is very low, by the way. The 0.1-micron absolute filters are ensuring safe and efficient filtration, as they can keep away any harmful bacteria or protozoa (99.99999% efficient), so the end result is clean and drinkable water.

The Sawyer MINI is a versatile water filtration system, as you can use it in many ways. You can attach it to the squeeze pouch, or you can drink directly from the filter itself, using it as a straw. You can also dispense your filtered water (from the pouch, through the filter) into a water bottle, or use it as a gravity filter. The filter attaches to all standard water bottles, so if the pouch seems too small, just attach the filter to any bottle you have on hand, as well as other compatible hydration packs.

You also get a cleaning syringe that you must use to backwash the filter, so you can use it over and over again. This is the holy grail when it comes to portable water filters, as it checks all boxes. In essence, it’s ultralight, small, portable, versatile, efficient, can filter many gallons of water and it’s affordable.

People love this filter and most of them say that it also has a good flow rate, unlike similar water filters. One customer compared it to drinking a milkshake, while others did say the flow rate can slow down after multiple uses. Remember to read the instructions and always backflow-clean your Sawyer in between uses. The pouch that it comes with can also tear, especially at the top, near the cap if you are not careful when you unscrew or screw the cap. But the good thing is that you can attach the Sawyer MINI to any other water bottle or hydration bag.

PROS:

Ultralight
Small design, it fits in the palm of your hand
0.1 microns filter removes all bacteria and protozoa (99.99999%)
It’s versatile, you have many ways to use it
It’s easy to use
It’s portable
It’s very efficient
Affordable
Capable of filtering up to 100.000 gallons
Annihilates odors and taste

CONS:

Although the water flow is good, it can slow down with time
The pouch can easily tear if you are not careful

If you are a frequent hiker, a camper or if you enjoy backcountry traveling, this is another ingenious product that would keep you safe during your trips. The LifeStraw is precisely what it claims to be, a straw filter. This one is also ultralight, weighing 2 ounces, and it’s small enough that you could fit it in your backpack, so, it’s portable and perfect for outdoor activities.

The 0.2-micron filters are able to keep away any bacteria and protozoa, as well as neutralizing the smell and taste of the water. It can filter up to 1000 gallons of contaminated water, so It’s pretty good for a straw filter.

This one is not so versatile like the Sawyer Filter System, meaning that you cannot attach it to regular water bottles, or a hydration bag, but you still have two ways of using it. The first way you can use this product is by drinking directly from the water source (use it like a straw, as its name indicates), or, you can fill a wide-neck container or bottle with water, insert the LifeStraw inside and drink. Either way, you will find that it’s effortless to use and the flow rate is also relatively good, although some users say that you have to pull harder if you’re thirsty. But that’s the case with any other small water filter, so, with patience, you can do it.

The best thing about this filter is that, with every purchase you make, you can help a school child in less-developed countries have clean water for a full school year! Now that’s how you make an impact. 

Overall, LifeStraw is a good choice for any outdoor activity. Some users found themselves in hostile situations where they had to rely solely on this filter to be able to get clean water and they were very appreciative and pleased with the result. This is a handy tool to have and a very useful one if you are traveling to less-developed countries where you can’t trust the water sources, or if you are a frequent hiker, camper, or you just love exploring the nature.

PROS:

Ultralight backpacking filter
Small enough to fit into your backpack
0.2 microns filter removes bacteria and protozoa 
It can filter through up to 1000 gallons of water
Your purchase has an impact
Low-priced, affordable

CONS:

It’s not as versatile (you can only use it as a straw; you cannot fill containers)
The flow rate is low

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1GRAYL Water Purifier
GRAYL Water Purifier
2Platypus GravityWorks
Platypus GravityWorks
3Survivor Filter PRO
Survivor Filter PRO