The 8 best portable water filters

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best portable water filters
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ByJenny White

To stay safely hydrated on the go, having one of the best portable water filters makes things simple. The best pick for you will filter at a level that suits your needs when it comes to potential contaminants and come in a style that’s convenient for you. The water filter should also be lightweight and small in size, so it’s easy to transport.

When looking for your ideal water filter, prioritize finding one that can remove any contaminants that you could encounter in your water — and this will vary greatly based on where and how you’re accessing the water (for example, tap water compared with river water). Tap water is considered safe to drink in most parts of the U.S. and Canada, but it may contain small amounts of material that can impact the taste, such as chlorine or minerals like copper. If you don’t like these flavors in your tap water, look for an option with an activated carbon filter that’ll filter these out. If you’re drinking untreated water while camping, backpacking, or traveling, be extra cautious when selecting a product to ensure it’s capable of removing harmful contaminants that could potentially make you sick.

Pay attention to the size of the pores in the filter, which are measured in microns; filters with a micron size of 1 or less can filter out parasitic larvae, eggs, and protozoa, while options with a micron size of 0.4 or less will remove bacteria too. While viruses in your water aren’t a big threat in most of North America, you may want to choose a filter with a purifier that can also eliminate viruses (or at least use purifying tablets in addition to a filter) if you’re concerned. Most manufacturers list the contaminants its filters are capable of removing, so you should use this as a guide when possible. Just note that none of the options below will desalinate water, so they shouldn’t be used on saltwater sources.

Once you know what level of filtration you require, consider the style of portable water filter that best aligns with your needs. If you want to carry water around with you, a filtered water bottle is the perfect option. Pick a bottle that can hold enough water for your adventures, and think about whether you prefer a sturdy, hard-sided option or one that’s collapsible for easy storage once empty. If you don’t want to use a water bottle with a built-in filter, look for a water filter that attaches directly to a regular water bottle or hydration pack.

Want to drink straight from a body of water? There are a few filters that will allow you to do so, including straw-style options or a hand pump that requires you to pump the water through the filter to make it safe to drink. If you’re setting up camp, a gravity filter can be useful to have on hand — these hold a lot of water but take some time to filter it, so they might make the most sense for an overnight stay. Before you start filtering water, always take note of how long your filter will last before it needs to be replaced, too.

These eight water filters are all highly portable, ensuring clean, tasty water wherever you may be.

1. The tried-and-true hard-side water bottle

Weight: 7.84 ounces

Pros: Features 0.2-micron filter; removes bacteria, parasites, and microplastics; activated carbon filter helps improve taste of water

Cons: Does not eliminate viruses

The details: With more than 12,000 reviews on Amazon and a solid 4.7-star rating overall, this filtered water bottle from LifeStraw has high praise on the site since it makes accessing and transporting clean water quite simple. It features a two-stage filter made up of a 0.2-micron membrane microfilter and an activated carbon filter. The membrane microfilter is designed to remove bacteria, parasites, and microplastics from your water, while the carbon filter will reduce the chlorine and other chemicals in your water, greatly improving its taste. The membrane microfilter will last a long time, since it can filter up to 1,000 gallons of water, but you’ll need to occasionally replace the carbon filter, which can only filter 26 gallons.

This hard-sided, plastic water bottle comes in a range of colors, and in either 22-ounce or 1-liter capacities. Both sizes of the filtering bottle weigh just 7.84 ounces.

One reviewer wrote: “I ordered this for a backcountry kayak trip I was going on. I had an in line squeeze filter already but was looking for something I could refill on the fly and just keep moving. This was the perfect fit. While kayaking, I would take the top off, dip the bottle in the water, put the cap back on and keep moving. It is really easy. You do have to suck the water out, it won’t just flow out, but I knew that going in. This works more in conjunction with an inline squeeze filter if you are out camping, you won’t use it to get water to cook with or fill up a bladder, this is a drinking bottle. For my needs, this was a perfect fit.”

2. The bottle that improves the taste of tap water

Weight: 1.3 pounds (for the 20-ounce version)

Pros: Features 50-micron filter; improves the taste of tap water; double-wall insulated design keeps water cold; available in two sizes and 9 colors

Cons: Should only be used on water that is already safe for drinking; a bit heavier than other options on the list

The details: To improve the taste and smell of tap water, this filtered water bottle from Brita will certainly do the trick — I’ve owned one for a while now and can confirm this to be true. The water bottle features an activated carbon filter, which reduces the chlorine in water (hence the better taste and smell), and it effectively filters out particulates that are greater than 50 microns in size. Note that this bottle is strictly for reducing chlorine or bigger particles in your water and won’t filter out smaller contaminants like parasites, eggs, protozoa, or bacteria. Use it to improve the taste of water that’s already safe to drink, but you’ll need a different type of filter for backcountry hiking or any scenario in which drinking unfiltered water is likely to make you sick.

That said, this bottle is incredible for those who dislike the flavor of chlorine. And since it’s made from double-wall insulated stainless steel, it’ll keep water cold for hours. This option boasts a leak-proof lid, and it can hold either 20 or 32 ounces of water, depending on which size you choose.

Pick from a range of color options, including blue, pink, and green. Once this water bottle has been used to filter 40 gallons of water, make sure to replace the filter to keep it working properly. The only downside of this option is that it’s a bit heavier than others on this list — the 20-ounce bottle weighs 1.3 pounds when empty.

One reviewer wrote: “I absolutely adore this bottle. It's such good quality, it doesn't leak, and the filter mechanism is entirely intuitive (soak, insert, twist, done!). My [...] exceptionally awful and overchlorinated tap water tastes like good bottled water coming out of this.”

3. The compact straw filter

Weight: 1.6 ounces

Pros: Features 0.2-micron filter; removes bacteria, parasites, and microplastics; extremely compact and lightweight; budget friendly

Cons: Does not eliminate viruses

The details: The LifeStraw personal water filter straw is an overwhelming favorite on Amazon, with a 4.8-star rating overall after 89,000-plus reviews. This is likely because it’s highly portable (the compact straw weighs just 1.6 ounces) and easy to use. All you have to do is place the straw directly into a water source (or water bottle) and use suction to immediately access clean, tasty water. This option has a built-in membrane microfilter with 0.2-micron pores to remove bacteria, waterborne parasites, and microplastics. It’ll provide 1,000 gallons of clean and safe drinking water with proper use and maintenance.

Choose from blue or green color options. You can also buy this option in a two-, three-, or five-pack in case you need extras on hand.

One reviewer wrote: “I used this product for the first time on my last camping trip to the boundary waters in northern MN. I wanted to try something besides boiling water or iodine treatment, so I gave it a shot. During the whole five-day trip, I only used the life straw for water. Water tasted like it was straight from the tap, no weird tastes like some iodine treated water. Didn't have any bowel-related problems drinking the lake water with the Life Straw! Perfectly portable, light, and compact!”

4. The versatile filtration system

Weight: 2 ounces

Pros: Features 0.1-micron filter; removes bacteria, protozoa, and microplastics; extremely lightweight; works with a water bottle or a hydration pack, or on its own with the included straw

Cons: Does not eliminate viruses

The details: Versatility is one of the main perks that Amazon reviewers continuously point out about this portable water filtration system from Sawyer. Attach the device to a water bottle or hydration pack and sip water through it that way, or connect it to the included pouch. You can also utilize the included 7-inch straw to drink directly from a water source or from any drinking vessel. Made from plastic, this option boasts a 0.1-micron filter, so it will effectively remove bacteria, protozoa, and microplastics from water. In terms of portability, it’s hard to beat — it is about the size of your palm and weighs just 2 ounces. It can filter up to 100,000 gallons of water before it needs to be replaced. Choose from a few color options, and from one- or two-packs.

One reviewer wrote: “If you are looking for a small, light, compact, and most importantly easy way to filter your water, look no further. Sawyer makes an EXCELLENT unit that won't break the bank. I purchased this one for hiking out West in Moab and the other national parks. I can filter lake water without worrying if I am going to get sick from drinking it. These filters are very easy to use [...] allowing you to drink without worry.”

5. The high-capacity gravity filter

Weight: 11.5 ounces (for the 4-liter model)

Pros: Features 0.2-micron filter; removes bacteria and protozoa; extremely lightweight and portable; works quickly and holds 4 or 6 liters of water (depending on the size you select)

Cons: Does not eliminate viruses

The details: If you need access to larger amounts of clean water for cooking, washing, or drinking, this gravity filter from Platypus is your best bet since it holds 4 liters of water, though a 6-liter option is also available. To use, fill the “dirty” reservoir with unfiltered water and let it drip through the filter into the “clean” reservoir — hang the system from a tree or other elevated surface while it works. With a 1.75-liter-per-minute flow rate, it will give you access to safe water rather quickly. The filter has 0.2-micron pores to effectively remove bacteria and protozoa, and it can filter up to 1,500 gallons of water before you need to purchase a replacement filter. The 4-liter model weighs just 11.5 ounces when empty, so you’ll be able to carry it with you on your travels.

One reviewer wrote: “Ive used this system for years backpacking in Yosemite and can attest to its superb performance. It is extremely easy to use and filters water very quickly with no need to pump the water yourself. Simply let gravity to the job for you. I highly recommend it and never hike, even on a day hike, without it.”

6. The water bottle that can remove viruses

Weight: 1.5 pounds

Pros: Removes bacteria, protozoa, viruses, and microplastics; works fast

Cons: Heaviest option on the list; one of the least budget-friendly options

The details: While the brand doesn’t note the filter’s micron size, this water bottle from GRAYL has the ability to remove bacteria, protozoa, viruses, particulates, chemicals, and heavy metals from water, making it the perfect choice if you’re traveling to a location where you may encounter these contaminants. And the best part? It takes just eight seconds to do so — simply fill up the main compartment with water, push the filter down into it (ion exchange traps these impurities), and the water is ready to drink. While this option is a bit pricey, many Amazon reviewers commented that it’s well worth the cost, since it gives you peace of mind that you’ll have access to clean, safe water while adventuring. The filter is good for up to 65 gallons of water, and a replacement filter cartridge is sold separately when it’s time for a refresh.

The water bottle holds 24 ounces of water and it comes in four color options, including a pink and white ombre and a color-blocked red, orange, and turquoise. It weighs 1.5 pounds when empty.

One reviewer wrote: “By far the easiest and most convenient water purification system I've ever used... Family and l just spent a month in Kenya, drank from all sorts of dubious and funky water sources with zero issues. Since it's so easy there was no inclination to procrastinate filtering water, so I was fully hydrated the entire time. Totally worth the price tag!”

7. The virus-filtering hand pump

Weight: 8.16 ounces

Pros: Features 0.1-micron filter; removes viruses, bacteria, and parasites; activated carbon filter helps improve taste of water; compact and lightweight

Cons: One of the more expensive options on the list

The details: With a solid 4.6-star rating on Amazon after 3,000-plus reviews, this hand pump from Survivor Filter is well-liked on the site because its small size (3.15 by 1.97 by 6.5 inches, to be exact) and light weight (around 8 ounces) make it easy to carry on all of your outdoor adventures. Pump water directly from a water source into any drinking vessel or into the included drinking cup, and the membrane filter with 0.1-micron pores will remove viruses, bacteria, and parasites (it will last for up to 100,000 liters before you need to replace it). This option also has a carbon filter (which will last for up to 2,000 liters before you need to buy a replacement) to help to improve the overall taste and smell of your water. It can filter 17 ounces of water per minute, and when you’re done filtering, you can utilize the included carrying case to corral all of the different pieces. This hand pump boasts a lifetime warranty.

One reviewer wrote: “Excellent portable water filter. Small size enables it to be taken on travel because it takes so little space. Provides clean water [...] Perfect for camping - drink safely from streams and lakes. Good filter for emergency water.”

8. The collapsible water bottle

Weight: 2 ounces

Pros: Features 0.1-micron filter; removes bacteria and protozoa; collapsible design makes it lightweight and compact when empty

Cons: Does not eliminate viruses

The details: This water bottle from Katadyn is soft-sided, so it can collapse down to a compact size when empty, saving major space in your pack. And, at just 2 ounces, it won’t weigh you down either. The water bottle features a 0.1-micron filter to remove organisms like bacteria and protozoa, and it’ll filter up to 1,000 liters of contaminated water before you need to buy a replacement filter. The BPA- and PVC-free pick holds 0.6 liters of water.

One reviewer wrote: “Hands-down one of the best products I have ever bought for camping/fishing/hiking. A soft flexible yet extremely rugged and durable product, it usually rolls up and fits into your pocket when not in use, open it up and scoop up dirty nasty muddy Creek water, the filter changes into crystal clear delicious clean drinking water. Went on a very long hiking trip and did not want to have to lug water around, this was a real lifesaver. Will also be great when I just go one day fishing trips, no more [carrying] bottles of water in the back of my fishing vest. Worth every penny and then some.”

Also helpful: The purification tablets for viruses & more

Weight: 0.71 ounces (for a pack of 30)

Pros: Removes viruses, bacteria, and cysts; extremely compact and lightweight

Cons: Takes four hours to work; doesn’t eliminate dirt and other debris; best when combined with another filter system for removing sediment

The details: The combination of active ingredients in these water purification tablets from Potable Aqua react to create chlorine dioxide, which is a powerful disinfectant that can make questionable water suitable to drink. This option is effective against bacteria, viruses, and cysts (including giardia lamblia), and it’ll even improve the taste and smell of your water, too (reviewers confirmed that the tablets don’t leave behind any aftertaste). You’ll get 30 individually wrapped tablets in a set; throw one in your pack or bag to ensure that you’ll always have access to clean, safe, and tasty drinking water wherever your travels take you.

While these purification tablets can be used on their own, it may be a good idea to utilize these in combination with an option that can filter out dirt and other debris. The main downside of this pick is that you’ll need to plan ahead — the tablets take four hours to purify 1 liter of water.

One reviewer wrote: “These tablets did their job on the trail for me. No ill effects from drinking out of multiple streams while treating with these. The 4 hour wait time is a bit long, but worth it for the mild taste.”