A portable water filter provides water purification on the go. Useful for traveling, camping, or survival situations, these compact devices have a built-in filtration system to remove contaminants like sediment, debris, and microorganisms from water. In a few steps, they can turn contaminated water into safe drinking water.
The best portable water filters are trustworthy, simple to use, and easy to carry. Unlike chemical water filters, portable water filters use physical filters or UV light to filter water. Choosing the best portable water filter for your needs depends on the size of the filter as well as the substances that need to be removed and the amount of water to be filtered.
The following guide explores the types of portable water filters that can help in a variety of situations. Safe and healthy water is always an option with one of these devices; the models below are some of the best on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Sawyer Products MINI Water Filtration System
- BEST STRAW: LifeStraw Personal Water Filter
- BEST BOTTLE: GRAYL GeoPress Water Purifier Bottle
- BEST PUMP: Survivor Filter Pro – Hand Pump Camping Water Filter
- BEST GRAVITY FILTER: Platypus GravityWorks High-Capacity Filter System
- BEST UV FILTER: SteriPen Adventurer Opti UV Personal Water Purifier
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Portable Water Filter
One of the first factors to consider when shopping for a portable water filter is its intended use. When camping and hiking, filtering sediment and bacteria is likely the main concern. When traveling abroad, it may be more important to target viruses and bacteria. There are also other considerations to keep in mind, including filter type, size, capacity, durability, and ease of use.
Portable water filters come in a range of styles, and each one is suited for a different setting. Popular water filter types include straw, bottle, pump, gravity, and UV filters.
- Straw: Straw water filters are efficient, convenient, and portable. Like with a regular straw, users stick one end into the water and take a sip. While the liquid passes through the filters in the straw, contaminants like dirt, bacteria, and protozoa are removed for cleaner and safer water.
- Bottle: An excellent option for camping and traveling, filtered water bottles provide a way to carry and filter water. These bottles usually have a straw filter to clean the water as you drink. They are reusable, easy to carry, and great for daily use in any location.
- Pump: Handheld pump filters have a tube that inserts into the water source. The pump forces water through the filter, removing contaminants. The now-clean water flows out through another tube, so it can be collected for drinking or storing. Pump filters can require manual pumping, which may be less convenient than using a filtered straw or a bottle. However, unlike filtered straws and bottles, they can be used to safely supply water to more than one person.
- Gravity: A gravity filter can include one or two containers. To use these filters, fill one container with dirty water and let gravity do the work to move the water through the filter. Users can either drink straight from a nozzle or filter the water into a second clean water container. Gravity filters tend to be larger and aren’t as easy to carry as straws and water bottles, but they often have a higher capacity.
- UV filters: UV light purifiers sterilize bacteria, protozoa, and viruses. This sets them apart from most physical filters that can’t filter viruses. However, since they aren’t a physical filter, they won’t filter particulates or chemicals. UV filters are battery operated and can require battery changes or charging, making them a less convenient option. However, they can sanitize an entire bottle of water in a matter of minutes.
Size and Weight
The size and weight of a portable water filter affects its portability, and the ideal water filter size depends on its intended use. A water filter straw is compact and ideal to throw in a bag for personal use, while a larger gravity filter is better suited for group camping trips.
Regardless of the filter type, portable water filters are designed to be as compact and lightweight as possible. Options like straws, pumps, and some UV filters come in easy-to-carry, handheld designs, some as small as the palm of a hand. Filter bottles and gravity filters tend to take up more space, mainly because they require containers to hold the filtered water.
Pump and gravity filters tend to be heavier than other options due to their parts. Since they include hoses or bags, they also take up a little more space, although usually not much more than a filtered water bottle. While most portable water filters weigh about a pound or less, keep in mind that options like bottles and gravity filters will weigh more when filled with water.
Some portable water filters, like filter straws and water bottles, treat the water as you drink. Other types, like gravity and UV filters, treat larger amounts of water to store in a clean water container. The right pick depends on your needs.
Filters that clean water as you go are very convenient. Filter bottles hold up to 32 ounces of water for long days outdoors. A portable filter straw doesn’t hold any water but can be used in a container of any capacity to filter 1,000 to 100,000 gallons of water over its lifetime.
Gravity filters tend to come with containers or bags ranging up to 3 gallons in total capacity; larger options are available, but they are less portable. While these can be more unwieldy, their larger capacity is ideal for large groups or for preparing meals.
UV filters are inserted into a container of water to zap any organisms inside. Most can sanitize up to about 64 ounces of water at a time and can filter up to 5 gallons with each charge. Portable UV light filters will eventually need to be replaced, with most lasting up to 8,000 treatment cycles.
Some portable filters clean the water instantly, while others can take a few minutes or more. The filtration speed can be measured by the flow rate, which is the amount of water that can flow through the filter in a length of time, usually 1 minute.
Filtration straws, pumps, and bottles provide almost instant clean water. While they may have a bit of resistance or pull as the water may not flow as quickly through a filtered straw as through a regular straw, their flow rate is very fast.
Gravity filters and UV filters can take more time to filter water. With no suction or pump to push the water through, gravity filters tend to be the slowest option, often taking a few minutes to filter up to 1.5 gallons of water.
UV filters don’t have a flow rate but need to stay in the water for a certain amount of time to disinfect it. Depending on the volume of water, it can take up to a few minutes for a UV light filter to do its work. Many portable UV filters filter around 33 ounces of water in 90 seconds.
Most portable filters don’t need access to power, as they use manual power or gravity. One exception is UV portable water filters. Since these filters use UV light, they need a power source. This can come in the form of disposable batteries or by connecting a USB-rechargeable filter to a power source.
This power requirement is one drawback of UV filters. Access to a battery or power source may be tough to find while camping or in emergency situations. It is also possible for these filters to malfunction or break, something less likely with simple manual filters.
Durability and Maintenance
A high-quality portable water filter should withstand the knocks and falls that come with being on the go. Whether for a camping trip or a survival situation, durability is an important feature. To keep products lightweight, easily portable, and shatterproof, plastic materials are common.
All portable water filters require some maintenance, like cleaning clogs, changing the filter, or charging the battery source. Other maintenance tasks may include washing, disinfecting, and back-flushing the filtration system. Each manufacturer will specify the process and frequency of maintenance and cleaning. Products with direct contact with the user’s mouth, like filtered straws and water bottles, should be washed at the end of each day.
Ease of Use
When traveling, hiking, or in a survival situation, fumbling for clean water can be risky. Portable water filters are designed to be easy to use and to provide quick access to safe hydration.
Filter straws and bottles are among the simplest to use. They usually don’t require any assembly; just stick the straw into water, or fill and sip from the bottle to start filtering.
Devices like pumps, gravity filters, and UV filters can involve a little more work. Pumps require manual pumping, which can be a hassle when on the move. Gravity filters need to be hung or held up to let gravity do its work. UV filters sit in a water bottle or container to sanitize but do need occasional charging. Plus, a UV filter won’t capture particles, so a separate prefilter may be necessary for murky water. Also consider where the water is coming from. It may be easy to stick the end of a straw or a hose into a shallow pool of water, which may be more difficult for water bottles.
Portable water filters can come with extra accessories that make them easier to use. Carabiners are a handy addition that can help attach a bottle or straw to the outside of a travel bag. Gravity filters can include clamps or hanging hooks to make them easier to suspend while they filter. Some portable filters also include carrying bags to keep the filter contained and clean for travel.
Our Top Picks
High-quality portable water filters provide access to clean drinking water in all types of situations. Plus, they are reliable, generally compact, and easy to use. From space-saving straws to large-capacity gravity filters, here are some of the best portable water filters for safe drinking water on the go.
For most hikers and travelers, a filtered water bottle is the most convenient option. They can carry water anywhere and are super easy to use—just fill and sip. This 22-ounce filtered water bottle from LifeStraw filters sediments, bacteria, parasites, protozoa, microplastics, and some chemicals. The two-stage filter also includes an activated carbon layer to reduce odors and unpleasant tastes.
The BPA-free plastic bottle features a filtering straw and a food-grade silicone mouthpiece. The filter lasts for 1,000 gallons of use and filter replacements are available. Made for adventurers, the bottle is durable, leak-proof, and includes a carabiner to attach to a day bag or hiking backpack.
This mini water filter from Sawyer crams a variety of convenient features into a small package. Weighing just 2 ounces, this affordable filtration device fits in the palm of a hand, making it easy to throw into any suitcase or rucksack.
Not only is this filter affordable, but it is also versatile. It can function as a straw or attach to the included water pouch, a standard water bottle, or many hydration packs. Despite its small size, it works just as well as larger filters, removing sediments, bacteria, protozoa, and microplastics. With proper cleaning and care, it can filter up to an impressive 100,000 gallons of water.
Portable water filter straws are incredibly compact, fitting easily into a carry-on bag or day pack. Weighing just 2 ounces, this lightweight filtration straw from LifeStraw is a great companion for every adventure. It filters sediments, bacteria, parasites, and microplastics from any body of water—just stick the end in and start sipping.
Each straw provides 1,000 gallons of clean drinking water with proper use and maintenance. The durable plastic build is BPA-free and made to withstand difficult situations. Since this straw has no shelf life or expiry date, it is a well-suited pick to include in an emergency kit.
For filtering sketchy or contaminated water sources, consider this water purifier bottle from GRAYL. It filters sediment, bacteria, protozoa, and some chemicals, plus it removes dangerous viruses from dirty water. An electroadsorptive media, ion exchange, and a carbon filter remove contaminants, bad odors, and unpleasant flavors from water.
The 24-ounce plastic bottle has a press mechanism to filter the water in only 8 seconds. Just fill the bottle, press down the filter, and the safe water trickles into the clean water reservoir. This design means users don’t need to suck the water through a straw, which can have resistance or be prone to clogs. Each replaceable purifier cartridge filters up to 65 gallons of water.
This hand-pump water filter from Survivor Filter is made to handle survival situations. The triple-filtration system removes sediment, bacteria, protozoa, parasites, and viruses from water. It also reduces the concentration of heavy metals as well as unpleasant taste and odors.
The small pump is hardly larger than the palm of a hand, making it easy and convenient to carry. It includes a long water inlet and separate water outlet hose to pump water from shallow streams to deep rivers. The pump can filter up to 100,000 liters and replaceable filters are available when a replacement is needed.
With 8 liters of total capacity, this gravity water filter from Platypus is ideal for family camping trips and longer outdoor adventures. The high-capacity setup can filter 4 liters of water at a time.
Fill the 4-liter dirty water bag and position it above the clean water bag. The water will run through the hose and filter into the 4-liter clean water bag, filling it in only 2.5 minutes. This filter removes sediment, bacteria, and protozoa with no pumping required.
The replaceable cartridge filters up to 1,500 gallons of water. Each bag includes a clamped handle for hanging on tree branches or doorknobs, and all the parts fit into a convenient carrying case.
Microorganisms are no match for this portable UV water filter from SteriPen. This handheld device destroys more than 99.9 percent of microorganisms like giardia, bacteria, protozoa, and viruses. It uses UV light to make water safer, without changing the taste, pH, or other properties of the water.
Powered by two CR123 disposable batteries, this filter is reusable for up to 8,000 1-liter water treatments. Insert the wand into a .5- or 1-liter water bottle and start stirring. At the press of a button, this device starts sanitizing the water. After about 90 seconds, the indicator light will notify when the water is sanitized and safe to drink.
FAQs About Portable Water Filters
Water filters can remove dangerous contaminants from water, or simply make water taste better. These handy portable filtration devices allow for water-filtering options on the go. Below are some common questions and answers to help when choosing the best portable water filter.
Q. Do water filters filter out viruses?
It depends on the product. Viruses are too small for many water filters to trap. In general, most water filters do not filter out viruses, but water purifiers will. However, some very fine water filters can remove these microscopic nasties. It is best to check the product specifications to make sure.
Q. Do water filters kill bacteria?
Some water filters can get rid of bacteria. Physical water filters strain out bacteria—they don’t kill them, but they do remove them from the water source to make it safe to drink. To properly destroy bacteria, consider a UV light water filter.
Q. Which water filters remove the most contaminants?
No water filter removes all contaminants. Different filtering products are better suited for removing different contaminants. Because there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, it is best to find a product that removes the specific contaminants each user wants to target.
Q. What is the simplest type of portable water filter?
When it comes to ease of use, a portable filtered water bottle is a simple pick. It provides both the bottle to store the water and the filtration system, making it a convenient pick to take on the road.
Q. How often do I need to replace my water filter?
It depends on the product and the filtration system. Each product will specify when the filter needs to be changed to maintain safe water conditions.