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Best Survival Water Filter [8 Prepper Choices]

If SHTF, what water filter will you be bringing with you in your bug out bag? This article will give you a complete review of the best survival water filters.

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If you’ve found yourself in desperate need of drinking water, you know how distressing that can be.

What if the situation was aggravated by being in a wilderness of mucky water sources? 

You will be caught between desperately wanting to have a quenching drink and the fear of killing yourself with contaminated water. A good survival water filter will save your life.

The best survival water filter has a micron rating below 0.2.

They may not filter your water at the highest of speeds, but they should be able to kill bacteria, protozoa, and most viruses. They should also be portable, but that should not compromise quality.

But why would you need to worry about an emergency water filter if you don’t foresee yourself in a survival situation? Well, if that is your thinking, the reality is proving you wrong.

In a hurry? If you just want to get to our conclusions, here are our top picks and recommendations!

Last update on 2021-04-16 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Table Of Contents show

Why You Need a Survival Water Filter

Consider the following…

The Covid-19 era is teaching everyone that being prepared for the worst is not just a prepper’s obsession.

Instead, “no one knows what tomorrow will bring, and whatever it brings, it might mean disaster, thus, the need for survival preparedness.”

If you have ‘prepper’s blood’ you’ll agree on this: “between water and electricity, you are better off going without power but having all the water you want and need.”

Obviously, water is everything! You drink it, use it for a well-deserved refreshing shower/bath, flash out human waste from your home, clean utensils and surfaces, cool your car engine, and the list is endless.

While you might make do with not so clean water for some of these uses, drinking water must be clean and free of bugs.

Quenching your dehydrated body with contaminated water might save you from death by dehydration, but it will kill you by poisoning or infection, and you sure don’t want that.

According to the World Health Organization, around 2 billion people drink water from a contaminated source, and by 2025 (that’s just 5 years from now!) 50% of the global population will live in water-stressed areas. 

A filter doesn’t sound like a bad idea in such situations.

With these facts and thoughts in mind, we decided that you deserve some good guidance on the best survival water filters.

Should SHTF tomorrow, and it seems it will, what water filter will you be bringing with you as you grab your bug out bag and hit the road to survival?

This article will help you answer that question by giving you a complete review of the best survival water filters.

But we’ll also answer all your related questions, just so you can make the best choice. Here’s what to expect.

Man drinking water from a mountain stream without using a water filter.
Drinking water directly from a mountain stream, without using a water filter, may not be the best decision health-wise.

Survival Water Filters: Are They Water Purifiers?

In a survival situation where the only water available is contaminated, drinking it as is will be exposing yourself to a range of pathogens that are invisible to the naked eye.

Human and animal activity are both to blame for this contamination. Sometimes it’s also the fact that water is stagnant, and allows the growth of bacteria.

Your available survival water may be habited by 3 different types of microbes:

  • Viruses: including Rotavirus, Norovirus, Hepatitis A, and Enteric.
  • Bacteria: including Shigella, Salmonella, E.Coli, and Campylobacter.
  • Protozoa: including Cryptosporidium and Giardia.

The difference between a water filter and a water purifier is in what each does with these microbes.

Water Filter

  • Acts like a colander or strainer
  • Keeps dirt, debris, protozoa, and bacteria, and some viruses
  • Does not filter all viruses

Water Purifier

  • Uses light or electronic pulses
  • Kills protozoa, bacteria, and viruses
  • Doesn’t filter debris and dirt

As can be judged, each has its strengths and drawbacks. We’ll keep focusing on water filters now that you know their pluses and minuses.

So, when you want to buy your emergency water filter, you’ll want one where the pluses are pronounced and the minuses minimized.

Read the survival water filter buyer’s guide to determine what’s best for you.

For more information on water purification, check out our guide on how to purify water.

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8 Best Survival Water Filters

So, you’ve made up your mind about water filter survival and you are ready to purchase the best emergency water filter in preparation for the eventual SHTF situation. Which filter options do you have?

Here’s your complete guide for the best water filter for emergency preparedness.

Best survival pump filter (our top pick)

Survivor Filter PRO

We chose this pump water filter as our top pick for two reasons. First, it has a pore size of 0.01 which means high efficiency in eliminating microbes.

Second, the filter has three filtration points that use membrane and activated filter techniques. This means your water will be triple-filtered.

The Survivor Filter PRO is tested at US labs and certified with the capacity to filter 99.9% of protozoa, virus, and bacteria. It also eliminates 99.5% of mercury and 93% of lead.

In a survival situation, you’ll love this filter for its superfast capacity to filter water (500 ml per minute), which means it can be used to clean water for a group or family or make enough water for an individual’s multiple water needs.

To filter, you simply put the pre-filter end in the water source and pump the water through the carbon filter and the internal ultra-filter so the clean water is collected into the included cup through a delivery pipe.

The filter’s casing is made of safe ABS Material and is PBA-free. Though the size is not tiny, it is easily portable by disassembling the parts and fitting them in the ‘carry case’ that comes with it, before putting in your backpack.

Last update on 2021-03-30 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Pros

  • A 0.01 micron rating
  • 3-stage filtration
  • Removes all 3 types of microbes by 99.9%
  • Fast water flow

Cons

  • Can be pricey
  • Not the smallest size for a backpack
  • Carbon filter cartridge will need replacement for an extra price

Best survival water filter straw (our budget-conscious pick)

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

This miracle-working tiny straw filter is our budget-conscious pick. You buy 1 pack for a relatively low price but you get 4,000 liters (1, 000 gallons) of clean water.

You can also save some money by buying the LifeStraw Personal Water Filter in a 2/3/5 pack for family or group use.

The inline filter has a 0.2 micron rating, indicated to remove 99.9% protozoa and bacteria. This is because the entire length of the straw filter is fitted with a microfiltration membrane.

You might, however, not rely on it for minute viruses with less than 0.2 microns.

Last update on 2021-04-16 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Pros

  • Budget-friendly
  • Filters a large amount of water
  • Easy to carry in your backpack

Cons

  • A 0.2 micron will not filter minute viruses
  • You have to keep sucking to drink

Best inline survival water filter

Sawyer Products MINI Water Filtration System

This squeeze filter is a high-performance filter with a 0.1 micron rating. The palm-size inline filter is the lightest survival tool you’ll put in your bug out bug; only 2oz.

But don’t underestimate its efficacy because it will filter up to 100,000 gallons.

The Sawyer MINI Water Filtration System is tested thrice for performance by the manufacturer and can filter 99.9% of protozoa and bacteria as well as 100% of microplastics.

You can use the straw to drink directly from the source. Alternatively, the system comes with a water pouch, you screw the filter to the pouch filled with water to drink or dispense into another container.

It can also be attached to standard disposable water bottles.

Last update on 2021-04-16 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Pros

  • A 0.1 micron rating
  • Large water filtration capacity
  • Extremely light for easy portability

Cons

  • Only manufacturer certification
  • Not the smallest size for a backpack
  • Carbon filter cartridge will need replacement for an extra price

Best portable water filter for survival

Survivor Filter

Know how you push your water bottle into the side pocket of your knapsack? That’s the same way you do with the survivor filter.

The water bottle-shape filter only weighs 3.5oz (100 grams) and has a length of 7 inches.

But portability is not the Survivor Filter's only quality. The filter is a 3-stage system: a cotton prefilter, a membrane, and an activated carbon cartridge. That means super filtration for extra clean water.

Other qualities that make this a perfect survival filter include its unique flip top and a special mouthpiece that can be screwed on to other standard water bottles like Smart Water and Dasani.

You simply use your survivor filter directly from the water source.

Last update on 2021-04-16 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Pros

  • 3-stage filtration
  • Easy to carry around
  • Drinking space protected by flip top

Cons

  • Sucking will tire your cheeks
  • Cotton and carbon filters will need replacement for an extra price

Best survival water filter bottle

LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottles

You can carry this 6oz filter as your water bottle anywhere you go.

The BPA-free water bottle is fitted with a replaceable membrane water filter that purifies up to 4000L and a replaceable carbon filter that lasts a100L.

The filter has a 0.2 micron rating and the fiber microfiltration membrane removes up to 99.9% of bacteria and protozoa.

With the LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle you simply fill your bottle and screw the cap and you can sip clean water from the straw.

You can buy this filter bottle for your entire camping group or family by ordering the value pack that has 2 bottles in popular colors.

Your filter bottle also has a hook for convenient carrying, which means you can easily fasten it on your backpack without taking up space inside.

Last update on 2021-04-16 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Pros

  • BPA-free adaptable water bottle
  • Easy to use
  • Easily portable

Cons

  • Quite pricey
  • Filter membrane requires replacement at an extra price

Best group / family survival water filter

LifeStraw Family Portable Gravity Powered Water Purifier

Some filters have limiting technology that allows just one person to use the filter. Not so the LifeStraw Family. This gravity-powered emergency water filter will quench your family or camping group’s thirst at one go.

Rated at 0.02 micron, the filter can purify up to 18,000 liters of water and serve a family/group of 5 for three whole years!

The manufacturer indicates that the filter surpasses EPA standards and it can eliminate up to 99.9% of bacteria, protozoa, and viruses.

Its high flow rate (9 -12liters per hour) allows you to fill clean filtered water into large gallons for the group.

You simply fill the top of the LifeStraw Family Purifier with water and the water is delivered at the end hose. A pump at the end hose controls water dispensing.

You can opt to hold the top with the inbuilt handle while the rest of the group quenches their thirst or safely hung it on a tree using the four holes at the top.

Last update on 2021-04-16 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Pros

  • Gravity powered
  • Plenty of features for easy use
  • High water volume and fast flow for group use

Cons

  • A bit cumbersome for your prepper’s bag
  • You have to keep filling the top

Best substitute survival water filter

Katadyn Vario Water Filter

This dual-piston technology microfilter is perfect for both personal and group emergency preparedness. It will give you plenty of clean water with minimum effort.

It is a replacement water filter with a 3-stage filtration system made of an activated Carbon core, glass fiber filter, and a ceramic pre-filter.

The Katadyn Vario Water Filter has a 0.2 micron rating and the manufacturer indicates that the filter removes 99.9% of bacteria and protozoa.

Its shape and size make the filter easy to pack in your bug out bag.

The filter has an adapter base that attaches to standard water bottles. You simply attach the filter to your bottle and put the input hose to the source.

Alternatively, an output hose can feed the filtered water to a bigger container.

Last update on 2021-04-16 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Pros

  • 3-stage filtration
  • Fits easily in a backpack
  • Can attach to standard water bottles

Cons

  • Quite pricey
  • Carbon core requires replacement at an extra cost

Best durable survival water filter (our special choice)

LifeStraw Steel Personal Water Filter

The LifeStraw Steel Personal water filter is our special durable choice.

While most of the survival water filters presented are made from safe plastics, our most durable choice is made of durable food-grade stainless steel.

This two-stage filter is said to eliminate water contaminants as well as bad odor and taste. It has a 0.2 micron rating and eliminates 99.9% of protozoa and bacteria.

The LifeStraw Steel Personal Water Filter uses the activated carbon technology in a replaceable capsule. It will filter up to 1,000 liters without needing chemical or pumping and without using batteries. Its light weight allows you to carry it with ease.

To use, you simply remove the stainless steel caps from both ends. One end goes to the water source and the other delivers your water.

Last update on 2021-04-16 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Pros

  • 2-stage filtration
  • Safe stainless steel casing
  • Light to carry around

Cons

  • Continuous sipping can tire you
  • Carbon capsule requires replacement at an extra cost

With your list of best survival water filters complete, you are now ready to use the buyer’s guide to order your filter.

After that, a few tips and best practices drawn from some of the frequently asked questions on best survival water filters.

Survival Water Filter Buyer’s Guide: 9 Filter Qualities to Look For

Not all survival water filters are created equal, each has its strengths and limits. But what’s true about all of them, according to CDC, is that none can keep all contamination out of your drinking water.

So, you need to get one that has the greatest percentage of efficiency.

Here are the 9 water filter qualities you should look out for when you google-search ‘survival water filter amazon’ or order from any other seller.

The pore size of the filter (Filter micron rating)

To allow you to get water from the source to your mouth, filters have tiny holes. You can imagine the holes of a colander and the difference that they make in blocking dirt depending on the size of the holes.

The same with a filter, the tinier the pores, the tinier the impurities they will keep out of your drinking water.

For example, a filter with a pore size of 0.1 microns will allow more impurities in your drinking water than one with a 0.01 micron.

A micron is an extremely small unit of length equivalent to one-millionth of a meter. Consider that a strand of hair is a 75/100 microns wide.

When buying your survival water filter, go for one with minute pores that will give you the safest drinking water. Avoid any filter with a micron rating greater than 0.2.

Remember that filters will not eliminate all the viruses in the water. Most viruses are around 0.01-0.3 microns.

A filter with a 0.01 micron will get rid of these viruses. But some viruses can be as tiny as 0.004 microns, and that means they’ll bypass your filter.

Here’s a representation of the microns for some of the common viruses.

  • Hepatitis A & E - 0.027 microns
  • Rotavirus - 0.070 microns
  • Norwalk virus - 0.027 microns.
  • Echovirus – 0.020 (Source)

Standard certification

Independent organizations such as NSF International assess the public health standards of products. If your filter has an NSF label, you can look it up on their database to find out what the water filter is certified to protect you from.

For example, water treatment products with a ‘standard 41’ is certified for taste and odor.

One with a ‘standard 53’ is certified for cyst reduction, one with a ‘standard 58’ is certified for reverse osmosis, and one with a ‘standard 62’ is certified for distillations.

Filters using reverse osmosis have a system that reverses water flow in a natural process so that the water moves from a more concentrated solution to a more dilute one through a semi-permeable membrane.

They have high effectiveness and can remove protozoa, bacteria, and viruses as well as other common chemical contaminants.

Some filters may also be tested in national labs, and you can ask for copies of the tests from the manufacturer when purchasing your survival water filter.

Illustration of microbes present in dirty water used without a water filter.

Flow rate

Flow rate refers to the speed at which water moves from the source to the drinking/pouring point.

If your filter has a 100ml per minute, it is okay for a single person drinking from the source but not for a camping family or group. One with a 500ml flow rate would be better in a group setting.

When picking your filter, think of how many people will need the supply of safe drinking water during an emergency situation.

Note, however, that higher flow rates often mean higher micron rating and vice versa.

Filter casing material

You will want to make sure that your filter is made from good and safe material. For example, some filters have an Acrylonitrile–butadiene–styrene (ABS) shell.

ABS is a safe commercial polymer used in industries for its good physical and mechanical properties.

You will want to ensure that your filter casing is BPA free. Also, some filters use food-grade stainless steel.

Filter type

There are different types of survival water filters that you can choose from. We give you the basic features of each.

Straw water filters (Inline water filters)

A straw water filter allows you to drink directly from the source. You can crouch and drink, but you might not be able to bring filtered water with you.

The only option would be to carry mucky water in your bottle and use the straw water filter each time you need to drink.

Straw water filters are easy to carry around and cost little, which also means you can bring a spare one along.

Squeeze filters

Squeeze water filters work by filling your water bottle/pouch and then screwing on the filter before squeezing the bottle to allow you to sip the clean filtered water.

They are lightweight and small in size and can also be adapted by using a straw filter or an inline filter.

Bottle Water Filters

These work in a similar way as the French press coffee maker. You fill your bottle with the mucky water and push the filter into the bottle.

The water pollutants are then pushed at the bottom of the bottle and the clean water is left in the top portion.  

You can either drink straight from the water filter bottle or pour the clean water into a survival drinking cup you might have brought with you.

Some bottle filters also use the straw filtration technology, you have a membrane filter inside the bottle and a straw at the top to drink from.

Pump Water Filters

These work by putting one end in the water and using a hand-operated pump to bring the clean water to a pouch through a cartridge.

Its main advantage is that you can filter water from a shallow source and you only carry filtered clean water with you. But it can also be a bit bulky.

Gravity filters

Gravity water filters are good for group or family camping.

They work by filling a pouch with water and then hanging at an elevated level (say a tree branch) so that the gravity pushes the water down through the filter and everyone can have clean water.

Its key advantage is that it can filter plenty of water, but the water source must be elevated.

Filter technology/material

Different materials are used in survival water filters to remove microbes.

Often, the materials are also used together to enhance filtration efficiency.  They include:

Membranes

These are usually sieves with micron-rated tiny holes. You can easily clean membranes by flushing water back to eliminate dirt.

They also have a long life, but can be spoilt in cold weather if you let them freeze.

Activated Carbon Cartridge

Activated carbon in filters absorbs microbes. This explains why most of them have a short lifespan. If the water is highly contaminated, your carbon filter fills up fast and you have to replace it.

Its greatest risk is that the carbon can get filled up and if you do not notice you’ll be sipping in plenty of microbes.

Some activated carbon filters are made with the ability to improve the taste and odor of contaminated water.

Nano filters

Nano filters use carbon Nano tubes to extract microbes and chemicals from the water. It is a relatively new technology but slowly gaining popularity.

Filters made by Nano technology have a minute pore size, around 0.001 microns which makes them extremely effective to remove bacteria, protozoa, and viruses and relatively effective in eliminating chemicals.

Durability

No one wants to buy a product that lasts them a single day. When buying an emergency water filter for your bug out bag, go for one that can last you the longest and avoid a cheap plastic shell. Stainless steel shells are quite long-lasting.

Durability also refers to the filtration technology. An activated Carbon filter that takes in all the dirt will last less than a membrane one that you can clean by flashing back the dirt.

Portability

Portability has to do with both size and weight. A bulky filter would be fine in the home setting. But buying a large filter that will need you to bring along an extra bag to carry it would be impractical.

Instead, purchase one that can easily fit into your bug out bag and one that is light and does not add lots of extra weight on your back.

Straw filters usually take the price when it comes to portability.

Cost

Of course, the ‘size of your pocket’ is going to be important in deciding what emergency water filter you’ll go for. Nevertheless, ensure, that you do not compromise quality in the name of price.

We are speaking about drinking clean water, something that can have an impact on your health and survival.

Note, also, that cost is not always an indicator of quality, which means you will need to assess the survival water filter on the previous qualities to make sure that it is worth the price tag.

At times, the cost may depend on filter technology. For example, cartridge replacement filters tend to be pricier also because replacing the cartridge always means extra cost.

Now that you know what to look for when buying a survival water filter, it’s time to present our 8 best survival water filters.

Best Survival Water Filter FAQS

To complete your knowledge on best survival water filters, keep in mind these FAQ when deciding on your pick.

What is the most important quality I should consider when buying a survival water filter?

The most important quality in a survival water filter is its micron rating.

Since water filters are meant to make your water safe for drinking that means they should remove all protozoa and bacteria and most viruses.

To achieve that, your filter should have tiny pores and be rated low in microns.

A 0.01 micron filter is more efficient than one with 0.1 micron rating. The rule of thumb is to not go for a filter with a micron rating greater than 0.2.

Do water filters kill all viruses?

It is said that no filter is 100% efficient. Some viruses have can be as tiny as 0.004 microns.

Your filter must have that rating to be able to filter such viruses. But you will not find many filters in the market with that kind of rating, though Nano technology filters are beginning to give filtration capacities of up to 0.001 microns.

The most important thing is to buy a filter that will eliminate as many viruses as possible.

Do water filters remove bad taste?

You will read from some sources that water filters do not change the taste of your water. That may not be precise.

Some present-day filters, such as those using the activated carbon cartridges, can improve the taste of your water.

So, if your water source is really mucky, these can make your water taste better than it looks.

Should I prefer a fast-flow survival water filter to one that has a slower flow?

Generally, no!

It is often said that low micron water filters are slower because it means they have small pores and take their time to filter the water.

However, technology is improving and filters with a fast water flow are doing their filtration job as efficiently as those with a slow flow. Just ensure that the technology used for your filter is reliable.

Can I freeze my survival water filter to preserve it for future use?

Most survival water filters will be damaged by freezing, so you are better off not freezing them.

Some filter types may withstand freezing better than others. For example, freezing membrane filters is a complete no.

Nano carbon filters can withstand freezing better, which is why they are recommended for winter weather. But you generally don’t need to freeze your filter.

Best Survival Water Filters Conclusions

This wraps up our buyer's guide for the best survival water filter on the market right now.

We hope you know have a good understanding on how water filters work, and hopefully you made a decision on buying one for your Bug Out Bag or Get Home Bag.

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Hi, I'm Russ!

I've been prepping for a long time, but 2020 convinced me that I need to take it to the next level.

This website started as a way to keep me going forward on the path to being better prepared.

Now, I’m turning it into a complete blueprint for anyone else looking to do the same!
Russell M. Morgan
Telson Survival

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