Choosing the best portable water filter for backpacking, hiking and traveling is paramount for any adventurer who loves the outdoors. I have been down with travelers’ diarrhea some time back. I could not keep anything down. I wouldn’t wish this fate on my worst enemy. The cause? Drinking dirty, contaminated water.
In some countries, even the store-bought bottled water is not packed to the highest standards of hygiene. This is why you need to take your health in the outdoors in your own hands and ensure that every drop of water you take is clean. And it is very simple too. Just buy a portable water filter or purifier. You can order one online or buy locally after reading this buying guide.
- 1 Things you need to filter out of your water outdoors
- 2 Best portable water filters
- 3 Conclusion
Understand how the best portable water filter works
Do not just buy blindly. Be smart; know how it works. Know the science and the technology behind the portable water filter. For example, just what will your portable water bottle filter?
They work in different ways. Some are carbon filters (these are very common) and some are UV filters (not very common).
Carbon filters – These ones work by passing the water through a filtering layer that contains carbon. With time, it will wear out and it will have to replaced, but then carbon filters are easy to find and cheap to buy. The effectiveness of the carbon filter is measured in microns. They are not only easy to use, but they are very effective as well. You have to physically pour the water through the carbon filter.
UV filters – If you buy portable water filter incorporating the UV (Ultra Violet) rays technology; just know that it uses these powerful rays to kill bacteria and viruses. But what about the chemical compounds? You ask. Well, the UV filter does not eliminate those and that is why before buying the best portable water filter for hiking and backpacking, you should at least determine the source of the water that you will be drinking to know the kind of filter to buy.
The UV filter is more expensive but it is very effective at killing bacteria and viruses. If the thought of drinking water with dead bacteria and viruses is yuck to you, well, you cannot see them. Out of sight out of mind!
Look for a portable water filter that combines both the carbon and the UV technology so that you can have the best of both.
In very simple terms the micron size of the filter just means the size of the pore. The smaller it is the better because some contaminants, for example, viruses can be so minute. Look for micron size 0.2 and smaller.
Water filter straws
But the hubbub is not all about the water filters, because there are water filter straws too, which are very effective. As the name suggests, the water filter straw is a straw through which you drink water from a bottle or a glass. The straw has a membrane that captures all the contaminants as you suck water through a straw. One of the most popular filter straws is LifeStraw Water Filter, which we will look at later.
Things you need to filter out of your water outdoors
Mainly, there are three types of water contaminants that a portable filter that professes to be the best should filter. These include:
These are minute, aren’t they? That is why a portable filter should filter even these. Now, the good news is that if the filter can prevent these minute disease causing agents from getting into your drinking water, then it will be even more capable with even the bacteria and chemical components, which are bigger.
Water, even from springs and other sources in the mountains contains many chemical compounds thanks to pollution, use of insecticides and pesticides some of which linger in the air for a long time. Have you heard of acid rain? Now, think along those lines and you will see just why you should not drink unfiltered water even from your tap at home.
Some of the compounds you should be worried about include fluoride, which is added into water intentionally, metal compounds that seep into the water from plumbing, lead, which may leak into the water by accident and fertilizer from farming.
There can be all manner of bacteria in the water that you drink. They are more common than most of the other contaminants including viruses and that is why you should never drink water before filtering it in the outdoors or when traveling to another country. Bacteria are responsible for causing travelers’ diarrhea, stomach upsets, vomiting, nausea and more ailments that can keep you closeted indoors when you should be having fun.
We will not look at the cost, portability, size, color and such details, although they are very important. However, now that you know what kinds of contaminants backpacking filters remove, we will look at a few of them here. That way, you can go straight to the point of buying the one that meets your fancy. There are many of them, some of them made by reputable brands in the market and some by less known brands. It is best to look at user reviews before buying so that you can buy a tried and proven product.
Some water can have a nasty smell. If you get water that has rotten egg smell, regardless of the fact that your portable filter has eliminated all the bacteria and viruses, you will not be able to drink it.
Best portable water filters
Reusable LifeStraw Go Water Bottle/1000-Liter LifeStraw Filter
This is a great, feature-rich portable water bottle as it filters water as you drink. That means you just pour in water and then you can drink it on your way with all the confidence and assurance that it is safe. It is the best water filter for backpacking, traveling, camping and hiking. It is reusable.
The water bottle will filter bacteria, virus, protozoa and other contaminants. It does this using an inbuilt membrane, which means there is no iodine or batteries.
Not only do you filter water without using chemicals, but at the same time, this filter bottle comes with two-stage carbon filtration system. In the second stage, the filtration will eliminate odor, chlorine and any aftertaste.
Using the award winning LifeStraw filter, this water bottle can filter out 99.99% of water contaminants. The bottle is also made of BPA-free plastic (Tritan). When you buy it, you can buy replacement filters separately. Remember the LifeStraw is supposed to be used to filter 1000 liters of water.
OKO H2O Level-2 Advanced Filtration Water Bottle
You will enjoy drinking water that has been filtered using advanced NASA technology, which was initially used in bottles designed for use in space. The OkO H2O Level 2 Advanced water filtration bottle is made with BPA –free plastic. It has many wonderful features and it is very simple to use.
The level-2 filter is a 2-micron size meaning that it captures all of the contaminants making it 99.9% effective. By using the electro-absorption process which attracts and then traps the contaminants (bacteria, protozoa and viruses), the charged fields are activated upon coming into contact with water will close the pores to any harmful agents attempting to pass. But that is not all because there are silver ions that kill the bacteria upon contact thus making the water absolutely safe. Giardia lamblia, cryptosporidium and e-coli bacteria are effectively filtered at a success rate of more than 99.5%.
For how long can you use the OKO H2O Level-2 Advanced Filtration Water Bottle? If you are filtering water that is too dirty, you will do up to 50 gallons but for water that is not visibly dirty, you can do up to 100 gallons.
This is the best portable filter for backpacking and hiking. It is also dishwasher-safe, comes in dimensions of 8.25 x 3.3 x 3 inches/21 x 8.4 x 7.6 cm.
If there is any backwash, it will be returned back into the filtration area as OKO filter uses the Upstream Valve technology to ensure that filtered water does not mix with the unfiltered water.
CamelBak Groove 0.6 liter bottle
CamelBak Groove comes with a few important features that make it the best for backpacking and hiking. Firstly, it is light as it has a capacity of 0.6 liters, and secondly, it has a loop handle that makes it easy for carrying or attaching to your back with a clip. The bottle comes with a built-in filter that may require to be replaced after every 48 gallons of water. Certified by bodies like the NSF International, this portable filter water bottle not only eliminates germs and bacteria, but it also eliminates, taste, odor and chlorine.
The bottle and the cap are BPA and other toxins-free, 100%. The water bottle is dish-washable and with a little weight of 4 oz, this makes it one of the lightest water filters in the market.
Some people swear by the CamelBak Groove water bottle and others swear against it. Some say that the bottle leaks and if they keep it in their bag, it gets everything else wet. Other people say that the cap does not stand by itself and therefore the filter straw may be contaminated as you refill the bottle. However, most people only have good things to say about this filter water bottle.
CamelBak water bottles come with warranty coverage against manufacturing defects so if yours develops such problems as mentioned above within the stipulated time, you may have it replaced.
Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration System
At a weight of only 2 ounces, small enough to fit in your palm, this water filter bottle has been tested aggressively against bacteria and protozoa and it has passed every test. This water bottle has many rave reviews on the internet and there is no doubt that it is the best for camping, hiking and traveling. In addition, once you buy it, you will use it for many years as it is designed with the most advanced filtering technology that should filter tens of thousands of gallons of water.
The Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration Bottle uses the “absolute micron filtering system”. This is the best filtration system in the world. It involves passing water through small u-shape tubes with small pores for letting in water. Because of the large number of these tubes and the increased surface area for filtering water, it means you can filter and drink water in real time, that is, as it filters. This means you do not need to filter and store water as that is how water becomes contaminated even after it is filtered.
Note that the filter does not eliminate viruses, and therefore you should know the source of your water and the likely contaminants that are found there. It does not also remove dissolved solids or chemicals. Each tube is an absolute micron filter on its own. However, make sure that you sanitize the filter after every camping or hiking trip. If you are putting it to storage where it will stay some time without being used, sanitize it.
- It is good for international travel
- The highly efficient filter can be attached to water pouches, disposable water bottles
- It is rated for 100,000 gallons and comes with a 16-ounce pouch that is reusable
- Comes with a drinking straw – 7-inch
- It eliminates up to 99.9999% of E-coli, cholera, salmonella, giardia and cryptosporidium
Brita Sport 20-Ounce Water Filter Bottle/Filter
The sporty design of the Brita 20-Ounce Water Bottle with straw filter shows you that it is one of the best products in the market for a person who wants to drink clean filtered water whenever they are on the go.
The filtration system of this bottle not only helps get rid of the contaminants but it will also get rid of chlorine and odor from the water. The safety of the water is further enhanced by the fact that you drink water that is filtered in real time, that is, it filters as you drink.
The capacity of the bottle is 20 ounces/0.6 liters. That means if you are hiking a long trail, you may have to refill your water filter bottle from time to time if you are a thirsty hiker.
The water bottle has a built-in loop that will allow you to carry it easily. It is also safe to wash it on the top rack of the dishwasher. Using it is very simple. You just have to fill the bottle and tighten the cap nice and snug. Then you can just open the straw and drink your water fresh and filtered straight from the bottle.
If you are a heavy user, make sure you change the filter after every forty gallons. The good thing is that filter is standard as it is made to fit up to 300 16.9-ounce bottles thus preventing too much plastic waste. Just look for black Brita replacement filters.
There is scanty information about the filtration capability of this bottle, that is, whether it filters bacteria, viruses and chemical compounds. Maybe you ought to take it with a pinch of salt.
There are many more portable water filters in the market, but these five are some of the best. They have been tested, tried and proven their worth. The common denominator for them all is that they are reusable. With the information provided above, buying the best portable water filter bottle should not be too hard for you and you can keep hydrated anytime you are in the outdoors.