The 5 Best Portable Water Purifiers Today!
Our Personal Review of the Products

Humans can live without food for two weeks as long as they have water.

Take away the water? Three days and you’re sprouting angel wings.

Water is likely the most important factor in a person’s day-to-day survival and comfort. It doesn’t matter if you’re backpacking, camping, travelling, or surviving a zombie apocalypse, you’re going to need fresh water. That’s why we’re here to show you the best portable water purifier you can find.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Portable Water Purifier

How Portable is it?

Do you need something ultralight to purify small amounts at a time? Or are you looking to purify a lot of water? Do you want something to work in conjunction with a hydration bladder, a Nalgene, or something you can simply drink with? Do you need the lightest option possible because you’re thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, or are you car camping and can live with a little bulk?

We try to highlight a number of different products with applications across a broad swathe of users, but in the end, you’ll need to match things with your individual situation.

Does it Kill Bugs or Remove the Grit?

The biggest health factor in a water purifier or filter is going to be getting rid of the creepy crawlies that can make you sick. But some purifiers do a great job of getting rid of the bugs without removing solids from the water. If you’re not concerned about gritty water, then those could be good options for you. However, if you just cannot stand the thought of chewing your water, you’ll need to be looking at something that offers filtration in addition to purification.

Is the product flexible?

The options below all have their strong points. Some offer greater flexibility (attach to a bottle, hydration system, or use as a straw) while others have fewer options. Some will have a much greater filter life while others run on batteries. If you’re sure about the situation you’ll be using your water purifier in, then get the one that best matches your requirements. However, if you’re not sure or can envision numerous situations when you would want to use it, make sure you get one that will be flexible.

What is the Cost?

None of these options is break-the-bank expensive. Unless, of course, you’re going for one of the larger systems that get up to the three-figures range. But the personal water purifiers aren’t all that pricy. Not cheap, of course, but about the price of a pair of sneakers.

Lifetime Capacity

How long can these little things continue to pump clean water? Every purification system has a number they tack on to the advertising. Sometimes the number is backed up by testing, sometimes it’s a number grabbed out of thin air. The purification systems listed here are from the more reliable companies so their numbers are going to be close to what you can really expect.

Flow Rate

This is pretty simple and important — how fast does your purifier purify? If it’s a straw-based filter, does it feel like drinking water from a glass or like you’re trying to suck peanut butter through it?

The Approaches

Water purification comes in a variety of different systems. They break down into the following categories:

  • Suction Powered: These “straws” use a hollow membrane filter to make the water clean. Simply drawing water through the device with the power of your mouth is all that’s required to make it drinkable. Advantages: size, weight, price, ease of use and flexibility. Drawbacks: Some of the straws lack flexibility to integrate with other drinking systems.
  • Gravity Powered: As the name implies, these purification systems use gravity to purify the water. They generally have larger capacities and should be considered when purifying water for large groups. Advantages: capacity for larger groups. Disadvantages: weight, size, and cost, although some small options exist.
  • UV Powered: Basically this is the SteriPEN, which we will discuss later. Advantages: Flat out works. Disadvantages: capacity, time, uses batteries like a beast, doesn’t actually kill the buggies, just eliminates their capability to reproduce.
  • The Others: Boiling your water works, of course. But it’s time consuming and heavy carrying all that fuel. There are hand pump filters, but the gravity, suction and UV powered ones are more popular, lighter and cost less. And iodine or bleach? If you feel like adding chemicals to your water to make it more clean, be my guest.

Our Top 5 Picks for the Best Portable Water Purifiers

So, those are the broad strokes. Here’s the best portable water purifiers we found that are currently available in the marketplace today.

SteriPEN Adventurer Opti UV Water Purifier

Summary:

  • Weight: 4.61 ounces
  • Type: UV Light
  • Flow: 90 seconds per liter
  • Capacity: 50 liters per battery set / unit reusable for 8000 liters

Features:

  • UV light eliminates the ability of the bugs to reproduce, thus eliminating their ability to make you sick.
  • ABS plastic with its own hard side case.
  • Water sensor can double as LED light.
  • Does not change the taste of that cool, refreshing mountain water.

The SteriPEN idea is awesome: Turn it on, drop it in your water and stir it around while the UV light totally shuts down the ability to reproduce for all the bugs and bacteria and viruses in the water.

However, there are some drawbacks. In no particular order:

  • Requires CR123A batteries to work. Expensive and can be hard to find.
  • Can use rechargeable batteries, but requires a solar charger.
  • Needs a wide-mouth (Nalgene or similar) to work.
  • Does nothing to get rid of particulates and solids in the water.
  • Only purifies the water in the bottle — the water on the threads of the bottle could still make you sick.
  • Introduces electronics into a situation where they are not required.

Does it sound like we hate the SteriPEN? Not at all. It’s awesome. But the drawbacks are real. We wanted to spell them out so you can make an informed decision.

PROS

  • Lightweight, simple operation.
  • Leaves water tasting as fresh as the mountains stream you got it from.
  • LED light can come in handy.

CONS

  • CR123A batteries need to be carried or sourced — often expensive.
  • You’re gonna be chewing your water — does nothing to remove any silt or dirt.
  • That little bit of untreated water on the threads of the bottle? Yeah, it can make you sick.

Best suited for: someone who wants a lightweight purifier, doesn’t mind a little grit in your water, is willing to source and carry either enough batteries for your trip or a bulky solar recharger and doesn’t want to rely on a manual purification system.


The LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

Summary:

  • Weight: 2 ounces
  • Type: Straw/Suction (0.2 micron size)
  • Flow: 1.7 liters per minute according to manufacturer, but depends on user / takes 3–5 seconds of suction to start water
  • Capacity: 1000 liters

Features:

  • Hollow membrane filters out everything above 0.2 microns.
  • No chemicals to change the taste of the water.
  • Easily carry it around your neck for clean water in an instant.
  • Can be stored for up to five years.

The idea is simple: make a small, lightweight plastic tube that people can use to turn potentially sickening water into nice clean water wherever and whenever you want or need it.

The LifeStraw works. It does it cheaply and well. It will get rid of any chunks of dirt or leaves floating in the water. It also gets rid of everything above the 0.2 micron size. That’s pretty much everything that can make you sick.

Drawbacks? There are a few. The LifeStraw only works as a straw, which sounds great, but other devices have greater flexibility. Plus you can get pretty tired of leaning over the stream to suck in water every day.

PROS

  • Neat, easy, lightweight, cheap.
  • No need to pump anything — just drink and go.
  • Can carry it with you everywhere.

CONS

  • Great for one person. With a group? Not so much.
  • Can only be used as a straw. Cannot put clean water in another container.

Best suited for: the person who wants the lightest, fastest, easiest purification option available and doesn’t worry about needing water outside of what goes directly in their mouth. And just in case you want to see a professor drinking poop water with a LifeStraw:


The Sawyer Mini

Summary:

  • Weight: 1.4 ounces/2 ounces with field kit
  • Type: Straw/Suction (0.1 micron size)
  • Flow: Varies according to user
  • Capacity: 100,000 liters

Features:

  • Multiple options for filtration.
  • Can be backwashed and cleaned if it gets clogged.
  • The lightest filtration system on the list.

The Sawyer Mini is the lightest and most flexible unit we cover here. It comes with a “soft bottle,” a straw and a plunger for cleaning/backwashing the unit. It filters out everything down to 0.1 microns.

Let’s talk about that flexibility. How can you use the Sawyer Mini? Let us count the ways …

  • Attach the included straw to drink from any source.
  • Use the collapsible soft bottle with the Mini attached.
  • Attach the mini to any standard disposable water bottle.
  • Can be attached inline to a hydration bladder system with appropriate accessories.
  • Can be used as a gravity filter.

Is there anything the Sawyer Mini can’t do? Setting it up as a gravity filter works, but not well. If you’re sure you need a gravity filter, go with a dedicated system for that. But if you are looking for the lightest, most flexible option on the market, this is pretty much it. And in case you like moving pictures, here’s one guy’s review of the Sawyer Mini:

PROS

  • Drinks like a regular straw (easier than the LifeStraw).
  • Can be used in many different configurations.
  • Comes with the tools required to clean it if it gets clogged up.
  • 100. Thousand. Liter. Capacity.

CONS

  • Only 20–40 liters of muddy water before needs cleaning.
  • Don’t let it freeze — the filtration membrane will be ruined.
  • Water will stay inside of it after first use, adding a few ounces to the weight.
  • Supplied “soft bottle” bag isn’t the strongest.

Best suited for: anyone who wants a lightweight, cheap purification system that can be used in a variety of ways. Which means pretty much everyone.


The Travel Berkey Water Filter

Summary:

  • Weight: eight pounds
  • Type: Gravity
  • Flow: 2.5 gallons per hour (9.5 liters per hour)
  • Capacity: 6000 gallons (about 22,000 liters)

Features:

  • Constructed of long-lasting Stainless Steel.
  • Gravity filter for ease of use: just pour water in and turn the spigot.
  • Filters out pretty much everything.

Berkey is a recognized and respectable name in water filtration and purification circles. Its filtration system removes pretty much everything. They even offer additional filters (which this one comes with) to remove fluoride and arsenic.

But all that awesomeness comes with a price. This is both expensive (about ten times the Sawyer Mini) and heavy (about 85 Sawyer Minis).

To be fair, the Travel Berkey is aimed at a different purpose than the Sawyer Mini. The Berkey is much more of a base camp/car camping/cabin type of water filter. For that, it excels. For backpacking or traveling around the globe, leave the Berkey at home. But if you’re going up to the lake with your family for a long holiday weekend? The Travel Berkey would be a good choice.

PROS

  • Dead simple operation.
  • Produces the cleanest water of all the filters on this list.
  • Gigantic capacity.

CONS

  • As heavy as a newborn baby.
  • Can dent if schlepped around too much.
  • Expensive. Expensive. Oh, and did I say expensive?

Best for: people setting up base camp or car camping. Would be great in a cabin as well. Strapped to your backpack or in your bug-out bag? Not so much.


The Platypus GravityWorks

Summary:

  • Weight: 12 ounces
  • Type: Gravity
  • Flow: 1.75 liters per minute
  • Capacity: 15000 liters

Features:

  • Hollow Membrane filter good for 15000 liters.
  • Two bags — one for the dirty water, one for the clean.
  • Several useful accessories to expand the unit’s functionality.

If you’re looking for a filter for large groups but don’t feel like packing the Berkey, then you’ll want the Platypus GravityWorks. It’s a hollow membrane filter that gets rid of everything down to 0.2 microns. In many ways this filter is the Sawyer Mini with two big bags. Which is awesome.

There are a few accessories that could make things easier for you, including a carbon filter that makes the water taste better. There’s also a universal bottle adapter if you don’t plan to use the second bag — just filter it right into your bottle.

PROS

  • Freakishly fast flow rate
  • Neat and simple operation — no finicky mechanical things.
  • Good attachment for hanging from a branch.
  • Four second backflush/cleaning with no extra parts

CONS

  • It’s not cheap — you could definitely make something like this for much less.
  • Not great for small amounts of water.

Best for: someone who needs a lot of water and needs it quickly. I mean, almost two liters every minute? That’s fast.


Our Pick for the Best Portable Water Purifier?

Well, it’s going to depend on the size of the group. If it’s pretty much just you or you and another, then we recommend the Sawyer Mini. Its light weight, ease of use, low price, and high capacity put it on top. Our recommended way of use? Get the full kit and then use it to squeeze clean water into another bottle or hydration pack for drinking. That way there’s never any need to carry dirty water.

If you need to filter for larger groups of people, then the Platypus GravityWorks is our top choice. It’s simple, lightweight, and flat-out works. It not only weighs a fraction of the Berkey, it’s more flexible, both literally and figuratively.

If you’re looking for the best portable water purifier, there are lots and lots of options. We’ve specifically left out pump filters because, in our opinion, the modern hollow membrane filter surpasses them in ease of use as well as cost, weight, and flexibility. Just make sure to read up on what your proposed purchase actually gets rid of. Better to be safe than sorry.

And, to learn more about other kinds of water softeners and filters, go to our homepage at : http://www.watersoftenercritic.com

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