Choosing The Best Portable Water Filter When Camping

Ensuring that you have the best portable water filter handy whenever you come across a freshwater source while camping is important. Being so particularly useful for camping, hiking and general survival, it can be a challenge to ensure that you pick the right outdoors water filter. This guide will break down everything you need to consider as well as reviewing some of the best ones on the market.

What Is A Portable Water filter?

Portable water filters are primarily used for removing some level of contaminants in fresh water including lakes and streams. As its name suggest, you can take them anywhere, anytime. Of course, there are different sizes and capabilities, so it is important to know this in advance.

Choosing A Portable Water Filter

The points to consider when choosing the right type of portale water filter include:

Weight: Most backpackers, hikers and outdoor adventurers need to consider the weight of their overall pack. Their weight will range from 56 grams (straw type) to 500 grams (hand pump configuration). You may also want to consider the size, with small and compact water filters being preferable.

Filtration speed: The filtration speed you require will likely depend on how long you have to filter water and how much. Normally these type of filters are not designed to filter large amounts of water in one go. In fact, it will depend on the number of filtration stages and the type (discussed further below).

Filter lifespan: This refers to how long the filter is likely to last for before it needs to be replaced. Compared to other water filtration systems, they have very long lifespan, sometimes lasting for years. It, of course, depends on the usage and maintenance.

Ease of use: This is essential when you are out and about. It also includes how to clean your filter, with some being more complicated than others.

Cost: As always, you will also need to consider your budget and how much you are looking to spend.

Types Of Portable Water Filter

There are several types of portable water filters, with the most popular options being:

Straw filters: The lightest and smallest solution available, straw filters are affordable, convenient and relatively easy to use. As a flip side, they are only (and should be) suitable for one person. Also, you will usually need to get up close to the water source and they can require some serious suction.

Pump filters: Not quite as small but still relatively compact, these portable water filter system configuration requires you to actively hand pump the water through the system. Because this process requires muscle usage, they commonly have additional filtration media including ceramic micro fibres and activated carbon. A great thing about hand pump filtration systems is the amount of water treated in one go. Lastly, contrary to the straw ones, they usually come with tubing that can reach out the water source surface easier.

Gravity water filters: Gravity filters are particularly well suited for groups of travellers when camping. Simply tie one end of the contraption up and let gravity do all the work. However, these do tend to be larger and heavier than the other options and you may need to carry the water before filtration. Last but not least, since you can hang them from anywhere, this means that you can expose them to the sun UV rays. UV rays are good to kill most bacteria and viruses.

Best Portable Water Filters

With so many filtration systems available in the market, finding the best portable water filter could be not easy. According to the portable water filter reviews and buying guide from Access Clean Water, the following four (4) devices could be the best in the market.

Sawyer Mini

Considered to be one of the best portable water filters, the Sawyer Mini is a great choice for enjoying filtered water on the go. It is a small and compact water filter system that weighs in at only 2 ounces. Plus, it is durable, efficient and has the ability to remove up to 99.999% of all parasites and bacteria. With each cartridge having the ability to clean up to 100,000 gallons of water, you won’t need to change the Sawyer Mini regularly.


  • Most of them are lightweight and compact
  • Actual filter can last for years if well maintained
  • Affordable compared to other filters in the same category


  • They can treat water for only 1 person
  • They need to be cleaned (purged) after every use
  • Water with high sediment levels is not ideal

Best Portable Water Filter - Sawyer Products MINI Water Filtration System

Katadyn Pocket

The Katadyn Pocket is a hand pump style silver-impregnated 0.2-micron ceramic filter. Made from solid metal, this is almost a lifetime purchase and it also comes with an impressive 20-year warranty. However, this is certainly one of the most expensive options available.

Moreover, this Swiss water filtration system does weigh a whopping 19 ounces, which is good for a hand pump filter style. This means that may be not the most exciting choice for backpackers but it could be ideal if your cargo load is not an issue.


  • Long lasting filter if you do adequate maintenance.
  • 20-year warranty on structure itself.
  • Its hand pump mechanism is great to filter more water than a straw filter configuration.
  • Backwash process is very simple.
  • It may be the best portable water filter for survival since it can filter a lot of littles without much effort.


  • It requires your full attention when taking it apart for maintenance purposes.
  • It could be a little bit bulky for a small backpack.
  • No activated carbon present to remove potential organic compounds.

Best Portable Water Filter - Katadyn Pocket Water Filter

Etekcity Straw Filter

The Etekcity Water Filter features a three (3) stage filtration process including an antibacterial activated carbon media and a 0.01 micron UI membrane inline filter. This results in the ability to remove up to 99.999% of bacteria and contaminants. It can filter around 1500 litres (396 gallons) of water, weighs less than 4 ounces, and is FDA and EPA compliant. Although, you do need to be near the water source directly, it is much better than the Sawyer Mini with a longer pipe straw.


  • It is the second most lightweight straw filtration system in the market.
  • When you buying the filter, it will come with a foldable bag (to carry unfiltered water), syringe (purging system) and spare pre-filters.
  • It has a cover cap to prevent cross-contaminating the water outlet.


  • Due to its inline filter design, sucking up water could be exhausting for some people.
  • The pre-filters can clogged up easier than usual.
  • Not ideal for water sources with high sediment levels.

Best Portable Water Filter - Etekcity Water Filter

Lifestraw Go Filter

The Lifestraw Go Water Filter has been designed in a different way: the straw was placed inside a BPA free plastic bottle. This means that this 2 stage portable water filtration system could be ideal for people traveling by car or bus and want to carry some water on the go. Due to its actual design, it may not be the best one for a hiking adventure though.


  • Considering all the elements involved, it can be more affordable than other straw filters.
  • The filter can treat a lot of gallons before needing replacement.
  • The BPA plastic bottle can be placed in a dishwasher.
  • With different colors available, it can be attractive for any type of person.


  • Suction point could be prompt to external contamination since there is no protective cap included.
  • The bottle lid will need to be replaced when the filter is done.
  • Silicon could growth bacteria easier overtime.

Best Portable Water Filter - LifeStraw Go Water Filter


As you have seen, looking for the right outdoors water filter may not be easy. The main thing to consider when buying one of these devices is to have a clear idea of what you need it for. Why? As you saw, a straw configuration may have a few limitations, regardless of their fantastic size and portability. On the other hand, pump alternatives could be heavier than wanted. Despite all of their benefits and limitations, if you are planning any type of outdoor adventure, to ensure you have access to clean water, it is important to have the best portable water filter as a number one priority of things to pack.

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