How to Choose the Best Survival Water Filter (What to Choose and Why)

Survival Water Filters

You can only go about three days without water. Drinking contaminated water can bring things to a close much quicker than that. In order to provide clean drinking water for our families in times of crisis, it is important to understand which are the best survival water filters.

The best survival water filters are the Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System, Katadyn Vario Dual Technology Microfilter, and the Platypus GravityWorks 4.0 Liter High-Capacity Water Filter. For ease of use the Lifestraw Personal Water Filter is the best.

Hopefully, this article will help you choose the best water filter for you and your family.

Choosing the Best Survival Water Filter

There are a number of things to consider when buying a filter including size, convenience, lifespan, pore size, flow rate, and price. If you are going to be primarily using a filter around your home in times of crisis, size may not be an issue. If you have a family that will be relying on the filter, lifespan and flow rate are going to be important. Pore size needs will differ depending on your water source and local environment.

Product
Most Versatile/Best Overall
Sawyer Mini
Best for a Small Group
Katadyn Vario
Best for a Large Group
Platypus GravityWorks 4.0 Liter
Easiest to Use
LifeStraw
Preview
Sawyer Products SP105 MINI Water Filtration System, Single, Black
Katadyn Vario Water Filter, Dual Technology Microfilter for Personal or Small Group Camping, Backpacking or Emergency Preparedness
Platypus GravityWorks High-Capacity Water Filter System for Group Camping and Emergency Preparedness, 4.0 Liter
LifeStraw Personal Water Filter for Hiking, Camping, Travel, and Emergency Preparedness, 1 Pack, Blue
Weight
2 oz.
15 oz.
9.1 oz.
1.62 oz.
Filtering Capacity
1,000 Gallons
530 Gallons
400 Gallons
1,000 Gallons
Prime
Most Versatile/Best Overall
Product
Sawyer Mini
Preview
Sawyer Products SP105 MINI Water Filtration System, Single, Black
Weight
2 oz.
Filtering Capacity
1,000 Gallons
Prime
Best for a Small Group
Product
Katadyn Vario
Preview
Katadyn Vario Water Filter, Dual Technology Microfilter for Personal or Small Group Camping, Backpacking or Emergency Preparedness
Weight
15 oz.
Filtering Capacity
530 Gallons
Prime
Best for a Large Group
Product
Platypus GravityWorks 4.0 Liter
Preview
Platypus GravityWorks High-Capacity Water Filter System for Group Camping and Emergency Preparedness, 4.0 Liter
Weight
9.1 oz.
Filtering Capacity
400 Gallons
Prime
Easiest to Use
Product
LifeStraw
Preview
LifeStraw Personal Water Filter for Hiking, Camping, Travel, and Emergency Preparedness, 1 Pack, Blue
Weight
1.62 oz.
Filtering Capacity
1,000 Gallons
Prime

In order to choose the best survival water filtration system, let’s briefly look at the types of filter processes that you may encounter:

Pump Filters

Pump style filters have been around for quite a while and are among the most expensive filters on the market. They can be bulky but for their size, you get a filter that can pull water from very shallow sources, something that the other filters types often struggle to do.

Pump style filters are among the most effective filters with very small pore size but do require a decent bit of energy to pump and will require field maintenance from time to time. Any decent pump filter will remove most biological contaminants and can filter water pretty quickly. Expect to be able to treat about 2000 liters before needing to replace the filter.

Gravity Filters

Depending on your situation, survival is sometimes a lazy man’s game. In comes the gravity filter. This filter consists of a dirty water reservoir, an inline filter, and a clean water reservoir.

Gravity filters function by hanging the dirty reservoir anywhere above the clean reservoir and letting gravity do its thing. The sacrifice is that often the reservoirs are frustrating to fill and treatment can take longer than a pump style filter. Maintenance is pretty simple but must be done frequently to keep the filter flowing well. Expect to get somewhere around 1500 liters before the filter needs to be replaced.

Squeeze Filters

The squeeze filter is a sort of hybrid between the gravity and straw filters. Currently, the market is heavily dominated by Sawyer products, specifically the Sawyer Mini and Sawyer Squeeze. Both are small, lightweight options. They are easy to use but flow rates are limited by the size of your dirty water reservoir and top out well below the pump style filters.

The lifespan of squeeze filters is frankly astounding with the Mini offering around 100,000 gallons and the Squeeze close to a million. The prices are very affordable being around $20.00 for the Mini and not much more for the Squeeze. The filter element is not replaceable but for the price, you just replace the whole unit. These must be kept clean in the field or flow rates will drastically suffer.

Many people consider the Sawyer Mini to be the best survival water filtration system on the market.

Straw and Bottle Filters

Made popular by LifeStraw, these filters were designed with the idea of ease and convenience. For straw type filters, you simply stick one end in your water source and drink. For a bottle, you fill the bottle straight from a source and drink through an integrated cap and filter.

These are on par with other filters for pore size. One of the most limiting factors is that neither of these filters is capable of producing clean water for cooking or other needs. The lifespan of the filters range somewhere between 1000 and 5000 liters and will need to be cleaned between uses.

Note that these are really a one-person option. If you have a family, you may need multiple filters to fill their needs.

Straw and bottle style filters are often a great choice for a bug out bag.

Water Purifiers

Ultraviolet treatment devices are less of a filter and more of a purifier. These are the only option that is capable of neutralizing viruses which can be a huge benefit. They will treat all pathogens in water but do nothing for chemicals or other contaminants.

These are the only treatment system that requires power but as long as you have batteries and the bulb lasts, you can treat water without concern for capacity. They are somewhat limited in the amount they can treat at once but treatment only takes about 90 seconds. Just ensure you have decent water to start with.

Choosing the Best Filter for You

That answer will depend on your local environment and your personal needs. If you plan to carry the filter on long treks, the lighter filters like a straw or squeeze filter may be your best bet. If you are treating water for multiple people, a gravity or pump filter may be the choice for you.

Regardless of which system you choose there are a few points to keep in mind if you’re looking for a survival water filter. None of the filters above treat for chemicals in the water so choose your source wisely.

With the exception of UV option, none treat for viruses. In North America, waterborne viruses are very rare but in other parts of the world, they can be a concern. Perhaps combining a UV filter with another system may be your best bet. And remember, when the water is suspect, boil it!

Survival Water Filter Reviews

Before you choose a water filter, make sure that you’re selecting one that is going to work well in the scenario that you’re most likely to use it!

Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System

Sawyer Products SP105 MINI Water Filtration System, Single, Black
  • Ideal for outdoor recreation, hiking, camping, scouting, domestic and International travel, and...
  • High-performance 0.1 Micron absolute inline filter fits in the palm of your hand and weighs just 2...
  • Attaches to included drinking pouch, standard disposable water bottles, hydration packs, or use the...
  • Removes 99.99999% of all bacteria (salmonella, cholera, and E. coli); removes 99.9999% of all...
  • Filter rated up to 100,000 gallons; includes one Sawyer MINI filter, 16-ounce reusable squeeze...

The Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System is a no-brainer if you’re looking to get a great water filter for very little money. They even come in a four-pack so everyone in your family can have their own.

You can find our Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System Review here.

Katadyn Vario Dual Technology Microfilter

Katadyn Vario Water Filter, Dual Technology Microfilter for Personal or Small Group Camping, Backpacking or Emergency Preparedness
  • A simple turn engages a ceramic pre-filter for long life in dirty water or a pleated glass fiber...
  • Produces up to two quarts per minute in the faster flow mode and one quart per minute in longer life...
  • Uses a replaceable Katadyn carbon core and cleanable ceramic disc
  • Adapter base attaches directly to water bottles or an output hose can be used to fill hydration...
  • Glass fiber filter

The Katadyn Vario Dual Technology Microfilter is a midsized pump-style filter that is perfect for a group of people. The activated charcoal filter also allows it to remove some chemicals that other filters can’t touch.

Make sure you read our Katadyn Vario Dual Technology Microfilter Review.

Platypus GravityWorks 4.0 Liter High-Capacity Water Filter

Sale
Platypus GravityWorks High-Capacity Water Filter System for Group Camping and Emergency Preparedness, 4.0 Liter
  • High-capacity, gravity-fed, hollow-fiber water filter system is ideal for group and family camping,...
  • Meets all EPA/NSF guidelines for removal of 99.9999% of bacteria and 99.9% of protozoa, including...
  • No pumping required; reservoir fills easily and hangs from a tree to deliver four liters of filtered...
  • Includes 4-liter dirty water reservoir, 4-liter clean water reservoir, hollow-fiber microfilter,...
  • Replaceable cartridge filters up to 1,500 gallons; produces flow rate of 1.75 liters/minute; kit...

The Platypus GravityWorks 4.0 Liter High-Capacity Water Filter is a great option for camping or other areas where you don’t want to take a Big Berky with you. It really shines when it’s used by a large group of people.

You can read our full Platypus GravityWorks 4.0 Liter High-Capacity Water Filter Review here.

Lifestraw Personal Water Filter

Sale
LifeStraw Personal Water Filter for Hiking, Camping, Travel, and Emergency Preparedness, 1 Pack, Blue
  • Removes bacteria & parasites: The microfiltration membrane removes 99.999999% of waterborne bacteria...
  • Removes microplastics: Removes the smallest microplastics found in the environment (down to 1...
  • Rigorous Testing: All claims are verified with laboratories using standard testing protocols set by...
  • Long Lifetime: The microbiological filter will provide 4,000 liters (1,000 gallons) of clean and...
  • Make an Impact: For every LifeStraw product purchased, a school child in need receives safe drinking...

The Lifestraw is one of the original hiking/camping water filters and it’s still one of the best. For ease of use, the Lifestraw is simply the best. It’s also one of the cheapest filters out there so you can afford to put one in all of your survival kits.

You can read our complete Lifestraw Personal Water Filter Review here.

Conclusion

When you’re in a survival situation, clean water is one of the most important things that you need. Other than exposure to the elements, dehydration is often the leading cause of death when people are stranded for more than a few days.

At a minimum, I’d suggest getting a LifeStraw and putting it in every one of your survival kits and vehicles. They’re less than $20 and can mean the difference between life and death!