Choosing the best portable water purifier is an essential step in building a fully functional survival kit. In this post I examine the best portable water purifiers and compare the pro’s and con’s of each. See my post on purifying water for an in depth article on the water purification process and why it’s important.
Portable water filters are the most common solution to treat dubious water sources. Water filters work by forcing water to pass through a fine porous material that literally filters out harmful bacteria and protozoa down to certain number of microns. Microns are very tiny units of measurement. Good water filters can filter bacteria and protozoa down to 0.1 microns. This takes care of pretty much all strains of bacteria and protozoa you find in rivers, streams and other sources of water. In this section I will be comparing the Renovo Trio, Lifestraw, and Sawyer water filtering systems.
The Lifestraw Portable water filter has received raving reviews from backpackers and world travelers. It’s a lightweight and simple solution for filtering water from sources that are possibly laden with bacteria. The Lifestraw is capable of filtering up to a 1000 liters of water and filters out bacteria down to 0.2 microns. Simply fill a water container with water and drink through the straw or drink straight from the source.
- Extremely Lightweight
- Filters 99.9999% of possible bacterial pathogens
- Only filters down to 0.2 microns
- No charcoal filter
- Does not thread on to a water bottle or hydration bladder
- Limited filtration capacity compared to other systems
- Can’t filter viruses
The Sawyer water filter is widely considered the standard for portable water purifiers. In fact, it outshines the Lifestraw in most of the areas that matter. The Sawyer can filter up to an incredible 100,000 gallons of water and filters out bacteria down to 0.1 microns! Most conveniently, it can screw on to most water bottles and easily attaches inline to a water bladder. Alternatively, you can use the Sawyer to drink straight from your water source like the Lifestraw.
- High capacity (filters 100,000 gallons)
- Filters bacteria down to 0.1 microns
- Attaches to standard water bottles and hydration bladders
- Won’t filter viruses
- No charcoal filter
The Renovo Trio portable water filter is the new kid on the block but brings heaps of value and innovation to the table. The Renovo Trio features a 3 stage filtration system: The first stage could be likened to a coffee filter and removes large particles and debris from the water. The second stage introduces an extremely fine hollow fiber membrane that filters microbes down to 0.05 microns! The last stage contains a layer of charcoal that removes heavy metals and dramatically improves the taste of the water. Use the Renovo like a straw or attach it to a water bottle or hydration pack.
- Extremely porous membrane filters down to 0.05 microns
- 3 layer filtration system makes this the most effective portable water filter
- Includes replaceable layer components
- Charcoal layer improves taste of water and removes heavy metals
- Attaches to both water bottles and hydration bladders
- You’re going to be shelling out more bucks for this filter
- limited to 1000 liters
Chris from Preparedmind101 did a great video review on all of these filters:
UV devices are an ultra cool way to remove bacteria, protozoa AND viruses. As I’ve mentioned in my guide to purifying water, these devices only work with clear water and they require batteries to function. These are two limiting factors when choosing a portable water purifier. However, with these factors covered they are perhaps the most convenient and most effective method of purifying water.
Camelbak All-Clear UV Water Purifier
I’ve personally used the Camelbak UV purifier and I really liked it. Simply fill the bottle from your water source, screw on the lid and hit the button. In 60 seconds the entire 32 ounces of water is safe to drink. I liked this device for a number of reasons: One, the process is quick taking only 60 seconds to complete. The digital display on the cap reads out the battery life and the 60 second countdown so you know exactly when the water is drinkable. You can also see the UV light shining through the water even on a bright day. There are measurements on the side of the bottle. The cap is designed so you can easily attach the bottle to your backpack via a carabiner or a length of paracord. The battery life is also quite extensive and charged via the included USB charger. I used this device on a 3 day camping trip more times than I could count and the battery didn’t even drop half way.
- More effective than a filter as UV light also destroys all pathogens including viruses
- Self contained – no need for an extra bottle and no need to hunch over your water source to drink
- Batteries can die
- Water must be clear
Steripen Opti Water Purifier
This is a unique little gadget. Works exactly like the Camelbak without the heavy footprint. It’s basically a UV pen you dip into your water bottle. The Steripen purifies one liter of water at a time and takes 90 seconds to do so. The batteries are good for about 50 liters until they need to be replaced. The Steripen also has a built in flashlight although if you’re concerned about battery life I wouldn’t recommend using it.
- Kills all water born pathogens including viruses
- Extremely portable
- Batteries required
- Requires a bottle to hold the water you need to purify
- Batteries drain faster than most UV solutions
Purifying water via chemical means is another solid strategy to ensure you don’t catch an explosive case of diarrhea. Iodine tablets are the name and killing everything (including viruses) is the game.
- Easy to use
- Kills everything
- Can take up to half an hour to purify
- Unpleasant chemical after-taste
- Cannot be used by pregnant women or individuals with a thyroid condition
- Tablets lose potency over time
So…which to choose?
Depending on your scenario some of these methods might offer more of an advantage over the other. If you absolutely want to be 100 percent safe you could opt for the Renovo in combination with Iodine tablets. In reality, having multiple water purifiers in your survival kit is your best bet. You could use a standard water filter to purify cloudy sources of water and then further remove pathogens with a UV device. You could even go crazy and pop in a Iodine tablet for good measure! Weigh the pros and cons of each of these devices carefully and make a decision that works best for you. Thanks for reading!