It’s the question that every prepper dreads—what will you do if disaster strikes? Its human nature to want to hope that being in a survival situation will never happen.
Are you going to be stuck scrambling for survival supplies? It might not make exciting prepping, but the truth is that anything else will get you in trouble—or worse yet, killed. Top water filters for survivalists are important to know.
But let’s assume you already have a plan in place. You’ve got your bug out bag fully loaded and ready to go when disaster strikes. What else do you need?
For a good water purifying method, the filtering method must be fast—reliable and process significant water quantities without slowing down or clogging up.
Water Filters and Purifiers
The best water filters or purifier for most situations is a pump filter.
It’s fast, reliable, and can be stored even if you’re in an area with poor water quality—like rural areas that rely on rainwater runoff. Pump filters are the most efficient, too—only a few minutes to get a gallon of water that’s safe to drink.
Almost any typical water filter will remove the most common waterborne pathogens and parasites. And while all will make your water clearer, some filters are better suited to post-disaster situations than others.
Dangers of Drinking Unfiltered Water
You’ll need to know which contaminants you can likely expect to find in your drinking water in a survival situation. A good emergency water filter can help with this.
The CDC says that Cryptosporidium is probably the most common cause of waterborne disease in the US. The protozoan parasite survives for up to 10 days in even water sources that are clean-looking.
Even a few accidental microorganisms like Cryptosporidium in your drinking water can make you very sick. It is probably worth your while to find a way to purify all sources of drinking water before using them.
Remove Parasites from Water
You can remove most parasites from the water with a good pump filter. A pump filter sometimes called a hand pump filter, or a positive displacement pump, uses suction to quickly move water through the filter media and into the drinking container.
If you live in an area with parasites and you want a simple, affordable way to make sure you’re drinking parasite-free water, this is it. They’re small and lightweight, and they use batteries or hand pumping power, so it’s easy to set them up on the trail.
The downside of pump filters is that they’re slow. You might have to suck on one for a minute or two to fill a bottle. Suppose you’re in the middle of a survival situation and want clean water right now. In that case, you might try another method instead.
Granted, this is true of all methods except boiling or using bleach—but for purification rather than filtration, these methods aren’t so labor-intensive as pump filters. That’s another plus if you’re in an emergency.
The Survival Still
The Survival Still is hands-down one of the best portable water filters for emergencies. A mini heat-exchange distillation system raises the question: how much do you need to boil away? And how much is purified water worth? The Survival Still has its uses.
Its output is sterile and relatively unaffected by impurities like oil or grease in the source water. That makes it a good choice for sanitary wound cleaning, laundry, and so forth.
You can run it off of wood fuel, charcoal, dry animal dung, and even solar energy (if you’re trying to be more self-sufficient). And its simple design means it’s easy to keep clean.
Water Filters Out Most Contaminants
A well-made water filter designed for use during a survival situation can eliminate most contaminants that could be confused with viruses. UV purifiers and ceramic filters remove protozoa such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia, but not viruses, so they aren’t the best for viral disasters. Still, they have some advantages over pump filters.
The main advantage is speed. Some ceramic filters, such as Sawyer Squeeze and the Lifestraw, can filter a liter of water in less than a minute—much faster than any pump filter. They’re also capable of removing chemicals that parasites aren’t a problem for, such as arsenic and heavy metals.
The downside is that ceramic filters don’t work if they get clogged. UV purifiers can clog too, but UV purifiers are usually covered with a protective sleeve to prevent this.
Some ceramic filters don’t have the benefit. That also means that you can use UV purifiers’ filters multiple times before they need replacement—sometimes up to thousands of gallons.
Katadyn Hiker Microfilter
The Katadyn Hiker Microfilter is a great little filter that attaches to any Nalgene-style water bottle. The same type of technology as the Katadyn Mini, but it takes up less space in your pack on a smaller scale.
The Katadyn Hiker can remove 99.99% of Cryptosporidium and Giardia and common bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter. It is also extremely effective at removing viruses.
The Hiker weighs in at only 8 ounces, so it is light enough to carry on a belt if you were to get separated from your bag or backpack. It will treat up to 3400 liters or 920 gallons of water, which means it should last you a lifetime.
The filter is also very long-lasting and should be capable of withstanding many years of use without any problems.
The Platypus GravityWorks portable water filter is one of the most versatile and user-friendly filters available. It is handy for preppers because it’s lightweight, easy to use, and very effective at removing most pathogens and parasites.
The Platypus GravityWorks uses an integrated filter with gravity removing harmful sediments and particles such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium. It also works as a chemical filter, eliminating chemicals such as chlorine, iodine, and pesticides.
The Platypus GravityWorks is inexpensive, lightweight, and compact. The design makes it perfect for people who want a small filter that they can use anywhere. It can filter water from a canteen while you’re on the move. It can improve the taste of the water as the reservoirs have an antimicrobial coating.
Lifestraw Personal Water Filters
Lifestraw is a small water filter that removes 99.9% of bacteria, such as salmonella, E.coli, and 99.6% protozoa, like Giardia Cryptosporidium. It has a flow rate of about 0.6 liters per minute. It weighs about 2 ounces (55 grams), and it is just 8.5 inches long, making it easy to carry in a pack or pocket.
The Lifestraw has some drawbacks as a survival water filter. It only has a two-year shelf life after being opened, so you’ll need to make sure that you use the Lifestraw before then. The Lifestraw also can’t handle very turbid water or cold temperatures. It works in shallow water.
Sawyer Squeeze Water Filters
The Sawyer Squeeze Filter is a handy, lightweight water treatment system that will filter up to 100,000 gallons of contaminated water.
The squeeze action is one of the most intuitive and easy-to-use designs I’ve come across. The squeeze bulb with a triple-layer mesh filter comes pre-loaded. When you’re ready to drink, remove the cap from the drinking pouch, put it into the top of the squeeze bulb, and start squeezing. Water will flow through the hose at a rate that matches your speed, or you can put a pinch on the hose to regulate the flow.
The Sawyer Squeeze is exceptionally portable and easy to use, but it does have a few drawbacks. The main one is that the filter cannot be back-flushed, so it needs to be cleaned out with a syringe every 100 gallons or so. A reusable filter requires some medical know-how and manual dexterity.
The Sawyer Squeeze is an excellent portable water filter that will treat a large amount of water and last for several years with proper care. It’s easy to use for a small family or group of friends but not convenient in a large group setting.
Katadyn Collapsible BeFree Water Bottle
The BeFree filter by Katadyn offers the convenience of an ordinary water bottle. It’s ideal for camping or hiking, and its small size makes it easy to store in a bug out kit or travel pack. It has a pump mechanism that forces water through the 0.5 Micron filter, removing bacteria, protozoa, and microorganisms as small as Cryptosporidium and Giardia.
They will filter up to 1,000 liters of water before replacing it. The BeFree eliminates most contaminants, but not viruses. Since it is a gravity-fed system, the water is filtered as you drink.
The BeFree Water Bottle is an excellent choice if you want a dependable and portable filter that can last in the field for many months. It also makes for a convenient way to store water on hand for emergencies. Aquamira Shift Vacuum Water Bottle
It uses a vacuum system and twist valve that mimics the body’s natural drinking process. The kit includes a collapsible filter, drinking tube, adaptor cap, and flexible bag for storage.
It does filter out bacteria, viruses, particulate matter, and protozoa. It has a slow flow rate, so be patient.
Filter Water for Storage
Another option for survival situations is to use a filter to collect and store water that you can use in the long term. Water storage eliminates the need to carry water in with you. It also eliminates the advantages of portability. If your stored water supply is contaminated, you’ll have to find a new clean drinking water source, but it still is an excellent backup plan.
Review these filters for the one that will meet your need as water filters for survivalists.