Best Survival Water Filter – Reviews, Comparison and Advice

Last Updated on by Jeremy

Premium Choice


MSR MiniWorks EX Purifier

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MoKo Portable Filter

Budget Choice


Sawyer Mini Filter

We are long in a perilous era, an era where our world is ready to come crumbling down at any moment – be that the result of natural disasters, all-out war, or just bad luck. So you should try to do anything, at least to some degree, possible to survive in an emergency situation. And the thing most important to humanity except the air is of course water.

If you do ever end up in an emergency situation without water, though, you can’t simply find a source of clean water just sitting out there. And even if you find something like a river or a puddle, this isn’t a very good choice, as random water sources can often be loaded with parasites and other nasty organisms like bacteria and virus cells that can lead to.far more catastrophic consequences than you can think of. And all of that for a sip of water.

That’s why you shouldn’t risk your life, and you should always have some way to clean out any unwanted and harmful things – namely a survival filtration and/or purifying device. For reference, the main difference between a survival water filter and a water purifier is how much filtered water you get.

For instance, a survival water filter will clean out most of if not all microbes from a water source, but a purifier can take it a step further and get rid of any impurities on an even smaller level – like a virus. Whatever you’re looking for, I’m going to explain all of the necessary characteristics for a good water filter and help you choose the best one for you.

Best personal water treatment method for prepping

Though survival water filters are the overall best way of getting safe to drink hydration in the field, there are many other ways to do it, and not one is perfect. Every one has pros and cons.

Some of them include:

Filtering out the particulates large enough to be caught in a fine screen.
It is purifying with chemical substances like chlorine (aka chlorination), iodine, or ozone to kill the microflora, just like in a swimming pool.

Another way to kill microorganisms, use UV light, just like the one used to sterilize medical equipment.

Boiling the water also purifies the water pretty well, though it doesn’t offer as much reliability as the other methods.

Distilling water by boiling it and catching the evaporated steam, then recollecting it into liquid water, is the best but most complicated way to get only H2O molecules and nothing else.

As mentioned above, distillation is the most effective way to filter the water. However, it’s not very practical or easy to do for most people in emergencies, where they have other things to worry about. It either involves proper equipment, which is too large to carry around with you, or requires a very large amount of work in the field to make a contraption to boil the water and catch the steam effectively.

UV systems aren’t great for use out in the wild because not only do they require electricity, but they also have enough electronics to brake. They aren’t a great choice for anyone, except for home use or people who are very confident in their skills.

Boiling is also an Avery demanding and time-consuming method that requires a steady fire and a lot of patients to mark sure the water is pure enough to drink.

While having some chlorine tablets to accompany your water filter is a good choice, they should be your primary tool for providing clean water.

For example, imagine that you have a filter with you in your bag that doesn’t protect against viruses, and you aren’t so sure about the water you have found. Here comes the secondary way to purify water.

Now that you have removed the particulates, you can boil the water, or put in some purifying tablets. The tablets are the better option, though, because they are much cheaper and don’t take much space, so they are usually a no brainer.

But they aren’t perfect. The tablets have some disadvantages too. For example, they take a long time — normal-sized water bottles can take up to an hour or two to neutralize the hard-to-kill threats like cryptosporidium. Not to forget that they also expire after a few years and combined with the fact that they can only clean up to 200, compared to a normal filter’s 100 000 liters, they are far from ideal.

Although you can in the route of using only chemicals, UV, or boiling, these methods alone will kill any living contaminants, but they don’t remove particulates and some chemical substances. So you will end up with water that looks and tastes horrible even though it technically isn’t that harmful to your body.

What Makes a Good Survival Filter And How to Choose One?

Like all tools out there, survival water filters have some characteristics that make them better than other ones, so here we are going to look at each of the types out there, their pros and cons, and some additional information to help you make an informed choice.

Filters vs. Purifiers

Most people use the terms water filter and water purifier interchangeably. While they are both water treatment technologies, survival filters and purifiers are different things, using two types of technology that also pack all sorts of different features.

Water Filters

Survival water filters are like sieves with very, very tiny holes that are evaluated in micrometers (microns for short). These holes trap contaminants, so only clean water can pass through.

Most water filters have holes that are around 0.1 or 0.2 microns in size. This is enough to keep out bacteria and protozoa. However, most survival water filters will DO NOT remove virus cells, so most of them aren’t considered purifiers.

Water Purifiers

A purifier, on the other hand, is a water treatment system that can also treat the virus in addition to bacteria and protozoa. One type is UV pens. They are very popular and inexpensive. Water treatment tablets are another common type of water purifier.

Highly effective are those systems. They’re not removing sediment from the water, however. You might collect a cup of water from a swamp, for example, and drink it safely, but the mud and dead bugs or splinters would still be in the water, and it’ll taste awful, too.

As we touched on above, water filter technology has improved a lot in the past few years. So nowadays, there are several survival water filters which have filter hole sizes small enough to remove viruses, so they can also be considered as purifiers and the best of both worlds. They are mostly chemicals, but they can be found in water.

Water Filter Micron Rating Explained

To work with a water filter, it has to be able to catch harmful contaminants while still allowing molecules of water to pass through. The size of the holes, or pores, measured in microns to catch contaminants.

And down here is a nifty little chart of the different micro sizes of various things.

Micron Sizes
Water Molecule: 000282 microns

Width of Human Hair – 75 microns

Mold – 3-12 microns

Protozoa/Cysts – 4-5 microns

Bacteria – 1-10 microns in length and 0.2 to 1 micron in width

Lead Dust – 1-0.7 microns

Virus – 004-0.3 microns

Pesticides – 001 microns

A good water filter will be evaluated at most 0.2 microns. If it was any bigger than this, then bacteria would be passed through.

For a water filter to get rid of viruses, the filter must be evaluated at less than 0.1. Keep in mind that this is a tiny hole size! Thus, water filters that remove viruses will be very slow and easy to clog, so while they do give you a more clean end product, you are better off with a dedicated water purifier.

Absolute vs. Nominal Micron

Some water filters list their nominal, which is the average of the pore sizes. Most of the pores could be larger than listed and thus will let microflora like bacteria.

On the other hand, higher-end filters list the absolute value they are rated at. This is the maximum pore size in the filter. A 0.2 absolute rated filter won’t let anything 0.2 microns or larger through.

What Do Water Filters Treat?

You must think about what types of contaminants might be in the water you want to treat before choosing a survival water filter. Not all water filters remove the same things.

Here I’ll list all of the things you will want to avoid, and you can remove by using a filter, just to be informed about what you are fighting with.


Protozoa are unicellular organisms. The dormant protozoan form is called cysts. Cryptosporidium and Giardia are the most notorious ones found in water. Protozoa are very common in water, even filtered water that is “clean,” and are responsible for causing terrible diarrhea to many backpackers.

The good news is that protozoa are quite large, and their cysts. The majority are about 2 to 50 microns in size, and for example, Giardia cysts are about 7- microns, so even cheaper water filters can be removed with only one nominal evaluated.


Also, bacteria are single- organisms but can be much smaller than cysts of protozoa. Usually, they are about 1- microns long and 0.2- microns wide. So you need a water filter with an absolute filter evaluated at 0.2-micron or less to be sure that bacteria are out of the picture.

Viruses are minuscule. Very diminutive. Most viruses are in the size of 0.01-0.3 microns. There are nonetheless virus cells as small as 0.004 microns. This makes infections very difficult to filter. Even water filters that say viruses are removed will not be able to remove every single type of infection.

Rotavirus is 0.070 microns. Hepatitis A and E are 0.027 microns. Norwalk virus is 0.027 microns.

The good news is that in backcountry water, viruses generally aren’t a problem. Only cholera and polio can survive and reproduce in water, and even then, the sun’s UV light can usually kill bacteria.

However, in disaster situations like flooding or an earthquake, virus cells from sewage contamination can become a huge risk. Thus, a normal water filter is just a no go.

You need to worry about the virus in water in urban areas, though, because in those areas, it can spread very quickly. In undeveloped countries, the situation is almost the same, except that virus spread, happens because of poor sanitation.

So, be careful where you run off to in an emergency and be prepared to manage your water where you have settled off, too.


Natural disasters – especially floods – can lead to the contamination of water sources by huge quantities of chemical substances. For example, more than 40 sites were releasing hazardous pollutants after Hurricane Harvey.

Most water filters can remove heavy metals such as lead and iron because the particles are so large. Chemical pollutants, such as benzene and pesticides, are, however, very small, and even the best filters out there can not do anything.

For example, benzene is only slightly larger than a molecule made of water. So no water filter will be able to filter out benzene. Those chemicals can only be absorbed by activated charcoal to reduce them.

In addition to the main filter, many survival water filters now also have carbon pre-filters, which enable you to remove heavy metals and pesticides.

Just note that activated carbon is quickly filled up (it can not be cleaned like a membrane filter with a backflushing). The carbon filter will often have to be changed for it to remain effective.

Types of Water Filters

There are many different options and styles of survival water filters, for ones for direct consumption, like a straw one, to ones with containers, like gravity ones. So here are all the types of water filters, and all their pros and cons.

Home Water Filters

The water filter you have in your home for treating tap water isn’t made to remove bacteria or protozoa.

These home water filters typically use activated carbon to absorb chemicals and heavy metals such as chlorine, lead, and mercury, thus reducing their amount in your water, but not completely removing them.

This isn’t true for survival water filter membranes, which completely BLOCK bacteria, etc. from passing through.

The activated carbon in-home water filters will also absorb some bacteria and protozoa, but not to the extent of survival ones, cause tap water is most usually pre-treated with chlorine to kill any living organism, so it is pretty clean in itself.

It only takes a small number of bacteria or protozoa to make you sick, so home water filters should only be used in the worst scenario possible, where other methods of filtration aren’t available.

There are some exceptions to this, though. For example, there are filters out there that are made for home use but can remove bacteria, protozoa, and parasites. So in an emergency, you can use one of these filters to make pool water, ou has a pool, safe for drinking.

Straw Filter

This is the most compact and inexpensive way to get yourself a survival grade water filter. It allows you to drink water straight out from the source, by squatting down to it and sipping through the straw.

A great disadvantage to these types of filters is the fact that they don’t have a container included with them, and in some situations, this is very bad. For example, let’s say you’re in the backcountry and need a way to mix powdered electrolytes for nutrition, but the only way to do this is to swallow then and to.try to gulp enough water to activate them.

The only way to make straw-style filters function on the move is to put contaminated water into water bottles and then use the straw for drinking from it. But then you can end up with a contaminated bottle, and that’s a whole other problem in itself.

While the filter is pretty easy to use, it doesn’t take a lot of space in your backpack, leaving room for more important things and is pretty cheap, it can’t filter water as good as some more fleshed out filters, and you can’t carry the water with you.

Squeeze Filters

Recently, squeeze filters, which are a variation on the normal hand pump, have become a popular choice for the best water filter.

They work by placing water in a collection vessel, such as a bottle or a pouch, and then screwing the filtering mechanism onto the vessel. After that, you squeeze the pouch physically, forcing the water through the filter, so clean water on the other side comes out.

Because a pump mechanism is not required, the squeeze water filters are incredibly lightweight and tiny. They are also very simple and adaptable so you can, for example, fit them with straws to drink directly out of the water source or attach them to a water bladder to make a filtration system for gravity.

Suffice it to say, like the straw filters, squeeze filters are small, lightweight, and affordable, but they can also be cleaned with backflushing. But if you are with your family it isn’t very efficient, and its low flow rate is a huge drawback too, so if you want something easy to use, that is still cheap and reliable, this is a pretty excellent choice.

Bottle Water Filters

There are some bottle water filters where a squeeze or straw-type filter is inserted into a bottle to suck or squeeze clean, treated water, but these are more suitable for straw and squeeze types, respectively.

The real filters for Bottle water are a whole different story. You put contaminated water in the bottle, then push the filter into the bottle, and all the contaminants are pushed down, and the bottle’s top portion is full of clean water. You can drink from the bottle right away, or pour the clean water into another container.

While yet aren’t as portable as the straw or squeeze filters, bottle ones are still lightweight and very much portable. Though they are a bit bad on filtering large amounts of water or being used in shallower water sources, their simplicity and low price very much make up for that.

Hand Pump Water Filters

This type of water filter is a bit bulkier than the other ones, but it also comes with some much more wanted features too.

They aren’t much more complicated to use than the other ones we’ve looked at so far. You just put one end in the water source, and then you start pumping by hand. The pump then pulls the water up and through a filter cartridge resulting in clean water on the other end.

This here may be the best option for a water filter that has little to no compromises. Unlike the bottle, survival pump water filters can access shallower water source while also coming in various sizes, for ones for only to ones for the whole family. Not only are there models that arere are tailor-made to remove virus cells from your dirty water, but it also does the filtration fairly quickly without the need fora collection vessel. T

he only major disadvantage is that even the smallest ones are a bit bigger for single-use, but they have a lot of great features making it an excellent choice for any occasion.

Gravity Filters

Gravity filters have become more popular recently, especially for more casual activities like family camping.

To use one, you simply put dirty water inside the pouch, and then hang it somewhere high up, like on a tree branch. Gravity forces the water down through the filtering mechanism, and clean water comes out on the lower side.

To sum it up, these waters aren’t the best ones for emergencies. Yes, they can filter a lot of water at once without the need of physical work, they aren’t suitable for all water sources, it takes a very long time to filter and all of that combined with the fragile pouches and the need of a high enough place, makes it too needy to be convenient.

Water Filter Features

Now that we’ve looked at the different types of survival filters and how they work, let’s look at the features and parts that they share and what to look for in them.

Filter Material/Technology

There are three main types of materials used to treat contaminated water. No single material can remove all contaminants, which is the reason why many of these materials are often used together. Now let’s look at all of the best variants out there.

Hollow fiber membrane filter

Membranes can be cleaned and/or backflushed, which means they have a very long life. Some, with the right care and treatment, can even last forever.

As you may know, ice molecules at quite bigger than those of normal water, so if frozen water does end up in the survival filter, it will enlarge its holes, thus making it practically unusable. So they are a no go in colder seasons or climates.

Activated Carbon

Unlike membranes that block contaminants from passing through, the activated carbon absorbs contaminants. Most carbon-based filters are evaluated with very short lifespans, with a capacity of around 60-90 gallons. When the water is very contaminated, the carbon will get filled up very fast. Thus, it is hard to determine the actual lifespan of a carbon filter.

Once it is “filled,” the filter won’t be able to absorb any more contaminants. It might even start leaking out some of the previous contaminants that it absorbed – resulting in more harm than good.

Carbon Nanotube Filters

This is a new technology starting to be found in some filters, using carbon nanotubes to capture tiny contaminants such as viruses and chemicals.

Enhanced single-walled carbon nanotubes offer a more effective and sustainable approach to water treatment and remediation than the standard industry materials. The filtration process works because “carbon nanotubes dislike water,” so only the organic contaminants in the water stick to the nanotube, allowing only clean water to pass through.

Cartridge/Filter Life

This indicates the amount of water the filter can treat before replacing the filter cartridge or replacing it. Some water filters can last forever (like the Sawyer Mini). Other filters (such as activated carbon cartridges) should be swiftly replaced, such as after 65 liters of water.

Note that carbon-cartridge water filters (for the removal of chemical substances and bad tastes) have very short lives. This filter will need to be changed a lot more often than a membrane filter.

Micron Rating

Like I’ve mentioned above, the micron rating is the main characteristic of your filter because it shows how effective it is. You’ll need the filter to be rated at most 0.2 to remove bacteria. If you want to remove most viruses, you’ll need a filter rated at 0.01. But be wary of the fact that the smaller the filter is rated at, the slower the process of filtrating will be.

Flow Rate

Flow rate, measured in liters per minute, is how quickly a water filter can treat water. Bear in mind that flow rate is listed under optimal conditions, so when the water is murky, it will go much slower, because the excess mud will cause the filter to clog up significantly faster.

Cleaning Method

Many filters can be cleaned with backflushing. This method consists of shooting clean water through the opposite side to dislodge any clogging and sediment that has accumulated.

There are some filters out there that can clean themselves, but they are either too expensive or not refined enough.


The only good advice I can give you about durability is to avoid filters with cheap plastic housing like the plague.

Weight and Size

While a home water filter can be a bit bigger and bulkier, to allow for a smoother and faster pace of filtrating water but in a case of an emergency, you shouldn’t carry anything that you don’t need. So that means that something like a squeeze or a bottle type of filter is ideal for a single person.


When choosing a water filter, the main thing that most people consider is only the price of the filter itself. But that’s is completely wrong. There are cases where the consumables cost almost as much as the filter itself, and there are many options to choose from, that you can’t compromise from.

The Best Survival Water Filters On The Market Right Now

After we looked at all the important factors you will be looking for when choosing the best model for you, let’s look at the best options that you can buy at the moment.

1. MSR MiniWorks EX Purifier


1. Filter & Purifier
2. Toolless Disassembly
3. Ceramic Filter Core
4. Cartridge for 2 000 l

On the less expensive end is we have the MSR MiniWorks EX purifier system. This system combines a filter and a purifier for better virus protection. And like it’s bigger brother, the MSR guardian, it is fully committed to designing field-serviceable equipment.

This filter is special because you can disassemble the entire filter without tools. A toolless disassembly allows you to clean or replace the filter anywhere, anytime. In fact, regular cleaning of the surface of a ceramic filter core helps the filter to remain easy water flow through filter/purifier cartridge is good for about 2 000 liters, so carrying two or three with you is a no brainer.

Though the cost of the system itself is pretty affordable, the replacement cartridges will add up significantly over time, resulting in a very hefty price, especially if you use it every day. Also, while the two-step treatment workflow is a much safer way for filtration, but it is a bit clunky.

The MSR MiniWorks EX purifier is ideal for small group water treatment and perfect as a temporary portable filter that won’t see a ton of use. So if you’re on a tight budget, and you can afford something like the MSR guardian, and you want something reliable, this is the best choice out there.

2. Survivor Filter PRO


1. 0.01m Hollow-Fiber/Carbon Filter
2. Filter Capacity 9 000 liters
3. Very Lightweight
4. Compact Packaging

If you want a pump filter that is going to protect you against viruses, while still pretty cheap, this is the one for you. The tiny 0.01-micron hollow-fiber/carbon filter can pack 99 000 liters capacity-achieving anything that you don’t want in your water.

But it’s small price means that the company needed to cut some corners. While it still pretty lightweight, it’s made out of low-quality plastics, which is a big concern for pump-style filters, so don’t it to survive out in the wild.

And all of that adds up to a pretty good product, a pump for filtrating water that is the best choice for people on a very strict budget.

3. Sawyer Mini Filter


1. Filter Capacity 378 000 l
2. 0.1-Micron Filter
3. Versatile Uses
4. Extremely Lightweight

This tiny water filter has the capacity of 378 000 liters (100 000 gallons) of water through a 0.1-micron filter, which is a LOT.

The hose adapter on both ends of the sawyer mini makes it much more versatile than any of its competitors, and gives you many options, like splicing it into a water pouch, converting it into a gravity filter or even using the hose to get to hard to reach spaces like cracks in the ground. Plus, the sawyer mini has a threaded end which screws onto a small bladder to let you filter and drink on the move.

Suffice it to say, for this price, combined with its high quality and feather-like weight, make the sawyer mini an excellent survival water filter for daily use or emergencies.

4. MoKo Portable Filter


1. Removes 99% of Pathogens
2.  Three-Level Filtration
3. Carbon Filter
4. Fast Water Flow

This portable water filter features the highest water safety standard, 0.01 Micron 3 ultra purification stages remove 99% of pathogenic substance, volatile organic compounds (VOC), and other harmful contaminants.

It is is is very small and easy to transport while also being lightweight enough to carry anywhere. Ideal for camping, hiking, backpacking, trekking, mountaineering, emergency, and other outdoor adventures. It features a three-level filtration process using not only the standard ones but also a carbon filter to ensure your water is not only safe, but it also looks like water.

Overall, with all those filter features, including the coconut carbon one and the amazingly fast flow rate4 of 600ml per minute, you’ve got not only a fast but also a functional and very portable filter on your hands.

5.LifeStraw Family Purifier


1. Gravity Purifier
2. 0.02-Micron Filter 
3. Bag For 3 Gallons
4. Chemicals Free

Here we have an offering from LifeStraw – one of the few Gravity filters with the astonishing 0.02-micron filter and a bag that can pack 3 gallons and a filter lifespan capacity of about 18 000 liters. It’s more rigid water container makes it bulkier than it’s competition, thus making it less portable, but on the other hand, it is also more prepared to survive unwanted accidents.

A great advantage of the filter is the fact that it provides all the EPA filtrations standards, but without the use of any chemicals, so theoretically, it can last up to three years of consecutive uses for a family of three. There is one caveat, though, and it stands of the fact that the filter is a gravity one – its flow rate is painfully slow. While in some other filters, you can get a liter in just a minute a half, and here you can get only nine in a full hour.

Suffice it to say, we have another great product from LifeStraw, and though it has a little caveat, if you look past it, it’s one amazing piece of survival gear.

Final Words

So, suffice it to say, no matter how you twist the emergency you may fall into, a clean source of water is something you should always have.

Thus a water filter, no matter the type you have chosen, must have a place in your bag of survival equipment. Because while you can survive the harsh cold weather of winter, or two or three days without any food, without hydration, your life will be over before you can think about it (also it helps with the taste, too).

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