Shopping for an emergency water filter?
You are in the right place.
It is always better to prepare for emergencies ahead of time.
Access to plenty of clean and safe (potable) water is one of the most important needs in any emergency.
You’ll need at least a couple of gallons per day per person for drinking, cooking, cleaning, and many other things.
Fortunately, there are many water filters available today that are perfect to use in emergencies.
However, it is essential to look for an efficient and reliable unit that can be stored for a long time, so that you can be sure you will have safe potable water when that day comes.
When Do You Need an Emergency Water Filter?
All it takes is a chemical spill, a flood, or another disaster to make your local water supply suddenly unfit for drinking.
And while local creeks and streams may appear clean, they often carry harmful chemicals and biologicals that can cause you and your family serious harm.
And without access drinking water, you will only survive for three days. This is why guaranteed access to clean water is essential to emergency preparedness.
Having an emergency water filter large enough to supply your family with safe drinking water every day is critical, because you cannot expect to run to the store and find all the water you will need once an emergency is declared. Very often, water bottles sell out in this situation.
The only reliable fallback, then, is for you to be prepared to turn unpotable water into safe drinkable water.
This is where emergency water filters come in.
Emergency filters turn unsafe water and into clean, drinkable water, ensuring that you are not left high and dry.
What’s In This Buying Guide
In this guide, we review the best emergency water filters to put into your emergency supply kit. We recommend filters for a variety of common needs and situations.
We also include a buying guide that discusses the essential features of an emergency water filter.
At the end, we answer some frequently asked questions to help you choose a filter that is right for you.
Best Emergency Water Filters
Disclaimer: All links below go to Amazon.com
- Best Portable Filter: Sawyer MINI Water Filtration System
- Easiest to Use: GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier
- Best Gravity-Fed: Platypus GravityWorks Water Filter
- Most Versatile: MSR TrailShot Water Filter
1. Most Portable: Sawyer MINI Water Filtration System
Weighing just 100 grams, the Sawyer MINI water filtration system is perfect for everything from home emergency preparedness to camping and backpacking.
Compact and versatile, this unit comes with a collapsible 16-ounce squeeze pouch that does not take up much space in your backpack and can even be carried in your pocket.
- Three different filtering modes (see below)
- Excellent filtration performance
- Attaches to hydration packs and standard disposable water bottles
- Included straw makes it possible to drink straight from the water source
- Removes 99.99% of bacteria and protozoa and 100% of microplastics
- Filters up to 100,000 gallons
- Easily fits in the palm of your hand
- Independent laboratory tested
- Quality of construction could be better
This ultra-light Sawyer MINI features a reusable 0.1-micron MINI water filter that provides clean water from freshwater rivers, streams, and lakes, making it an ideal unit for use in emergencies.
What we love most about the Sawyer MINI straw filter is that it can be used in three different ways to solve a wide range of clean water needs:
- You can use the straw to drink filtered water straight from the water source.
- You can attach the straw filter in-line with a gravity-fed or hydration bladder system
- You can attach the filter to a water or soda bottle.
The 0.1-micron absolute filtration media makes it nearly impossible for harmful bacteria, protozoa, microplastics, or cysts like Giardia, Salmonella typhi, E.coli, and Vibrio cholera to pass through.
Its thick fiber walls make the Sawyer MINI durable and ensure fast flow rate.
The Sawyer Mini cleans up to 100,000 gallons of water before it needs to be replaced and has no expiration date, so it’s perfect for your bugout kit.
The Sawyer MINI straw filter is backed by a lifetime guarantee and has a lot of positive reviews online, so you can rest assured that this reliable unit will last a long time.
2. Easiest to Use: GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier
The simple patented design of the GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier makes safe water without any serious effort.
Using this filter requires nothing – no hoses, pumps, batteries, bulbs, squeezing or sucking, nor any chemicals.
To use this filter, you just use your body weight for mechanical advantage.
Fill this water purifier from any sketchy water source and then press on the ground or a low surface and enjoy safe water anywhere.
- Compact & easy to use
- Ideal for emergency prep kit, hikers, and travelers
- Removes a large range of waterborne pathogens
- Eliminates bad odors
- Zero aftertaste
- Improves flavor and clarity
- Replaceable filter cartridge
- 10-year warranty
- Lifespan of 300 uses
- Built for harsh environments
The GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier is designed for minimalists looking for ultimate portability, performance, and convenience. It is perfect for outdoor adventures, international travel, and emergency kits.
For an emergency water filter, the GRAYL Ultralight could not be easier to operate. Just fill it from any water source such as a lake, stream, or hotel sink; then press it against the ground to drink safe water.
This easy-to-use filter provides the ultimate protection against pathogens, chemicals, heavy metals, and particulates.
The filtration process takes very little time and does not require pumping, sucking, or squeezing.
Each GRAYL purifier is designed with a changeable purifier cartridge that lasts for 40 gallons which is enough drinking water for one person for many weeks. The replaceable cartridge extends your purifier life indefinitely.
This compact and lightweight purifier can fit the side pocket of any backpack for easy access. It is also very easy to clean and maintain this purifier.
Efficient and convenient, the GRAYL Ultralight is the simplest way to purify water on the go.
3. Best Gravity-Fed: Platypus GravityWorks Water Filter
The Platypus GravityWorks water filter is uses gravity to provide clean drinking water, so it’s a great choice for the home and other fixed locations like a campsite.
It comes with a 4-liter clean water reservoir, a 4-liter dirty water reservoir, shutoff clamp, hoses, hollow-fiber microfilter, and storage sack.
- High capacity
- Removes contaminants and bacteria
- Filters 4 liters in 2.5 minutes
- Compact and lightweight
- 0.2-micron filter
- Good flow rate
- 330 gallon lifespan
- Delicate – be careful when handling
Ideal for group and family camping, basecamps, outdoor activities, and emergency preparedness, the Platypus GravityWorks water filter has a high 4-liter filtration capacity.
It does not require batteries, pumps, chemicals, or moving parts to provide clean water from contaminated sources.
Designed to meet all EPA and NSF guidelines, the Platypus GravityWorks can remove 99.99% of protozoa, like cholera, E. coli, cryptosporidium, giardia, salmonella, etc., and 99.9999% of bacteria.
This water filter is easy to use and can be used anywhere. Its replaceable microfilter cartridge can clean up to 1,500 liters of water. Simply fill the dirty water reservoir from a contaminated water source and suspend it above the clean water reservoir. In just 2.5 minutes, you can filter 4 gallons of water.
The Platypus water filter is also very easy to maintain in the field. It is compact and lightweight and has a lifespan of 1,500 liters.
4. Most Versatile: MSR TrailShot Water Filter
The MSR TrailShot water filter is quite versatile. It comes in handy in various situations as you can use it to drink directly from a water source by pumping on the nozzle with your mouth or fill a container with filtered water from a water source.
- Lightweight and compact
- Easy one-handed operation
- Hollow fiber technology
- Filters one liter in just one minute
- Can be stashed in a pocket
- Inconsistent performance
Designed for adventurers looking for a reliable and effective water filter without worrying about the weight, the TrailShot is ideal for hiking, travel, camping, and emergency preparedness.
Weighing just five ounces, this compact unit fits easily in the pocket of your backpack or jacket whether you are on an outdoor adventure or in a survival situation.
With the MSR TrailShot, you can drink directly from streams, rivers, and lakes without lying in the dirt due to the tube attachment or filling your hydration pack, water bottle, or other containers.
The easy one-handed pumping mechanism effectively filters protozoa and bacteria from one-liter water in just 60 seconds. It is very easy to clean in the field, as with just a few shakes, you restore the flow rate without using any tools.
Emergency Water Filter Buying Guide
What are Emergency Preparedness Water Filters?
When we think about emergency preparedness, two things that come to most people’s minds are food and shelter. We ensure that we have enough canned food in our basement in case of emergencies. However, not having clean water can be catastrophic.
Most people think that access to a water source is fairly easy, whether it is from a nearby lake or stream or their own home.
However, if your water source becomes contaminated by flooding, it would be similar to being cut off completely. You will not be able to drink from it as it will contain harmful microorganisms that, if ingested, could make you sick.
This is why having an emergency water filter is as vital as food – perhaps even more so as it is possible to survive longer without food than without drinking water.
With an emergency water filter, you can make any water source, whether freshwater sources or contaminated city water supplies, safe and clean for drinking.
A clean water source is not just used for drinking.
In an emergency, you also need water for hygiene purposes. You can wash the dishes, your clothes, and yourself clean instead of adding more dirt.
However, you will not be able to last long with a few water bottles if you add washing into the equation.
You can never know what may happen in an emergency, but being prepared for every scenario can help put your mind at ease.
Types of Survival Water Filters
There is no one best type of water filter for emergency preparedness. This gives you more choice to find an emergency water filter that will serve you best in a survival situation.
Gravity-fed water filters refer to portable water filters that provide clean drinking water for campers, emergency peppers, travelers, and hikers. This filter system is typically made up of four components – a filter, a clean water bag, a connecting tube, and a dirty water bag.
The idea behind the gravity filter system is very simple. Fill the dirty water bag, then connect it to the clean water bag with the help of the filter and tube.
Make sure that the filter is vertical and the dirty water bag hangs from a height, as it will allow the force of gravity to direct the water through the filter.
After some time, the dirty water bag will be empty, and the clean water bag will be filled with filtered water.
However, the gravity filter system works best if you do not move around and stay in one location.
Pump filters utilize the simple motion of force to purify the water.
The pump filter is typically enclosed in a filter housing and is connected to two tubes and the pump. The lead tube is placed in the unclean water source. Then you press the pump so that the water passes through the filter and comes out of the other tube, where it is collected in a clean container.
Designed as one of the best emergency water filtration systems, pump filters are best for situations where you do not have to move around a lot.
However, their large size and the physical effort they need to work can be a turn-off for some preppers.
The best thing about pump filters is that they can produce large amounts of water faster.
The only disadvantage of this filter is that some small bacteria like E. Coli may pass through the filter. So if you are looking for 100% effectiveness, this filter may not be for you.
Convenient and portable, straw pumps allow you to drink directly from the water source. You stick the straw directly in any water source, from streams to lakes to contaminated tap water, and drink from it.
As the water passes through the straw, contaminants like dirt, protozoa, and bacteria are removed, and you can drink clean water safely.
Straw filters are compact and have a long service life. Their only drawback is that you need to get really close to the water source to drink from it. This could sometimes mean lying flat beside the water body, which may not be something that all family members can do in emergencies.
Water purification bottles are of 2 types – UV water bottles and water filter bottles.
Bottle filters are portable, easy to use, and do not require much time. You just fill the bottle with water and let it do the hard work. Although these units have limited capacity, you can refill them again and again throughout the day.
When using a UV water bottle, you need to tap the lid to activate the UV sterilization. Within seconds, the water is clean enough to drink, whereas, in a water filter bottle, you add water to the bottle and use a straw for drinking.
This water passes through a filter before reaching the straw, removing the contaminants, including protozoa and bacteria, and making the water safe to drink.
One of the most versatile filters available, inline water filters have various uses.
An inline filter is connected to a dirty water bag, which you have to squeeze. This forces filtered water out, which is collected in a clean container.
Typically, you can screw inline filters onto standard plastic water bottles. And to drink from the bottle, you just need to tip it and squeeze. You can also use the inner line filter as a straw and drink from the water source directly.
What to Look for When Buying an Emergency Water Filter
Before looking for the best purification options, consider the following features:
If you are looking for a filter that can remove waterborne bacteria, parasites, and viruses, then there are various options.
On the other hand, if you need a filter that can remove contaminants such as chemicals and lead, a water distiller is a better option as it is effective against a large range of contaminants.
Typically, a survival water filter just disinfects water without improving its odor or taste. However, if you can find a purification solution that can remove contaminants such as sulfur and chlorine, then it will help improve the water taste too.
Size & Weight
In an emergency, it is best to have a unit that is neither bulky, large, or heavy so that it does not become an inconvenience in case you have to leave your home.
For example, having a distiller or a pot for boiling water to purify is a good thing until you have to find a way to take it with you to your next location. A UV water filter also has portability issues as you need to install it on your home’s waterline.
So, in an emergency, it is best to have a highly portable filtering solution that can easily fit in a backpack so that you can easily transport it from one place to another.
The water filter’s weight and size affect its portability. You should choose a water filter while keeping its intended use in mind. A straw water filter is lightweight and compact and can be thrown in a bag for personal use, whereas a large gravity filter is ideal for group camping trips.
Some portable water filter units such as water bottles and filter straws treat the water as you drink. UV and gravity filters, on the other hand, treat larger amounts of water stored in clean water containers. You need to pick a model according to your needs.
Filters that you can use on the go are very convenient. A filter bottle can hold up to 32 ounces of water. A portable filter straw does not hold any water but is suitable for use in any container and can filter up to 100,000 gallons of water in its lifetime.
Gravity filters come with bags or containers that make them less portable. The filters’ large capacity makes them ideal for preparing meals or fulfilling the drinking needs of a large group.
UV filters can zap any organism present in the water. You just need to insert one into a container. These filters can sanitize up to 64 ounces of water in one go and filter up to 5 gallons with just one charge. Portable UV light filters can last for up to 8,000 treatment cycles before needing to be replaced.
The lifespan of filters differs from product to product.
For example, a water distiller can last almost forever if you take good care of it and regularly clean the boiling chamber. The same is the case with UV bottle purification – water or contaminants can’t damage the purification process.
However, if you have a whole-home UV system, you will need to replace the lamp yearly.
Water filters work a little differently.
Portable survival filters can last longer than activated carbon filters, as you can backflush them.
Some filters are more durable than others. You can check if a filter needs changing by looking at its flow rate. If the flow of water is not smooth, even after regular backwashing, it is time to get a new filter.
Ease of Use
When hiking, traveling, or in an emergency, it is best if the filter you choose is easy to use and provides quick access to safe hydration.
Filter bottles and straws are very simple to use and do not require any complicated assembly. Just insert the straw into the water or fill and sip from your filter bottle.
Devices such as UV filters, gravity filters, and pumps need slightly more work.
Gravity filters need to be held up or hung for gravity to do its work, while pumps need manual pumping, which could be a hassle while you are on the go.
UV filters require occasional charging and a pre-filter for murky water.
Some portable water filters also come with extra accessories that simplify their usage. Carabiners come in handy to attach a straw or bottle to the outside of a travel bag.
Gravity filters may include hanging hooks or clasps that make it easier to suspend the unit while it filters. Some units also come with carrying bags that keep the filter clean and contained for travel.
Emergencies can have ever-changing circumstances, and your emergency water filter should be able to meet those evolving demands. This is why it’s best to go with a versatile unit, as it will provide you with multiple options as conditions alter.
Pros and Cons
If your water source gets contaminated during natural calamities like storms or floods, it can cause life-threatening dehydration from diarrhea and vomiting or long-term chronic disease as a result of bacterial or chemical toxins.
And while emergency water filters can reduce the chances of such health issues, they have some drawbacks.
- Easy and straightforward to use
- Filters out harmful germs or chemicals
- Makes your water taste better
- Removes contaminants like debris, microorganism, and sediment
- Useful in camping and traveling
- Cost-effective as it does not need a lot of money to maintain
- May allow small particles to pass through
- Thorough cleaning and care of the water filter is essential for optimal performance
Cleaning and Maintenance
Filters not maintained properly can cause more harm than good. This is why it is vital to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper maintenance.
Make sure that you clean and properly stow your emergency filter after each use.
Typically, filters have a lifespan of almost 10 years, but it is essential to note that this refers to shelf life. Even if you never use your filter within the 10-year period, you will still need to replace it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are emergency water filters effective?
Emergency water filters are a vital part of your survival kit in case of floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, or any other emergency. Their main objective is to effectively treat water to make it free from microbial contaminants that can cause diseases such as cysts and bacteria.
Do all emergency filters deliver the same performance?
There is a wide range of water filters available. They come with different features, and you should not assume that if it removes one contaminant, it can also remove others. Choosing which type is best for you depends on the functions you want a filter to perform.
No one filter can eliminate all contaminants. For instance, filters that remove chemicals are not highly effective against germs and vice versa. So, it is vital to find out the specifications of a particular model before investing in it.
Filters come with labels that clearly state the contaminants they can remove. Make sure to read those labels carefully and verify the claims made by manufacturers with an independent source to get the safest water.
Are water filters and water purifiers different?
The primary difference between a water filter and a water purifier is the level of protection they provide. A water filter can remove waterborne bacteria and protozoa, but not viruses, whereas a water purifier is designed to remove viruses, bacteria, and protozoa, providing a higher level of defense.
Final Verdict: What is the best emergency water filter sold today?
The emergency water filters reviewed above are the best units sold online right now (in our opinion), and they all come with their own characteristics.
That said, the Sawyer MINI water filter is the best option for most families. It’s a flexible, simple and super-easy to use portable filter that works in three different ways to keep your family supplied with fresh drinking water. It also has no expiration date, so it’s the perfect safe water solution for any emergency survival kit, camping kit, or bugout kit.