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Top Water Filters For Survivalists


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In a survival situation, a good water filter is key to having a sustainable supply of clean drinking water. If you have used all of your stored water and there are no other reliable, clean water sources, it may become necessary to treat suspicious water.

Treat all water of uncertain quality before using it for drinking, food washing or preparation, washing dishes, brushing teeth or making ice. In addition to having a bad odor and taste, contaminated water can contain microorganisms that cause diseases such as dysentery, cholera, typhoid and hepatitis and parasites such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia.


NOTE: even a good water filter needs to be regularly cleaned and will not last indefinitely – follow the manufacturer’s instructions!


  1. Basic filtering out of obvious contaminants
    Consider how the water looks and how to treat it if needed. Disinfection does not work as well when water is cloudy or colored. If water is cloudy, let it settle. Then pour the water through a clean cloth, paper towel, coffee filter, cheesecloth, or a cotton plug in a funnel. NOTE, this water now needs chemical treatment
  2. Adding Polyglu (and then filtering)
    This powder is a coagulant made from fermented soybeans that makes water cleaner. It sticks to dirt and pollutants, causing the dirt in the water to separate from the water and sink.  One gram can treat up to 5 liters of polluted water; however, the water is still not fully purified and still requires further filtering to be safe to drink.
  3. Using commercially produced water filters

Another good option is filtering your water with a hand-held portable filter. Most require you to pump the water slowly through a series of screens and filters that remove dangerous bacteria and viruses. Basically, dirty water goes in, clean water comes out – ready to drink. These filters can be expensive but they are reliable and simple to use.  See at the end of this article how to judge effectiveness.

Pump Filter

Pump filters are a popular method of filtering water and have the advantage of being able to siphon water from shallow sources. They typically consist of a small unit that goes into the water connected via a flexible hose to the main filtration unit and pump.

Many also have a built-in pre-filter to help get rid of sediment prior to running water through the unit, thus helping to extend its usable life.

To use a pump filter, place the submersible end of it in the water and the other end inside the container or reservoir you want to fill. Then start pumping. (Some pumps are easier to operate than others, so expect variations.) Pump until you have filled up your water container. Remove the submersible end of the filter from the water and allow the individual elements to dry out before packing it back up. Seal your water container.

Gravity Filter

Gravity filters are an efficient way of filtering water as you let gravity do its job and clean the water for you. These filters consist of upper and lower reservoirs connected by a unit containing a filter usually in the middle or at the base of the top reservoir.

To use one of these units, all you need to do is find a body of water big enough to fill your top reservoir. A puddle will not work but any lake or stream will. Fill the reservoir top using a sweeping motion underwater and then seal it up and place the assembled filter in a secure place. As the water drains from the top reservoir to the bottom reservoir it will have to pass through the water filter. The process can take around 30 minutes but it is relatively effort-free.

Bottle Filter

Bottle filters are extremely fast and easy to use. They consist of a water bottle, and a lid. Connected to the inside of the lid is a water filter. Fill the bottle with water from any source and it will pass through the unit as you drink. These can be relatively heavy and you cannot gather as much water as you can with other types of filters but they deliver a quick drink.

Choosing the most effective filter

When you are buying a filter you want to look for a reasonable quality one designed to remove parasites such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia (any of the four messages below on a package label indicate that the filter should be able to remove these undesirable elements):

  • Reverse osmosis (with or without NSF 53 or NSF 58 labeling)
  • Absolute pore size of 1 micron or smaller (with or without NSF 53 or NSF 58 labeling)
  • Tested and certified to NSF/ANSI Standard 53 or NSF/ANSI Standard 58 for cyst removal
  • Tested and certified to NSF/ANSI Standard 53 or NSF/ANSI Standard 58 for cyst reduction

NOTE: Filters labeled only with the following words may NOT be designed to remove Cryptosporidium and other such parasites:

  • Nominal pore size of 1 micron or smaller
  • One micron filter
  • Effective against Giardia
  • Effective against parasites
  • Carbon filter
  • Water purifier
  • EPA approved (Caution: EPA does not approve or test filters)
  • EPA registered (Caution: EPA does not register filters based on their ability to remove Cryptosporidium)
  • Activated carbon
  • Removes chlorine
  • Ultraviolet light
  • Pentiodide resins
  • Water softener
  • Chlorinated


Now that you are overloaded with information and are not sure what type to buy, read on for a few recommendations!

Katadyn Hiker Microfilter

This pump filter weighs in at 11 ounces and can yield one liter of water per minute. The Katadyn Hiker Microfilter is easy to assemble and operate, although it does require you to have your own water receptacle. This unit is designed for use even in shallow bodies of water.

The Hiker comes complete with a microfilter capable of removing any larger pieces of debris, as well as the main filter that can remove the tiniest of particles from your drinking water. The filter is even capable of removing small bacteria and protozoa, including salmonella and giardia. Water also flows through an activated carbon chamber, helping improve the overall taste and appearance of your drinking water.

>>Check prices on Amazon

Platypus GravityWorks

The Platypus GravityWorks is a gravity filter that comes in either 2.0 or 4.0-liter options. The GravityWorks comes with one reservoir for dirty water and one for clean. In order to operate it, attach the dirty reservoir to a tree limb or another surface high above the ground. Gravity will force the water through the filter and down the attached hose, into the clean reservoir.

The Platypus GravityWorks reservoirs are treated with an antimicrobial coating, helping improve the taste of the water inside.

The GravityWorks does not come with a pre-filter, but nonetheless, the filter lasts an impressive 1,500 liters.

>>Check prices on Amazon

Lifestraw Personal Water Filter

The Lifestraw Personal Water Filter is designed for drinking directly from the source. You do not need a deep body of water, either – this straw-style water filter can draw water from a puddle. And this water filter weighs only two ounces, making it an almost weightless addition to any bug out bag or urban survival kit.

>>Check prices on Amazon

Sawyer Squeeze Filter

The Sawyer Squeeze Filter is a lightweight squeeze filter that comes with two 32 ounce pouches. Simply fill both pouches, and attach the squeeze filter to the lid of one pouch. Position the reservoir so that it is upside down, above the squeeze filter. Put a water bottle or another water reservoir below the filter, and begin to use your hands to squeeze water through the filter.

>>Check prices on Amazon

Katadyn Collapsible BeFree Water Bottle

The Katadyn Collapsible BeFree Water Bottle is a 2.3-ounce soft shell water bottle that can hold up to 33.8 ounces of liquid. The BeFree Water Bottle is ideal for a bug out bag because it can be rolled up and tucked away when not in use. When it is needed, unroll the water bottle, fill it up with water, attach the lid and filter, and take a drink. The BeFree is a simple and lightweight option. Its biggest limitation is the size of the reservoir – you are limited in how much water you can process at any given time.

>>Check prices on Amazon

Aquamira Shift Filtered Water Bottle

The Aquamira Shift Filtered Water Bottle is a great addition to any bug out bag. This high-tech water bottle features a regular and chemical filter, meaning your water is not only free of the normal bacteria such as salmonella, but also chemicals such as PFAS and PFOA. The filter can handle approximately 50 gallons of water before it needs to be replaced.

>>Check prices on Amazon


A good water filter is a must in a survival situation. The filters listed above are just some of the water filters out there.

Kate P

I have always had an urge to “be ready’ for emergency situations. To my delight, I discovered the term “prepping” and that there is a community out there willing to learn and share information on a subject close to my heart. I also discovered how entwined self-sufficiency and homesteading are with prepping!

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