A travel water filter needs to be the right type for you and remove the nasties that make you sick. Guess what? Most water filters for travelling (even the famous ones!) do not take out viruses or heavy metals. I know, it’s crazy. So, what is the best travel water filter for 2020? This is one of the most comprehensive travel water filter reviews you’ll find. We’ve done all the research so you don’t have to.
Our Thorough Criteria
Below I highlight the 6 top travel water filters out there. I’ve looked across the travel water filter categories (travel water filter bottle, straw travel water filter etc.) and have highlighted the pros and cons of each.
We only bought one personal travel water filter, so we can only give our user experience of that. But before we bought one we did heap loads of research into different travel water filters.
When looking at which travel water filters are best, we looked at all this criteria:
- Size of micron they filter down to
- Price (some are blooming expensive!)
- Number of types of filter built in (e.g a carbon filter, pre-filter, ultra filter)
- Portability (some are waaay too big for certain types of travel)
- Independent research on the water filter (where available)
- The amount of water it can filter before replacing the different filter parts
- Customer reviews
We looked at a whopping 23 different water filter/purification products and 10 different brands in our blogs on this subject. It took ages.
We Don’t Care About Brands
Our reviews are product based, not brand based. We don’t care about brands, just what works. Hence why you will see more than one product from a brand featured in our reviews (both the good and the less good reviews!). We also receive no sponsorship from any of the brands we’ve looked at.
We will update this blog regularly to include the most up to date products. Do let us know if you know of a product we haven’t included!
On this page I have used affiliate links. This means we make a little pocket money if you buy anything through the links we have given. Don’t worry, it won’t cost you a penny and we will never suggest buying pants products and have done comprehensive research to pull together this list. We rejected a lot of water filters in the process which we feel aren’t up to scratch.
Our Recommended Travel Water Filter
Our recommended product is the Survivor Filter PRO. We never recommend products that we haven’t tried out or wouldn’t take travelling with us if we were to do it all again.
*LifeSaver do not publish the micron sizes of their filters. They point out it is very hard to ensure filter microns are of a certain size across the whole filter, so instead rely on test results. There are unconfirmed reports from non-affiliated groups that state the LifeSaver Liberty Bottle filters down to 0.015 microns (slightly less than Survivor Filter Pro) and that the LifeSaver Jerry Can filters down to 0.02 microns. Given the percentage of viruses removed in the testing, I think it is probably a fairly accurate estimate.
Our Number 1 Travel Water Filter
This is our brilliant travel water filter! We’ve been using it solidly for 9 whole months and it’s working very well.
It stood out for affordability combined with water filtration capacity, the level of nasties it filters out and ease of use. It is also a lightweight travel water filter.
How does the Survivor Filter PRO work?
The Survivor Filter PRO has 3 filters, which in the world of water filtering is sh*t loads.
It works by putting the inlet hose and pre-filter (the 1st filter) into the water and then pumping using the push handle. Pumping pulls the water up via the inlet hose through the pre-filter, which removes particulates such as silt, as well as protozoa and bacteria (the nasties).
The water then goes through the pump itself and is pushed through a carbon filter (the 2nd filter) to remove heavy metals (no nothing to do with Slipknot) and chemicals.
The water is then pushed through the inner ultra filter (the 3rd filter), taking out the remaining nasties such as viruses, as it passes through and out into your clean water container. And boom, you have clean water.
What we think of the Survivor Filter PRO
12 months into our epic travelling adventure and the Survivor Filter PRO is working fabulously.
For us, it was affordable as the filter itself is cheaper than many others out there. The replacement parts were also affordable (unlike other filters on the market!). The Survivor Filter Pro was the only one at a reasonable price range that takes out all the nasties which could make us sick. It has an impressively tiny 0.01 micron ultra filter. This travel water filter has also stood up to independent scientific testing.
We used it a lot when trekking deep in the Himalayas and in all other places we’ve visited (Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka Guyana, Suriname, Brazil and Colombia). We haven’t got sick.
Survivor Filter is a small friendly Canadian company, and their customer service is great. I contacted them to get a back-up set of hoses, which weren’t available on the UK Amazon site. They went above and beyond to ship these to me if I paid by PayPal. These arrived within a week from Canada. All products also come with a lifetime warranty, so it means we don’t have to be worried about it breaking.
The Less Good
We love our Survivor Pro travel water filter, but we are honest travel bloggers, so here are the negatives. So, as far as the not so great stuff goes, once the carbon filter starts wearing out it get really tough to pump, this took 6 months of solid use for us though.
It can also be really fiddly to clean. With lots of different parts you have to develop a proper system to make sure each part is properly cleaned.
It can also be difficult to fill up Camelbaks, other filter products have adapters to fill up Camelbaks so I would urge Survivor Filter to look into producing one.
It also feels a tiny bit flimsy due to the plastic, but we’ve used it solidly for 9 months and it’s been fine. There are reports of the pump handle breaking. However if you push down directly (not at an angle) this situation should be avoided.
Useful tips when using the Survivor Filter PRO
The need for spare bits and bobs
Bring spare carbon filters if you are away for a long time. I did bring a spare carbon filter as I knew we would use more than 2,000 litres whilst away. But we had to change it up earlier than expected (around 1,200 litres) as it got harder and harder to use. It gave us both arm burn! To be honest 1,200 litres is sh*t loads and a lot better than ALL other carbon filters out there.
Sturdy container required
Get a decent sturdy container to fill up with the dirty water before you pump it. Unless you are pumping it directly from a stream like a proper adventurer of course!
Oh no, not clogs
I am not talking about the shoes they wear in Russia. Most products out there can get clogged and their filter life becomes reduced when using the filter in murky water. We have always tried to filter using clear water. This is usually easy as 90% of the time we filter tap water. But if you are on a multi-day hike this isn’t always possible. You can filter water through a cloth (muslin works well) first to remove the stuff that can clog your pre-filter. It may require another container to do this.
Brrrr, it’s cold in here
Don’t let the filter freeze! This was tricky in the Himalayas as it was bloody cold and we couldn’t dry the filter properly before packing it away. We shook out the parts, packed them away then slept with the filter in our sleeping bags. Nothing like cuddling up to a water filter am I right? This worked well in -10 degrees centigrade.
A salty issue
You cannot filter the salt out of seawater. Salt water will destroy most filters. You need a commercial desalination filter to do this. Beware that the tap water in some beach destinations is actually quite salty as we found out in Malapascua, Philippines!
Particles in suspension
As with any portable water filter, dissolved chemicals will not be filtered out as it can only filter out particles in suspension (I know, weird right?). They’ve done heap loads of independent testing on this travel water filter, so check it out.
Survivor Filter sell through Amazon.co.uk, although prices are more expensive in the UK (booooo) than in the US and Canada. So if you are based over there you’ll pick up the filter and parts for less!
Fun fact: You can filter your pee.
But it will likely still taste of pee. The carbon filter doesn’t take out taste.
Maintain it folks
When it comes to maintenance of the Survivor Filter Pro, it is recommended you:
- Clean and dry it out after every use
- Keep the plunger plied with vegetable oil
- Soaking some parts in vinegar (although we haven’t managed to do that yet…)
Best Travel Water Filter 2
The Survivor Filter PRO X is the world’s first electric handheld portable pump filter. It’s pretty damn cool.
It is the electric version of the Survivor Filter PRO (the one above). It uses the same filtration technology and has an awesome 3 filters.
How does the Survivor Filter Pro X work?
Pop the inlet hose into the water source and the outlet hose into a container, push the button and ta-da it starts filtering!
If filtering manually gives you sore arms and you have a bigger budget than us, this is a good water filter for you. It can be powered by battery, by mains or by powerpack using a USB cable.
Find out more about the Survivor Filter Pro X.
Best Travel Water Filter 3
This uses the same technology as the original LifeSaver bottle but has a pump within it. This makes it the world’s first in-line pump / bottle combo. Pretty damn cool!
How does the LifeSaver Liberty work?
To use as a bottle filter you remove the bottom and fill it up. Then you pump 3 times to pressurise the bottle, open the lid, put the valve to your mouth and open it. The pressure will pump the dirty water through the filter, cleaning it before pushing it into your mouth.
To use it as an actual pump you attach the 5 foot hose, dangle the other end in the water and pump – drawing the water up and pushing it through the filter, delivering clean water into whatever container you want.
Best Travel Water Filter 4
How does the Grayl Ultralight Purifier work?
The Grayl Ultralight Purifier is a travel water filter bottle. The Grayl works like a coffee press.
Fill up the main bottle with dirty water, then insert the inner filter and squish until it is in place. The pressing motion pushes the water through the filtration cartridge.
The cartridge uses a mesh that is positively charged that attracts and hangs on to the nasties via electroadsorption (so microns are not relevant with this filter), removing them from the water that passes through.
The activated carbon element then absorbs chemicals and heavy metals to remove these. High tech, I know!
To note, Grayl also has the Geopress which has a larger capacity (710ml) and a larger filtration capacity (250 litres). But is more expensive at £80 and still has the same cons around it being a little difficult to use and not having much capacity before having to replace cartridges.
Best Travel Water Filter 5
I am gunna be honest, I am not a fan of straw filters. I don’t want to put my face in a puddle to drink water. But lots of people do like them, and the Survivor filter one is the best.
How does the Survivor Filter Straw work?
The Survivor Filter Straw has a triple-filtration system. The cotton pre-filter prevents larger particulates such as silt from entering the straw and main filter.
The ultra filter membrane filters down to 0.05 microns (which is pretty tiny) as water is drawn up or pushed through it. This is wayyy better than both the popular Lifestraw Flex and the Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System (a straw) which only filter down to 0.2 and 0.1 so don’t remove viruses.
The mouthpiece contains an in-built carbon filter to take out chemicals, heavy metals and reduce odour and taste. It can be used as a straw from water sources directly or attached to standard bottles or collapsible canteens to squeeze water through. Pretty nifty.
Best Travel Water Filter 6
This water filter is a great family or group option, and could be useful for camping trips or travelling around in a camper van. As it’s quite large, it’s not for backpackers though.
How does the LifeSaver Jerry Can work?
It’s basically a big jerry can, which you fill with water, pump and then the water comes out the bottom through a small tap. You can store dirty water in the can and filter when needed at a flow rate of 3 litres per minute. This starter pack represents good value as you get a shower head and 5 spare carbon filters.
The LifeSaver Jerry Can filters out 99.9% of viruses so not quite as good as the LifeSaver Liberty Bottle but better than most out there and has carbon filters too. This jerry can has a 18.5 litre capacity and will filter 10,000 litres of water. You can also get a jerry can that filters 20,000 litres of clean drinking water. Along with ones that hold and filter less or more depending on your needs and budget.
The replacement filters are a bit pricey, depending on the model you get. However, it would take ages to filter 18.5 litres on any of the hand-held water filters mentioned above so that’s why it is good for group trips, camping and life/travel in a camper van. For those amongst us who like to prepare for potential disasters, this is also a good option. Just make sure you follow the steps below so the product doesn’t go past its shelf life.
But, I can’t afford a travel water filter
We think travel water filters are the best way of ensuring the water you drink whilst travelling is safe and you avoid getting some nasty bugs. The Survivor Filter Pro is our top choice.
However, we get these aren’t for everyone. There are alternatives to travel water filters.
Huh. Why aren’t the famous Sawyer Squeeze or the Lifestraw Flex water filters in here?
Lifestraw flex vs sawyer? How about neither? And we have our reasons. Find out why we rejected some big names from our 5 best travel water filters and why.
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