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The Best Water Filters for Preppers and Campers

Whether you are new to prepping or not, everyone agrees that water is extremely important. In fact you can survive about 3 days without it.

So we know water is important, but we don’t always have clean water at our disposal. I am first going to talk about potential contaminants in water, and then will talk about several different filters that are readily available.

Here is a list of some the many impurities that can cause sickness or even death. This list is not all-inclusive.

  • Chlorides (An increased level of chlorides in your blood is an indication of dehydration. This is called hyperchloremia.)
  •  Sulphates (Sulfites can cause breathing difficulties and, less commonly, hives or other allergy-like symptoms)
  • Bicarbonates (High doses of bicarbonates can cause headaches, nausea or irritability. Baking soda is a common bicarbonate and when given or exposed to at normal levels has no negative side effects.)
  • Sodium (Excess sodium (salt) increases blood pressure by filling your blood vessels with fluid. This increases the total volume of blood causing the pressure your heart takes to pump to increase. This increase in blood pressure can lead to strokes, heart failure, osteoporosis, stomach cancer and kidney disease. Also weak blood vessels can burst due to the excess pressure.)
  • Magnesium (Magnesium is a cause for hard water. In high levels this can increase the risk cardiovascular disorders. It can also be related to an increased risk in growth retardation and reproductive failure.)
  • Iron (An increase in iron can lead to liver, heart and pancreatic damage. It can also lead to diabetes. The overload of iron is called hemochromatosis.)
  • Sand and Sediment (This created more of an unenjoyably drinking experience. With sediment and sand being porous they can trap dangerous bacteria.)
  • Organic Matter (Usually not considered a health risk, but effects the color, taste, and smell of water)
  • Viruses (Viruses are the smallest of the waterborne disease causing microorganisms. Viruses do not have a cure. You must treat the symptoms and let the virus “run its course”. Much about viruses is still unknown to scientists.)
  • Bacteria (Symptoms can include: diarrhea, cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever, headache, kidney or liver failure is a risk. Bacteria can also lead to meningitis that can effect your spinal cord causing paralysis or even death.)
  • Heavy Metals (Exposure to large amounts of heavy metals can result in growth and development in younger children. In adult as well as children it can result in cancer, organ damage, nervous system damage, and death. Exposure can also lead to autoimmune disorders such as Lupus. These cause a person’s immune system to attack its own cells. This subjects your body to joint issues, kidneys problems, high blood pressure, and can effect your nervous system. If you form an autoimmune disorder you are very limited on medications you can take for treatment of illnesses.)
  • Protozoa and Amoeba (These typically cause gastroenteritis (stomach flu). This can cause, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, cramping, fever nausea, and headache. This also leads to dehydration very quickly.
  • Fluoride (Long-term exposure to levels higher than this can cause a build up of fluoride in your bones. This increase bone pain.)
  • Chlorine (Drinking excess chlorine greatly increases your risk of cancer. Some studies say it increases it as much a 93%.)
  • Dacthal dimethyl tetrachloroterephthalate, or DCPA (Damages the adrenal glands, kidneys, liver, thyroid, and spleen)
  • Pharmaceuticals (The amount of drugs found in water are so diluted that they are not currently having noticeable effects on humans. Experts are saying these are having an effect on aquatic life, which can effect our food supply.)
  • Mercury (Excess mercury can cause brain and nerve damage, cognitive disability, and headaches, among other things.)
  • PCBs – polychlorinated biphenyls (which can affect the immune, reproductive, and nervous systems, among other things)
  • Perchlorate (Attacks your thyroid)
  • Dioxins (Dioxins are dangerous. Only being exposed for a short amount of time can cause lesions and respiratory problems. Being exposed for a long amount of time can affect the immune, nervous, endocrine, and reproductive systems. Pregnant women are high risk for birth defects or stillbirth.)
  • DDT (Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane) (reproductive problems, liver damage etc.)
  • Arsenic (Increased levels of arsenic will poison your body causing, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal, and could even kill you. Long-term exposure can lead to skin cancer, lung cancer, and bladder cancer.)
  • HCB, or Hexachlorobenzene (This former fungicidal treatment for crops can lead to liver disease and skin lesions in small doses. In large doses this can lead to death.)
  • MtBE (methyl tertiary-butyl ether) (kidney damage, and seizures)

We are going to talk about many different filters that help making the above items stay out of our drinking water. We will go through their pros and cons.

lifestraw original

#1. LifeStraw – Original

The LifeStraw Original is priced around $20.

Pros:

  • Affordable – Cost per gallon of filtered water is $0.08/gallon
  • Purchased at most retailers
  • Filters out 99.9999% of bacteria (E.coli and salmonella)
  • Filters out 99.9% of protozoa (Giardia & Cryptosporidium)
  • Reduces cloudy water by filtering down to 0.2 microns
  • 1000 liter life (264 gallons)
  • Only 2 ounces
  • For every straw purchased LifeStraw provides water to children in third world countries.

Cons:

  • Does not filter chemicals
  • Must use close to water source. Either drink straight from water source while leaned over, or scoop water into container and drink from the container.

lifestraw go

#2. LifeStraw – Go

The LifeStraw Go is a little more expensive than the original.

Pros:

  • It has a 2-stage water filter
  • Filters out 99.9999% of bacteria (E.coli and salmonella)
  • Filter out 99.9% of protozoa (Giardia & Cryptosporidium)
  • Reduces cloudy water by filtering down to 0.2 microns
  • Easy to carry.
  • Fill bottle and carry with you.

Cons:

  • Filters only 26 gallons or 100 liters of water.
  • Cost per gallon of filtered water is $1.73/gallon.
  • Does not filter any chemicals

lifestraw family

#3. LifeStraw – Family

The LifeStraw Family is a little more expensive than the “Go”.

Pros:

  • Affordable – Cost per gallon of filtered water is $0.02/gallon
  • Filters up to 4,750 gallons or 18,000 liters of water to 0.02 microns (20 nm)
  • Filters out 99.9999% of bacteria (E.coli and salmonella)
  • Filter out 99.9% of protozoa (Giardia & Cryptosporidium)
  • Reduces cloudy water by filtering down to 0.2 microns
  • Flow-rate of 9-12 liters/hour (2.4-3.2 gallons/hour)
  • 2 liter capacity
  • Easy-to-clean pre-filter and purification cartridge
  • Easy to carry.
  • Fill bottle and carry with you.

Cons:

  • Must fill hopper with contaminated water and wait for gravity to filter the water
  • Does not filter any chemicals
  • Not readily available at most retailers. Must be purchased online, or at specialty stores.

lifestraw community

#4. LifeStraw – Community

The LifeStraw Community will easily set you back a few hundred dollars.

Pros:

  • Affordable – Cost per gallon of filtered water is less than a half a penny per gallon
  • Can purify between 70,000 -100,000 liters of water (18,492 – 26,417 gallons) Can provide filtered water for a family of 5 for over 7 years at 2 gallons per person, per day.
  • Multiple chambers that store clean water, 25 liters (6.6 gallons) of dirty water, 25 liters (6.6 gallons) of filtered water
  • 4 spouts to allow multiple people to use at once
  • Flow rate of 12 liters/hour (3.2 gallons/hour)
  • Filters out 99.9999% of bacteria (E.coli and salmonella)
  • Filter out 99.9% of protozoa (Giardia & Cryptosporidium)
  • Reduces cloudy water by filtering down to 0.2 microns

Cons:

  • Not portable, very heavy when filled, 27 pounds when empty
  • Filters cannot be replaced once they are used up.
  • Must fill with up to 25 liters (6.6 gallons) of dirty water to be filtered
  • Does not filter any chemicals
  • Not readily available at most retailers. Must be purchased online, or at specialty stores.

sawyer mini

#5. Sawyer Mini

The Sawyer Mini is slightly more expensive than the LifeStraw (though not by a lot) at around $20.

Pros:

  • Affordable – Cost per gallon of filtered water is $0.0002 per gallon.
  • Only 2 ounces
  • Purchased at most retailers
  • Filters 99.9999% of bacteria (E. coli, salmonella, and cholera)
  • Filters 99.9999% of protozoa (Giardia & Cryptosporidium)
  • Certified for 0.1 micron filtration
  • Up to 100,000 gallon filter life
  • Filter is back-washable
  • Comes with 16 ounce collapsible water bottle, plunger, and straw attachment
  • Can be attached to most disposable water bottles
  • Can be connected to a hydration pack (CamelBak)

Cons:

  • Does not filter chemicals

Sawyer all in ONE

#6. Sawyer – All in One

The Sawyer All in One is more expensive than the regular one.

Pros:

  • Affordable – Cost per gallon of filtered water is $0.0006 per gallon.
  • Only 2 ounces
  • Purchased at most retailers
  • Filters 99.9999% of bacteria (E. coli, salmonella, and cholera)
  • Filters 99.9999% of protozoa (Giardia & Cryptosporidium)
  • Certified for 0.1 micron filtration
  • Up to 100,000 gallon filter life
  • Filter is back-washable
  • Flow rate of 540 gallons/day
  • Comes with 32 ounce collapsible water bottle, plunger, 2 pop-up drinking spouts
  • Can be attached to most disposable water bottles
  • Can be connected to a hydration pack (CamelBak)
  • Comes with adapter to connect to most household faucets for filtered water at home
  • Comes with adapter for five gallon buckets to create a gravity feed system
    Cons:
  • Does not filter chemicals

Sawyer Products Personal Water Bottle

#7. Sawyer – Personal Water Bottle

The Sawyer Personal Water Bottle is slightly more expensive than the original.

Pros:

  • Affordable – Cost per gallon of filtered water is $0.0004 per gallon.
  • Purchased at most retailers
  • Filters 99.9999% of bacteria (E. coli, salmonella, and cholera)
  • Filters 99.9999% of protozoa (Giardia & Cryptosporidium)
  • Certified for 0.1 micron filtration
  • Up to 100,000 gallon filter life
  • 5.5 ounce empty weight
  • Filter is back-washable
  • 34 ounce capacity water bottle
  • Comes with, plunger, and 2 extra replacement straws
  • Can be attached to most wide mouth water bottles
  • Can be connected to a hydration pack (CamelBak)

Cons:

  • Does not filter chemicals

travel berkey

#8. Big Berkey – Travel Berkey

Pros:

  • Affordable – Cost per gallon of filtered water is $0.04 per gallon for first 6000 gallons. Then price drops to $0.02 per gallon with the purchase of replacement filters.
  • Each black filter is rated at 3,000 gallons of water.
  • Each black filter does the following:
    • Filters and removes bacteria, cysts and parasites
    • Removes harmful chemicals (herbicides, pesticides, chlorine, and a few other things)
    • Removes nitrates, nitrites and some heavy metals like mercury
    • Will remove food coloring from water, yet keeps beneficial minerals.
  • Stores 1.5 gallons of clean water
  • Stainless steel
  • Can add fluoride and arsenic filters for an additional $0.01 per gallon
  • The stainless steel chambers/lid, spigot, washers, and nuts are warranted for a lifetime
  • Filters water for 1-3 people
  • Flow rate up to 2.5 gallons per hour. First hour is around .75 gallons per hour

Cons:

  • When collapsed for travel, the size is 7.5” diameter and 12” long.

Big Berkey

#9. Big Berkey

The Big Berkey is priced similarly to the Travel Berkey.

Pros:

  • Affordable – Cost per gallon of filtered water is $0.04 per gallon for first 6000 gallons. Then price drops to $0.02 per gallon.
  • Each black filter is rated at 3,000 gallons of water.
  • Each black filter does the following:
    • Filters and removes bacteria, and parasites
    • Removes harmful chemicals (herbicides, pesticides, chlorine etc.)
    • Reduces nitrates, nitrites and heavy metals (lead and mercury)
    • Will remove food coloring from the water.
  • Stores 2.1 gallons of clean water
  • Can add fluoride and arsenic filters for an additional $0.01 per gallon
  • The stainless steel chambers/lid, spigot, washers, and nuts are warranted for a lifetime
  • Filters water for 2-4 people
  • Flow rate up to 7 gallons per hour. Flow rate is determined by number of filters installed.

Cons:

  • When collapsed for travel, the size is 8.5” diameter and 13” long.

Crown Berkey

#10. Big Berkey – Crown Berkey

Pros:

  • Affordable – Cost per gallon of filtered water is $0.05 per gallon for first 6000 gallons. Then price drops to $0.02 per gallon.
  • Each black filter is rated at 3,000 gallons of water.
  • Each black filter does the following:
    • Filters and removes bacteria, parasites etc.
    • Removes harmful chemicals (herbicides, pesticides, organic solvents, chlorine, and a few others)
    • Reduces nitrates, nitrites and heavy metals (lead and mercury)
    • Will remove food coloring from water.
  • Stores 6 gallons of clean water
  • Stainless steel
  • Can add fluoride and arsenic filters for an additional $0.01 per gallon
  • The stainless steel chambers/lid, spigot, washers, and nuts are warranted for a lifetime
  • Filters water for 6-12 people
  • Flow rate up to 26 gallons per hour. Flow rate is determined by number of filters installed.

Cons:

  • When collapsed for travel, the size is 11” diameter and 20” long.

brita water filer

#11. Brita Water Pitchers

Pros:

  • Affordable – Cost per gallon of filtered water starts at $0.50 per gallon for first 40 gallons. Then price drops to $0.18 per gallon.
  • Brita filters out: Chlorine (taste and odor), Lead, Mercury, Cadmium, Benzene, Asbestos, Copper and Zinc.
  • 5-10 cup capacity
  • Purchased at most retailers

Cons:

  • Only filters 40 gallons per filter.
  • With a smaller capacity you fill the pitcher more often.
  • Not portable
  • Not intended to purify water. If you think the water might be unsafe to drink do not use this filter.
  • This is intended for tap water only.
  • Does not filter bacteria of any kind.

zero water filter

#12. Zero Water Pitchers

Pros:

  • Zero Water filters out TDS (Total Dissolved Solids)
  • 5-30 cup capacity
  • Comes with a meter to test the TDS in you tap water.
  • Filter lasts between 8-to over 40 gallons. This is determined by the amount of TDS.
  • Purchased at most retailers

Cons:

  • With a smaller capacity you fill the pitcher more often.
  • Not portable
  • Not intended to purify water. If you think the water might be unsafe to drink do not use this filter.
  • This is intended for tap water only.
  • Does not filter chemicals.
  • Does not filter bacteria of any kind.
  • Very slow filtration rate.

Coleman Potable Aqua

#13. Coleman Potable Aqua with PA Plus

The Coleman Potable Aqua with PA Plus are in fact pretty cheap, and a good alternative to bleach, that typically has 6 months of shelf life.

Pros:

  • Very portable
  • Treats up to 25 quarts of water
  • Chemically treats bacteriologically tainted water
  • Effective against Giardia Lamblia
  • Removes iodine taste
  • Purchased at most retailers

Cons:

  • Takes 30 minutes for water to be ready to drink
  • Chemically treats the water
  • People note a chalky taste in the treated water
  • Does not filter chemicals
  • Does not filter all bacteria
  • Does not remove sediment from water
  • You must have a separate water container to use

#14. Bleach

Bleach can be found really, really cheap.

Pros:

  • Very portable
  • Only takes 2 drops of bleach per quart of water
  • Can be purchase at most stores

Cons:

  • Takes 30 minutes for water to be ready to drink
  • Does not filter chemicals
  • Does not remove sediment from water
  • You must have a separate water container to use
  • Will have a small chlorine taste

My Assessment

Personally I own a LifeStraw Original, a Sawyer Mini, a Sawyer All in One, a ZeroWater pitcher, and have owned Brita products in the past. The LifeStraw is fairly limited on the uses. You must either have a container to scoop the water up and suck it out with the straw, or get close enough to the water to drink straight from the source.

I tested my LifeStraw at a pond and the water tasted great and I didn’t get sick! The Sawyer products are my personal favorite. The mini is great due to the fact it can be attached to most any disposable water bottle.

I used my mini during a 2-day canoe trip and had great tasting cold water and didn’t get sick. I recently used my all in one during a survival campout and used it for the gravity water feed system. This allowed me to fill all my water containers in short period of time with clean water.

My ZeroWater filter is great. When I tested my water it was a 48. It is on the lower side of the dissolved solids. The filter has great life (almost 100 gallons per filter) and taste. The Brita’s I used to own where ok when the filter was brand new. After a few days, the water tasted like normal tap water to me. I stopped using them for feeling I was wasting money.

I have done ample research on the Berkey system. I will be purchasing one of these systems to replace my ZeroWater system. For me these aren’t ideal for traveling or in my bug out bag. I like the fact these filter chemicals. The Berkeys look great and with their storage capacity I can have fresh clean water anytime I want. If I ever have to leave, I can toss the unit in my truck and if I make it to my bug out location, I can set it up there.

Wrap-Up

In conclusion, There are hundreds of filters out there that all claim to be the best. The above filters are the most common filters that have been proven to be great. Do research for yourself and make a choice once you are educated.

In an emergency a LifeStraw or a Sawyer Mini are great to have on hand. These are quickly deployed for filtering water. For your home, decide which filter is best for you. You can also use common items such as charcoal to make a filter to help with filtering bacteria.

Whichever method(s) you choose, make sure you are educated on using it. It isn’t wise to have equipment you don’t know how to use. Also don’t forget you should always have a stock of clean water on hand just in case. What good does it do to have everyone of the above filters, but no water at all to put through it?

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About Matt Tholen

Matt is a former Eagle Scout and EMT (Emergency Medical Technician). He has been prepping for over 10 years. He has been focused on survival techniques and knowledge for most of his life. He is a HAM radio operator. His desire is to share his knowledge and experience with as many people as possible to ensure people are prepared for whatever gets thrown at them.

3 comments

  1. great article

  2. I do not see the Alexapure system that you suggested earlier last year? What are your thoughts on this one?

  3. Why did this omit Potassium? Too much (hyperkalemia) or too little (hypokalemia) kills by interfering with cardiac electrophysiology inducing intractable arrhythmia.

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