The 5 Best Personal Water Filters that Fit in Your Pocket

I don’t think anyone at this point needs to be told how precious water is to life. To say that it is essential is an understatement.

However, in a survival situation clean and drinking water becomes incalculably more important considering you will no longer be able to depend on faucets, deliveries of bottled water and gently humming water fountains to supply your constant need for H2O.

water filtration and purification devices
water filtration and purification devices

Accordingly, preppers work very hard to ensure they will have access to and a way to transport water in any emergency situation, as there is no situation that cannot be made worse by a lack of drinking water.

Bottles, bladders, canteens and the jugs, all are pressed into service for the carrying of water.

However, carrying the water is one thing, sourcing it is another and though we are surrounded by water in many places and in many natural forms, much of it is dodgy or even dangerous to drink from without treatment.

This is where water filtration technology can save the day. One of the single best investments you can make for your bug out kit is the purchase of a compact, highly portable survival water filter. Today we will be bringing you a list of our favorite picks in the category.

No Water, No Life

When you consider the prime survival necessities – air, shelter, water and food- water certainly ranks near the top among the most pressing and crucial no matter what environment you are in and what the greater situation is.

If you are facing an injury or health crisis in the middle of nowhere during a remote hike, water is going to be critical. If you are enduring a long-term survival situation or other SHTF event following a toppling of the societal order, you had better believe drinking water will still be important.

This is because there are few things more important than the sustained consumption of clean water when it comes to maintaining the actual bodily processes of life.

You can last only a few minutes without any air and only a few hours without shelter when conditions are truly hostile, but you can only go a few days, at the most, without any water.

Dehydration is severely debilitating and it does not take long for headaches, nausea and cloudy thoughts to spiral into near incapacitation that will further impede your ability to hydrate. Not long after that, game over.

So always keep that in mind: though you might have days to go before you die you will be in a dangerous condition well before that, and you can get there very quickly when heavily exerting yourself or surviving in hot, humid weather.

Water, Water Everywhere…

The answer to your water woes might seem obvious. After all, most biomes furnish plenty of natural water sources, right?

Streams, ponds, rivers, lakes, puddles, snow; seems to be plenty of water around for the taking. This is true, and you are in fact correct, but as with most obvious solutions and a survival situation there is a catch.

The catch is that these natural sources of water, except for the rarest and most pristine of them, are contaminated with all sorts of things, ranking anywhere from filthy to hideously disgusting.

What is lurking in these water sources? I am glad you asked; any natural water source is going to be full of bacteria, viruses, gobs and gobs of dissolved solids including feces, carcasses, soils and countless other varieties of biological matter.

Any or all of them but particularly bacteria and viruses could make you sick, perhaps severely ill and maybe even kill you.

While it is true that most waterborne germs will only cause dreadful gastrointestinal upset in the form of vomiting, diarrhea or both even that is something you can ill afford in a survival situation.

When you are already dehydrated losing copious amounts of moisture via either end of your body for hours or days at a time is a great way to become incapacitated. Additionally, you’ll be further depleting electrolytes which will also be in short supply, making a bad situation geometrically worse.

Unless you want to roll the dice with Montezuma’s Revenge, Delhi Belly, or some other form of tummy trouble you must purify your water. The most reliable and most convenient way to do that and the widest possible variety of circumstances is to filter it through a high efficiency water filtration system.

Top 5 Best Portable Water Filters

Lifestraw water filter
the Lifestraw personal water filter

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

Probably the most well-known survival centric water filter on this list, the LifeStraw was a game-changing device when it was first introduced, combining an incomparably compact form factor with intuitive and easy to use operation.

All you need to do is insert the LifeStraw into the water source you want to drink from and then drink through it, just like a giant, oversized novelty straw.

And it is far from a novelty, as the device’s advanced filtration system can protect against virtually all forms of bacteria and parasites as well as all sorts of tiny solids like dirt, sand, dissolve soils, microplastics and similar material.

Weighing in at a feathery 2 oz, this slim water filter can treat over 4,000 liters of water, sustaining an individual for a very long time.

Obviously, that is the nominal rating and drinking from extremely dirty sources will accelerate wear and tear on the filter, but this is one device that you can definitely count on in almost any emergency situation.

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Katadyn Hiker Pro

Katadyn is another respected maker of water filters, especially ones that are optimized for field use. They’re Hiker Pro model is one of the most popular.

Entirely compact, with the collection vessel and pump apparatus measuring barely three inches in diameter and just a hair over 6 in long, this is nonetheless a powerfully capable water filter.

The Hiker Pro can protect you and others against cysts, protozoa and bacteria measuring an incredibly, unimaginably tiny point to microns in size thanks to its glass fiber filter. Additionally, you won’t have to suffer with strange tasting water once the filtering process is completed thanks to the activated carbon core.

The filter itself is protected by a first stage filter screen that blocks the biggest particulates from reaching the delicate, fine media in the second stage. This first stage filter is cleanable and reusable in the field to extend up time and minimize clogs.

Compared to the LifeStraw the Katadyn is less intuitive but more adaptable, relying on a siphon and hand actuated pump mechanism to draw water into a container which can then be poured into a water bottle, canteen or other vessel.

Optimized quick connection fittings for a variety of popular bottles and bladders make this operation a snap, saving you time and reducing the chances of cross-contamination.

Katadyn Vario

Katadyn’s Vario filter can be thought of as a larger and more capable version of their Hiker Pro.

Measuring just over a foot long and 4 inches in diameter, a three-stage filtration system can remove virtually every natural bacterial threat from your water along with the vast majority of dissolved solids. Only chemicals and certain viruses can escape this high efficiency filter.

Even better, the level of filtration is selectable under field conditions. You can set the filter to engage a ceramic pre-filter for the treatment of extremely dirty water or direct it to the primary pleaded glass fiber filter for water which is not so filthy.

Either way, you’ll be producing anywhere from one quart to two quarts of water per minute.

Like its smaller stablemate, a user-replaceable carbon core in the filtration system greatly improves the taste of water and can also remove harmful pesticides that may be lurking.

Another upgrade will be glad to have is the dual piston operation that produces even more water with proportionally less effort than its smaller cousin. And also attaches directly to water bottles or other vessels using purpose made adapters on the output hose.

Sawyer Products MINI

One of the most adaptable and innovative personal water filters, Sawyer Products MINI may likely be the one water filter in your arsenal to rule them all.

Just as suitable for international travel or recreational pursuits as it is for the business of survival, the MINI utilizes a 0.1 micron water filter capable of removing 99.99% of protozoa like the ever common giardia and cryptosporidium along with the same efficacy for bacteria, including cholera, salmonella and E. coli.

That is performance you can trust, but the best part of this water filter is its supreme adaptability.

The MINI can screw directly onto the threads of any common commercial water bottle, and be used as a drinking nozzle, plugged in to the hose and bike valve are they hydration bladder as an inline filter, used as a collection system with the included bag that can allow you to empty pure, filtered water into your own bottle, or connected to a drinking straw and used directly with any other container.

Better yet, the filter is rated for 100,000 gallons of processing and is renewable via high pressure cleaning, something that very few other filters can claim as their incredibly delicate filtration media will rarely survive such rough treatment.

Weighing next to nothing with an overall length of 8 inches, this is capability that no prepper can afford to be without.

Sawyer Products SP160 Gravity Water Filter

When you’ll be consuming a great amount of water over time, either because you’re living and working in hot conditions or because you are producing water for a larger group of people, turn to Sawyer Products SP160 gravity water filtration system.

The system consists of an extra large 1 gallon bladder with easy fill intake and a hose that routes to Sawyer’s excellent MINI water filter.

Once you fill the bladder, all you need to do is hang it or hold it over the attached filter and let gravity do the rest. This will drastically cut down on the work and effort needed to produce filtered drinking water and allow you to tend to other tasks in the meantime.

The kit includes gear necessary for cleaning both the bladder and the included filter so you can ensure you’ll keep your water production operation functioning for the foreseeable future.

If you don’t mind a multi-part system and want to produce a great quantity of water with one fill, the SP160 is a great choice.


Drinking water is a non-negotiable survival essential, and going any length of time without it will quickly degrade you mentally and physically and lead to death in short order.

Dehydration is no joke, but instead of taking your chances with an untreated, natural water source, or relying on fussy and imprecise chemical additives that will only make it taste worse even if they make it safe, choose instead a high performance, pocket sized personal water filter for inclusion into your bug out bag or camping kit.

best personal water filters Pinterest image

2 thoughts on “The 5 Best Personal Water Filters that Fit in Your Pocket”

  1. I originally invested in Lifestraws for our BOBs/GHBs, but after more research, I replaced the Lifestraws with Sawyer Minis. Much longer use life and more adaptable to collecting water for future use. At out local Walmart, the Sawyer is on $2 – $3 more than the Lifestraws. The Lifestraws are in my Barter Goods crate now. We’ve had the Katadyn Hiker for years in our Backpacking equipment.
    I do need to pick up a Gravity Fed system (or make one).

    One bout of Giardiasys back in the early 80’s convinced me of the importance of water filters.

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