Water is absolutely essential for survival. there are very few preppers who need reminding of that fact, but I fear that there are quite a few who truly understand just how bad things can get, and how fast if you do not have reliable access to clean drinking water.
Clean water is all around us, pretty much at all times, thanks only to an incredibly intricate network of commerce and civic services.
These same networks will be among the first facets of society to fail when the chips are really down, and even in localized, short-term disasters, the sudden loss of clean drinking water can spell disaster for survivors.
Worse yet, there might still be water all around you, ready for the taking, but without a way to make that water safe to drink, you could be taking your life in your own hands if you imbibe.
The obvious solution for sourcing survival water and situations both long and short-term is to utilize an emergency water filter.
Compact, generally portable and ultra-efficient these marvelous devices can make even the filthiest water safe to drink, or at least much safer.
In this article we’ll be bringing you 10 emergency water filters that you can depend on when the SHTF.
You Won’t Make it Far Without Water
No matter what kind of situation you are facing, no matter how long the scenario is expected to last, survival necessities don’t change.
Depending on who you ask, there could be three, four, 10 or dozens of survival necessities, with varying levels of priority and some folks might provide you with a pithy answer saying that the most pressing survival necessity of all is the one you need right now and don’t have.
Fair enough, but on the list of the most crucial necessities for the survival of a human being, including air, shelter, security, food and so forth water definitely ranks near the top, certainly in the top three.
Your body must remain hydrated if the actual functionality of your cells, all of them, is going to continue. It is no exaggeration to say that no water equals no life.
Accordingly, our water intake must remain more or less constant and that means our supply of water must be dependable.
Even worse, things will get bad for you long before you actually succumb to dehydration.
If you have ever been working hard outside in the middle of summer, putting in the work on the ball field or engaged in any other extremely strenuous physical activity for a long period of time chances are you have felt the grip of dehydration in one way or another.
You start getting cramps, feeling nauseous, slightly disoriented, and generally not good all around.
If you are unable to hydrate correctly and sufficiently, that all gets worse and will progress until you are incapacitated.
That is bad enough when help is all around you in kinder times, but leave it to your imagination what that would spell if you would came badly dehydrated in the middle of a survival scenario with all of its other attendant risks.
You Can Find Water Nearly Anywhere, but Can You Drink it?
But, don’t be too afraid. Mercifully most places have abundant natural sources of water all around if you know where to look, and in virtually any place on Earth rainwater will accumulate on the ground in various ways.
Right now, off the top of your head, you can probably think of at least half a dozen lakes, pawns, rivers and streams. Lacking that you probably know of a few indoor pools in the area, at least.
While these large sources of H2O are a godsend when you need them, there is a catch.
The catch is that most man-made reservoirs of water, and essentially every natural source of water is nowhere near the quality and purity of water that comes out of your tap, to say nothing of bottled or properly filtered water.
Especially when considering natural water sources, it is bound to be an ecosystem unto itself, absolutely swarming with microscopic life, including viruses, bacteria, dissolved biological matter and more.
Among this assorted nastiness is all kinds of life that can take up residence in your body and make you sick, maybe uncomfortably so, maybe severely so.
Some bacteria and viruses that are typically waterborne can even prove deadly in the best of times.
Rolling the dice on drinking water so contaminated should only ever be a desperate measure, something done when you have no other choice.
Luckily, you do have another choice if you have an emergency water filter.
Any of the water filters on this list will prove to be extraordinarily efficient and capable of removing virtually all bacteria, most viruses, and other assorted microorganisms from your water along with a great deal of dissolved solid matter.
This means that your water can go from a murky, unappealing cloudy soup to crystal-clear and fresh in no time.
The 10 Best Emergency Water Filters
All of the water filters you’ll find on the list below are more than capable of cranking out clean, pure drinking water in an emergency.
All are more or less portable, with some designed to supply a single user with a reliable water supply while on the move, and others being intended to furnish lots of water to a family or group in a fixed position. Others fall somewhere in the middle.
What is important is that no matter what your requirements there is bound to be a water filter on this list that can meet them!
When you visit an external link on this page and then make a purchase, I may earn a commission. Read my full advertising disclosure here.
1. Katadyn Vario
One of the larger and best performing long-term sustainment water filters from renowned manufacturer Katadyn, the Vario is a filter that can eliminate essentially every last bit of bacteria from your sourced water and nearly all dissolved solids.
Even better, this smart water filter allows the user to select the grade of filtration depending on the quality of the water source.
You can set it to maximum filtration utilizing a ceramic first stage filter for making highly suspect water safe, or reduce wear on the components by utilizing the standard-setting.
Capable of producing one to two quarts of water per minute depending on conditions, this is a water filter that won’t slow you down, and is capable of providing plenty of water for several people.
The system is designed for easy operation and user maintenance required and features a replaceable carbon filtration element to remove certain chemicals like pesticides and also greatly improve the taste and mouthfeel of water.
Rounding out the package is a multimode attachment system that can allow it to connect directly to common hiking water bottle canteens and hydration bladders to reduce the chance of cross-contamination and minimize wasted energy.
Perhaps the only shortcoming of this water filter is, like many others of its kind it does not catch certain viruses and many chemicals.
Use caution if you are drawing from a water source that is contaminated by chemicals or heavy metals.
2. Katadyn Hiker Pro
The compact counterpart to the Vario, Katadyn’s Hiker Pro is an ideal companion for camping, hiking or full-blown bug-out use.
Measuring only 6 inches long and 3 inches in diameter, there is virtually no loadout that cannot make room to accommodate this exceptionally capable emergency filter.
Capable of eliminating virtually all bacteria, protozoa and cysts from sourced water, an activated carbon core greatly improves taste, unlike some other filters in this category.
The primary filter is made out of glass fiber and capable of eliminating microorganisms and debris measuring just 0.2 microns in size.
Despite this incredibly intricate level of engineering, a protective first stage or pre-filter prevents larger debris from reaching and clogging the primary filter, reserving it for the most delicate and important filtration work.
In a smart move, this pre-stage filter is removable and rinseable in the field to maximize primary filter life.
Showing excellent engineering and design philosophy, the Hiker Pro is highly adaptable utilizing a hand pump on the main body of the filter which can draw water indirectly or through a siphon tube.
Water passing through the filter that is clean can be routed directly into any number of containers or into an improvised vessel as required.
The filter is also capable of direct attachment to many popular canteens, water bottles and bladders.
As with its cousin above, and many other filters, there are some chemicals and metals that can escape even this incredibly fine filtration system.
3. Platypus GravityWorks High-Capacity Water Filter System
An ideal solution for a group bug out, family, or any situation where you’ll need a lot of water over an extended period of time, the high-capacity water filter system from Platypus GravityWorks is efficient, easy to use and intuitive.
Consisting of two large, flexible plastic reservoirs, hopefully labeled dirty and clean, all you need to do to operate this system is collected from your water source in a dirty bag hang it up, then connect the inline filtration tubing from the clean bag to it and hang up the clean bag at a slightly lower level. As suggested, gravity does the rest!
Cranking out nearly 2 liters of water per minute from its 4-liter reservoir, this water filter is certainly fast and easy to use but how effective is it?
I’m happy to report it is highly effective, capable of removing 99.9999% of all bacteria, 99.99% of protozoa and many other nasty things besides.
Considering this is a set-and-forget type of water filtration system, you can direct your attention and efforts to other things while it painlessly cleans your gathered water.
This is one system that is designed to go the distance, and the included filter is capable of treating up to 1500 gallons of water. With all connections, hoses, cut-offs and filters capable of being easily user replaced this could be an ideal solution for a group setting.
Get the Platypus GravityWorks here.
4. Survivor Filter Pro Hand Pump Camping Water Filter
One of the best heavy-duty options on this list, Survivor Filter Pro’s hand pumping water filter boasts a level of filtration that few others can match, not only removing 99.999% of tested viruses, parasites, bacteria and solids but also a significant reduction in heavy metals, a rare trick for a portable water filter of this type.
This filter accomplishes this through the use of a dual hollow fiber membrane ultra-filter with inline carbon filtration.
The entire apparatus is housed in a heavy-duty ABS impact-resistant plastic and actuated by a hand pump on the main unit.
This high level of filtration performance comes at the cost of a reduced flow rate, with this filter producing around 17 ounces per minute with continual pumping.
However, it is highly adaptable and unattached lead can be placed directly into the water source you are collecting from with clean water being routed into a separate container or directly into a variety of jugs, canteens, bottles and the like.
Designed for hard use and field conditions, this unit is nonetheless covered by a lifetime warranty so you can carry it with confidence.
5. LifeStraw Personal Water Filter
LifeStraw is a brand that needs no introduction for those who are even passingly familiar with emergency water filters, and their flagship product, the Personal Water Filter that is now ubiquitously called simply “the LifeStraw,” changed the paradigm of the industry as we know it.
Supremely compact and extraordinarily intuitive to use if not always convenient, all you need to do to employ the life straw is insert the working end into your water source and suck on the other end. As the name suggests, just like a giant straw!
Sure, it is convenient and intuitive but how well does it work? Turns out it is much, much more than an ultra-compact form factor.
The LifeStraw advanced filtration design eliminates essentially all bacteria, parasites, dissolved solids, man-made micromaterials and more, and can even catch certain viruses.
Despite its tiny, 2-ounce frame the LifeStraw is capable of treating over 4,000 liters of water on the go, more than enough to sustain one or two people for months.
It should be noted that running extremely soiled water through it will significantly degrade that performance lifespan, so you are advised to collect and pre-filter water if your source is filthy.
6. LifeStraw Family 1.0 Portable Gravity Powered Water Purifier
The second LifeStraw product on this list, the family 1.0 portable gravity filter keeps the intuitive usage of the classic life straw while supersizing the capacity and the longevity.
Happily, it sacrifices nothing in the way of filtration efficacy and is capable of vanquishing virtually all bacteria, viruses and protozoan cysts, making this the ideal water filter when you want assurance that you’re sourced water will be completely free of microbiological nasties.
All you need to do to employ this water filter is hang up the rigid cistern or in a pinch use it to scoop water from the source and then wait.
Clean water will filter down through the attached hose and nozzle at a rate between 9 and 12 liters per hour.
Remarkably, this system is capable of treating a whopping 4,750 gallons with no maintenance or filter changes required.
At a nominal rate of consumption, this can supply clean drinking water for four people for upwards of three years! That is truly incredible.
Though it is large and bulky compared to other, compact and flexible filter systems on this list for fixed site usage or the ultimate assurance and longevity infiltration performance the Family 1.0 Gravity Filter is an excellent option.
7. Berkey Travel Berkey Gravity-Fed Water Filter
Another big name in the water purification game, Berkey produces filtration systems that can meet any requirement, from the most portable to the most intensive.
One of their most effective water filtration systems, pound for pound, is the Travel Berkey, a compact “countertop” model boasting impressive filtration capabilities.
This shiny, stainless steel wonder measures only 18 inches tall and just seven and a half inches in diameter but it’s capable of removing virtually all bacteria, viruses, protozoa, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals and minerals.
Although too large to be considered a true backpacking water filter, the system is nonetheless highly portable for semi-mobile use.
With a 1.5 gallon capacity, all you need to do is fill up the cistern and let the filter do its work. An astonishing service life of 6,000 gallons per filtration cartridge totals to a little less than two cents per purified gallon, making this an extraordinarily economical option long term.
Filter changes are also easily accomplished at the user level, meaning this is another superb option for ultra long-term survival.
For those preppers to whom bugging out is a secondary or even tertiary option, or those who are planning on a vehicle-based excursion, the travel Berkey is a stellar option all around.
8. Sawyer Products SP160 Gravity Water Filter
Another excellent option for furnishing water to a larger group while staying imminently mobile, the Sawyer Products SP160 gravity water filter is more than capable of eliminating viruses, bacteria and dissolved solids using its extremely efficient in-line filter.
A one-gallon reservoir is easy to fill via any method and easy to hang thanks to attached hardware.
Like most systems of its type, once you fill the reservoir and make the required connections to the filter line you don’t need to do anything else but hang the reservoir over the line or place the line below the reservoir. Gravity will take care of the rest.
Fast and efficient, the SP160 produces several liters of water per hour to take care of the hydration needs of any thirsty group of survivors.
A nice upgrade, the SP160 kit also includes all required gear for cleaning and maintaining the filter, bladder and associated hardware, increasing uptime and reducing the possibility of mishap or loss of capability in the field.
Keep this one near the top of your list if maximum production while minimizing loss of mobility is paramount.
9. Sawyer Products MINI
The flagship offering from Sawyer Products, and one most compact water filters are measured against, the MINI is completely at home just the same on a camping trip as it is dealing with international travel, post-disaster survival and any other conceivable situation.
Handily capable of eliminating virtually all bacteria, protozoa and even some viruses, the MINI emphasizes performance but also extreme longevity for a water filter of this size.
Boasting a jaw-dropping, nearly unbelievable 100,000-gallon service lifespan, the ultra-tough but incredibly fine filter in the mini can be renewed by cleaning through the use of high-pressure water.
A little less than 8 inches in overall length and weighing a few scant ounces, this is an incredible performance from a super-compact water filter.
But Sawyer Products didn’t stop there, and they have provided the mini with best-in-class adaptability to accompany its filter performance.
Capable of attaching directly to most common drinking water bottles or employed as an inline filter in conjunction with a bite valve on a hydration bladder hose it can also be set up as a gravity filter using the included collection reservoir.
It even has an included drinking straw to allow you to drink directly from a source or other collection vessel when required.
An excellent and impressive package all around and one that deserves inclusion in any prepper’s loadout.
10. Lifesaver Jerrycan Water Purifier
There are many water filtration systems on the market designed to treat large quantities of water, but few are designed to hold and transport large quantities of water.
The lifesaver Jerry can water purifier combines the familiar and greatly beloved form factor of a 5-gallon military jerry can with an ultra-high-performance NSF P248 rated water filter that will eliminate viruses, cysts, bacteria and parasites from any natural water source.
Operation is simplicity itself. All you need to do is fill up the can, pump and then dispense and drink.
Capable of filtering hundreds of gallons of water, this is one water filter that is ready for anything and easy to transport using the molded-in handle or by stashing it in any standard rack or holder designed to fit a Jerry can.
The filter is designed for easy operability in addition to long life and high performance and features built-in failsafe indicators that will automatically notify users when the filter is due for replacement.
Additionally, an activated carbon stage in the filter removes chlorine and select chemicals while also greatly improving the taste and playability of your purified water. No iodine and no steritabs required!
You won’t make it long without water no matter what kind of survival situation you are facing.
A few days at most with no water will lead to a grueling death by dehydration, and for that reason sourcing and treating a steady supply of drinking water for yourself, your family and group members is imperative.
You can dramatically reduce the effort and uncertainty of the purification process by relying on a modern, ultra-high efficiency emergency water filter.
You’ll find 10 of the best ones on the market on the list above, so take the time to determine your requirements and then get one today!