The Best Travel Water Purifier Bottles for travel - A Review by A Brother Abroad

The 4 Best Portable Water Purifier and Filter Bottles for Travel

For adventurous international travelers, a portable water filter is insufficient.  A portable water purifier is necessary

A major mistake that many travelers make is assuming that because they have the best filtered water bottle available that they are ready to drink from any water source in any place, but the average portable water filter (such as Lifestraw) doesn’t remove viruses.  For adventurous international travelers that may end up in rural back country or the urban sprawl of a developing nation, a true portable water purifier is necessary to turn tap water into safe drinking water for the average North American or European.  Below, we’ve listed all of the travel water purifier options on the market suited for adventurous international travelers aiming to keep their pack small

 

Jump to our list of the Best Travel Water Purifier Options

This post isn’t meant for all, just international travelers that plan to travel light through rural or developing areas where water contamination risk (bacterial and viral) is significant.  In areas like these, having a true purifier helps you stay healthy, always have access to clean water (instead of carrying it all) and do the environment a favor by avoiding plastic bottles. But backcountry hikers should know their water sources and be familiar with the risk of viruses in their water supply as well.

 

Your average portable water filter isn’t good enough, so, what do we need in a travel ready portable water purifier?

A travel water purifier should be contained in a bottle or in a very small, self-contained package, be able to remove any likely waterborne threats, last for the duration of your trip, and be easy to use.

 

Criteria for a good, travel ready water purifier:

  • Eliminates viruses, bacteria, and protozoa/parasites: Filtering chemicals and heavy metals would be a great plus but isn’t necessary
  • Long Life: Has a useful life that will last on an extended trip (3-6+ months) and for the length of your trip. This accounts for durability and filter life
  • Brand, Reputation, Reviews: From a reliable brand with a product that is reviewed well on multiple platforms (Amazon, blogs, etc.) – reputation and reviews are good assurance that the product will last through the adventures
  • Small, self-contained design: Must be very packable no larger than a small pocket at max
  • Clean, simple design: Avoid contraptions with external hoses that can break or snag

 

Note: No matter what filter you have, always avoid potential chemical and heavy metal contaminated water sources at all costs.  Even most “purifiers” don’t remove these elements well enough to risk it.

 

Why do viruses matter in a travel water purifier?

Viruses are microscopic organisms, much smaller than parasites and bacteria, that when ingested cause disease and are transferred via contact with animal or human waste (i.e., feces, urine).  In North America and Europe, the risk of viruses in tap water and rural water sources is low.  Unfortunately, when traveling in rural areas  and urban centers of developing countries differences in customs and infrastructure standards, compared to North America and Europe, can often lead to contaminated water supplies.

1. Bathing and water disposal in rural lakes and streams often contaminates rural water sources with viruses from humans

Customs, such as bathing in local water sources and disposing of waste in drainage runoffs that lead to local water sources, make most international, rural water sources very likely to be contaminated with viruses from human waste.

2. Leaks and unidentified breaks of underground pipes in developing countries can mix wastewater with freshwater and leave viruses in tap water without any clear warning

For these two reasons (local customs and degraded infrastructure) ensure your portable water filter is capable of removing viruses, in addition to bacteria and protozoa/parasites when you travel abroad.

HUGE WARNING: Always avoid farm and industrial waste runoff.  These sources are more likely to contain chemicals and heavy metals and few portable water purifiers reliably remove these elements.

 

Be sure to check the CDCs food and drink recommendations. (CDC Travel Site Link)

 

Best Travel Water Purifier Options

The Grayl Water Purifier Bottle

The water purification new kid on the block, The Ultralight Grayl Water Purifier Filter Bottle is an excellent open for purifying water while traveling with a french press style design and function and easy to replace filters.

The Ultralight Grayl Water Purifier Filter Bottle is one of the best travel water purifier options available for adventurous international travelers

The Grayl Ultralight Purifier [+Filter] Bottle

  • What it filters: Viruses, Bacteria, Protozoa/Parasites, some Chemicals, some Heavy Metals
  • What it doesn’t filter: Filters everything
  • Cost: $60
  • Lifespan (in liters & days): 150 liters per filter, 37 days of water at 4 liters per day
  • Replacement filter costs: $25
  • Recommended region & use: Great for any region of travel, compact enough for any type of travel
  • Brand Reliability & Reviews: The Grayl water purifier is a new product and receiving many great reviews but reviewers have stated that when repeatedly using murky or sediment heavy sources, the Grayl can clog much more quickly (~1 week of routine use in the backcountry). Pro Tip: Avoid this and extended the by filtering your water with a bandana or t-shirt before purifying with the Grayl.
  • Bottom Line: A new product receiving great reviews but limited by filter life (1 month). The Grayl Water Purifier Filter Bottle appears to be a great short-term travel water purifier, just remember to bring an extra filter from home if you’ll be gone longer than a month. Not recommended for RTW trips.

Purchase the Grayl Water Purifier Bottle on Amazon or REI

 

The Sawyer Select S2 and S3

Sawyer S2

The Sawyer Select S2 Portable Water Purifier removes bacteria, parasites, protozoa, viruses, and chemicals with a squeeze of the bottle

The Sawyer Select S2 Portable Water Purifier removes bacteria, parasites, protozoa, viruses, and chemicals with a squeeze of the bottle

 

  • What it filters: Viruses, Protozoa, Chemicals, Pesticides
  • What it doesn’t filter: Heavy metals
  • Cost: $80
  • Lifespan (in liters & days): 484 liters, 121 days at 4 liters of water per day

 

Purchase the Sawyer S2 on Amazon or at REI

 

Sawyer S3

The Sawyer Select S3 Portable water filter purifier bottle

The Sawyer Select S3 removes everything that the S2 does while also removing heavy metals. Beware of the +$10 pricetag with half the life on th eS3

  • What it filters: Viruses, Protozoa, Chemicals, Pesticides
  • What it doesn’t filter: You’re covered for everything with the S3
  • Cost: $90
  • Lifespan (in liters & days): 242 liters, 60 days at 4 liters of water per day
  • Recommended region & use: The S2 and S3 are capable of filtering water commonly available in urban centers and rural areas of the developing world.
  • Replacement filter costs: Replacement filters not available
  • Brand Reliability & reviews: Sawyer is renowned for great portable water filter options for the backcountry. Sawyer’s newest additions (the S2 and S3) perform the job of filtering out nasties very well.  Users have reported frustration on occasion with difficulty manually squeeze water through the filtration system and with an odd flavor for the first several uses of the system.  
  • Bottom Line:

Purchase the Sawyer S3 on Amazon or REI

 

Lifesaver Liberty

The Lifesaver Liberty Bottle Travel Water Purifier is a great water purification option while traveling to rural and third world areas

The Lifesaver Liberty bottle combines great function and ease into a water purifier by incorporating a detachable hose and a stowaway hand pump

 

  • Cost: $110
  • Lifespan (in liters & days): 2000 liters, 500 days at 4 liters per day
  • Replacement filter costs: $40
  • What it filters: Viruses, Bacteria, Protozoa/Parasites
  • What it doesn’t filter: Chemicals, Heavy Metals
  • Recommended region & use: Suitable for everywhere – originally designed for disaster relief efforts
  • Brand Reliability & reviews – What are other people saying?: Large and cumbersome (similar to a coffee thermos) but a suitable option for reliable water if you’ll be spending extended time in the bush.
  • Bottom Line: This is the only filter water bottle with an inline pump, meaning you won’t have to suck the water through, just pump. Additionally, a detachable hose allows you to refill from streams but remove it and tuck it away while on the move.  The Liberty is the newest among our travel appropriate portable water purifier bottles…but that remains to be proven.

 

Etekcity Personal Filter

Etekcity Personal Water Purifier-opt

Etekcity Personal Water Purifier

  • Cost: $19
  • Lifespan (in liters & days): 1500 liters, 375 days at 4 liters per day
  • Replacement filter costs: Filter not replaceable
  • What it filters: Bacteria and Protozoa/Parasites
  • What it doesn’t filter: Some viruses
  • Recommended region & use: Not for travel (see reviews)
  • Brand Reliability & reviews – What are other people saying: Though this filter cleans water very well, sucking water through the straw is extremely taxing and not worth the work. This filter is more for a survival scenario as a last resort than adventurous travel situation where you to use it.  Additionally, there isn’t clear evidence on the manufacturers site of tests proving the filter can remove viruses.
  • Bottom Line: Designed for survivalists and should be combined with chemical or UV purification for safety. Travelers should look elsewhere

 

Other Popular Portable Water Filter options, and why they’re inadequate (but still awesome)

The following portable water filters are beloved by their following but are inadequate for international travel as they do not filter out viruses. The Sawyer Mini, Lifestraw, MSR Trailshot, and Survivor Straw Filter all contain pore filter sizes too large to remove all viruses.  See how your favorite portable water filter pore size stacks up against common viruses

Average Virus Size:  0.004 to 0.1 microns

Common Viruses and Sizes:

Hepatitis A, 0.004 microns

Rotavirus, 0.004 microns

Norwalk, 0.004 microns

Popular Travel Water Filter Options and Filtration Capabilities

Sawyer Mini

The Sawyer Mini: A good water filter option for North American back country but not sufficient for traveling abroad

The Sawyer Mini: A good water filter option for North American back country but not sufficient for traveling abroad

  • What it doesn’t filter: Vruses – Doesn’t filter Hepatitis A, Rotovirus and Norwalk virus
  • Filter Pore Size: .1 Micron

 

The Sawyer Mini is available on Amazon and at REI

 

MSR Trailshot

The MSR Trailshot: A convenient, pocketsized filter that still doesn't remove viruses

The MSR Trailshot: A convenient, pocketsized filter that still doesn’t remove viruses

  • What it doesn’t filter: Viruses – Doesn’t filter Hepatitis A, Rotovirus and Norwalk virus
  • Pore Size: .2 Microns

 

The MSR Trailshot is available on Amazon and at REI

 

Lifestraw (Lifestraw Go, Lifestraw Universal, and original Lifestraw)

A Lifestraw Go Review by A Brother Abroad

A Lifestraw Go and Lifestraw Universal review by A Brother Abroad

  • What it doesn’t filter: Viruses – Doesn’t filter Hepatitis A, Rotovirus and Norwalk virus
  • Filter Pore Size: .2 Microns

Available on Amazon and REI

 

Survivor Straw Filter

The Survivor Straw Personal Water Filter

The Survivor Straw Personal Water Filter: An excellent piece of kit with a long life (~100,000 liters) but does not remove viruses from water

  • What it doesn’t filter: Viruses – Doesn’t filter Hepatitis A, Rotovirus and Norwalk virus
  • Pore Size: .05 microns

 

Other Portable Water Purifier Options (too cumbersome for “one bag” travel)

Lifestraw: Lifestraw Mission and Lifestraw Family 1.0

Katadyn

Moko

Potable Aqua: Water Purifier

SR (Miniworks)

 

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