The Best Survival Water Filter – And How to Make the Right Choice

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When we first wrote this post about survival water filters for emergency preparedness and natural disasters, there were only a few good options. In just that short time, the technology has already improved leaps and bounds.

For example, there used to only be a few water filters which could remove viruses. It was also difficult to find water filters which could remove bad tastes or chemicals from water. Now, there are water filters for virtually any survival situation you can imagine.

Trying to choose one of these water filters can be tough and confusing. You need to consider type, what the filter can treat, how easy it is to use, flow rate, cartridge rate, durability, and portability.

Don’t worry.  We’ve done the research for you. 

Here’s what you need to know and the best survival water filters for each situation.

Best Survival Water Filters – Quick Reference

Best Overall

MSR Guardian Purifier

One of the few filters that can remove viruses whilst maintaining a fast flow rate.  It can also withstand being frozen, work in shallow water sources and self clean.  Check On Amazon

Best For Bugging Out

GRAYL Geopress

The GRAYL Geopress is small, lightweight, and can remove bacteria, protozoa, viruses, and even chemicals from water. This makes it perfect for bugging out virtually anywhere.Check On Amazon

Budget Pick

Sawyer Mini

Easy to use, super lightweight, reliably removes bacteria and protozoa from water, and is incredibly cheap. Check On Amazon

Best Tabletop

Big Berkey (Black Filter)

Berkey black filters remove a wide range of contaminants from water and they do it easily. The cost is high, but it’s worth it if you need to hunker down at home through a disaster.Check On Amazon

Filters vs. Purifiers

A lot of people use the terms water filter and water purifier interchangeably. While they are both water treatment systems, filters and purifiers are different things.

Water Filters

Water filters are like sieves with very, very tiny holes which are rated in micrometers (microns for short).  The holes trap contaminants so only clean water can pass through.

Most water filters have holes which are around 0.1 or 0.2 microns in size.  This is small enough to keep out bacteria and protozoa.  However, most water filters will NOT remove viruses.  Thus, most water filters can’t be considered purifiers.

Water Purifiers

A purifier is a water treatment system that can also treat viruses in addition to bacteria and protozoa.  One example of a water purifier is SteriPen (Amazon link).  It works by blasting the water with UV light. Water treatment tablets are another popular type of water purifier.

These systems are highly effective.  However, they don’t remove sediment from water.  For example, you could collect a cup of water from a swamp and safely drink it, but the mud (and bits of dead bugs, etc.) would still be in the water.

As mentioned before, water filter technology has improved drastically over the past few years.  There are now several water filters which have filter hole sizes small enough to remove viruses.  Thus, these filters can be called “purifiers.”

Water Filter Micron Rating Explained

For a water filter to work, it must be able to catch harmful contaminants while still allowing water molecules to pass through.  The size of the holes, or pores, that catch contaminants are measured in microns

Below you can see the micron size of various contaminants compared to water.

Micron Sizes

  • Water Molecule: 000282 microns
  • Width of Human Hair: 75 microns
  • Mold: 3-12 microns
  • Protozoa/Cysts: 4-5 microns
  • Bacteria: 1-10 microns in length and 0.2 to 1 micron in width
  • Lead Dust: 1-0.7 microns
  • Viruses: 004-0.3 microns
  • Pesticides: 001 microns

(Source: 1)

A good water filter will have a micron rating of at most 0.2 microns.  If it were any larger than this, then bacteria would be allowed through.

For a water filter to remove viruses, the micron rating must be less than 0.1.  Bear in mind that this is a very tiny hole size!  Thus, water filters which remove viruses will be very slow and get clogged easily.

Absolute vs. Nominal Micron Rating

Some water filters list their nominal micron rating.  This is an average of the pore sizes.  Some of the pores could be larger than listed and thus let bacteria through.

By contrast, better water filters list their absolute micron ratingThis is a measurement of the maximum pore size in the filter.  A 0.2 absolute micron rating won’t let anything 0.2 microns or larger through (meaning no bacteria pass).

What Do Water Filters Treat?

It is very important that you think about what types of contaminants might be in the water you want to treat before choosing a survival water filter.  Not all water filters remove the same contaminants.

Here’s a breakdown of the types of contaminants found in water during emergency situations and what type of filter is needed to treat it.

Protozoa

Protozoa are single-cell organisms. The dormant form of protozoa are called cysts. The most notorious ones found in water are Cryptosporidium and Giardia.

Protozoa are very common in water (even “clean” backcountry water) and are responsible for giving many a backpacker terrible diarrhea.

Protozoa magnified
Protoza cell magnified

The good news is that protozoa and their cysts are fairly large.  Most are around 2 to 50 microns in size. Giardia cysts, for example, are around 7-10 microns.  These are easily removed by water filters with a micron rating of 0.2.

Bacteria

Bacteria are also single-cell organisms but can be much smaller than protozoa cysts.  They are usually about 1-10 microns long and 0.2 to 1 micron in width.  Thus, you need a water filter with a 0.2 micron rating or less to remove bacteria.

E coli bacteria
E coli bacteria magnified.

Like protozoa, bacteria can even be found in backcountry water which appears clean.  When I go backpacking, I take my Sawyer Mini to treat water from springs, lakes, etc. so it is safe to drink.

Viruses

Viruses are tiny.  Most viruses are 0.01 – 0.3 microns in size.  However, there are viruses which are as small as 0.004 microns. This makes viruses very difficult to filter.  Even water filters which say they remove viruses won’t be able to remove every single type of virus.

Rotavirus is 0.070 microns.  Hepatitus A and E are 0.027 microns.  Norwalk virus is 0.027 microns. (Source)

Cellular virus
A typical virus magnified.

The good news is that viruses usually aren’t a problem in backcountry water. Only cholera and polio are able to survive and reproduce in water (at least for now with the rise of superbugs), and even then the UV light from the sun usually can kill bacteria. Hence why I can use my Sawyer Mini water filter when backpacking.

However, in disaster situations like flooding, viruses from sewage contamination can become a huge risk.  Thus, a water filter like the Sawyer Mini won’t be adequate for treating flood water.

You need to worry about viruses in water

  1. In urban areas where there is sewage contamination in the water source
  2. After severe flooding (again because of possible sewage contamination)
  3. In undeveloped countries where water may be contaminated by poor sanitation
  4. In very popular backcountry areas where irresponsible campers go to the bathroom too close to a water source

Note:

If your water filter doesn’t remove viruses, you will need to further treat the water, such as by boiling the water for 1 minute. One more reason to have a survival stove in with your survival supplies!

Alternatively, you can treat water with bleach to kill viruses, or use a water purification system.

Chemicals

Natural disasters – especially floods – can cause huge amounts of chemicals to contaminate water sources.  For example, after Hurricane Harvey, more than 40 sites released hazardous pollutants.

Most water filters can remove heavy metals like lead and iron because these particulates are so big. However, chemical pollutants like benzene and pesticides are very tiny.

Benzene, for example, is only slightly larger than a water molecule. Thus, no water filter is going to be able to filter out benzene.

Only activated charcoal (Amazon) can absorb these chemicals to reduce them.

Many survival water filters (such as the Survival Filter Pro) now have carbon pre-filters which allow you to remove chemicals.

Just note that activated carbon gets filled up quickly (it can’t be cleaned with backflushing like a membrane filter).  You’ll have to change the carbon filter often for it to remain effective. (Sources: 3, 4)

Recommended Reading – Read More About Emergency Water Storage

Types of Water Filters

There are a lot of different types of survival water filters out there.  Some are better for things like Bug Out Bags whereas others are better for hunkering down.

Here’s what you need to know about types. 

Home Water Filters

The water filter you may have in your home for treating tap water – such as a Brita filter – is NOT made to remove bacteria or protozoa.

These home water filters typically use activated carbon (from coconut shells).  The carbon ABSORBS chemicals and heavy metals such as chlorine, lead and mercury to reduce the amount in the water.

This is different than the survival water filter membranes which completely BLOCK bacteria, etc. from passing through.

The activated carbon in home water filters will also absorb some bacteria and protozoa.  However, it does not absorb everything.  It only reduces the amount.

It only takes a small amount of bacteria or protozoa to make you sick.  Thus, home water filters (while better than nothing) are not suitable for emergency preparedness.

Note that there are some exceptions to this though.

For example, Berkey water filters (Amazon link) are made for home use but can remove bacteria, protozoa, and parasites. In an emergency, you could use a Berkey filter to filter pool water and make it safe for drinking.

Straw Water Filters

Straw survival water filters gained popularity with the LifeStraw.  It allows you to drink water directly from the source.

Personally I DO NOT like straw filters because they don’t give you a way to collect water.

For example, let’s say I’m in the backcountry and need a way to mix powdered electrolytes (an essential for your BOB first aid kit) with water. There’s no way to do this with a straw filter. Instead, I’d have to gulp the electrolytes and chase them with a drink from the straw.

I’d much rather have a filter system which allows me to filter into my water bottle so I have clean water with me.

The only way to make straw-style survival filters work on the move, is to put dirty water into your water bottle and use the straw to drink from it. But then you’ve got a contaminated water bottle, which could cause other issues.

This said, a lot of people swear by straw water filters for survival situations, such as the Aquamira Frontier Pro (Amazon link) and the Lifestraw personal (Amazon link) and other Lifestraw family filters.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Small
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Can’t bring filtered water with you
  • Have to crouch down at water source

Squeeze Filters

Ever since the brand Sawyer came out with the Mini (Amazon link), squeeze filters have become a popular choice for the best survival water filter.

They work by putting water in a collection vessel (such as a pouch or a water bottle). Then you screw the filter mechanism onto the vessel. You then physically squeeze the pouch, forcing the water through the filter so clean water comes out on the other side.

Because there is no need for a pump mechanism, squeeze water filters are incredibly tiny and lightweight. They are also very simple to use and can be adapted. For example, you can fit them with straws to drink directly from the water source or attach them to a water bladder to make a gravity system.

See Sawyer Mini vs Lifestraw

Pros

  • Very small and lightweight
  • Easy to use
  • Affordable
  • Can be cleaned with backflushing
  • Often can be adapted to use as a straw, in-line filter, or as a gravity system

Cons

  • Have low flow rates
  • Not very efficient for multiple people

Bottle Water Filters

There are some bottle water filters where you insert a squeeze or straw-type filter into a bottle.  Then you suck or squeeze to get clean water.  I would put these in the straw and squeeze category types though.

By “Bottle water filter,” I’m talking about filters like the GRAYL.  They work a bit like a French press coffee maker.

You put dirty water into the bottle. Then you push the filter into the bottle. All the contaminants are pushed to the bottom and the top portion of the bottle is full of clean water.  You can drink right from the bottle or pour the clean water into another container.

Pros

  • No squeezing required
  • Easy to use
  • Lightweight and small

Cons

  • Difficult to collect water form shallow sources
  • Not many options
  • Can only treat limited amount of water at once

Pump Water Filters

pump water filterThis is the type of water filter I grew up using on backpacking trips with my dad as a kid.  Here’s how they work:

You put one end in the water source. A hand-operated pump pulls the water up and through a filter cartridge. Clean water comes out another end.

Pros

  • Can get water from shallow sources
  • Come in different sizes
  • Treat water fairly quickly
  • Filters water directly from source – no need for collection vessel
  • Many options, including ones that treat viruses

Cons

  • Can be a bit bulky for individual use

Gravity Filters

gravity filterGravity filters have become more popular recently, especially for family camping.

To use one, you put water inside a pouch, and then hang the pouch somewhere high up (like on a tree). Gravity forces the water down through the filter mechanism and clean water comes out on the lower side.

Pros

  • No pumping or squeezing required
  • Good for filtering a lot of water at once

Cons

  • Not suitable for shallow water sources
  • Can take a long time to filter water
  • Must have an elevated place to hang the reservoir
  • Pouches prone to breaking when dropped

Water Filter Features

Here are some of the features we looked at when choosing our top survival water filters.

Filter Material/Technology

There are three main types of materials used to remove contaminants from water.  No one material can remove all contaminants, which is why many of these materials are often used together.

Here’s the main filter materials you’ll see used in survival water filters.

Membranes

These can be described as sieves with very tiny holes (rated in microns). The membrane is usually made of hollow-fiber, but can be made of various other materials as well.

hollow fiber membrane filter
Hollow fiber membrane filter

Membranes can be cleaned and/or backflushed, which means they have a very long life.  Some membrane filters, like the Sawyer Mini, can last forever.

Important: You can’t let most membrane filters freeze though or the frozen water will create large holes in the membrane and ruin them. Thus, these filters are not good for cold weather survival.

Activated Carbon

Unlike membranes which block contaminants from passing through, activated carbon absorbs contaminants.

Most carbon-based water filters have very short lifespans, around 60-90 gallons. When the water is very contaminated, the carbon will get filled up faster.  Thus, it is hard to determine the actual lifespan of a carbon filter.

Activated carbon
This is the raw material used in activated carbon filters.

It is important that the activated carbon filter doesn’t get used longer than recommended.   Once it is “filled,” the filter won’t be able to absorb any more contaminants.  It might even leach out the contaminants that it absorbed – thus doing more harm than good!

Nano Filters

This is a new technology starting to be found in some filters. It utilizes materials such as carbon nanotubes to capture tiny contaminants such as viruses and chemicals.

Carbon nanotubes
This is new technology but expect it to become more popular as it becomes established.

You can read more about the science here.

Cartridge/Filter Life

This indicates how much water the filter can treat before you need to replace it or replace the filter cartridge.  Some water filters (like the Sawyer Mini) can last forever.  Other filters (such as activated carbon cartridges) need to be replaced quickly, such as after 65 liters of water.

Note that water filters with carbon cartridges (for removing chemicals and bad tastes) have very short lives.  You will have to change this filter much more frequently than a membrane filter.

Micron Rating

You’ll need a micron rating of at most 0.2 to remove bacteria.  If you want to remove most viruses, you’ll need a micron rating of 0.01.  Just be warned that smaller micron ratings mean slower flow rates.

Flow Rate

Flow rate, usually measured in liters per minute, is how quickly a water filter can treat water.  Bear in mind that flow rate is listed under optimal conditions.  When the water is murky, it will go much slower.  Likewise, water filters will tend to slow down as they get clogged.

Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that it is incredibly annoying to squeeze for 15 minutes just to get 1 liter of water!

Cleaning Method/Backflush:

Many filters (especially the squeeze kind) can be cleaned with backflushing.  This means that you shoot clean water through the opposite side to dislodge sediment clogging the filter.

The MSR Guardian Purifier probably has the most advanced cleaning method of any survival water filter: it can clean itself as it pumps!

Durability

If you are planning on getting something for your Bug Out Bag or backpacking, you want one that’s durable.  Avoid cheap plastic casing.

Weight and Size

For at-home use, a bulky water filter is okay.  But you will want something that is lightweight and compact for your Bug Out Bag.

Activated Carbon Filter Layer

Remember that water filter membranes cannot remove chemical pollutants.  The only way to remove these is with an active carbon filter.  Many survival filters will add an activated carbon filtration layer.

Just note that the carbon filter usually has a short lifespan, usually around 60-150 gallons.

Cost

The cost can vary drastically.  Cost isn’t always an indicator of quality.  For example, the Sawyer Mini is incredibly cheap and still an effective filter for backcountry use.  The MSR Guardian is pricey, but has advanced features that make it better for multiple people.

Be sure to factor in the cost of replacement filters when making your choice.  Often the replacement cartridges are nearly as expensive as the filter itself.

Reviews

There are dozens of great survival water filters out there. We narrowed them down to these top picks based on their ability to filter multiple types of contaminants, the cartridge life, and how practical they are to use in survival situations.


MSR Guardian Pump Filter

Type: Pump | Filter: 0.02 micron | Flow rate: 2.5 liters per minute

Weight: 17.3oz | Cartridge Life: 10,000+ liter | Clean: Self-cleaning

Removes: Bacteria Viruses Chemicals


The MSR Guardian Purifier has long been considered the best survival water filter. It may seem like a simple pump filter, but it has some standout features that set it above the competition.

MSR Guardian Purifier

For starters, the MSR Guardian Purifier features a hollow fiber filter with a micron rating of 0.02. That’s small enough to filter out viruses as well as bacteria and protozoa.

The cartridges can last for over 10,000 liters.  Replacement cartridges are available on Amazon.

Another standout feature of the MSR Guardian filter is that it can be frozen. Other filters get ruined in freezing weather. The filter also is durable as heck and can be dropped from 6 feet and not break.

Pumping is certainly easier than squeezing, which makes the Guardian much easier to use. It’s also faster. The flow rate of 2.5 liters per minute is 5x faster than the Sawyer Mini and 2.5x faster than the Sawyer Point Zero Two (which also removes viruses).

A cool thing about the MSR Guardian is that it is self-cleaning. When you pump the filter, 10% of the water is used to flush sediment out of the filter. That means you never have to backwash or scrub the filter clean.

The main downside of the MSR Guardian Purifier is its high price tag. Even the replacement cartridges are expensive. It’s also very heavy at 17.3oz. Note that it doesn’t remove chemicals, so you’d need to carry activated carbon if you suspected chemicals in the water.

Pros

  • Filters viruses
  • Long-lasting cartridge
  • Self-cleaning system – no need to backflush
  • Very durable
  • Fast flow rate
  • Withstands freezing conditions

Cons

  • A bit heavy and bulky
  • Pricey

Best For: Quickly treating water from various sources, especially while on the go.
Check On Amazon


GRAYL Geopress Water Purifier

Type: Bottle | Filter: Electroabsorption | Flow rate: 5 liters per minute

Weight: 15.9oz | Cartridge Life: 65 Gallons | Clean: Manual

Removes: Bacteria Viruses Chemicals


GRAYL is a newer water filter company that has quickly built up a following of enthusiasts. The main reason that people love it is that the GRAYL is so easy to use.

Check Prices on Amazon

You put dirty water into the bottle. Then you just push the filter tube into the bottle. Screw it in place and you can drink the water immediately right from the bottle. Or empty the clean water into another container and filter some more water.

It only takes 8 seconds to filter 24oz, which breaks down to 5 liters per minute. It’s definitely easier than squeezing!

GRAYL doesn’t use the membrane filter technology to treat water. Instead, it uses electroasorption. This means that the filter element works on ion exchange, powdered activated carbon, and silver-treated zeolites.

Because of this technology, the GRAYL bottle can remove:

  • Bacteria and protozoa
  • Viruses
  • Many chemicals (pesticides, chlorine, benzene, chloroform)
  • Many heavy metals
  • Microplastics
  • Bad tastes and odors

The only real downside about the GRAYL purifier bottle is that its cartridge lifespan is only 350 presses (or about 65 gallons). You’ll know that the bottle is reaching the end of its lifespan when the press time reaches 25 seconds.

The short lifespan wouldn’t be such a big issue if the GRAYL weren’t expensive. You end up paying about $1.38 per gallon of treated water. At that price, you are better off stockpiling lots of bottled water at home!

But, for use on questionable water – such as bugging out through a flooded city – the GRAYL would be well worth the cost.

Pros

  • Compact and lightweight
  • Removes all types of contaminants
  • No squeezing
  • Works quickly

Cons

  • Short cartridge life
  • A bit pricey

Recommended For: Urban bug out bags, flood preparedness
Check On Amazon


Sawyer Mini

Type: Squeeze | Filter: 0.1 micron | Flow rate: 0.5-1 liters per minute

Weight: 2oz | Cartridge Life: 100,000 gallons | Clean: Backflush

Removes: Bacteria Viruses Chemicals


I have long been an advocate of the Sawyer Mini water filter. It is by far one of the simplest  survival water filters to use.

Just fill the included pouch with dirty water. Screw on the Sawyer Mini filter. Then squeeze to get clean drinking water.

Check Prices on Amazon

It’s pretty versatile too. You can buy adapters to use it as an in-line filter. With that adapter, you can rig up a gravity filter. The filter comes with a straw attachment.

The plastic pouches it comes with aren’t great and will pop quickly, but you can screw the filter onto a normal plastic bottle instead.

The main reason I love the Sawyer Mini is that it has a 100,000 gallon cartridge life. In other words, it can be used forever. If it starts to get clogged, just backflush it.

There’s no need to ever buy replacement cartridges or worry about whether your filters reached the end of its life (Note that I did have to replace the O ring on my Sawyer Mini after about 5 years of use).

Considering how cheap the Sawyer Mini is and that you’ll never have to buy a replacement cartridge, it’s the cheapest survival water filter you could get.

The downside of the Sawyer Mini is that it only treats bacteria and protozoa. This is fine for backcountry use like when backpacking or camping.

However, the Sawyer Mini will be completely ineffective for treating sketchier water, such as flood water or water near farms (due to agricultural runoff).

In these cases, you’d need to take extra steps, such as boiling the water to kill viruses or using activated carbon to remove chemicals.

*There is an option to use the Sawyer Mini with their Select S3 bottle. The bottle contains a special type of foam which traps viruses.

You can buy the bottle separately and just put the Sawyer Mini on top. The system still won’t remove chemicals though.

Like other hollow-membrane water filters, the Sawyer Mini cannot be used after being frozen. That’s because the frozen water inside the filter will expand and burst the filter membrane.

Pros

  • Very small and lightweight
  • Versatile
  • 1 million gallon life
  • Very affordable

Cons

  • Will be destroyed in freezing weather
  • Included pouches pop quickly; will need backups or to screw it onto a plastic bottle

Recommended For: Prepping on a budget; bug out bags away from urban areas.
Check On Amazon


Sawyer Point Zero Two

Type: Gravity | Filter: 0.02 micron | Flow rate: 1 liter per minute

Weight: 13.6oz (kit)| Cartridge Life: 100,000 gallons | Clean: Backflush

Removes: Bacteria Viruses Chemicals


Here is another water filter by Sawyer. It’s not as popular as their Mini, but that’s because it isn’t designed for camping or backpacking.

Rather, the Sawyer Point Zero Two filter is meant for emergency preparedness, such as boil alerts. It’s also good for traveling in undeveloped countries.

Check Prices on Amazon

The Point Zero Two filter is a gravity system. Unfortunately, you have to set up the system yourself. This includes:

  1. Getting a bucket
  2. Drilling a hole into the bucket (the drill bit is included with the kit)
  3. Putting the adapter into the hole you made

Once you do these three steps, you can fill the bucket with water. Place the filter part lower and clean water will drip out of it into your collection vessel.

*If you don’t want to bother with a bucket, LifeStraw makes a very similar gravity filter called the LifeStraw Mission. It has the same micron rating as the LifeStraw Point Zero Two.

However, I still prefer the Sawyer because it has a virtually unlimited lifespan versus 4,755 gallons life with the LifeStraw Mission.

As the name indicates, the micron rating of the filter is 0.02. That means the water filter will remove most viruses in addition to bacteria and protozoa (it won’t remove chemicals).

A cool feature is that the Point Zero Two comes with a faucet adapter. This means you can use it during boil alerts at home. Or you can backflush it with the faucet once you’ve got a clean source of tap water available.

Like with the Sawyer Mini, the Point Zero Two filter lasts virtually forever. No need to ever buy a replacement cartridge! With that in mind, the Point Zero Two is one of the cheapest water filters you could buy for your at-home emergency

Pros

  • Filters viruses
  • Filters unlimited amounts of water
  • Kit contains faucet adapter

Cons

  • Low flow rate
  • Must be used with bucket (not included)
  • Not portable

Recommended For: Boil Alerts and hunkering down

Check On Amazon


Big Berkey with Black Filters

Type: Tabletop | Filter: Mixed media | Flow rate: 1.75 liters per minute

Weight: 9lbs | Cartridge Life: 6,000 gallons| Clean: Manual

Removes: Bacteria Viruses Chemicals *reduces


Berkey is one of the only tabletop water filters which could actually be used in emergency or complete SHTF situations. Not only do their “Black” filters remove bacteria and protozoa, but they also remove viruses and reduce chemicals and heavy metals.

Check Prices on Amazon

In independent tests of water filters, the Berkey consistently performs well. In other words, it actually does what it claims to do.

However, it should be noted that the Berkey filters are not independently certified to NSF/ANSI standards. (Source) Because of this, the Berkey systems are not available in California or Iowa.

The Berkey filter unit comes in various sizes. There is a travel size which could be used for camping trips. For at home, the Big Berkey (2.1 gallons) is a good choice for up to 4 people. The Big Berkey holds up to 4 “Black” filters. You can also get optional fluoride filters.

There is a lot of confusion about how Berkey Black filters work.  They only give a vague description on their website.  Based on the description, we can assume that the filter contains a hollow-fiber filter for bacteria (no micron rating given) and activated carbon or similar technology for absorbing chemicals and bad tastes.

The company claims that a pair of Black filters can last for up to 6,000 gallons. I’m assuming that part of their filter contains activated carbon though. Since activated carbon absorbs contaminants, its lifespan is shorter with very dirty water.

If you were to filter very contaminated water, we can assume that you’d need to change the filters much sooner than the 6,000 gallon claim. Most activated carbon filters need changing after 150 gallons or less!

The bottom line? I would be fine going by the 6,000 gallon cartridge life when using with tap water under normal circumstances. If you want to use a Berkey to remove chemicals in a SHTF situation, you should be prepared to change the filters much more frequently.

Pros

  • Attractive tabletop system
  • Easy to use
  • Removes or reduces virtually all types of contaminants
  • Stainless steel

Cons

  • Filter life is likely much less than advertised
  • Expensive system and replacement filters
  • Not independently certified to NSF/ANSI standards
  • Not available in California or Iowa

Best For: Everyday use as well as emergency preparedness.
Check On Amazon


Platypus 4L GravityWorks Filter System

Type: Gravity | Filter: 0.2 micron | Flow rate: 1.75 liters per minute

Weight: 11.5oz | Cartridge Life: 1500 liters | Clean: Backflush by reversing

Removes: Bacteria Viruses Chemicals


When it comes to gravity water filter systems, the Platypus GravityWorks filter is consistently voted the best.

Check Prices on Amazon

The top reservoir holds 4 liters of dirty water and the bottom reservoir holds 4 liter of clean water, giving it a total capacity of 8 liters. There are also smaller versions available too.

The system is designed to filter a lot of water in a short period of time. While not nearly as fast as the MSR Guardian, you don’t have to do any pumping for the GravityWorks.

The kit has a 0.2 micron hollow fiber filter. It will remove bacteria and protozoa, but it will not remove viruses or chemicals. However, there is a carbon filter element which can be used with the kit (sold separately).

Like with similar filters, it can be backflushed. You just reverse the gravity bags and the filter will be cleaned out.

The only downsides of the GravityWorks filter is that it doesn’t come with any shower attachments, such as with the Katadyn Gravity Camp filter.  However, people still like the GravityWorks filter much more than the Katadyn, especially since it’s easier to clean.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Filters and holds a lot of water at once
  • Compact

Cons

  • No shower attachment
  • Not versatile

Best For: Filtering a lot of water at once in backcountry camp
Check On Amazon


Renovo Water MUV Eclipse Water Filter System

Type: Multi-functional | Filter: 0.1 micron/carbon/nano | Flow rate: 1 liter per minute
Weight: 14.5oz | Life: 150 (MUV1); 100,000 (MUV2);  90 (MUV3) gallons | Clean: Backflush

Removes: Bacteria Viruses Chemicals


The MUV Eclipse is one of the newer water filters to hit the market.

Compared to other options, MUV is by far the most versatile survival filter you can get.

It is actually made up of three different filters in one. You can snap the different parts of the filter together to use them all at once. Or just use the filter parts that you need.

Check Prices on Amazon

Here are the 3 parts of the filter:

MUV1: Activated Carbon Fiber (150 gallon life)

The activated carbon in this part of the filter removes chemicals, chlorine, and heavy metals. It will also remove bad tastes and odors from water.

MUV2: Hollow Fiber Filter (100,000 gallon life) 

This is a 0.1 micron filter for removing protozoa and bacteria. It can be considered the main component and is what you’d want to use in backcountry where the water is free of chemicals and viruses.

MUV3: Nanalum Virus Filter (90 gallon life) 

If you suspect viral contamination in the water, then you’ll want to use this part of the filter too. It uses nanalum technology which gets a positive charge when wet. The charge acts like a magnet to capture and trap organic contaminants. There is also Granular Activated Carbon in the filter layer to absorb contaminants.

What’s cool is that you can mix and match the parts to filter what you need. Going into the backcountry where chemicals and viruses aren’t an issue? Just use MUV2. Need to treat flood water? Connect all three components!

The other cool thing is that the filter component can be used in different ways. You can use it as a straw to drink right from the source. It can go inside of a water bottle. Or use the in-line adapter. Or use it as a gravity filter. Best of all, attach it to the PUMP and collect water in a separate vessel (no squeezing!!!).

There’s even a bucket adapter included. You get the point. It’s damn versatile.

Some people also might be annoyed by all the parts that come with the MUV Eclipse kit. I can see how it would be annoying to keep track of them and that you could lose one. Personally, I don’t find this a problem though because you can just use the parts that you need. All those parts are what make it so versatile.

Compared to other water filters which do the same thing (well, no system does all of this…), the MUV Eclipse kit is very affordable. There are replacement filters available for the MUV1  and MUV3

The MUV Eclipse is certainly an interesting product, however, the company is still very new and there isn’t much info available on their test results.

For these reasons, it’s probably better to play it safe and go with a reputable brand like MSR.

Pros

  • Three filters in one
  • Can mix and match filters based on need
  • Works as pump, straw, gravity, and bottle filter
  • Very versatile system
  • Affordable
  • Good cartridge life
  • Replacement carbon and virus filter parts are affordable

Cons

  • Flow rate not given
  • New company; needs further testing
  • Lots of parts that you could lose

Best For: If you want just one filter that can do everything.

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  1. “The only way to make straw-style survival filters work is to put dirty water into your water bottle and use the straw to drink from them on the go. But then you’ve got a contaminated water bottle, which could cause other issues.”
    Incorrect. You don’t have to put the water in your bottle, you can drink straight from the source.

    • Drinking from the source is mentioned earlier in the paragraph. That said, the wording could be clearer – I have amended that. Thanks for the heads up.

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