2018 Pocket Water Filter Reviews

Pocket water filters are designed to provide access to clean, safe drinking water anywhere in the world. They are ideal for use in situations where potable (drinkable) water isn’t readily available.

Campers, hikers, and survivalists are the most common users of pocket water filters, but these devices are also invaluable to those planning on traveling to third world countries or conflict areas where the quality of municipal water supplies is questionable.

How Pocket Water Filters Work

Water filters use a variety of different filtration methods. The most common filtration elements are ceramic, carbon, and glass fibers. Some filters use silver-impregnated elements to prevent the growth of microbes.

The filtering “strength” of portable water filters is based on pore size of the filter element and is measured in microns. A micron (μm) is 1/1000 of a millimeter. The smaller the pore size the more effective the filter.

Good pocket water filters have a 0.2 micron filters, meaning that they’ll filter out any contaminants and microoganisms larger than 0.2 microns. The CDC recommends using a water filter with a pore size less than or equal to 0.3 microns.

Most pocket water filters use a hand-operated pump to draw water from a source and force it through the filtration element.

The Risks of Drinking Untreated Water

The majority of diseases contracted by campers and travelers are caused by contaminated water. Using a pocket water filter greatly decreases your chances of catching diseases caused from parasites, protozoa, and other microorganisms.

By using a filter, you’ll avoid water-borne illnesses caused by cryptosporidium, Giardia, salmonella, E.Coli, and many others. It’s important to note that filters are not effective against most viruses, so if you plan on drinking water in an area with a high risk of viral contamination you’ll need to take the additional step of purifying your water.

Pocket Water Filters For Camping and Hiking

Those hiking and camping in the wilderness for extended periods of time may be tempted to drink water from natural source like streams and lakes. While these water bodies might appear to be pure and pristine, this usually isn’t the case.

While certain wilderness areas certainly do have water than can be consumed freely without any concern of diseases and infections, the sad truth is that today’s modern world has made most natural water sources unsafe for human consumption. The list of man made pollutants is long: agriculture, livestock, factories, human waste.

This is why the the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that water from all natural sources be thoroughly filtered before drinking.

Katadyn Pocket Water Filter Review

The Katadyn Pocket Water Filter has gained a reputation as one of the most durable and high performing portable water filters on the market. This Swiss-made water filter is used by the U.S. Military, as well as the Red Cross and countless other relief organizations across the world.

The Katadyn Pocket Water Filter has a machined aluminum body with a black silicone cover.  The pump features a domed handle for comfort, which is important since it takes about four minutes of pumping to produce a gallon of filtered water at the 1-liter/minute filtration rate.

The ceramic filter element in the Katadyn Pocket Water Filter has a 0.2 micron pore size.  This is sufficient to remove most protozoa, bacteria, a variety of other disease-causing microorganisms. The filter is impregnated with silver, which provides further protection against the growth of microbes and protozoa.

It’s important to remember that these filters aren’t capable of removing viruses. In general, viruses aren’t considered to be a threat in most North American wilderness areas, but if you’re planning on drinking water in a third world country or an area where there’s a risk of human fecal contamination (including popular national parks) you’ll need to take the additional step of purifying your water.

The Katadyn Pocket Water Filter can be cleaned numerous times (even while out in the wilderness) before it needs to be replaced. A prefilter unit on the intake hose prevents sediment and debris from clogging  the primary filter.

The Katadyn Pocket Filter is capable of filtering 13,000 gallons of water, which is excellent. Most portable can only process 200 to 500 gallons of water before needing a cartridge replacement.

At 20 ounces and 2.5 x 10 inches, the Katadyn Pocket Microfilter is a little on the bulky side, but it’s a small price to pay for the reassurance that comes with owning one of the best portable filtration devices on the market.

The Katadyn Pocket Filter has a lifetime warranty.

MSR Hyperflow Filter Review

The MSR Hyperflow Filter offers massive output in a small package.  However, it’s a bit more complex than other, larger portable water filters, which might be a turnoff for casual users.

The MSR Hyperflow Filter has an impressive output of 3 liters per minute at 20 strokes per liter. In practice, this means you can fill your 1-liter Nalgene with 20 seconds of pumping. This is quite a bit faster than most other pocket water filters, which usually process about 1 liter of water per minute.

In addition to its high output levels, the MSR Hyperflow Filter is extremely compact and light. The official measurements are given as 7″ x 3.5″, but the filter body is only a couple inches across at its widest point. At 7.4 ounces, it’s among the lightest pocket water filters you can buy.

The HyperFlow filter features a pore size of 0.2 microns, which will remove bacteria, protozoa, and other microorganisms. As with most portable water filter systems, the HyperFlow is not capable of protecting against viruses. For this, you’ll need to take the extra step of purifying your water (see the article on filtering vs. purifying for more on this).

The MSR HyperFlow Filter has with a prefilter that blocks out large bits of sediment and debris to extend the life of the primary cartridge.  It also features a water bottle adapter designed to fit most wide-mouthed camping bottles (e.g. Nalgene).

While the HyperFlow filter provides the benefit of being very small and light, it’s not as easy to use as some of its larger counterparts. Users need to make sure to carefully read and follow all instructions regarding the assembly and use of the HyperFlow before heading out into the back country. It’s especially important to understand how to properly backwash the filter, since not doing this can cause issues down the road.

The MSR HyperFlow filter is made in Seattle, Washington by Mountain Safety Research.

Lifesaver 4000 Bottle Review

Originally invented in 2004 to provide clean drinking water during natural disasters, the Lifesaver 4000 is also ideal for hikers, campers, and travelers.

The Lifesaver 4000 measures 12.5 x 4.5 x 4.5 inches and weighs 22 ounces. While this is considerably larger and heavier than most other pocket water filters, it can process over 1000 gallons (4000 liters) of water from a single filter cartridge. Most other portable filters have cartridges that need to be replaced after 200-500 gallons (750-2000 liters).

To use the Lifesaver 4000 bottle, unscrew the base and pump a few times. This creates pressure in the bottle and forces water through the filter and out the nozzle. The filter treats about 0.75 liters per minute. The cartridge of the Lifesaver 4000 is designed to shut off when it reaches the end of its life to prevent users from accidentally drinking contaminated water.

Since the Lifesaver Bottle 4000 was designed for use in areas subject to all sorts of waterborne pathogens, it filters and purifies water. This means that in addition to removing microorganisms like bacteria and protozoa, it also protects against viruses. This isn’t necessary in places with a low risk of viruses (e.g. most North American wilderness areas), but you should always purify the water in areas where there’s a risk of fecal contamination, like heavily used parks, developing nations, conflict areas, and disaster zones.

While most pocket filtration systems use iodine or chlorine to purify water, the Lifesaver 4000 has a proprietary filter with a 15 nanometer pore size, eliminating the needs for chemical additives. Note that 15 nanometers is equal to 0.015 microns. This is much smaller than the 0.2 micron pore size of most pocket water filters.

The Lifesaver Bottle also features an activated carbon filter which helps remove a variety of pesticides and heavy metals. The carbon filter is only good for about 250 liters, so it will need to be replaced much more frequently than the main filter element. A prefilter screens out large objects to prolong the life of the primary cartridge.

The Lifesaver Bottle’s size and weight might make it less than ideal for many hardcore campers and backpackers, but the long life and ease of use could be perfect for hikers, travelers, or aid workers.  The Lifesaver 4000 is also a great way to ensure you and your family will have fresh water in the event of a disaster without the need to keep large amounts of water in storage.