Travelling in countries with unsafe drinking water doesn’t need to result in huge amounts of plastic waste or a dent to your budget. There are lots of great portable water purifiers for travel so you can filter and sterilise water as often as you like on the go. But figuring out which water purifier is easiest, most effective and best for travel can be confusing. So we asked the experts.
We used our SteriPen hundreds of times during our travels whether we were drinking tap water in India or from a mountain stream in Kyrgyzstan and thought it was the perfect portable water purifier for travel. But we wanted to offer some other options. These have been tried and tested by fellow travellers all over the world and actually work!
Below you’ll find a summary of the best portable water filters for travel and the comparison on the different features of each so you can decide what best fits your travel needs and budget.
If you’re looking for a quick answer we did this exact research before our trip and chose the SteriPen. No we’re not being paid for this, we just really love it. Skip the article and buy now.
Best Portable Water Purifiers for Travel
|Amount: per use/ total||Time needed||Filters particles||Kills bacteria||Weight||Price|
|Grayl||0,5L/ 150L||15 sec.||Yes||Yes||310g||$$$|
|Purification Tablets||1L per Tab.||30-120 min.||No||Yes||31g||$|
by Max of Life with Less
The SteriPen is a small UV-light device, which sterilises water through a UV light bulb to make it drinkable. It is no bigger than a muesli bar and very easy to use. You just take off the cap and hold the stick in your water bottle, it takes 48 seconds to sterilise 0,5L of water if you have a 1L bottle just repeat the procedure. It charges using a micro USB and can sterilise up to 5000 litres before it needs replacing.
We used our Steripen throughout all our travels over the last two years. Including countries with questionable water sources like India or Malaysia. We’re really happy with this water purifier and would recommend it for any travel plans in regions of the world where the tap water isn’t safe to drink. It’s also a very handy little gadget to have for longer hikes or any other outdoor activity because it’s very small and light to carry with you and makes any water from a stream or little well drinkable.
We loved that we could sterilise several bottles of water before we needed them and we could use the SteriPen with any wide topped drink bottle. The only downfall we found with the SteriPen was that it doesn’t physically filter the water so it doesn’t remove dirt or particles.
by Tereza of Czick on the Road
For our journey in South America we purchased an original LifeStraw – straw with incorporated filter which allows you to drink water from anywhere, even from the dirtiest pond. As we like hiking, we though it could be a good emergency equipment for our time in the Andes mountains. Luckily, such emergency has never happened, though we've tested the straw in the nature several times.
The good thing about LifeStraw is, that it is really small and light and thus it doesn’t take much additional space. It is also very convenient that you don’t have to have a bottle to use it, as you can drink water with it directly from a pond, river or a stream, just by using it as a regular straw. It’s also very easy to use – just put down the protection cap and start sucking. And here comes the bad thing – the sucking is really hard, water has to go through the body with filter and before it comes to your mouth, it takes a lot of effort. I also see big disadvantage in the fact, that you cannot take the water with you unless you have a bottle and bowl for it. The straw is too thick to put it in a regular pet bottle, but could work by filling another drinking bottle by a water.
Though the straw is easy to travel with, as it’s small and lightweight, after several months on the road, I’ve purchased a bottle with water filter, which I find more useful for traveling and I actually use it everyday.
by Carine & Derek of We Did It Our Way
After spending a few weeks in South East Asia, we realised how many plastic water bottles we were buying… and we hated it. We knew we had to find a more sustainable option. After hours of research, we got the Lifestraw Go.
This bottle makes pretty much any water safe to drink. Including water from rivers or waterfalls while we’re hiking and tap water from countries where it’s not safe to drink it. This bottle answered all our needs. It even managed to raise a few eyebrows from locals who thought there was no way to drink their tap water. It’s so simple to use. You fill your bottle up, attach the top and suck the water up through the straw. Easy peasy! The LifeStraw Go has an integrated 2-stage filter that not only protects you against bacteria, parasites and microplastics but it also reduces chemicals like chlorine and improves the taste of water. Plus, the microbiological filter can give you up to 5 years of safe drinking water.
We love how simple it is to use and the carabiner that makes it easy to attach to our backpack. We also adore the fact that the company gives back for each purchase. Buying the bottle gives one child a full year of clean water.
What we like less is that sometimes, the top of the bottle leaks. Also, you may get tired of always drinking from a straw, chugging water is not really an option, even if sometimes you really want to! The LifeStraw Go itself is not too expensive to buy and it pays itself back really quickly. And best of all, no need to buy any more plastic bottles. You can replace the filter and the bottle it still good to use. It’s such a good bottle for avid travellers!
by Inma of A World To Travel
We tested a couple of Grayl water purifying bottles during our recent Morocco road trip along the Atlantic coast. As I had been very sick ten years ago while visiting the country after eating or drinking something, on top of counting with our travel insurance, we decided to give Grayl a go.
At $60 each, these ultralight water bottles, that fit in a regular backpack side pockets, are a great choice for traveling. They could not be easier to use too: After filling the outer refill to the indicated line, you need to press the purifier with downward force. Within 15 seconds, you will be able to drink purified water out of your bottle.
A cartridge average duration if using it daily is around 3 or 4 months, and up to 3 years since used for the first time. After that, you need to replace them. Would you try it?
Drink Safe Travel Tap
by Dave of Dave’s Travel Pages
Having completed many long distance bike tours, such as cycling from Alaska to Argentina, I’ve used several different water filters. None have been as simple to use as the Drink Safe Travel Tap though.
Taking the form of a regular water bottle (although slightly wider), the filter fits inside the bottle, enabling the water to be drunk through a nozzle. As there is no ‘processing time’ as such, the water is good to be used straight away, meaning it is quick and efficient to use. Covering both virus and bacteria, it is able to filter water from the dodgiest of sources, which is invaluable when bike touring in remote regions.
The pros of the Drink Safe Travel Tap, are that you can use it straight out of the packaging, and that the filter cuts off when it has reached the end of its life. I haven’t found any cons to it yet, and I’ve been using it for over a year. Check out Dave’s full review of the water filter here - Drink Safe Travel Tap Review.
by Christa of Expedition Wildlife
The Sawyer Mini is the perfect water purification system for travellers needing an on-the-go, compact, and light-weight product, weighing in at less than 60g. The versatility of the Sawyer Mini is a huge plus as the threaded adaptor allows the filter to be attached directly to water bottles, pouches, and hydration pack tubes.
Filtration is achieved by gravity or “squeezing” the water out of the provided 0,5L water pouch into another receptacle, so the time it takes to filter is longer than some other systems. Consider obtaining a larger squeeze bag to filter more water at one time if needed for your trip.
The Mini has a 0.1 micron filter, so it removes all bacteria and protozoa for safe consumption. Bringing this conveniently small filter to locations with questionable water sources, during either travel or hiking, is perfect as it can easily fit in a jacket or pants pocket.
If you are based in Europe try the Care Plus filter underneath.
by Manouk of Groetjes uit Verweggistan
To reduce the amount of plastic we use we decided to try a water filter during our adventure of 2,5 months in South America. We bought the water filter by Care Plus. It is very small: the filter itself fits in one hand and the pouch is also very small. Empty you can fold it away so it barely take up any space. Very easy to travel with!
To filter the water, you fill the pouch. Because the pouch is a bit small, we had to do this several times. This is not ideal, but we got used to it quickly. After you screw on the filter and squeeze the water through it in your bottle. It took us about ten minutes every morning to fill our bottles completely. We knew this and after a few days it was just part of getting ready for the days. We still use the filter on our travels and I would never go back to buying plastic bottles.
The only downside is the taste of the water. But during our first week in Nazca, Peru, a local woman taught us to put lime in the water in our bottles to cover up the taste. Worked like a charm! You can buy limes at every market, so problem solved.
Water Purification Pills
by Joseph of Nomad Joseph
There are many ways to purify your water during long distance hikes, but in my opinion water purification pills work the best! I used Katadyn "Micropur Forte MF 1T" pills during my Three passes trek in Nepal and I was surprised how good they are. In my opinion they are better than other purification options because they are small, not complicated to use and they make water drinkable quickly. The only thing which I didn't really enjoy was the water taste, the tastes reminds me of water from the pool.
Water purification pills are easy to use. Usually 1 pill is for 1 liter of water. When you drop a pill into the bottle let it dissolve and clean the water in 30 minutes. After that water is clean and ready to drink! I definitely recommend to purify your water with the pills, they are the best and safest option when you travel. Most of the military organisations, NATO are using different brands to purify their water in remote regions.