Water Filter – A Survival Prep ‘Must Have’

water filters

A water filter is a survival prep ‘must have’ and high on the priority list of preps.

(see below for list of water filter recommendations)

We cannot survive long without drinking any water!

In fact, you would likely NOT survive a week without it – they say 3 to 5 days would be it!

Prepper Rule-Of-Threes
The Rule Of Three

Having a water filter will assure safe drinking water extracted from almost any water source. Ever heard of campers diarrhea? A good quality water filter will eliminate that risk. A very uncomfortable experience!


Microorganism Contamination Does Exist In Sparkling Clear Water

Don’t be fooled, crystal clear water flowing in a sparkling clear stream or lake may look and seem harmless.

But in fact that same clear water may contain dangerous germs and microorganisms including protozoans, bacteria, or viruses!

Giardia lamblia. You may have heard of that nasty little protozoan parasite very common in lakes and streams. If ingested, will rapidly multiply in the small intestines, and I’ll leave it at that… not pleasant!!! The thing is, protozoans are fairly large, 1 – 15 microns, and are easily caught in most all typical consumer grade water filters. So, there’s no excuse not having one!

E-coli or Salmonella: Both are a type of bacteria and may be found in the water of lakes or streams. Bacteria is only about 0.2 – 5 microns in size. Most high quality water filters will catch them. These bacteria may be present one day and gone the next – you never know. It all depends on what’s going on upstream, or perhaps runoff from a recent rain.

Viruses are the most difficult to filter due to their extremely small size, 0.02 to 0.2 microns. When choosing a water filter, check the specifications to discover it’s capabilities.


Water Filter Types

There are several varieties of drinking water filters.

Some are designed to install directly into existing home plumbing, be it attached to the kitchen sink faucet, a cartridge mounted underneath the sink in-line with plumbing, or even larger systems that serve the entire home.

Tabletop / Countertop
Others are designed as tabletop water filters.

Still others are portable and great for hiking, backpacking, or emergency kits.

My water filter recommendations include:

Berkey Tabletop Water Filter:
Berkey Countertop Water Filter System

Berkey Accessories:
5 Berkey Accessories For Your Tabletop Filter

The LifeStraw Water Filter:
LifeStraw Portable

Katadyn Water Filter:
Katadyn Hiker Pro Microfilter

Sawyer Mini Water Filter (0.1 Micron)
Sawyer Mini

More: Which Water Filter Do You Have? (Poll results)

[Ken adds:] If you’re getting into a preparedness mindset, the first thing that I recommend is to get yourself a good drinking water filter. Even for the budget challenged (most of us are, right?), you can get something pretty good without breaking the bank. If so inclined you might work your way up to better models. We take for granted the drinking water that we have. I’m simply saying “don’t” (take it for granted).


  1. We have the Life Straw but require a different filtering system for dh needs. We have a Daulton water filter to be used with food grade buckets for filtering water but it is a household system.

    I have looked at the Katadyn filter to carry in the vehicle. If someone has this can you recommend specifically which one you have an what you like about it. Thanks

  2. Personally, I do not usually rely on filters to their fullest extents. I instead generally would have a combination of boiling and chlorine/iodine to purify, but this is also mainly considering an on-the-move type of environment where many filters are a bit bulky for my liking. Once we get a good bug-out location, a good filter will be a much more relevant addition, and mobility will be a lesser concern.

  3. I have one of these in both my and DW get home bags (we work 50 miles from home so carrying 3-4 days of water is not doable if we had to hike home) along with replacement filters (cheap insurance)

    Survivor Filter PRO

    I choose this one based on it filtration level (including viral), compact size, light weight and ease of use…. since this came out, there are a number of similar units for a bit less cost, but I’d already bought these (and tested them with water from our fish pond).

    We each have a life straw and purification tabs as well, but happy with the Survivor.

  4. I saw two programs on the Weather Chanel SOS show where people lost said they
    would rather die than drink their own pee.
    So my question is this; what kind of filter would make pee safe to drink?
    And have you tried it?
    Thanks, Kliph

    1. Actually that has been done. Spelunkers on an extensive exploration of a cave system carried a Katadyn Survivor 06 reverse osmosis system to remove the impurities in their urine. I’m pretty sure the international space station uses a similar system but on a larger scale. Can you imagine their water bill if they didn’t?

      1. Should have added the o6 was designed for inclusion in life raft and lifeboat survival kits. Not really practical as they require yearly maintenance at the factory level.

  5. I have a Big Berkey plus one set of replacement filters.
    I use it every day, running probably 3-4 gallons a week through it, and yet have the need to replace the filters (or done a deep cleaning) in the past two years.
    My recommendation, save up your money and get one of the best home counter-top filtration systems, Yes I know they are expensive, but why buy one at 1/2 the cost than to buy a “better” on later?

    For portable I like the Sawyer Mini, in each of the “Bags”. LifeStraw is a good filter but the specs on the Sawyer were a bit better for my needs.

    I know there are a LOT of people out there that keep saying “ohhhhh the water will always flow”, ok, but I will have to ask, do you have insurance on your vehicles, your home, medical insurance, life insurance?

    Than my question is why do you not have “insurance” in a water filter AND food supplies? Just remember, Water is easy to find, Clean Water wellllll maybe not so much anymore (Remember the Orange River?). Ever watch someone drink ‘bad water’ and the results?

    Good reminder Ken, thanks.

    1. NRP
      We have the life straw but it will not work for dh’s needs. He requires a different type of filtering system so I can give him water.

      You have a mini sawyer. Question
      1) how much water due receive with each production?
      2) Are you having to replace parts after how many times being used?
      If plans work out we are finally going to take off for a few days away from the place after years of not being able to travel. Pre planning all the items we will require to have with us above and beyond TP 😊

      1. Antique Collector
        I believe Ken has (maybe) done a comparison between the LifeStraw and the Mini.
        It does sound like you and ACDH has the filtration situation required for him figured out well.

        As far as production on the Mini, I have seen demos whereas the filter was in line with a 5-gallon bucket with a continuous flow. It does come with a “Bag” for use and an “straw”.

        There are no “replacement parts” for the Mini itself. They claim over 100,000 gallons for the Mini, have no idea if that’s accurate, but……..

        From their website ***” MINI weighs just 2 ounces, fits in the palm of your hand, and provides 0.1 micron absolute filtration — removing 99.99999% of all bacteria, such as salmonella, cholera and E.coli, and removing 99.9999% of all protozoa (such as giardia and cryptosporidium). “***

        To follow up, these are what I use, I would greatly recommend others to do their research….

      2. Antique Collector

        PS; Ken has a link to Amazon for the Mini, it’s right around $18.++ so not bad on the cost.

        Just remember once used it will have water in the filter pores and will freeze and crack. So make sure you have a “dry” unit in the “bags” if your in cold weather.

        Lastly, and I’ll stop bugging, remember to pack at least one extra roll of TP hehehehe, and if space is an issue, just remove the cardboard core and Vacuum Seal it in a bag, it’ll end up 1/3 the size. :-)

        1. NRP
          Never a bug on TP..LOL
          Camping Survival is running a M-T-W special on the mini’s so will purchase one for dh. It is for emergency usage only, as our SUV when we travel looks like the entire house is pack inside of it. yep!! A women has to bring along the kitchen sink, ya just never know when we will need it.😊

    2. My wife and I have a Travel Berkey Water Filter (1.5 gal w/2 filters) that we use every day on our countertop to run our tap water through for her drinking water and ice cubes. It’s a good size if we need to take it to a water source to filter water. I’ve used it a couple of times for my coffee and drinking water when crews had repaired the main waterline near our house, but otherwise I drink the tap water. I’ve rinsed the Berkey a couple of times, but no deep cleaning yet. We also have LifeStraw and Sawyer Mini personal filters scattered around in car, house, and sewing shop for insurance, but have never used any of them.

      CD in Oklahoma

  6. “Don’t be fooled, crystal clear water flowing in a sparkling clear stream or lake may look and seem harmless.”
    Soooo true,
    Here in the islands we have real high counts of Leptospirosis in stream or surface water, looks crystal clear, it aint,,,
    Also have high counts for giardia and other impurities, i learned this the hard way as a kid,,,,,

  7. I have several Mini Sawyers that I keep in the truck and in my bag. At home, we have always had a Reverse Osmosis unit under the sink. I figure if it all ‘goes south’ I will rig up that RO system to one of the well pressure tanks I have in my junk area, and make it so I can run batches. For the money ( less than $150, I can get 12 gallons a day.) Water runs through several roughing filters, then a carbon block filter, then the RO. Can’t get much cleaner than that.

    1. I have RO under my sink too. I haven’t looked too much into it, but am planning to MacGyver that if SHTF.

      1. They work on water pressure. so just need to figure on a tank with a way to pressurize it, like a bicycle tube fitting ( Schrader valve) and a bicycle pump. Simple enough.
        All of these filters need to be protected from freezing. Water in ceramic filters or carbon blocks when frozen will expand and crack, then they are worthless. just food for thought. RO filters will get messed up if frozen also.

  8. I went all in with Sawyer Mini. I have one in each of our bug out bags for wife, 4 kids, and me. I also have one in each of our 4 vehicles bug out bags. I also have 2 in the basement. I’m thinking about getting a Berkey for work instead of having bottled water brought in. This way, I could most likely bring it to the homestead if SHTF. Several neighbors are like minded and we all know we will help each other. They are all related and one is my best friend. Their patriarch told me over the weekend that he had just installed a hand pump on his well. That just went further down my list of what needs done. I can filter pond and cistern water in the mean time.

  9. I know we are are talking filters but do not disregard obtaining your water from a residential well. The number one resource I feel we have in the United States is the millions of drilled fresh water residential wells throughout the countryside.
    I have a portable home made well bucket 12 inches long with 3″ pvc. pipe. The top has a 1/4″ through bolt to lash your rope to. The bottom has a cap glued on with a Brass check valve through as a way to fill the well bucket from the bottom up. I also carry a pair of good US made blue handle channel locks. (I believe this is the ultimate prepper tool right behind a good blade.) The channel locks are used for dismantling your typical residential well head. Note: you may need two people to lift on the submersible well pump to get it out of the way for well bucket access. Wells in my area arn’t any deeper than 100 ft. This is just a secondary option. I also carry the sawyer filter for on the go.
    It is always good to have multiple options. Remember 2 is one… 1 is none….

    1. – I have a similar setup, but rather than channel locks I have a pair of american-made vise grips. Note that the only way to get them any more is to buy them used, as they are made in China now. A 7″ pair weighs no more than a pair of pliers, but will work as well as an open-end wrench. I have had these for over 40 years, and used to keep them in my field gear when I was in the Army. The best part is they will cut mild wire or even small locks if need be. My bucket is 3″ x 18″, though.
      – Papa S.

  10. Have two Lifestraws which I got both for $19.00 including shipping 3 or 4 years ago.
    Have a Lifestraw Family 1 which filters down to .02 microns (20 nanometers which includes the
    polio virus).
    Have 1 pound of aluminum sulfate with which I can clarify and flocculate some 300-350 gallons
    of muddy turbid water. Water is not easy to get here where I am. Having cleared the
    water I can then purify it through the Family 1 gravity filter. Or Lifestraws.

    I eventually want an extreme radiological filter and an MRS Sweetwater Guardian Filter to
    obtain water in shitty (literally) potholes, ditches and the like. Did I say water was not easy to
    come by where I am? I have 50 gallons of water stored in the apartment and a water bob if
    I can fill it before the taps stop running.

  11. We are blessed to have a year round stream and a small spring on our property .Our water at this time is from a well, but no electricity = no well water . We do have a counter top Berkey to make potable water if the need arises. We have run several gallons through it and it is great . If you do not have one yet, try to put it into your budget .
    When there is no power we have to lug water from the stream to the house , about 150 feet. That will not be a fun task. We do have 5 gallon water jugs with spigots in storage and some bottled water .

  12. Many years ago I got a fresnel (6 th order) lens out of a light house that was being taken out of service. At the time I did not know what I was going to do with it, so I have played with it making many things. Now it is setting in my barn, but the last thing I used it for was to evaporate water and leave the residue behind. I captured (condensed) the steam. This set up could vaporize a quart of water very quickly. The down side of this was the time it takes to cool the water down but at least it used no fuel and gave off no smoke. Yes, I drank the water. Well, in some small way I guess I could call this some type of filter ( separating water from the sediment). Once I let the water level get to low and the sediment started to burn. Once when I was a younger man.

  13. When I was a ranger in the Sierras, I carried a First Need water filter and used it when in the backcountry for every drop of water consumed UNLESS I boiled the water for food or drink. I bought a new filter element every year at the start of season and I took it inside the mummy sleeping bag and placed it at my feet to prevent it from freezing. Back then, I could not afford a shiny new Katadyne filter. ( they were around $200.00 and I was not making much money back then.)

    Instead, I invested my meager funds into an MSR multi fuel stove that was a reliable little blowtorch that could boil 2 quarts of water in a very short time. ( I was at altitude so I boiled my water for several minutes before turning off the heat.) Filters freeze and the little MSR stove boiled water and melted snow for almost 2 decades before I traded it in for an MSR Whisperlite. ( Mountain Safety Research based out of Seattle, WA.). I bought the replacement parts kit and changed out worn parts each summer at the start of my season.

    These days, I have a Katadyne backpacker filter and several Sawyer mini filters. Still, I have lots of ways to make a fire and a metal pan in which to heat water to boil as I see a boiler or a distiller as the ultimate way to extract relatively pure water. I also have some plastic tubing and coffee filters around to PRE-filter really dirty water from visibly contaminated sources.

    I did that job in the Southern Sierras for over 5 years and I never did have to go to a Dr and get flagyl or treated for intestinal bugs. If I had to do it again, I would do what I did: Have a filter? yes butt also have a dependable stove as a back up to the filter.

  14. The filters mentioned are good for specific contaminants, but they don’t filter out chemical and radialogical contaminants. For those, you need filters such as those made by Seychelle and Survivor Filter (someone earlier mentioned the Survivor PRO Filter).

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