Water Filter Freezing Temperature Damage

What If My Water Filter Freezes, Will It Be Damaged?

Water Filter Freezing

Will a water filter get damaged if it freezes? The answer is yes, it could. The water filter cartridge or filter element could freeze and damage / crack (may not be visible).

Many of us have at least one portable water filter. We might take them along while hiking, camping, or simply include in a dedicated survival kit, bug out bag, or other usage scenarios. But, be aware of freezing cold temperature issues! This may be an overlooked issue if you leave a water filter in a kit that stays in your vehicle (for example) during the winter months.

UPDATE: Berkey Countertop Water Filters: Just like the portable water filters which contain filter media, the Berkey filter elements could also freeze. Usually this filter is in your house. So not a problem. However!… If you’re like me and have a camper, it’s best to take the Berkey inside the house for winter!

Please support family owned business, USA Berkey Filters, if you plan to buy your own, or replacement media:

>> All Berkey Filter Models

Freezing Temperatures & Water Filter Media

Have you ever wondered if your water filter might be damaged if it gets below freezing?

Maybe you haven’t thought about it before, but you should…

Why? Because freezing temperatures may damage the water filter element –
and you won’t even know it!

That’s right, the internal filter media (cartridge) might crack. And then when you go to use it – the filter will be inadequate, allowing contaminants to get through.

How do freezing cold temperatures damage the filter?

When it freezes, ice crystals embed within the filter media. This may crack, expand, or form ‘holes’ within the water filter cartridge itself which are larger than the filter’s pore size. This will result in raw unfiltered water to flow through without being properly filtered.

How do I know if the water filter is broken?

The thing is, there is no absolute way to know if your water filter has been damaged from freezing temperatures.

You don’t want to find out by getting sick!

By the way, the ‘food coloring’ test is not definitive. It’s water soluble so it may get through the filter pores anyway indicating a false-positive. “Most dyes go into solution (molecular), not suspension (particle) form”.  Note that a charcoal filter stage may absorb food coloring, but charcoal is for neutralization of odor and flavor.

[ Read: Black Berkey Red Dye Food Coloring Test – Does it Work or Not? ]

You might check with the filter manufacturer website and FAQ (frequently-asked-questions) to discover whether or not your filter is susceptible to freeze damage.

Generally speaking, if the filter element has been used and therefore is wet, the water inside will freeze at temperatures below 32 degrees-F and will likely crack, damage, or destroy the filter media inside.

Note: A water filter’s internal media will remain wet for a very long time, even after draining it or not using it for awhile. In my opinion, depending on filter media this could be weeks or longer. I believe I’ve read (from Sawyer?) that once it’s used once it will never fully dry.

The Good News

Fortunately these portable water filters are not expensive.
So replacement doesn’t hurt so much.


Here’s what they say on the LifeStraw website:

“If your LifeStraw has been used, and is then exposed to freezing temperatures, water inside can freeze and crack the filter. You may not see these cracks, so we recommend never letting it freeze once it’s been used. When camping at high elevations or freezing temperatures, be extra careful not to let it freeze.”

Lifestraw in backpack

Please support family-owned business, ReadyMadeResources.com to purchase your own:

>> LifeStraw portable water filter
(free shipping)


Here’s what they say on the Sawyer website:

Before initial wetting
Filter is safe from freezing temperatures if it has never been wetted.

After initial wetting
While there is no definitive way to tell if a filter has been damaged due to freezing, Sawyer recommends replacing your filter if you suspect that it has been frozen.

During trips
If you are in freezing temperatures, we recommend that you store your filter in your pocket or close to your person so that your body heat can prevent freezing.

Please support family-owned business, ReadyMadeResources.com to purchase your own:

Sawyer Mini water filter
(free shipping)

Tips To Protect Water Filter From Freezing

In freezing temperatures, carry your portable water filter close to your body.

Keep it inside your jacket.

Keep your water filter in your sleeping bag at night.

Alternative Water Purification During Cold Temperatures

Boil your water


During the winter (or any time) boiling water always works in place of a filter.
[ Read: How Long To Boil Drinking Water? ]

UV Ultra Violet

A Steripen is a good choice during very cold temperatures. The ultra violet radiation will destroy organic contaminants.

SteriPen UV Filter
(view on amzn)

Water Tablets

Consider chemical water treatment instead of filter when it’s that cold:

Water Purification Tablets
(view on amzn)

Read More:

LifeStraw Review – 10 Benefits – And The Newer ‘LifeStraw Go’

The Smallest Berkey Countertop Water Filter

Which Water Filter To Buy?


  1. ( A water filter’s internal media will remain wet for a very long time, even after draining it or not using it for awhile. In my opinion, depending on filter media this could be weeks or longer. I believe I’ve read (from Sawyer?) that once it’s used once it will never fully dry.)

    I wonder if that means it should be considered disposable. Otherwise you could get mold growing inside the filter.

    1. It that were to happen, the filter pores are so small, it would not allow any through.

      That said, I’ve never experienced (smelled or tasted) mold from any of my used filters.

      I mentioned the dry time because if one of these filters were used, say weeks or a month before being in a freezing environment, this may become a problem.

  2. The solution is not to let it freeze. We learned to keep filters camel backs etc under our outer garments to avoid freezing or in our sleeping bags with use. Also certain bottled fuels will also freeze same solution.

  3. Sawyer Mini,
    Mighty cheap insurance to just replace it If/When you needed to use it.
    Maybe not so much in HI for Tommyboy, but here it was 10deg yesterday.

    If on the way to your BOL after the LIGHTS went OUT, than do as Sawyer suggested.

    One thing Peanut Gallery mentioned, Mold or other stuff that “grows” into nasty stuff, remember that the “good” end of that filter can also ‘grow’ stuff on/in it, is it a good idea to dunk it into a little Clorox before using it? If new, keep the sealed ends sealed, always fun to open a new toy to play, but yar also exposing it to the Nasty’s that are out there.

    I suggest always having a “New” filter in the GHB, BOV, and all the rest of the ABC bags, keep the used ones in the house, just cause.

    But what do I know, I just drink Gin and maybe a homebrew at times :-) :-)

    1. Yes, I always keep a new filter in my ATV emergency kit for example. Haven’t had to use it yet. Hopefully never will. But since the ATV is out in weather below freezing, I’m assured that the particular filter is ‘good to go’.

  4. I have an Katadyn Hiker for slightly larger quantities of water while backpacking. Sure would hate to have that freeze. Fortunately, I can take it apart and dry it all out, as long as I don’t forget, and it’s a nice small size. Extra filters are a little expensive, but worth it. For everyday or short trip use, I have several life straws. So if one freezes, replacement is no problem.

  5. (What If My Water Filter Freezes, Will It Be Damaged?)

    Short answer is yes it will be damaged if it has any water left in it.

    Be it ceramic, paper, or some kind of membrane water turned to ice will destroy it.my

    I have a Dalton (like a berkey) I keep in the kitchen and the house is always warm so no problem there.

    I have several Berkey hiker-size bottles, a Katadyn Hiker and a Katadyn Pocket Filter. I blow the portable ones out with my air compressor and dry them out by leaving them sit on top of the furnace vent for several days before I store one of them in my van. Been doing this for the better part of 15-years and have had no problems. I’m very careful with the Pocket filter as replacement elements are $200.00

    In the Winter if you use one and have to expose it to freezing temps you should keep it above 32 degs. Pretend it is your lover and sleep with it next to your body in your blanket or sleeping bag to keep it all warm and happy.

    If you are out during the day in the Winter keep it inside your coat to keep it all warm and happy.

  6. CaliRefugee,
    You mentioned the multifuel stove,, any experience burning regular gasoline in it?
    I actually been looking at one for a JIC for my stash. Even though a folding rocket stove would most likely be a better choice for my situation. That i can make though, the multifuel i cant.

    1. I have a Svea 123 stove. It burns white gas, or that is what you are supposed to burn in it. It’s an old design dating back to 1897 or so. Mostly unchanged since then.

      My stove was bought in the late 1970’s when I was a Boy Scout, I have never burnt anything but unleaded gasoline in it and it has never failed to work, never clogged up.

      It’s the best cold weather stove made, millions of outdoor meals have been cooked on a Svea 123 from the top of Everest to the bottom of Death Valley.

  7. These are in fact portable… But Sawyer is specifically flushable if you are worried about mold. If you fear that it may be compromised.. Put it in your barter bin and trade it later down the road – but disclose that it may/may not be any good. That is why two is one and one is none – practice that! Respectfully, The Break Away Homesteader.

  8. I love my Berkey, but I never just filter my collected water. I like how clean and tasty the water gets, but I also never fully trust any filter.

    After filtering I put the water through a complimentary SODIS method cleansing for a minimum of 6 hours. Then after that I go ahead and put the water into storage containers.

  9. If it’s wet/moist/drenched and it freezes…. it’s toast.
    When water freezes it expands and breaks stuff. Just a fact.

  10. Many, many years ago I used to backpack and snow camp. We didn’t have the skinny straw designs back then. Katadyn, First Need, etc. Try carrying one of those inside your coat; ain’t happening.

    The solution is actually a true solution. Alcohol. Usually in the form of whiskey, tequila or vodka. That was usually carried anyway for an evening around the fire. Far less weight than beer or wine.

    After filtering, blow out all the water then pump a little whiskey through the filter. Pump enough through the filter to be part of your beverage for the evening and you then know it is pretty saturated.

    When using the next time start pumping water but keep tasting the output until most of the alcohol is out. Save what you just pumped out for the next relaxation event. Be careful about reusing the effluent to freeze proof the filter again as it will be diluted and the freezing temp increased. 80 proof freezes at -17 degF, but diluted to 40 proof that temp raises to around 20 degF.

    Do it right, and you will hardly waste any whiskey!

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