Which Water Filter To Buy


Here’s a question for you all – What are the various drinking water filters that you own, or have owned, or you desire or plan to buy?

I’m curious to hear your experiences (good or bad) regarding any given drinking water filter that you’ve had.

Currently I own several small various ‘portable’ drinking water filters (intended for hiking, keeping in a backpack kit, etc..) and I also own a few ‘tabletop’ water filters (one for home and one for the 5th-wheel trailer while out on the road camping).

Today there are lots of filters to choose from and there are all sorts of prices – some cheap – some in between – and some expensive. Generally, I believe that you ‘get what you pay for’, but sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised to discover economical alternatives.

Before I reveal what I have – let’s hear from you ;)
Pros – Cons of a given water filter?

UPDATE: As of this update, here is the list of water filters which have been mentioned:


Royal Berkey

Big Berkey

Sawyer Mini

Life Straw

Sawyer Squeezable Pouch

Katadyn Pocket

Berkey Lite

Katadyn Vario

Lifesaver 4000


Katadyn Hiker

Sawyer DIY Bucket



First Need



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  1. I have several Cera-Grav filters…One in the kitchen and others to kids homes. These are wonderful filters that keep 3 gallons clean at all times. I use these to filter our well water. I also have Life-Straws in all go bags

    1. I have the exact same set up except that I just recently added some of the Sawyer mini filters to each persons BOB. Life Straws and Sawyer mini’s might be a little redundant but you can’t take too many chances with something as important as water.

  2. The Royal Berkey has served us well and I highly recommend the Berkey family of water filter products. We also keep LifeStraws in our vehicles and a have a home made 2 5 gallon bucket system bucket with a series of filters as a last resort. But we’ve got a number of replacement filters for the Berkey and if all goes as planned, my children will get them when I die!

    They’re costly but you cannot live without water.
    God Save this great Republic!

  3. We have life straws for all our bug out bags and a Big Berkey that I bought at Goodwill. We haven’t tried any of them yet. We also have an above ground pool with all the required chemicals. We have lots of bottled water too. That way if we need to build something with charcoal and sand to filter water we have time to work with it. I have down loaded plans for this. Wondering If there is a better filter to buy though?

  4. I have a Sawyer Mini in the “bag” and a one spare in the old truck.

    It’s very lightweight and small, perfect for a pack or the “bag”

    It comes with a Straw, a Filler Bag, and a backwash “thing”

    The “specs” say something like 5 billion gallons Wink Wink, actually they claim 100,000 with back washing.

    It is a 0.1 micron filter and will remove 99.9999% of the gunk.

    I have had one rattling around in my Truck for a few years now and have yet to break it, figure it’s very tough.

    It will not remove chemicals.

    It will not kill viruses.

    The Bag it comes with sucks, it’s wayyyyyy too hard to fill from an open water source and it’s easy to damage, just use a typical plastic water bottle.

    Other than that I really like this thing, the price is right, $16.45 on Amazon

    I don’t use other filters on my household water supply, I do use bottled water when I do drink water (Gin, Beer, Wine, Tea, a soda or two come to mind). A bottle is a lot better for me when working around the place, keeps me from trashing another glass and dumping it over all the time, can you say “klutz” HAHAHA and a bottle of water fits the truck/car “cup holder” just right.

  5. I haven’t had a need for an expensive filter because I am surrounded by clean lakes and have a public artesian well nearby, plus hand pump wells at the campgrounds a few miles away. I have used crushed charcoal in a PVC tube with a coffee filter taped at the end to get rid of some algae that bloomed in the lake late one summer when our family cabin’s water pump gave out a few years back. My family used straight lake water for 30 years as our main drinking water source at our cabin before a well was put in.

    1. My family grew (1970’s) up on a river in S. Oregon, pumping water directly from the river for our consumption. No filters of any kind. I dont know if I would do that now. I dont know if it is a scare tactic but it is pretty well accepted that bugs like giardia (SP?) and others are in all open water systems nowadays. Could cause a real issue for a collapse situation and no clean water, plus refugees contaminating what water you thought was “clean” upstream from you.

      I have 2 of the Sawyer 0.02 micron filter systems. It takes a little water pressure to initially prime the filters, but it could be done for both systems before I lost house pressure. These will take out most all nasties down to small virus sizes, but still not disolved chemicals or nasty smells or tastes. You need to use an inline charcoal filter for that..

  6. We have a Big Berkey and several Life Straws. Have not had a reason to use either. I did my research before I bought them and am confident in their use and reliability. The only thing I still need is extra filter cartridges for the Berkey.

  7. Actually my next plan is to buy and store the needed medium and materials to build a filter to remove radioactive contaminants from the water, should the need arise.

  8. I have many different small portable filters but the one I had to use for my job was the Berkey. I worked in some of the most remote places in Montana and Idaho between 2009 and 2013. The only water source I had was from small creeks and ponds. The Berkey worked as advertised. I can recommend it without any reservation, it is a great water filter.

  9. I built a Big Berkey style system with the filter from for less than 50 bucks. Supposed to be good for 4-5000 gallons depending on the cleanliness of the water.

  10. Life straws in the cars, bucket type big Berkeley in emergency supplies, whole house 2 stage with 2 micron primary and carbon secondary as well as bucket of activated charcoal and plans for home made one as backup. Also inground 30,000 gal pool and a couple bags of pool shock.

  11. Big Berkey for many years. On well and use daily. Best tasting water this side of Andorra.

  12. A couple of lifestraws. A lifestraw family size thats supposed to do 18000 liters. 2 setups from a company called homespun so you can build a filter like a berkey with 5 gallon buckets. 10 lbs of pool shock and about 200 gallons of stored water. Several streams,lakes,ponds ect within a couple of miles.

  13. I have two home made units, one with 2-Berkey black filters. Another one with 2-Propur Problack BR filters. Keep Sawyer SP128 for a pre-filter from rain water. Sawyer SP126 mini in the back packs. Water tastes great, I am raised on well water, will run from city water!!!! Would rather drink soft drinks……..which I dislike (hate)! Looking forward to the outcome of this report!

    1. I’m with you on city water. I can smell and taste the clorine. I too will opt for soft drinks if well water is not available, or go thirsty. Carry and bring my own well water to work, keep some in the car as well. Would probably use my life straw in a puddle before I drink city water.

  14. Is it possible to filter radiation out of water? Does the water itself get radiated or suspended particles and dissolve chemicals that become radioactive? Any one with a site for homemade plans for charcoal filter?Thanks

    1. From what I have read water and air do not become radioactive, it is particles that are suspended in them that are the source of the radioactivity. Therefore water and air can be filtered to remove radioactive contamination. With this in mind, whatever you use to filter your air and water will collect a concentrated amount of this contamination, therefore you wouldn’t want it inside with you and your family. Also when it is time to clean and or replace your filter, this will expose you to concentrations of radioactive material.
      A reverse osmosis system like mentioned in the website that someone else posted in response to this, while a great filter system, I use a RO system at my house to filter municipal water for drinking, there are problems with these systems in a SHTF. One is that they waste quite a bit of water, second they require water pressure to work properly, they are rated at gallons per day and those are calculated at 60psi water pressure, and they require regular filter changes, pre filters around 6 months and the Reverse osmoses every year or two.
      I have mulled over a few ideas as the best filter to use in that situation, and I haven’t come up with a perfect solution, but I was considering Berkey or other quality filter elements in a special designed system that is away from everyone, that you can back flush all without coming into contact with the filter unit. So it fills automatically from your water source, and every so often filtered water is back flushed under pressure to clean out particles from the filters, all in a sealed unit that is a distance from shelter, and the back flushed water travels through a pipe away from the filter unit and shelter, just in case you need to service the filter unit, all the concentrated radioactive material isn’t around the filter unit. It has been removed by the back flush and traveled down a pipe away from the unit.

  15. I chose Sawyer Squeeze over the much hyped Lifestraw. Sawyer is smaller, lighter, and performs better. It is also adaptable to my Source WLPS rather easily, which Lifestraw obviously is not. The Squeeze system hasn’t suffered from the broken bags problems in years since they updated their squeezable bags to more sturdier ones. Oh, and did I mention it is rather cheap as well?

  16. Big Berkey in house used with well water, Katadyn Pocket Microfilter in bag with Life Straws and military grade water tabs in all other bags as backups. Large supply of pool shock and materials and plans on hand for about a half dozen other home made systems. Water IS life.

  17. Depends on when, where and what I’m doing. It’s also very important to distinguish between “filters” and “purifiers” which many people incorrectly use interchangeably. For instance:

    1) I have several lifestraws tucked all over the place just in case. They’re small, effective, and essentially they will keep you alive in a dire times. The down side is that they are not practical for anything other than the slow filtering for a single person as it was designed. It’s difficult to suck through at times as well.

    2) For my kitchen (house) I have a Berkey lite (the blueish plastic) and now that they’ve fixed the filter problem (of ungluing) it works great, especially when the fluoride filters are added on. The downside is that it needs cleaned more often that I’d like.

    3) I have a Katadyn Vario which is a ceramic filter that stays with my Get Home Bag, which is always in my vehicle. It’s a great little portable filter with an intake hose that can dip directly into your water source and attach directly to a Nalgene type bottle. Downside is that it’s somewhat fragile and doesn’t stop viruses. Which is why I picked up….

    4) A Lifesaver 4000 bottle which is probably the best filter I’ve ever owned. It has the best micro filtration, removing viruses, and other pathogens. It’s larger than the Katadyn, costs more, has an actual shelf life due to the filter cartridge’s coating, but has out performed everything else I own. It’s tough to maintain, but if you do it correctly, it will keep you hydrated safely for a long time.

    5) Last but not least I have a Sawyer kit with several pouches. This is situational for me depending on where I’m going. It’s a step above the lifestraw for me but I love the way you can roll up the foil pouches to take almost no space.

    All that said, if I had to pick only one for an apocalypse, or SHTF, the Lifesave gets my pick.

  18. I have a Sawyer and an Frontier for my packs. For the homestead I use a improvised Brita adapted to a Igloo 5 gallon cooler. I haul my drinking water from a municipal source so it doesn’t usually need a lot of filtering.

  19. Two is one…one is none theory. I have MANY of the filters listed In all of the replies …. Redundancy….redundancy ….redundancy …….can’t live without WATER

  20. I bought two black Berkey filters, built the filtering buckets, and everything was working just great until the bottom of one filter came unglued. I contacted Berkey about the issue, and they made it such a chore to return the filter, that I never did–just a wasted $50. I am now uncertain if I want to buy another Berkey filter or not. I also have a Katadyn Hiker Pro Microfilter that was a gift and that I haven’t yet used; to my knowledge, it does not filter out viruses. I have dry and liquid bleach, plus pills help purify water. I live in a rural area, and my home water is well water. There’s a pond on the property and lakes and rivers nearby. If push comes to shove, I can boil water, plus filter it through some activated charcoal I have. I also have a 55-gallon barrel just for water, altho’ it would still have to be filtered before drinking.

  21. I have two AquaRain 3 gallon table top filters at home and extra filter elements besides that. I prefer them to Berkeys. These filter down to .2 microns which will remove ALL bacteria.

  22. Viruses: With the exception of the portable high pressure reverse osmosis systems for desalination (like for a lifeboat),  virtually none of the portable or tabletop filtration systems are highly effective for viruses which require .001 micron ultrafiltration to be highly effective.  A few are moderately effective for viruses at .01 micron pore size.  The other two highly effective solutions for viruses are chemical (chlorine, iodine, ozone, etc.) and ultraviolet.

    Chemicals: Again with the exception of RO desalination units, the most effective method of chemical contamination removal is activated charcoal.  Distillation will remove many chemicals but some will also boil and condense with the water especially if distillation technique is sloppy.  The challenge with distillation is it is slow and requires a huge quantity of energy.

    Protozoa: .1 micron filtration is highly effective and many filters achieve this.  

    Bacteria: .1 micron filtration is only moderately effective.  .01-.02 micron filtration is highly effective against bacteria.  Chemical treatments are highly effective for  bacteria as well as UV.  

    So, one must consider the source of water to intelligently select effective treatment methods.  For example, rain water is unlikely to have chemical contamination so charcoal may not be necessary.  

    Most other sources secured from ponds, creeks and rivers, especially if near civilization likely require treatment for viruses, bacteria, chemical and Protozoa.  

    Life straws, Berkeys, etc. don’t get the job done.  Have people done well with these? Sure, they took a risk (low to moderate) and won.   In a grid down, risk needs to be very low as treatment for illness may be unavailable.    Berkeys are over priced and bulky for what they do and don’t do (viruses and chemicals.)  For the same money one can have two complete systems that treat all contaminations, are small, portable and can produce adequate quantities in just a couple minutes, not requiring a couple hours.

    My solution is a pump filter like the MSR, First Need (actually have couple of both) or similar .2 micron or better filters that include an integrated charcoal filter and then augment that with the Steripen UV system.  Yes, the Steripen uses batteries which could die, so add a backup of Shock powdered pool chlorine and you are good to go.  This system can fit in a large ziplock bag, weighs less than a pound and costs roughly 120-150 bucks depending upon which units you select.  And two is one and one is none.

    For the homestead or larger groups, we also have a 12 volt system (solar panels to recharge battery) with Sureflo pump that pushes the water through standard cartridge filters down to .2 microns, a charcoal filter and then 14 watt UV treatment.  This can deliver 3 gallons per minute of potable water.

    1. @Bill; That sort of negates the issue of a 0.02 micron filter coupled with chloride disinfectant. The disinfectant coupled with chlorine will eliminate 100% or all infectious agents. An activated charcoal filter will eliminate chemicals as well. The necessity of a 0.005 or less, filter is unneeded. Respectfully disagree. Be Well.

  23. Here are two water purification systems I’m working on at the moment.

    1. A 3 bucket system that starts with a simple Brita (or other) filter on top as a pre filter. Then it’s followed up with a Berkey filter.

    2. My other purification system I’m working on isn’t a filter system. I’ve found several designs online for a DIY solar water distiller. Finding the time to put it together is the current holdup. I’ll need to tinker with the designs until I can find the right combination so that the evaporation rate happens at the lowest possible temperature so that only water ends up in the end product. It should be able to effectively remove all solids, metals, viruses, and most if not all harmful chemicals. Luckily, water evaporates at all temperatures, even ice, but heat just speeds up the process. Pro, indefinite lifespan as long as the unit is not damaged. Also, no need to keep track of how many gallons have been filtered. Con, water production is not as fast as filtering. Also, drinking distiller water for a prolonged period can leech minerals from the body, but that can be avoided by adding a few grains of rice, beans, or other food to the water so the water molecules have something to bind to other than the minerals in your body. Or you could also make tea.

    Question about carbon filters:
    I was wondering about the effects of using rain water with a carbon filter. I was doing research on making soap and one of the ingredients is lye. Which is made by pouring rain water through hot coals from a fire (charcoal). So I was wondering if the water going through charcoal filters is also becoming lye? Probably a stupid question, but I was just wondering. Anyone know?

    1. 1) Why use a Brita as a pre filter? A piece of cloth will strain larger particulate matter.

      2) Don’t you have to clean a unit like this?. And if so, how do you plan to do so?

      Why use a filter for rain water? Do you have airborne pathogens where you live? Flying Giardia or the like? If you are collecting rainwater you will want a fine screen to keep insects and the like out of it. Activated charcoal, like a filter, and hot coals from a fire are *not* the same thing.

      1. @Frank,

        1. Because a Brita filter is cheap, and unlike a piece of cloth it can strain even smaller particulate matter, thus extending the life of the Berkey filter even longer. Just being cheap I guess.

        2. Actually other than appearance, you don’t need to clean a solar distiller because only the evaporates are collected in your collection buckets. However, if the appearance gets too bad to look at it’s not too hard to remove the glass, clean everything out inside, and replace the glass.

        And as far as filtering the rain water, I guess that’s mainly to filter out anything from the roof and gutters that get through the screens. Who knows where those bird droppings have been? lol

        1. 1) Don’t Brita filters cost more than rags? Something I’ve been thinking about is cleaning Berkey filters. The inside part. Wondering whether compressed air would clean out the pores.

          2) I was thinking about cleaning out any tubing involved.

          I don’t know of *any* filter that will remove all of the chemicals from an asphalt shingle. In the roof collection scenario I would treat the water as ‘Gray’. For drinking water I would use a clean tarp shaped like a big funnel.

          1. Aren’t the ceramic filters cleanable?

            The designs of solar distillers I was looking at are tubeless. They kinda look like pinball machines.

            The roof is a metal roof. I would never use a tarp for collecting drinking water unless it was an emergency. I’ve had tarps that’ve been out in the sun for a few days that suddenly “shed”. Little blue specks just started appearing everywhere. I can’t imagine wanting to drink any water collected from that tarp. Polypropylene tea? All those specks would probably clog up a filter too.

          2. The outside of a Berkey filter is easy to clean. Use a Scotch pad. Berkey filters stop working because the channels *inside* the filter get clogged.

            I don’t think that it would take all that much rain to get a metal roof clean enough. Don’t leave the tarp out in the sun? Although I have seen it rain with the sun out. A tee shirt should catch most of the tarp fragments. Isn’t polypropylene the same as #5 for recycling. Some food comes in #5 plastic. The tarp *might* be unadvertised ‘food grade’.

    2. “drinking distiller water for a prolonged period can leech minerals from the body”

      Just saying that that this quote is not accurate, and there are lots of scare claims about distilled water which have been perpetuated across the internet.

      This is a good article that dispels some of the rumors about distilled water.

      Hope it helps.

    3. KB,
      For soap making you are running soft water thru the white ash left over from a fire, not the charcoal. Activated charcoal filters will not leach potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide into the water they are filtering.

      1. Bill,
        Thanks for the info. I haven’t had the chance to start making soap yet so the process is still a little cloudy for me. Always seems like I have so many things on my list that “I’ll get around to eventually”. The shorter the list gets, the better I feel.

  24. My main system is the Sawyer bucket “Purifier” not filter. There is a big difference. Works well, but is slow to purify, due to it’s filtering out just about everything. I also have Sawyer mini filters. (Not sure of the model). My old backpack pump filter with 5 extra filters and numerous Lifestraws. Very important issue is that for a use here and there, the filter needs to be able to be cleaned between uses. Dried microorganisms may go through the filter between uses. So while I do have lifestraws, they would be good only for the one time and discard. Of course there are exceptions to that rule.

    I am going to build a solar distiller also that I now have acquired all the materials. REDUNDANCY!! Water is so important.
    @Causak55 – Thanks for the chuckle about the EPA

  25. We have augason farms filtered water bottles, one for each B.O.B. and have the sawyer mini on my shopping list. Worst case scenario…I boil the water.

    1. Boiling the water will make it safe to drink but it will take a long time and also use up large amounts of wood. Even if you are trying to use a rocket stove ect it is going to at up a lot of time and energy.

  26. I bought 2 ‘survival’ filters from eBay….one is a lifestraw and the other is a ceramic filter in a portable handpump, called a Soldier filter. Lifestraw arrived with a shelf expiry of 5 months and the soldier pump looks solid but time will tell…I’m saving pennies for something decent so there’s less chance of something going pear shaped in an emergency

  27. Me, me thanks you for your input. We had a RO unit on our sailboat in Mexico and I’m familiar with the process. As far as the waste water goes I would think that you could just recycle it if it is originating as city tap water.. That wasn’t an option on the boat as the salt water in fresh water out required an brine solution as the waste water.

    Would RO handle the microsystin toxins from that algae bloom in the Lake Erie? Distillation?

    Any one know what the recipe is for Pool Shock?

    There is such a wealth of information on this site. I really appreciate it!

  28. Pool Shock is just a brand of powdered chlorine. Being dry it is much more stable and does not degrade like bleach over time and hence retains it’s anti-microbial efficacy for years and not months.

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