Whether you are shopping for a water purifier to take hiking, to travel with, or to include in an emergency kit, the first thing you need to know is that a water purifier is not the same as a water filter. Water filters can remove sediment, chemicals, and toxins, while dedicated water purifiers can kill protozoa, bacteria, and viruses. In most cases, you'll probably want to use a combination of the two to ensure the cleanest, safest drinking water. When it comes to choosing the best portable water purifier, you'll obviously want it to be lightweight, compact, and effective, but you'll also need to factor in your budget, use-case scenarios, and how picky you are about the way your water tastes.
First, let's talk about the different types of purifiers:
Water filters that also purify are going to be the best option for most people since they remove sediment as well as kill bacteria and viruses. Typically these types of filters come as part of a water bottle or other portable drinking system, so they're easy to travel with and work quickly (many in less than a minute). But filters will eventually need to be replaced, which can be costly and inconvenient.
UV-Light Filters work quickly, purifying water in just one to two minutes. On the flip side, you can only purify small amounts of water at a time and UV lights will need to be recharged relatively frequently which means you'll need easy access to a power source.
Chemical purifiers like iodine, chlorine, and chlorine dioxide come in tablet or liquid form. They're the most affordable as well as most portable option. They're also the most time consuming; they can take anywhere from 20 minutes to four hours to purify water. Some users also dislike the taste of these chemicals, but many others say they can't taste them at all.
With that in mind, keep scrolling for a list of the best portable water purifiers you can buy on Amazon.
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1. The Best Water Purifier & Filter Combo
The GRAYL Geopress Water Purifier is the only pick on the list that can both filter and purify water.
The bottle is designed to force dirty water through a filter by pressing the filter down through the water (similar to how a French press works). This process removes the contaminates and purifies the water. According to the manufacturers, it can eliminate up to 99.9% of bacteria, viruses, and protozoan cysts including Giardia and Cryptosporidium as well as remove particles like sediments and microplastics and even many pesticides, chemicals, and heavy metals. It requires a little arm work on the users end, but it takes as little as eight seconds to produce clean water.
The lifespan of the replaceable filter cartridge will vary depending on the source— the less cloudy, the better. Per the manufacturer, it will typically average up 350 cycles or 65 gallons. If there's one downside to this pick (beyond the relatively steep price tag), it's that the bottle itself weights close to 1 pound without any liquid in it.
Helpful review: "I felt it very important to not just filter our emergency drinking water but to up our game so we KNOW we are drinking the best purified water possible. [...] My wife and I both own one and carry them everywhere we go. Perfect for camping, hiking and sourcing water from lake , rivers and streams."
2. The Best Water Bottle With A UV-Light Purifier
The on-demand sterilization in this stainless steel water bottle comes from its UV-light-enabled cap. Fill it with clear water, screw on the top, then tap on the sensor to activate the proper purification mode ("normal" is for tap water and "crazy" is for lakes and ponds). According the manufacturer, it can eliminate 99.9% of mold, bacteria, and viruses in just two minutes. And like the water bottle above, this one also weighs 1 pounds when empty.
The battery in the cap will last approximately one week on a single charge (or up to four uses sterilizing in "normal" mode). Use the included USB cable and pad to fully recharge it in just two hours. While the cap is waterproof, it is not dishwasher safe and should be wiped down with alcohol wipes instead. You'll also want to hand-wash the bottle itself to ensure the vacuum insulation remains intact.
Also note, there's an option for you to purchase the cap by itself if you already have a compatible bottle you love.
Helpful review: "Just received the Crazy Cap and bottle recently. It met my expectations and concerns. Seemed too good to be true, but gets the job done. It sanitizes the bottle as well as the water inside. Tried it on small items like keys and phones. Believe it will be useful when traveling!"
3. The Best Handheld UV-Light Purifier
The award-winning SteriPen Aqua UV-water purifier is super simple to use. Just press a button and stir the pen into a glass of water, and within a minute, the pen removes 99.9% of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa via UV light.
It operates with four AA batteries, and you can get around 50 to 150 treatments per charge. The pen's total lifespan is around 3,000 uses.
Helpful review: “I purchased this purifier to take to India and used it on all of my water while I was there. I found it was very easy to use on a standard wide-mouth bottle. Unlike some of the other reviewers, I was able to use it okay on a standard water bottle when I lost my Nalgene early in the trip and I never got sick. It has not shown any sign of running out of batteries and continues to run strong on my camping trips.”
4. The Best Water Purifying Drops
This set of drops uses chlorine dioxide to kill viruses, bacteria, and protozoans. According to the CDC's website, chlorine dioxide is more effective than iodine or chlorine (other common water purifiers) at killing bacteria and the parasitic protozoas Giardia and Cryptosporidium. However, it should be noted that although chlorine dioxide is more effective than iodine and chlorine at killing Cryptosporidium, it is still only low to moderately effective, unless it's used in combination with a water filter.
This set of drops can treat up to 30 gallons of water. To use, you'll need to mix the drops and let them sit for five minutes before adding them to your water. Once added to you water you'll need to wait a minimum of 15 minutes (and in some cases 30 minutes or more) before drinking.
Helpful review: "Quick and easy use. I carried a minimum of 3 liters of water each day while trekking. Using the drops of this system was quick. No aftertaste. Lightweight water purifying. Much easier and quicker to use than my MSR water filter."
5. The Best Water Purifying Tablets
Like the purifying drops above, these Potable Aqua tablets also use chlorine dioxide. Thats means it's highly effective at killing viruses, bacteria, and the parasitic protozoa Giardia, and it has a low to moderate level of effectiveness at killing the parasitic protozoa Cryptosporidium. The difference between the liquid drops and these tablets, is that while the liquid drops can be inconvenient to prep, with these tablets you'll have to wait at least four hours after you drop one into a bottle or cup to drink from it.
Each bottle contains 30 tablets, and one tablet is recommended per quart of water.
Helpful review: "Easy to use product. I used with a Camelbak hydration pack, hung on a doorknob and let process overnight. I experienced none of the aftertaste mentioned by other users, just potable water. Have stock and will keep stock of these tablets. I can see a lot of potential uses for this product."