From Home To The Campsite, These Gravity Water Filters Are The Key To Clean Water Wherever You Are

by Ileana Morales Valentine

For clean, safe water, on a hike or at home, you need the best gravity water filter. As the name implies, this device works by allowing gravity to drain unfiltered water through a filter into a holding chamber (for pouring or drinking). At-home versions have either spigots or spouts for countertop and pitcher-style versions where those intended for outdoor use — think camping or backpacking — are lighter, easier to carry, have a hanging feature, and can fit in a bag.

Overall, it's best to go with BPA-free plastic options.

Both styles filter water, but it's important to consider what exactly these filters catch. Most remove chlorine, mercury, copper, bacteria, but some can even remove heavy metals, like lead. How long the filters last before a replacement can help cost-effectiveness and is particularly important for outdoor options when you can't run to the store to buy a replacement filter.

Consider capacity, which depends on how many people will need clean water as well as the filter's flow rate. Gravity water filters don’t require pumping or squeezing, just time since they depend on gravity rather than pressure. A faster flow rate, especially when backpacking or camping, can be convenient.

Note that purification is not entirely the same as filtering, there's a notable difference in the resulting water. Filters get rid of waterborne pathogens (think bacteria like E. coli and salmonella) found in most North American water sources. Purifiers, however, capture viruses too small for filters — this is more of a concern in water with known human activity. You'll see one purifier in the list below.

With all this in mind, it's time to shop for the best gravity water filter for you.

The Best Gravity Water Filters for Camping and Backpacking

Safe water is important while backpacking; a gravity water filter is an excellent option for keeping you hydrated while outdoors. These filters are lightweight, compact, portable, and don’t require pumping, squeezing, or batteries (as some other options do). For most picks in this category, you add unfiltered water to a reservoir that has a hook or strap (to attach to a tree) for hands-free filtering, but you'll see one built-in to a water bottle for individual drinking convenience.

  • The Best Portable Water Filter On a Budget
  • Capacity: 1 gallon
  • Filter longevity: 100,000 gallons

This portable water filter weighs less than half a pound but can filter a gallon of water at a time and up to 100,000 gallons per filter. The wide-mouth reservoir is easy to fill and has a carry handle for convenience. The dual-threaded mini filter is independently tested three times for quality, and it removes 99. 99999% of all bacteria, 99. 9999% of all protozoa and cysts, and 100% of micro plastics.

Reviewers report a pleasantly fast flow rate thanks to the hollow fiber membranes in the filter, which means you can quickly filter water as needed instead of storing water that could get contaminated after filtering. The filter set also comes with cleaning accessories and adapters for the gravity hose.

Fans say: “Sawyer in my opinion make the cheapest best high quality water filtration systems in the world. I own many of them, this one is my newest. I bought this for my entire family needing clean drinking water.”

  • The Best Gravity Water Filter for Backpacking
  • Capacity: 2 gallons (1 gallon per reservoir bag)
  • Filter longevity: 1,500 gallons

Need a high-capacity gravity water filter for groups for an outdoor adventure? This pick weighs less than a pound and meets all EPA and NSF guidelines for the removal of 99.9999% of bacteria and 99.9% of protozoa, including giardia, cryptosporidium, E. coli, salmonella, and cholera.

Two conveniently labeled reservoir bags (for unfiltered and filtered water) each hold a little more than a gallon of water. The hollow-fiber water filter works for up to 1,500 gallons before needing a replacement, and it can filter nearly a half-gallon of water per minute. It's no wonder this pick is recommended by Outdoor Gear Lab and highly-rated on REI and Amazon.

Fans say: “Incredibly handy! Before buying this I did an exhaustive amount of research on water filters. What sold me on this is the fact that you can get a lot of water in one shot, it filters FAST, and most importantly... NO PUMPING! If you're backpacking this is a no brainer.”

  • The Best Personal Water Filter
  • Capacity: 22 ounces
  • Filter longevity: 264 gallons

For personal use, choose the LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle. Highly-rated on Amazon with more than 2,000 reviews, it uses the same LifeStraw technology that helped stranded hikers survive for five days, but in a convenient water bottle with two-stage filtration technology. The first stage is a hollow-fiber that removes 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria and 99.9% of waterborne protozoan parasites for up to 264 gallons. The second stage carbon filter reduces odor, chlorine and leaves zero aftertaste for up to 26 gallons and helps to improve taste. The bottle holds 22 ounces of water and is available in 12 color options. For each LifeStraw purchased, a child in a developing community receives safe drinking water for an entire school year.

Fans say: “This product is amazing and revolutionary. The LifeStraw itself is a clever tool that lets you put the straw directly into any water and drink safely. But it isn't terribly convenient unless you want to hang out by water sources for the entire day.[...] Now you can fill up your bottle with water from a lake or stream and then use that same amazing straw technology to just sip from the bottle...No more need for bringing a big water filtration system. Such an amazing product!”

  • The Best Gravity Water Purifier for Camping
  • Capacity: 3 gallons
  • Filter longevity: 4,755 gallons

If you want to purify and filter water, LifeStraw also makes a gravity water purification system that removes virtually all bacteria (99.9999%), protozoa (99.99%), and viruses (99.999%). Its 3-gallon capacity and filtration lifespan of 4,755 gallons make it an excellent companion for a group camping trip. The compact, BPA-free reservoir bag has a wide mouth for easy filling and a shoulder strap for transport, plus it comes with four extra pre-filter screens and a drawstring sack for carrying. It purifies up to 3 gallons of water per hour.

With its added capabilities, this one is also the heaviest of the outdoor filters at just shy of a pound. And like the above LifeStraw pick, a child in a developing community receives safe drinking water for an entire school year.

Fans say: “This was the new 'luxury' item at our campsite. We've had many hand pumps over the years that kept us busy pumping for what seemed like ages to fill one bottle. We almost didn't know what to do with ourselves we had so much more time on our hands thanks to this thing. We also drank a great deal more more water than we have in the past which is probably a good thing all around. This is the best new piece of camping gear we've bought in years.”

The Best Gravity Water Filters at Home

Designed to provide cleaner and better-tasting tap water at home, pitcher-style gravity water filters are budget-friendly and take up minimal room where countertop gravity water filters have a larger capacity and higher-volume filters to serve more people.

  • A Pitcher-Style Water Filter
  • Capacity: .625 gallons
  • Filter longevity: 40 gallons

Brita is nearly synonymous with at-home water filtering, and its Everyday Pitcher is no exception. This pick's highly-rated on Amazon with more than 2,700 reviews and recommended by Wirecutter. With a .625-gallon capacity, this filter reduces the taste and odor of chlorine, copper, mercury, zinc and cadmium impurities found in tap water. The BPA-free filter is good for 40 gallons, which is about two months in most households, and there's a handy sticker on top of the filter so you can stay on top of replacements.

Fans say: “We've been using Brita Water Filter Pitchers for many years and they've all been great! The reason why I've purchased this unit was only to replace our old pitcher for a fresh look and larger capacity. The difference between drinking tap-water and filtered water is immediately noticeable, so based on years of experience, I can highly recommend THIS brand to everyone!”

  • The Best Countertop Gravity Filter
  • Capacity: 2-4 gallons
  • Filter longevity: 1,000 gallons

A countertop water filter may make more sense if you share a home with more than one person; the top tank on this one holds 2 gallons while the bottom tank holds 4 gallons. This filter's greater capacity also brings higher-volume ceramic filters that last 1,000 gallons, about one year, and its five-stage mineral filter lasts up to 500 gallons or six months.

Now, the Zen Water System does more than filter water, it also purifies, mineralizes, alkalizes, and magnetizes, and reviewers love how this BPA-free water system transforms their tap water.

Fans say: “I expect to save thousands! I am an advocate Fiji water drinker. Until now, no other water; bottle or otherwise, could match or exceed the taste of Fiji's water...Now that I own a Countertop Water Filter, which produces an excellent tasting product, for pennies a bottle, my Fiji bill has decreased by 50%. I will not give up drinking Fiji completely, but I will drink less Fiji and more Zen.”

  • The Best Non-Plastic Countertop Gravity Filter
  • Capacity: 2.25 gallons
  • Filter longevity: 5,000 gallons

If you'd prefer a countertop option without the plastic, try the Alexapure Pro Stainless Steel Water Filtration System. This system removes up to 99.9999% of more than 200 impurities, including lead, chromium, chromium-6, bacteria, volatile organic compounds, TCP, nitrates, and pharmaceuticals. This filter even removes 97% of fluoride.

Both of its tanks can hold 2.25 gallons and four filters for a faster flow rate (each filter is good for up to 5,000 gallons). This countertop water filter is highly rated on Amazon and a less expensive alternative to the Berkey, which isn’t recommended by Wirecutter despite its popularity.

Fans say: “...The water is silky almost like drinking distilled water. There no smells or odd tastes. I drink a lot of water & it’s nice to drink from a stainless steel tank rather than a plastic Brita or plastic jug, even if it claims to be [BPA-]free…”

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