The Best Ways to Filter Water in Any Situation

By Ryan M.
It's a cocktail from your nightmares: diarrhea, giardiasis, fluorosis, adenovirus infection, amebiasis, cryptosporidiosis, and cholera. What do all these have in common? They are all diseases that dirty drinking water can give you. If you want to avoid them, you need to purify your drinking water. There are many methods that come in many shapes, sizes, and prices. Which one is best for you? This guide gives you your best options based on your circumstances.


You want something lightweight but still effective. Generally you only need to filter one person's worth of water since each backpacker has their own filter.
  • Iodine pills: They are affordable and easy to pack, but have a bad aftertaste
    • Cost: $7.00
    • How to use: Drop two pills into 1 quart of water. Let rest 30 minutes before drinking
  • Portable Filter: If you want good tasting water, this is your best bet. They cost more and take up more space, but last for a long time
    • Cost: $15.00 to over $100.00
    • How to use: Usually you just have to pump from a water source into your container. Some are bottles or straws with the filter built in
  • UV light: If you want a really easy method you can get a pen that emits UV light. It doesn't get rid of dirt, but kills all microorganisms
    • Cost: $50 - $70
    • How to use: Insert pen in 1 liter of water and turn on for 90 seconds


Camping generally requires more purified water than other scenarios, but you don't have the weight restriction that you have for backpacking.
  • Boiling: you can purify large amounts of water at a time without effecting the taste, and it's free!
    • Cost: $0 (assuming you already have a pot and a lid, don't forget the lid)
    • How to: Heat the water until it is at a full boil, by that time it is ready

Home Use

If the water in your city isn't that great, there are options to purify it. There are filters, these don't require electricity, which is good for emergency situations. For day to day use, there are also distillers.
  • Filter: There are plenty of mechanical filters either in the form of a pitcher or attached to the faucet. These filters work really well. 
    • Cost: $20 to over $600
    • How to: If it's a pitcher filter, then you only need to fill it up slowly and let it work. Others you have to attach to your faucet or plumbing system
  • Distiller: While this method is the most thorough and safe, it also eliminates healthy minerals in the water, so be careful
    • Cost: $100 to over $1000
    • How to: The best models will have you fill them up and then they just run automatically

Emergency Preparedness

In an emergency situation, have several of the options listed above prepared to purify water. "One is none and two is one." You don't want to be stuck without a backup plan, so redundancy is important. Just make sure you don't take two of the same, instead take two different ones. For example, I would carry a lightweight backpacking pot for boiling water. This gives me long term safe water. As back up I'd carry either a bottle of iodine pills and/or small backpacking filter.
There it is, a simple guide to filtering water anywhere!

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