Straw/Portable Water Filters, A Two Year Test: Weekly Product Review

“Water is life, without clean water you will die sooner than later.”

This test began as a result of my desires to build several 3 day bags, after purchasing my first water filter which was the Katadyn Hiker Micro filter which at the time was almost $80, now obviously a cost issue when it comes to ensuring everyone in my immediate family has what they need. It filters 0.2 microns, and about 190 gallons + or – a few depending on how hard you use it. Without a doubt this is a very solidly built filter, and they make several models and now replaceable cartridges for extending the life of the water filter.

My issue of course was price, and weight, you see unlike so many others who are able to carry 90-100 lbs for 20+ miles I am fortunate to get 2 miles with 30 lbs. This is not because I am overweight, but due to congenital spinal defects that simply do not allow my carrying of excessive weight for long distances on foot. So I began searching, I needed a water straw/small filter system that weighed under 3 ounces and could filter 0.2 microns or less while still getting between 20-200 gallons of clean water.

So my journey began, I quickly found that there is a bit of variation out there. From the Sawyer Mini filter weighing in at 2 ounces, filtering down through 0.1 microns and with an extended potential life of close to 100,000 gallons of water, using a specialty tubular setup that is cleanable and runs $20-$25 apiece; through the Aquamira Frontier Emergency water system weighing in at 1.2 ounces, filtering to 0.1 microns with a short term use of 20-35 gallons using activated charcoal as a medium and costing $10 apiece.

I tested a total of 7 different water straw type filters, only three of them came even close to their advertised abilities. Now here is where I fully expect others to vehemently disagree with me, however, I would like to reiterate that my testing limits were that the water straw be light-weight (2 ounces or less), from 20-200 gallons minimum life span, and that it be economical (between $20 and $50).

The tested brands were the following:

  1. OxGord Aqua Marine Personal Water Filter (Water Straw)

0.15 Micron, plus bacterial (this is not something all do), 264 gallon capacity, 2 ounces, $10-$15

  1. Crazo Water Purifier Straw (Water Straw)

0.15 Micron, plus bacterial and tough water bag, 396 gallon capacity, 2.11 ounces, $10-$15

  1. Pinty Army Green (Water Straw)

0.15 Micron, 211 gallon capacity, 1.65 ounces, $10-$15

  1. Aquamira Frontier Emergency (Water Straw)

0.2 Micron, 30 gallons, 2 ounces, $10- $12

  1. Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration System (Water Straw)

0.1 Micron, 100,000 gallons, antibacterial as well and included water bag, 2 ounces, $20 – $30

  1. LifeStraw Personal Water Filter (Water Straw)

0.2 Micron, 1,000 gallons, antibacterial, 2 ounces, $20-$30

  1. Katadyn Hiker Microfilter (Camping Water Filter)

0.2 Micron / 198 gallon capacity – average pricing $50-100

After using all the above for close to two years, filtering cattle tanks, puddles, arroyos, creeks, lakes and more from Washington through Georgia and of course centering specifically where I live, Arizona, I am able to recommend 3 of the above with an easy five stars, the others all worked as advertised with minor exceptions.

Now my personal favorite is the Crazo Filter for two reasons, pricing, I was able to buy six of these for the cost of a Katadyn hiker (and individually they were all longer lasting better filtering than the Katadyn, now of course this will likely stir the pot with Katadyn supporters, however, again, look at company specifications alone, than try it for yourself!

Next up is the Sawyer Water Filter, for sheer volume alone it is an amazing product, I will readily admit I did not filter close too 100,000 gallons of water, however, to date it is still filtering and doing so with the same efficiency it had when it was purchased, pricing is the ONLY reason I did not make this number one.

My third choice was the OxGord Water Filter, price and ability easily ensures it has a place if I cannot get one of the other two.

Pro’s:

  • All of the straws did well as far as meeting the company specifications, with minor exceptions, I was only able to test ONE Katadyn and two each of the Sawyer and the LifeStraw, the others I tested a minimum of 3 each. (Cost was prohibitive for the more expensive models)
  • My three choices all exceeded my expectations and company guidance, except the Sawyers which I simply never got close to 100,000 gallons.
  • At the beginning of each tested water straw/filter I took a sample of water and looked at it under a microscope, as well as testing for a variety of potentially health issue causing easily checked for items like added chemicals and or heavy metals etc., using two separate water purity testing devices. One built by YKS and the other by WaterSafe. I than tested water purity from a bucket containing the same water I started the test with at the end of the testing – using the SAME water for each filter- but NEVER dipping the filters into that bucket, but rather scooping it out. The top three choices had variations measuring less than 200 parts PER MILLION from start to finish, eg., well within safe guidelines. (With the WaterSafe testing kit both tested clean and safe)

Cons:

  • The more expensive filters worked well initially, however, required extensive back-flushing to keep up clarity and clean water throughout test. All filters needed to be back flushed and allowed to dry, however, not all filters required the more extensive flushing that some did, this was a reason in choice.
  • Pricing was and remains prohibitive for the Katadyn filter, honestly it does not offer nearly enough benefit to outweigh the cost.
  • For the other less expensive models, well, they preformed well enough, though honestly sometimes their lifespan was not even half what the company claimed, specifically the Pinty, Aquamira and the LifeStraw.

So there you go, my choices and what I buy when it comes to water purification, as always, I highly recommend running it through a good purification system, and if it still seems cloudy or the water source is extremely contaminated, BOIL it. This is why I would suggest using the Crazo and the Sawyer before the others, they include nice sized bags to use for filtration preventing oral contact before boiling if necessary.

As always, if you have tested or know of a better approach that fits the weight, cost and overall benefit requirements as listed above, let me know I would love to try them out, I am always open to new and better products. Especially considering my families lives may depend on them.

Free the mind and the body will follow

About Jesse Mathewson

Arizona since 86', lifetime prepper, camper - criminal justice advanced degrees, numerous certifications, 1+ million rounds (shooting for decades), prior contractor, instructor, current volunteer, disabled, honest, father of two husband of one - all budget and prepared. Jesse Mathewson reviews because regular people need someone in their corner as well!

Comments

  1. Good ideas Jesse.
    For the house I use a big Berkey, have had it for years. A yearly cleaning/sanitizing has worked for me. I’m on well & septic, so the results are tremendous. The well water has a funny taste by itself, but it’s not God awful. The Berkey finishes the job.
    Regarding the BOB’s & GHB’s, I also use British Berkfeld products. The cheapest I find are on eBay from 1 romantic Rose. I pack water purifying tablets, an extra filter or 2, & coffee filters in each bag…. in reverse order is how they would be used.
    The coffee filters won’t do a lot, but will remove larger particulate matter before running through the Berkey filters, thereby extending their useful life.
    Why all 3 one may ask, if the Berkey filter is so good? Just a precautionary measure, as it would be rather poopy to be on the road & sick from some water I ingested.
    Lastly, some gatorade powder is also carried….. Gotta replace any nutrients lost by sweating while hoofing it.

    • Jesse Mathewson says:

      Bobbo, so true, as a general rule I carry shemaghs which allow for filtering large sediment, as well- plus boiling if really dirty (local cow ponds are not nice for sure)

      Like the Berkey filters for large use! Definitely

    • Ya missed a good filter. Renovo Trio, now marketed by Survival Filter in Canada, but has distributors in the USA. Has your normal pre-filter and standard bacterial cartridge plus a carbon filter to remove heavy metals and pollutants from our “clean” (yea, right!) rivers. Filters almost 300 gallons before cartridges need replaced. $30 direct from mfg with free shipping. Comes in a hermetically sealed plastic envelope which will keep the filter in primo condition for 5-10 years if not opened. Got one in my INCH bag just in case I get worried my Sawyer Mini won’t cut it.

      I’d love to see a test on it. I REALLY don’t get why this filter is not more popular. Haven’t seen any bad reviews, just hardly any preppers are awayre of it, I guess.

      • Jesse Mathewson says:

        Randy, I honestly have not heard of it, ill look em up, 🙂 thanks for the tip!

        • Chuck Findlay says:

          I’d love to see a test on it. I REALLY don’t get why this filter is not more popular.

          It has a low number of gallons it filters, 300 gallons is not that much for a sustained SHTF situation.

          Like my Katadyn Hiker it needs to have a new filter element way too often for a grid down event.

          It may be good for the camper or backpacker but how useful will it be 6-months into an event?

          This is why I bought filters that filter more water then my Hiker filter. It works great and is well made, but it’s not a good post-shtf filter.

          • Jesse Mathewson says:

            Chuck, thats why I use the two top ones I suggested, they have bags to help with fill- and are very light weight, easily worth the $10-$20 bucks 🙂

  2. Let’s see if I have this correct, the only reason you went with Crazo over the Sawyer was cost.

    So you gave up 100k volume (significant difference over Crazo) of water and a slightly better filter (.1 vs 0.15), for 10-15 dollars?

    This is where I think prepper’s get it wrong. How much money do you have invested in guns and ammo? Likely thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. In ANY crisis, you are going to likely succum to lack of water issues before you ever need to fire a shot.

    The 100k volume of water for each filter, in a PROVEN devise is worth the extra $100 dollars for the family.

    You will not last for more than a week, at best, in any crisis without water. You may never need the gun. I’m not saying don’t have protection, but I think it is wreckless to give up a device like the Sawyer for a few dollars difference.

    I have loved every post you have put out on here, so practical, but I’m sorry, I have to adamatly disagree here.

    Thank you again for sharing this, other than the conclusion, this was an excellent article. I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree, and that’s ok.

    • Jesse Mathewson says:

      Dave, from a $s perspective only. I carry Sawyers and Crazos 🙂 read it again. I actually only discarded the katadyn because it was neither cost nor benefit worthy – 🙂

  3. JP in MT says:

    I have several filters and am working on another for a portable tank refill system for my camper.

    I use the Sawyer and have several Life Straws, including the one with it’s own water bottle. I also have a Katadyn Vario (which I bought several years ago. It is expensive and so are the filters, but I like the way it works for larger quantities of water. Plus there the Berkey for the house.

    Water filters have come a long way in the last 4-5 years. They used to be an anomaly and almost an afterthought. Now they are talked about and advertized everywhere. Good thing.

    • Jesse Mathewson says:

      JP, I want a big berkey for the house, I also have a condensation device I use, and Sawyers, Crazos-I simply cannot justify the money for katadyn any more not after testing 🙂

  4. anonymous says:

    Thank you for the review sir. My 1st purifier (after the iodine pills) was the James Water Washer, a blue plastic cup you poured water into which had a filter that gave really STRONG iodine flavor. Almost felt like you were becoming exposed to radiation, lol. Nasty NASTY stuff indeed.

    I now have a couple of Lifestraws and the Sawyer is already on my ‘buy soon’ list. Water is very important indeed.

    Thanks again for the post.

  5. Jesse, good reviews. I am thinking of purchasing water filter, don’t have one at this time but your information is really helpful.

    • Jesse Mathewson says:

      007, get the sawyer for anything over a 3 day bag, and crazos for your 3 day/get home bags- (cost only) either way you cannot go wrong.

  6. Jesse Mathewson says:

    Just in case anyone doesnt read the article, “This is why I would suggest using the Crazo and the Sawyer before the others, they include nice sized bags to use for filtration preventing oral contact before boiling if necessary.”

    I would rather have either of these based on testing alone. (Sawyer is preferred for length of use/ crazo for ability to stockpile more per $s)

    Anyhow thanks!

  7. the first filters i bought was several years ago, never hear of anyone else having them…. it is a ceramic rounded top thing. you use with two 5 gal buckets. have to do some drilling of three holes. drill hole in bottom of first bucket. filter sits in bottom of bucket with plastic pipe on bottom. the pipe goes down and thru the second hole drilled in the lid of the second bucket. at side of second bucket near the bottom you drill third hole for the spigot. i bought mine off internet from organization who provides these filters to third world countries. Just wondering by theses are not discussed. i also have the lifestraw.

  8. Laurie Manno says:

    What do u think of the Big Berkey home system???

    • Jesse Mathewson says:

      Its not a portable system, but, I do want one- for my trailer/bol etc.,

      • Laurie Manno says:

        My husband & bought a year or so back and it is really pretty good, living out here in the desert and u know how hard the water is, It is well worth the price and not that expensive at $258.00 plus ship, we also got extra filters which is a bit pricey.
        Could u comment on shortwave radios when u have a chance!
        Thank you!

        • Jesse Mathewson says:

          Laurie- I use baofeng uv5r and uv8 which allow for all fm, uhf, vhf, cb, marine and many am/fm shortwave reception…however, you would be better served talking to Ohio Prepper or Thor1 as I personally have very little experience in this arena, I use them, and can program – but as for best, hows etc., I have two solid ham people in my local tribe, eg., I have not spent as much time on this aspect, though I do have spares and all the above

          • Laurie Manno says:

            Signed up for a beginning class, it ought to be interesting! I remember morse code from military days a little rusty but am boning up on that. Thank you for your time Mr. Mathewson!

  9. Champ Ferguson says:

    Anyone have an idea how the sawyer can do so much more volume than any other filter? I use mini Sawyers and the berky sports bottles for transport and big berky for home use.

    • Jesse Mathewson says:

      Sawyer has a triple system. And uses nanotubes versus simply charcoal or ceramics

      • Jesse Mathewson says:

        And honestly I have no idea if they will in fact last 100k gallons, tests were in dozens and hundreds not thousands

        • Chuck Findlay says:

          The sawyer filter can clog up, they include a Turkey baster looking hypodermic thing to back flush it.

          I can’t remember the price (got it on Amazon) but I bought a few pre-filters that use activated carbon to filter the water. The activated carbon comes in a tea-bag looking thing. But I went to Wally World and bought carbon (in the pet isle) for it and just made up packets with tea bags. Saves money and works just as well. Katadyne is the maker of the pre-filters I got, they came up first in the Amazon search, but my guess is that many companies make them.

          • Jesse Mathewson says:

            Agreed with Chuck, highly recommend having activated charcoal on hand for multiple reasons, I also buy it in capsules for poisoning /flu issues helps clean the system, you deficate black for a day but will really hasten stomache issues!

            Thanks Chuck!

  10. Chuck Findlay says:

    I have a Katadyn Hiker, I bought it 20-years ago it’s well made but it only filters a few hundred gallons of water and like mentioned above it’s replacement cartridge is somewhat expensive. I continue to use it mainly in a get-home-bag because I already have it.

    I also have ½ doz Sawyer filters I have bought the last few years for my own bags and for bags I’ve built for others. For $20.00 at Wally World it’s hard to do better. I do wonder about it long-term as it’s not got a feel of quality about it.

    I also have a few filters that you hook to a Nalgene type of bottle (bottle included with the filter) and squeeze the bottle or turn it upside down and squeeze to get water out of it. Can’t remember the name of them.

    I have the ceramic ball filter (it also has a cloth sock thing to go around the ball) that uses 2 buckets. Bought it from Cheaper then dirt.com for $29.00. Southern Prepper 1 has a U-Tube video showing how to make this filter.

    My main portable filter id the Katadyn Pocket Filter, it’s very well made and filters a LOT of water. It filters 13,000 gallons of water on one element. That’s a gallon a day, every day for over 35-years. I did not buy this filter because it was expensive ($189.00 when I bought it, now selling for over $300.00) I bought it because it was very well made, filtered a lot of water and did what I wanted it to do. Over the years it has held up well and continues to do it’s job.

    One thing not mentioned is that filters must not be allowed to freeze if they have any water in them. Ice will destroy the element. Freezing is a problem where I live.

    Dry it out between uses as in an auto in the winter it will be junk. Sleep with it next to your body if you are camping or keep it warm at all times.

    As far as Berkey filters BC Truck on his U-Tube page did a review of them (and a production failure they had and that they didn’t tell the public) that did not paint them in a positive light. I think he went with Dalton filter elements over the Berkey elements. Search U-Tube for his review if you are thinking of buying a Berkey.

    • Jesse Mathewson says:

      Chuck, good information, especially regarding larger- as I do not have a house model yet- (I do have a condensation device that is nice) but not a filter

  11. JM,I have many water systems as well. Sawyer,Katadyn pump for bladder filling and bladders. Life straws although I boycott these now due to their support of abortion.
    A big Berkey for camp or home use and purification tabs.

    Water is the most important thing after air !!! Lol

    Good article.

  12. Still kicking myself for not getting the Big Berkley that Woot had for $99 a couple days ago. But, it is what it is. You can only afford what you can afford when you can afford it. Groceries took priority. I do have 3 Sawyer mini filters that I got on clearance for $14. I keep looking for the deals!! Good to know they are one of the better filters. Thanks for the reviews!!!

  13. Chuck Findlay says:

    I also have a Thermette, it;s like a Kelly Kettle or Gillie Kettle for boiling water. It will boil 1/2 gal of water in 5-min. All of these do the same thing and probably compere well for use.

    It also can be used as a wood burning camp stove, but it’s not it’s main use and it’s a bit cumbersome when used this way, but it will work for cooking.

    Not really a water filter as it doesn’t filter. But it does kill creepy crawly things in the water. I suppose an improvised sand / cloth filter and it boiling water would work.

    The Thermette is nice in that when camping it gives me boiling hot water to clean up. do dishes and that is mainly how I use it.

    Everyone that sees it wants one.

    PS: WARNING Don’t search U-Tube for a Thermette or Kelly Kettle as you will end up wanting one and they are $100.00 ish or more. Worth it, but don’t blame me for you spending money on them.

    It would be nice to do this to someone else for once instead of me having to spend the $$$ 🙂

    • Jesse Mathewson says:

      Chuck – kelly kettles are worth every penny though – have a hiker and a medium full set, love em 🙂

      • Jesse Mathewson says:

        If you want I can send a review too you, you can add/take away as needed and put it out there. Like rocket stoves they are extremely useful, very very solid additions, unlike rocket stoves you cannot make one by digging or with tin cans 🙂

  14. riverrider says:

    the problem with sawyer is trying to fill that bag from a shallow water source. if you’ve tried using it on the move you know its a pain in the butt. i have one for second level backup but its really last resort. i use the katadyn hiker pro to fill my canteens etc. i carry a lot of water, i drink a lot of water. level one is the hiker pro, then sawyer, aquamira pioneer straw, water tabs, and metal container to boil in as last resort. water is life. bad water is a very long and disgusting death. tried several of the water bottles with filters integral, good concept, not much fun. good on you jesse for doing the homework.

    • Jesse Mathewson says:

      Riverrider, well said-

      • Chuck Findlay says:

        The Sawyer can use just about any pop or water bottle made, they screw onto it. All you have to do is to have an extra water bottle (keep it in a good Zip-Lock type of bag so it stays separate from the clean bottle and filter) that you can dip into almost any water source to then run it through the filter.

        • Jesse Mathewson says:

          Yes, which is nice- and they come with a neat bag as well (so does the crazo) which makes em very much worth getting (depending on need)

  15. I have a Katadyn/Pur 35 watermaker for my sailboat. It’s definitely not cheap or very portable, but for an emergency on the boat it would work.

    The only 2 filters that I have any experience with are the Sawyer and the Lifestraw.

    For roughly the same price, I much prefer the Sawyer because of its versatility over the Lifestraw. It can be used as a straw when necessary on shallow pools, but has the advantage of being able to use it as an inline filter for a hydration bladder, and having its own container to quickly fill and run if needed.

    You can also filter water for other purposes, such as adding to dehydrated food. If all you had was a Lifestraw, you’d have to suck up some water and spit it back into the food to cook it.

    Gross!

    Good article.

    • Jesse Mathewson says:

      DRC, yessir, in fact, that is why I chose the top two- they come with bags which add virtually no weight and are easy to use for filling/filtering!

  16. Patriot Dave says:

    Good article. Nice Test. Questions.
    “as well as testing for a variety of potentially health issue causing easily checked for items like added chemicals and or heavy metals etc., ”
    What chemicals and heavy metals did you specifically test for? How effective were each of the filters on each each chemical and metal? Seems chemicals and pharmaceuticals would pass right through even a 0.1 micron filter. Are they trapped by the charcoal?

    • Jesse Mathewson says:

      PD, activated charcoal does filter out and or cling too different types of metals/poisons/ and pollutants- (which is why I also carry activated charcoal capsules) and spare activated charcoal as well-

      As for testing kits i used these two-

      “using two separate water purity testing devices. One built by YKS and the other by WaterSafe.”

      Heavy metals eg., mercury, copper residue and even lead leeching (in arizona especially as a result of massive mining) is quite normal but generally at very small amounts per million well under standards set, the filters choosen worked very well with these- I even made some collodial silver (same approach to make copper/etc., in water) and the two top filters chosen filtered out most of the metallic content/ obviously collodial silver has some benefits for wound care and the like- however it helps when testing if filters work- I think I said in the article I also have a solar still/ distillation setup – this works well also 🙂

      • Chuck Findlay says:

        I never worried about a (or thought of filtering) activated charcoal pre-filter till Toledo Oh had it’s water problem with an algae problem.

        I live next to Toledo in a suburb called Oregon and while Oregon did not have the algae problem, we have our own filter plant. I took action to make sure I could filter it out as the ceramic filter alone doesn’t seem to do it. But the activated charcoal does.

        Finding water is not a problem here, it’/s all over the place. But I do worry about contamination from farm run-off. we have very flat land that allows for a lot of farming and I’m sure lots of chemicals get sprayed on plants.

  17. Greg Monger says:

    Jesse, A thought provoking article, thank you for writing it. I have a big berkey and a kelly kettle for home use, semi-stationary purposes, but had not thought about portable water filters. Think I will probably pick up a couple now that you wrote this article. That is what I like about M.D.’s site, by sharing like this I get ideas to do things that I had not thought about. Again, thank you.

  18. My home Berkey runs many many gallons w/its 2 types of filters. One filter is near infinite. The other has a shorter lifetime.
    Any filters lifetime will decrease depending on how ‘dirty’ the water being filtered is.
    The exact amounts are on Berkey’s website.
    Regarding bob’s &ghb’s…. I’m unsure, hence I carry (minimal weight & packaging) coffee filters for bad water & a spare filter.
    The eBay sight I suggested has sport bottles which do not have logo, so a few bucks less.
    Happy trails!

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