A look at water filtering and purification tools.

Water Filters Breakdown and Review

I wanted to write a review on some of the water filters I've personally used and help guide others to buy the filter that best fits their survival needs. While doing some research I cam across a great write up by the folks at Tin Hat Ranch. Below is their opinions on some of the more popular filters. At Superesse, we are forced to design kits that use water tablets or aid in the boiling of water as an alternative method to purify water. This is primarily due to the fact that our kits are designed to be worn or carried as part of your EDC. The idea behind our kits to to ensure that you have a backup method to drink safe water; among being prepared for other SHTF and emergency scenarios. When able; I'd suggest you pick up one of the following filters that fits your lifestyle and adventure needs.

Personal or Bug Out Bag Filters

Sawyer Mini ($20, hollow fiber filter, 100,000 gallons) The stalwart of water filters marketed towards personal emergency preparedness, the Sawyer Mini is the choice of many preppers.  These filter use hollow fiber technology, meaning they can be back-washed and are rated for up to 100,000 gallons.  These filters are very small and weigh 2 oz.  They can be used inline to a hydration bladder or bucket system.  Our recommendation is that you ONLY use these filters with known water.  Known water?  This means you are positive that the water you will be filtering does not contain harmful chemicals including industrial, pharmaceutical, or agricultural runoff, heavy metals or radioactive particles.  The reason?  hollow fiber filters are designed to remove bacteria and protozoa.  These are great if you plan to use them in pristine wilderness or with your SHTF water source that is known to be free of the aforementioned.

Lifestraw Personal Water Filter ($20, hollow fiber filter, 264 Gallons)-  Just like the name implies, the Lifestraw is a hollow fiber filter that is designed to be used like a straw.  Just dip it into water and start sucking.  While this design simplifies use on the run, for instance using it is quicker to use than the Sawyer, it limits the modes in which it can be  used.  You won’t be attaching it to a bucket or in line with a hydration bladder.  Nonetheless, it is still a great filter for a bug out bag, if you know of clean water sources along your route.  Just like the Sawyer, this filter is limited to use with known water.

Renovo ($33, hollow fiber/acitvated carbon, 250 gallons) A few dollars more will generally purchase more capabilities, and this is true with the Renovo.  The extra few dollars ads an activated carbon filter.  The activated carbon allows the Renovo to remove harmful chemicals, heavy metals, radioactive particles, and even some viruses.  This filter is of a newer design than others on the market and allows for mounting inline with a hydration bladder, use as a straw, or screws directly to a bottle top.  In addition, all of the filter elements in the Renovo are replaceable.  If your bug out route includes water with unknown composition or if you know you will be drinking from farmers ponds or industrial rivers, the Renovo might be the right choice for a compact personal filter.

Katadyn Vario ($76, Pleated Glass/Ceramic, 500 gallons) Rounding out our list of personal or bug out bag flilters is the Katadyn.  This is the most expensive, largest, and heaviest of the pack, but with the bulk, weight, and price come additional features.  The Katadyn uses a selectable dual filtration system, pleated glass for “normal” water (water you know) and ceramic for for unknown water that could contain chemicals, run-off, etc.  The feature we like about the Vario is you may pump water into containers.  In fact, the Vario is threaded to fit a standard Nalgene bottle.  Any experienced hiker will attest, being able to pump clean water into a container greatly simplifies the process.  You don’t need to fill your hydration bladder with dirty water to filter it, you filter the water and add clean water into the hydration bladder.

Lifestraw Family ($76, Hollow Fiber, 4755 Gallons) Taking the same technology as in their personal water filter and expanding it yields the Lifestraw Family.  This is a great family filter if you have a nearby lake or stream that is free from chemicals and pollutants.  Remember, hollow fiber filters do not remove chemicals.  This large capacity filter is very easy to use, that is why we like it.  It has a built in mechanism to make back washing easy.  The larger size allows for a pre-filter yet it isn’t large enough that it couldn’t be used on the run.  The only downside to this gravity fed filter is the flow rate, 9-12 liters per hour.  To use this filter, simply pour dirty water in the top and take it out of the bottom via the blue tap.

Berkey “Big Berkey ($350, Carbon/Proprietary, 3,000 Gallons) What happens when you have a large family, aren’t sure about your SHTF water source, and need a filter that will support their needs in SHTF?  The Berkey might be the answer.  While the most expensive, this is the only “filter” on the list that can be listed as a water purifier, going far and above the requirements for water filtering.  It will remove bacteria, protozoa, chemicals, heavy metals, and a whole slew of other contaminants.  The unique design of the Black Berkey cartridges allow for easy cleaning and extended use (6,000 man days of drinking water).  Being a gravity filter, using the Berkey is very simple, pour the dirty water in the top and take the clean water out of the spigot. The only downside is you probably have to also stock up on the filters for extended SHTF use.

Clawhammer Supply “Water” Stills ($149-374, Distilling, ??? Gallons)- This is probably the most interesting entry into our “complete guide to SHTF water filters”.  Distilled water can be one of the purest forms of drinking water.  None of the other entries can handle salt water, distilling can.  Distilling will leave chemicals and heavy metals behind.  There are no filter media to worry about, no back washing, and you need only to provide heat.  Using the Clawhammer will be a bit more involved that other methods as you must find a heat source and use it to turn the water from a liquid to a gas.  The gas then condenses as pure water.  Other than the ability to supply clean drinking water, the Clawhammer can provide alcohol fuel to power small engines, tractors, and even cars.  It can also do other things, which we won’t mention here.  They come in 1 gallon, 5 gallon, and 10 gallon capacities.  Look for some reviews and videos in the near future on the Clawhammer.

Specialty Filters

RAD Clearly Filtered ($30, Radiological Filtration Media, 25 Gallons)– While some of the above filters can probably remove radiological contaminants the RAD is specifically designed to do so, to the tune of 99.99%.  I call this a “specialty” filter because of its specific purpose.  The 25 gallon capacity will give you 50 man days of drinking water in an emergency, hopefully long enough to get you to a safe area of operations.  To operate the filter, unscrew the caps and insert into water and use like a straw.

Seychelle Radiological Purification Bottle ($49, Carbon impregnated microfilter, 100 Gallons) Similar to the RAD, the Seychelle uses a proprietary carbon impregnated microfilter to filter up to 100 gallons of radiologically contaminated water.  The carbon impregnated filter is like a hollow fiber filter with active carbon added to catch very small particles.  The good news is the filter will catch almost anything, the bad news is once it is used, it is done.  To use, fill up the bottle with contaminated water, screw on the filter cap, and enjoy your filtered water.