Tips for the Best Portable Water Purification and Filtering Devices

Portable water purification devices are a very useful accessory to have on any trip. In many countries, it is not safe to drink the tap water. Having a water purification or filtering bottle will save you having to constantly be buying bottles of water, which can add up and be quite expensive over time! Carrying a portable water purification device is not only safer for you, but better for the environment.

Did you know? In 2009, 40 million plastic bottles were thrown in the garbage per day in the US alone.

If you are camping or trekking away from civilization, you will probably need to drink water from rivers or streams. It is absolutely essential that if you do this you have some kind of portable water purification system, or else the chances of you getting sick are very high.


The Difference Between Filtering, Purification and Sterilisation

It is important to understand the differences between filtering, purification and sterilisation.

  • Filtering removes physical contaminants (such as chemicals or dirt), and some microbiological contaminants (such as bacteria) by passing the water through a filter. It does not remove all microbiological contaminants.
  • Purification removes microbiological contaminants from the water chemically, often through the use of iodine. Most purification systems also use a filter.
  • Sterilising is a process that removes all microbiological contaminants, often through the use of ultraviolet light. It does not remove physical or chemical contaminants.


Types of Water Purification / Filtering Systems

There are several types of portable water purification/filtering systems:

  1. Filtering Water Bottles
  2. Water Purification Bottles
  3. Purification Straws
  4. Water Purification Tablets
  5. UV Sterilising Pens


Filtering Water Bottles

This type of water bottle comes with a built in filter in the bottle. The filter will usually be replaceable, as all filters need to be replaced after a certain amount of use. These are great for filtering out chemicals in tap water, but should not be used with river water as they do not remove 100% of microbiological contaminants.

Use: 400 litres per filter

Cost: $50-60


Water Purification Bottles

Water Purification bottles contain both a filter (to remove physical and chemical contaminants) and a chemical system which kills microbiological contaminants (bacteria and viruses). Many also contain a additional carbon filter which improves the taste of dirty water.

Although a little more expensive, this type of portable water purification device is an excellent travel accessory to have. Not only is it very useful for filtering tap water, it is perfect for drinking water from almost anywhere.

Use: 100 litres per filter

Cost: $100


Purification / Filtration Straws

A water purification straw is a small device about the length of a drinking straw and about 4-5 times thicker. To use this, you actually insert one end into the water you are about to drink, and then drink directly from the other end, like a straw.

The type of filtration in these varies somewhat, from a filtration process to a combination of purification and filtration - while most types remove bacteria and viruses, they do not remove 100% of chemicals in the water.

The main advantage of these is space - they are very small. We believe the best use for these would be as an emergency filter when hiking. If your safe drinking water ran out and you had to drink from a stream, a purification straw would be easy to carry and perfect for this situation.

Use: 500 litres per straw

Cost: $50


Water Purification Tablets

Water Purification tablets have been used by campers for a long time. These are tablets (usually iodine) that you place in your drinking water which kill all living organisms.

The disadvantage with these tablets is that you have to wait a long time before the water is purified (usually about five hours), and they water tastes quite bad when it is finished.

Note: Pregnant women should see their doctor before they use iodine tablets.

Use: See packaging instructions

Cost: $15-25


UV Sterilising Pen

A relatively new technology, sterilising pens are a great replacement for the older water purification tablets. About the size of a pen, this device projects ultraviolet light into the water you are about to drink, killing all living organisms in the water.

This is perfect for camping or trekking when you know that you will have access to relatively clean water. A sterilising pen does not filter water, however many come with a small filter that is sufficient unless the water is fairly dirty. Although they are pricey, they last a very long time and are very small and convenient.

"We bought a UV sterilising pen for a 7 week holiday through Africa, and we loved it. We took 2 spare batteries for the unit, fortunately we only had to use the 1." - Alex

Use: Approx. 1 minute per litre

Cost: $100



We hope that hope that this advice will to choose the right kid of portable water purification device that will help to make your trip safer and more enjoyable. Don't forget to checkout our travel health section for more travel health and travel safety tips and advice.

Checkout more essential Travel Accessories and the best Security Accessories here.

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