There are quite a few products out there when it comes to water filtering and purification for preppers, and that makes picking the right water filter a challenge for preppers. Some of these water filters are in the $20 range, and some can be well over $100. Because the microorganisms these filters remove are invisible to the naked eye, we need to know that our filter is going to do what we think it is going to do.
Before I even get into what different types of water filters can do, I want to go over what a micron is, and the sizes of some of these different microorganisms. Water filters are truly a “you get what you pay for” product. Some of the lower cost water filters would work great for high country use, but wouldn’t do much good in an urban area.
On the flip side, you wouldn’t need an expensive filter that removes viruses and chemicals in an area where you’re fairly certain they don’t exist. Mountain streams and lakes probably won’t have pesticides and chemicals in them like a lake in city park would.
What is a Micron?
Water filters are usually rated in microns. A micron rating for a water filter is a way of indicating the ability of the filter to remove contaminants by the size of the particles it is removing. You also need to pay attention to whether they use a Nominal Micron rating (NMR) or an Absolute Micron Rating (AMR).
Nominal Micron Rating: NMR usually means the filter can capture a given percentage of particles of the stated size. For example, a filter might be said to have a nominal rating of 90% at 0.1 microns.
Absolute Micron Rating: AMR means that if the water filter is rated at 0.1 microns AMR. Meaning there is no pore size larger than 0.1 micron in size.
Now that you know what a Micron is, you need to know how big these microorganisms are that you want to remove. It’s also important to note that different types of filters need to be added into the equation as well.
Some carbon filters will filter out herbicides and pesticides, while a hollowfiber filter wont. I’ll go into more detail about these a little later in this article.
Common Microorganisms in Microns
To get a better idea about the size of these different virus, chemicals, and protozoa, think about something you can see. A single grain of sand is between 100 and 2000 Microns in size. A human hair is about 70 Microns in diameter.
Protozoa (Giardia, Cryptosporidium): Protozoa such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium are about 2 to 50 microns in size. Giardiasis is also known as “Beaver Fever” because You can also get it by drinking water contaminated by animals.
Bacteria (Cholera, E. coli, Salmonella): Bacterial cells range from about 1 to 10 microns in length and from 0.2 to 1 micron in width. They exist almost everywhere on earth. Some bacteria are helpful to humans, while others are harmful.
Viruses (Hepatitis A, rotavirus, Norwalk virus): Viruses are the smallest of the infectious microorganisms. They range from 0.004 to 0.1 microns in size, which is about 100 times smaller than bacteria.
Chemicals: Some chemicals cannot be removed from your water with a filter, and if a water source is that questionable it should be avoided. Some active carbon filters can be used to filter herbicides, pesticides, and heavy metals. Herbicides and pesticides are around 0.001 Microns in size.
What Type of Filter Do You Need?
The type of filter you need, and how much you need to spend on one depends on what you are trying to remove from your water. In a SHTF situation where sanitation is becoming an issue, you will need something that filters out viruses. A low-cost water filter that only removes bacteria and protozoa will not do the job.
High Country Water Filters: I consider any water filter that does not remove chemicals, heavy metals and viruses a high-country filter. Filters like the Sawyer Mini and the LifeStraw are great for bug out bags, camping, and hiking, but might not be effective enough in an urban environment.
Low Country Water Filters: A low country water filter is going to be more expensive than a high-country water filter, but well worth the money. These will remove some chemicals, virus, heavy metals as well as bacteria and protozoa.
Common Water Filter Media
Here are a few types of water filters you might run across. While there are a few other options available, these are the most common among preppers. This article goes into quite a bit of detail about water filter media if you want to have a look.
Solid Block Carbon Filters: These are recognized by the EPA as the best option for removing chemicals like herbicides, pesticides, and VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). Quality carbon block filters will remove chemicals, pesticides, bacteria, heavy metals, nitrate, and parasites.
Granulated Activated Carbon: These filters contain fine grains of activated carbon. They are typically less effective than carbon block filters because they have a smaller surface area of activated carbon.
Hollowfiber Filter: These contain tiny tubes of membrane material that allows water to pass through, but nothing larger than its micron rating. Nothing gets clogged, nothing breaks, nothing to replace. This has an extremely long lifespan and is cleaned by pushing clean water backwards through the membrane.
Ultraviolet Filtration: UV purification systems can be used to protect against water-borne viruses, bacteria, molds and pathogenic disease-causing microorganisms such as giardia and cryptosporidium. Even viruses such as the hepatitis virus, which are known to be highly resistant to chlorine-treated water, can be relatively easily eliminated through UV treatment.
The Truth About Water Tablets and Drops
While these water treatment drops or tablets are great for emergency situation, not all are created equal. Some are made for storing water, while some will remove viruses, bacteria, and most protozoa.
There are 3 main types of water treatment tablets (or drops). These are Chlorine (NaDCC), Iodine, and Chlorine Dioxide. Here’s how they stack up against each other…
Why Pretreat Stored Water?
Many people recommend pre-treating your water with chlorine to help prevent algae and bacteria growth. Some people claim that this isn’t even necessary because tap water is already treated with chlorine.
While water will never go bad, and can always be cleaned, in my opinion it’s better to be safe than sorry. Who knows what resources will be available to you when the time comes, and why not take a few minutes now to save time later.
Best Water Filters For Preppers
Here are a few water filters that you might run across as you are researching preparedness. The filter (or filters) you might need in an SHTF situation will depend on your needs. Some of these are great for bug out bags, some are great for bugging in, and some are necessary in an urban environment.
Sawyer makes a few types of water filters. The great thing about Sawyer is the ability to purchase different accessories to fit your needs such as bags, hoses and attachments.
Sawyer MINI: The Sawyer MINI is ideal for backcountry use, outdoor recreation, hiking, camping, and emergency preparedness. Quite a few preppers have this filter in their bug out bags. These will also fit the threads on most bottles of water that you buy at a grocery store
The MINI is a 0.1 (AMR) hollow fiber filter (can be cleaned by back flushing) that removes 99.99% of all bacteria, such as salmonella, cholera and E.coli; removes 99.99% of all protozoa, such as giardia and cryptosporidium.
Sawyer Squeeze: The Sawyer MINI and the Sawyer Squeeze are pretty comparable. The MINI is exactly that, a mini version of the Squeeze.
The Squeeze has a 0.1 micron (AMR) hollow fiber membrane filter that removes 99.99% of all bacteria like salmonella, cholera and E. coli, and 99.99% of all Protozoa such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium.
NOTE: The hollow fiber membrane filter used by the Sawyer MINI & Squeeze do not protect against viruses.
Sawyer PointZero: The Sawyer PointZero water filter is a beast, but it comes with a price. It is a 0.02 Micron (AMR) hollow fiber membrane purifier. That’s right, it’s 0.02, not 0.2 meaning it will remove 99.99% of viruses, 99.99% of bacteria, and 99.99% of Protozoa/Cysts.
This filter also includes attachments to connect it to a plastic bucket to create a large-volume gravity purification system that can be used to filter up to 170 gallons per day to an incredibly clean 0.02 microns. The PointZero is a great filter for bug in, and bug out situations.
These are another popular water filter for preppers, and Katadyn also have a few products to choose from. I have heard nothing but good things about Katadyn, and in my opinion, they are the way to go. Like I said, there are quite a couple options to choose from, but I’ll list a few here.
Katadyn Hiker Pro: In last weeks podcast Kevin talked about the Hiker Pro and why he likes it so much. Kevin is an instructor at the Wilderness Safety Institute, so I trust his recommendations.
The Hiker Pro is a 0.2 micron glassfiber filter and Includes activated carbon granules. This water filter removes bacteria, protozoa, cysts, algae, spores, and sediments (but not viruses). The Hiker Pro also reduces bad tastes and odors.
Katadyn Vario: The Katadyn website states: The Katadyne Vario has a trio of filters scrubs water to confidently purge the bad stuff: Activate a ceramic pre-filter with a quick turn to conquer dirtier water so the durable glass fiber pleated filter inside lasts even longer. Plus, active charcoal gets rid of odors.
The Vario has a ceramic prefilter, 0.2 micron glasfibre membrane, and replaceable activated carbon granulate that Eliminates bacteria, protozoa, cysts, algae, spores, sediments. The Vario also reduces chemicals and improves taste and odor.
LifeStraw Water Filters
If you have been researching preparedness for any amount of time, you have no doubt come across the LifeStraw. LifeStraw is great for backpacking, camping, travel, and emergency preparedness situation. The LifeStraw filters up to 1,000 liters of contaminated water.
The LifeStraw is a 0.2 micron hollow fiber filter that removes 99.99% of waterborne bacteria and 99.99% of waterborne protozoan parasites.
Berkey Water Filter Systems
Berkey is another big name when it comes to water filters for preppers, and emergency preparedness in general. Berkey is superior to many other water filter systems and bottles because it provides an on-the-go microfiltration system that qualifies as purification system (without using harsh chemicals). This means that it filters 99.99% of bacteria and viruses as well as other heavy metals up to 95% levels.
The black filters are near a foot long and are made from a proprietary combination of approximately 6 different types of media. They exceed EPA log 7 ANSI / NSF protocols for filtration and thus are rated as water purifiers.
The Big Berkey water filter can run between $250 to $300 but is well worth the price and can be used at home. The Go Berkey is a bit smaller and made for portability. It’s great for camping, at home and bug out scenarios.
HydroBlu Jerry Can
I recently had an opportunity to review the Jerry Can water filter from HydroBlu and I am very impressed. While there are a few water filters that will do the same thing, I love the durability and portability of this Jerry Can Water Filter. It is perfect for camping, and any sort of bug out scenario.
The dual filter system boasts an activated charcoal filter and a 0.02 micron hollow fiber ultra-filtration membrane filter. The Activated Charcoal Filter removes heavy metals, such as iron and lead, while absorbing the dirty taste of water. Additionally, it removes unseen chemicals and improves the clarity of water.
SteriPEN UV Water Purifier
The SteriPEN works by using UV light destroys germs’ ability to reproduce and make you sick. The SteriPEN destroys over 99.9% of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa, and is safe and effective without altering taste, pH, or other properties of water (chemical-free).
The one downside to a SteriPEN is they require batteries or a power source. That shouldn’t be a problem for preppers though, because you probably have a light out kit ready to go.
Other Options for Preppers
As you are researching preparedness and water filters for preppers you will find that there are quite a few options to clean your water other than filters. Using bleach, boiling water, and pasteurizing water are all good skills to learn just in case a water filter is not available.
If you have any other water filter suggestions, or water treatment methods I didn’t mention here, leave a comment below.