For years, LifeStraw has been in the spotlight as the top water filter for any conditions. However, given the occasional mark ups in price, many people wonder if they could get similar quality filters or better, for less. Here, we take a look at the top 10 Lifestraw alternative filters. While not just focusing on squeeze or mini-filters, factors for ranking include portability, functionality, and total amount of filter use, as well as ease of cleaning.
10. Katadyn Gravity Camp 6L Water Filter
Starting off our list of LifeStraw Alternatives is something which on the surface, couldn’t seem further from the LifeStraw line of products, though for some this may be a plus. The Katadyn Gravity Camp filter pretty much says it all in the title, it’s a filter bladder which can filter and store a total of 6 Liters at any given point in time. Usually you can expect about a fill in about 3 to 5 minutes, which makes it ideal for small groups camping and hiking. One should keep in mind that this Katadyn model only covers bacteria and protozoa filtration, so chemical contaminants are unlikely to be filtered out completely. The bag and filter system are BPA free, and is easy to pack for those looking into going lightweight backpacking. As an added bonus, a field cleaning kit is included which can prevent some nasty after tastes and smells from appearing in said filter even after a lot of use. The MSRP of this filter system is $89.99
9. Sawyer Mini Water Filter
Oriented towards those who want a drink straight from the stream, the Mini Water Filter is, as you may expect, tiny. Weighing in at about 2 oz, and able to fit just about anywhere at 5 inches by 1 inch, one can either take a sip from a flowing stream, or use the threads to attach onto a bottle and allow for easy refills. The one con to some is that it may take some time for any amount of water to filter through, which can be expected given the size. With a .1 micron filter, you can feel assured knowing that almost all pathogens will get caught well before you wet your whistle. This mini straw also comes with a 16 oz refillable pouch, which while at times a bit on the more delicate side, can carry a decent amount of water if needed. At under $25, it’s an absolute steal for outback filtering tech.
8. MSR SweetWater Water Filter
If what you need is a water filter that can also act as a pump, the SweetWater system may be just the ticket. Coming in at over a pound, it is one of the heavier selections on the list, but for those who don’t mind, it can also be one of the handiest. With the lever pump pulling water on both the up and down stroke, you can usually get what you need quite quickly, with most people reporting about a liter of water a minute with a bit of effort. Another Bacteria/Protozoa proof filter, viruses and chemical contaminants may still be a risk, but otherwise you can get up to 200 gallons of fresh water per filter. Most vendors will sell the SweetWater from MSR at around $90.
7. Katadyn PRO Water Filter
Another pump alternative to the LifeStraw system, the Katadyn PRO is pretty heavy on the filtering action. Like all others so far listed, bacteria, protozoa and silt are the primary targets of filtering, with the PRO handling most larger (read as: visible) contaminants being removed even before getting to the main .2 micron filter. This ensures that the filtering systems are easier to clean and last considerably longer than many other formats, and weighing in at 11 ounces, is a good choice for backpackers. The one down side is that the force required for pumping water can be a bit high at 8 pounds, and requiring about 48 pumps per liter. However, if this is not an issue, the slightly lower price of $85 makes it another fine filtration option.
6. Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter System
Next up on our list of LifeStraw Alternatives is the Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter Plus, which as the name implies, is one of the squishiest ways to get your hydration. With the benefits of not needing any pumping or waiting for a gravity filter, this Sawyer filter is also super light at under 8 ounces for the entire kit. While not the best for groups of people, this can usually fill your average water bottle in about 30 seconds, and can also be used as a drinkable bottle itself, making it a handy multi-purpose filter. A winner of the Backpacker Magazine’s Editor Choice Award back in 2012, this filter has consistently kept up with its rivals, and can take care of most bacterial and protozoan issues. Backwashing may be required every now and again, which is possible through a syringe system, and allows for plenty of use before any replacement is needing to be considered. The cost of this system is usually around $50.
5. Katadyn BeFree Collapsible Water Filter Bottle
Another prize-winner on the list (this time for Runner’s World Gear of the Year), the Katadyn BeFree is another squeeze based filter, which comes in at under 3 ounces in total weight. Combined with its .6 liter capacity and .1 Micron filter, it can be used just about anywhere there is a source of water without a great deal of concern. It also has the capability to run with a 3 liter reservoir by Hydrapak if you so choose. For those hiking or working in very cold climates, do be advised that the filter itself can be a bit fragile under colder conditions (near freezing) and thus may not be an effective option for situations like that. Otherwise however, most users will find about 1,000 liters of use per filter, which is quite good. Unlike the previous choice, the Katadyn can be cleaned via a vigorous swishing of water, while the Sawyer would need a backflush via syringe. At around the same price, both are worth a try, but for sake of convenience this may win over some of the lighter travelers.
4. Sawyer Complete Water Filter System
Coming in at around $140, the Sawyer is the most expensive item listed here, but for good reason. Allowing for the filtering and storage of 4 liters at a time, the Sawyer Complete Water Filter System is made to be taken long distances and provide as much water as one needs in a hurry. Using a dual bag gravity system (which is also handily color coordinated), it is certainly not the lightest filter in the world at 18 ounces in weight. However, with the 0.1 micron filter and the versatility of storage potential, as well as being able to filter while walking if coordinated enough, such matters can be forgiven. The filtering speed of this system is about 1.3 Liters per minute, which is great. One major hang-up for some who use this filter has been that it seems to perform less than optimally in slow or still waters, where a secondary container should be used to fill the dirty water bag. Lastly, backflushing is also a good idea (as it is for almost all filters of this type) to keep the flow rate high.
3. Platypus GravityWorks Water Filter System
While not the most aesthetically pleasing filter system on the list by any stretch of the means (reminding me of an IV bag), the Platypus GravityWorks is essentially everything right about the Sawyer, at a bit cheaper. At $120, it’s still not a low cost option, but it is a fast one at 1.75 Liters a minute for another 4 liter reservoir system, which themselves feature systems to ensure a stopping of microbial life. While there is a wider filter (0.2 microns) it should not be an issue to most people. There also include faucet and bottle fill systems that shut when not in use, ensuring wasted water is kept at a minimum.
2. MSR MiniWorks EX Water Filter
Coming in as runner up is a small, but highly effective filter in the MSR MiniWorks EX. Occasionally referenced as the “Filter of the Marines”, this MSR filter is big on reputation and creating clean, fresh water. One drawback is that this pump does require more of a workout than most filters of this class, at around 90 pumps per liter, and with a pump force of just shy of 11lbs. That being said, this is the first filter listed that can also take care of tastes associated with some chemical treatments (chlorine and pesticides being the big two), and filter immediately into bottles. This is made possible through the Carbon and Ceramic mixed filtering system. A great option for backpackers, and small groups of campers, the MSR MiniWorks EX comes in at around $90.
1. MSR TrailShot Pocket-Sized Water Filter
Coming in as our number 1 LifeStraw alternative is yet another MSR product, the TrailShot. Not to be confused with what you do with a bottle of scotch after making base camp, the silicone housed filter is fairly small at a smidge over 5 ounces, and using a hollow fiber system, can take care of the bacteria and protozoa within most water sources. Especially useful when encountering shallow water sources, the Trailshot can still allow for a 1 Liter per minute fill rate, while only using one hand. This ease of use and ability to use quite literally whatever source of water you find make it a very valuable backpacking tool, especially if needing to fill multiple bottles on short notice. One drawback is that the price, at $50, is more expensive than some of the similarly functional filters out there, and for those ultra-light weight backpackers, this may be just a bit too heavy. For many though, this will be a great balance of price, weight, and functionality.
Do you have a favorite filter that wasn’t mentioned here? If so, be sure to leave a comment on your favorite LifeStraw alternative, and let us know why you think it should be included.