Access to clean drinking water is critical when you’re out in the wild. Whether you’re taking a short hike or going on an extensive wilderness backpacking tour, you’re probably already well aware of this — and a good filtered water bottle for clean water is an essential piece of adventuring gear. It’s also important because toting gallons of purified bottled water is heavy, expensive and an environmental plague.
Frankly, it isn’t even an option.
While many sources of groundwater and tap water are perfectly safe, it’s never worth the risk to drink from an unfamiliar water source. Even if a water source looks clean, it could be nonpotable contaminated water with viruses, harmful bacteria, protozoa or other microorganisms invisible to the human eye. If you’ve ever been sick from drinking water, you know that waterborne bacteria are no joke. And despite the Safe Drinking Water Act, tap water can still contain contaminants such as lead, chlorine, arsenic, pesticides and even particles from malfunctioning wastewater treatment. Why not give a filtered water bottle a spin instead?
Some reasons you may want to say goodbye to using a plastic water bottle or disposable water bottles and invest in a filtered water bottle to keep you hydrated:
- You’re unsure about your tap water
- You travel to other states and countries where you don’t know about water practices and it might contain harmful contaminants
- You go hiking, backpacking or on other outdoor adventures
- You prefer bottled water but want to reduce your plastic waste
To that end, I tested six filtered water bottles to find the best filtered water bottle you can trust to provide you with clean, safe water, indoors or out.
How I tested filtered water bottles
For the sake of safe drinkable water, two friends and I ventured out to a freshwater source in Southern California. We were lucky to find a tiny trickle of a waterfall in the Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa Wilderness area in the Santa Monica Mountains, which culminated in a series of four tiny pools of water. Of the four water holes, we settled on testing the bottles in the one that looked the least stagnant (and had the fewest bugs and tadpoles).
The day before the hike, I cleaned and prepped each water filtration bottle on my list according to their instructions. I filled each bottle from the same water hole and tasted the water from each bottle on site. I then drank from the bottles one by one and poured some water from each to see how clean it looked. I was ready to drink gallons of water if need be, and keep drinking until I found the best reusable water bottle.
How I rated filtered water bottles
I considered five important criteria when using each reusable water bottle: filtering and filter capacity, materials, taste, ease of use and cleanup. These are all factors you should consider when looking for a water purifier bottle — you’ll want to purchase one that suits the activity you plan to use it for.
For instance, if I was looking for a filtered bottle to take backpacking, I wouldn’t choose the Brita. I also wouldn’t invest in the Grayl Geopress if I only needed a bottle for tap water.
Filtering: What filtering mechanism was used and how well did the bottle filter harmful contaminants, bacteria and viruses, and other unpleasantries out of the presumably non-potable water? Did the water bottle filters leave any particles in the water after filtering? Water “after filtering” means the water that comes out of the drinking spout or filter straw. Are there replacement filters?
Materials: What is the bottle made of? Stainless steel or plastic? If plastic, is it a BPA-free bottle? How durable is the bottle?
Taste: This one’s pretty obvious. How did the water taste? Specifically, were there any remnants of mineral odor or chemical tastes such as a chlorine taste?
Ease of use: Was the bottle easy to prep and put together? Was it easy to get water into the bottle? How was the flow rate?
Cleanup: After use, what are you supposed to do with the bottle? How easy is it to clean the bottle and make sure it’s ready for your next adventure?
The natural water I tested the bottles in already looked relatively clean, but when I poured a bit from the Geopress water purification bottle, I was shocked at how crystal-clear it looked. Although I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, as Grayl’s heavy-duty filtering and water purification system is designed to filter out protozoa, chemicals, particulates (like dirt and sand), heavy metals and bacteria and viruses.
The Geopress water purifier is made of BPA-free polypropylene, a durable type of plastic. The wide base diameter of the water purifier gives it a sturdy feel, and it’s apparently designed to withstand 10-foot drops onto concrete while it’s full of water. Without a doubt, the Geopress is the best filtered water bottle to keep you hydrated with pure water on a backpacking trip due to its intense filtering mechanism and durability.
This Grayl bottle also offers relatively easy clean-up, an important factor if you’re using natural water. I really liked that the opening of the Geopress water filter bottle is wide enough to fit ice cubes and my entire hand into it, meaning I could actually get to the bottom of the bottle with a sponge. Just make sure to thoroughly dry the filter bottle before storing it: If you store the water purifier while it’s wet, the inner portion and outer portions suction together and it’s then difficult to pull the two pieces apart.
The Astrea One filtered water bottle filters out an impressive suite of heavy metals and chemicals, including lead, benzene, mercury, copper, chlorine and more. The website says you shouldn’t use this filter bottle with water that is “microbiologically unsafe or of unknown quality,” but I used it in natural freshwater and I turned out fine.
The body of the Astrea One filtered water bottle is made of stainless steel, and the lid is made of thick BPA-free plastic. The water bottle filter inserts snugly into the bottom side of the lid and locks in, giving the bottle an overall sturdy feel.
The water I scooped from a natural water hole seemed to magically turn into bottled spring water inside the Astrea filter bottle. If the Astrea One bottle didn’t have its filter in place, it would just be a normal wide-mouth stainless steel water bottle, making it super easy to clean: The bottle opening is wide enough to fit a standard dish scrubber inside the lid, and the lid has an extra opening where the filter attaches to make sure you hit all the nooks and crannies.
Astrea offers a subscription service so you never forget to replace your filter. The water bottle filters are $12 per replacement filter and should be purchased every two months if you use your filter water bottle regularly — but considering most people drink about 2 liters of water a day, that should give you plenty of gallons before you need a new filter.
Water that comes out of the Sawyer Select filtered water bottle is clean drinking water, that’s for sure. Sawyer Products offers all sorts of clean-water gadgets, but this purifying water bottle in particular uses a double-filtration system: The interior “Foam Adsorption Technology” removes heavy metals, chemicals, pesticides and viruses, while the exterior micron water filter removes bacteria, protozoa, cysts, dirt and sediment.
The Sawyer Select bottle is made of BPA-free, food-grade silicone, and the interior is foam. The various caps, as well as the external micron water filter, are made of BPA-free plastic. The micron water filter itself is a hollow fiber membrane. The bottle is squishy, but it still feels relatively sturdy.
One downfall for backpackers looking for a convenient travel water bottle, though, is that this filter bottle will never return to its dry weight while you’re on foot. It’s impossible to squeeze all of the water out of the bottle, so expect it to add some weight to your pack after the first use.
This Sawyer bottle requires an initial prep to remove any foam adsorption material that could’ve gotten knocked loose during packaging or shipping. Once you prep the bottle, the water filtration process requires 10 seconds of squeezing the bottle to work the foam adsorption feature. To get all of the water out of the water filter bottle, you need to give it a serious squeeze — even roll up the bottle from the bottom, similar to the way you roll up a toothpaste tube when it’s getting low.
Because this filter water bottle has so many parts, it’s pretty difficult to clean. There’s no way to get your hand or a brush inside the bottle, and the foam interior makes me worry that the inside can never get completely clean and dry. However, the website does say that it’s not necessary to completely dry the Sawyer Select filter water bottle, as the foam is also designed to prevent mold and bacteria growth.
Brita is known for its faucet and pitcher filters, but the company also makes plastic and stainless steel filtered water bottles. According to Brita’s website, these bottles aren’t intended for outside use — they’re intended for just filtered tap water, like the Astrea bottle — but this bottle also filtered natural fresh water just fine. The Brita filtering water bottle uses an activated carbon filter, which is extremely porous and pulls contaminants, such as chlorine and particulates.
Brita’s filtered water bottles come in plastic and stainless steel. It’s BPA-free and relatively sturdy, but I wouldn’t take this filter bottle on a backpacking trip. It would suffice for day hikes, however, if you filled it up with tap water first (use with natural water at your own risk).
The Brita filtered bottle consists of just three parts: the bottle itself, the flip-top cap and the filter, which nicely locks into place on the bottom side of the cap. It’s easy to put together and requires almost no prep — just quickly wash the bottle and run the water bottle filter under hot water before your first use. Because the bottle contains minimal parts, it’s pretty easy to clean.
Despite being one of the most popular water-filtering products on the market, the Lifestraw Go did not meet my expectations for filtering. The double-stage filtration includes a hollow-fiber membrane and a carbon capsule, yet this was the only bottle that produced water with particles after passing through the Lifestraw filter. That’s not to say the Lifestraw Go isn’t safe to drink from — the particles were probably just sediment — but it did produce a relatively strong mineral taste compared to the other bottles on this list.
The Lifestraw Go is made of BPA-free plastic throughout. Overall, the Lifestraw Go feels pretty sturdy. I prefer the durability of stainless steel, but it’s lightweight and comes with a carabiner, so it would make a good backpacking water bottle.
This self-filtering water bottle has three simple parts (bottle, cap and filter — four parts if you count the carbon capsule inside the filter), and the prep is simple: Just run clean water over the carbon filter capsule. Any time you use the bottle, let the water sit for a few moments to prime the hollow-fiber membrane filter.
Waterwell claims its double-stage filtration system removes 99.9% of waterborne pathogens, but based on the taste of the water that came from this bottle, I wouldn’t be so sure. I didn’t feel or see any particles like I did with the Lifestraw Go, but the taste alone was enough to make me wary of bringing this bottle into the backcountry for clean water.
The bottle and cap are made from BPA-free plastic and feel just as sturdy as a plastic bottle should. The filter, however, is attached to the straw by a flimsy rubber tube, which could be the culprit behind the poor filtering. The water tasted sour, but I couldn’t quite place the taste — sulfur, maybe. Even though I didn’t really want to, I took a couple more sips (and also spat those out) to make sure it truly tasted the way I thought it did.
Despite its poor filter attachment and sour taste, the Waterwell does have some good properties. It’s easy to use, with the same setup as most of the other bottles on the list: bottle, cap, filter. The water bottle filter detaches easily and the bottle opening is large enough to insert a standard dish scrubber.
Originally published last year and updated periodically.
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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.
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