What’s the best water purifier for traveling?

2014-06-15 12.26.05

Water is a huge deal when you’re traveling. Drinking contaminated water is the quickest way to sabotage your health. But water quality can vary greatly outside the United States, especially in developing countries.

You could stick exclusively to bottled water. But your budget (and the environment) would hate you.

But don’t worry — there’s a better way. You can purify the available water. This method eliminates the protozoa and bacteria so the water is safe to drink.

Perhaps you’ve done some research on water sanitizers. In your research, two words have popped up: purifier and filter. They seem to be used interchangeably. And they appear to both clean your water.

But they’re for two different functions and one is better for traveling than the other.

Difference between purifier and filters

Filters attack the visible gunk in your water. They transform muddy water to clear, pretty water.

Filters are commonly used when camping or hiking. Typically mountain streams are clean of the bacteria found in overpopulated areas. Instead, this water is laden with twigs, mud, and other debris. The filter separates all that out of your water.

Whereas, the purifier works on a microscopic level to cleanse your water of nasty bacteria. Water-related illnesses are linked to 1 of 3 types of pathogens (disease-carrying pests). Purifiers rid your water of all 3 pathogens.

Typically while traveling, you’re not worried about twigs in your drinking water. Instead, you’re worried about the bacteria that will make you sick. That’s why purifiers are best for international travel, so your water can be sterile and safe to drink.

Some devices offer an integrated filter and purification system. However, most of the devices on this list are strictly for water purification.

How to purify your water

You have three options to purify your water:

  1. Iodine/chemicals
  2. UV light
  3. Boiling
  4. High tech filters

Top three water purifiers for travel



A water purifier that works like a french press and comes in its own handsome bottle. You simply fill up the bottle with water, press, and clean water fills up in the inner reservoir. It filters 16oz of water in 15 seconds. It’s G3 filter captures 99.999% of bacteria and protozoan cysts like Giardia and viruses like Hepatis A.

If that wasn’t enough, it’s stainless steel body is sleek and handsome. And, my favorite part: it doesn’t have a straw, but rather a snap lid. Perfect for the traveler who aims for minimalism and one-device-for-all.

Pros: It purifies in 15 seconds. The container is attractive and looks more like a to-go coffee mug than high tech water purifier.

Cons: It’s designed for one person’s use. So to fill up a Playpus or Nalgene for later, you’ll have to clean another bottle of water and wait 15 seconds.

Cost: Total cost, including filter: $70

Replacement purifier: $40

Lifespan of purifier: 150 L


Lifesaver Bottle

This is the only purifier and filtration combo device on this list. Resembling a biker’s water bottle, this device removes all bacteria, viruses, cysts, parasites, fungi and other microbiological waterborne pathogens without using any chemicals. And it doesn’t use any batteries, power or UV light. So it’s ideal for going totally off the grid.

Simply fill up the bottle with whatever water is available, swiftly pump two or three times, and drink clean water. When the cartridge is depleted, the bottle shuts down. All parts, including cartridges, carbon filters, and sponge pre-filter, can be replaced.

Perfect for the countries where you can’t count on clear water and need heavy-duty water purification, without relying on power.

Pros: I like the purifier and filtration combo. And that the water is clean quickly, without relying upon outside power or technology that could break down.

Cons: The initial cost is the priciest purifier on the list. Plus, parts and filters are expensive to replace.

Cost: Total cost: $170

Replacement parts: $100 per cartridge, $8 per carbon filter, $6 per pre-filter

Lifespan of bottle: 6,000 L


SteriPen Ultra

UV light kills 99.99% of waterborne bacteria in 16oz of water in 48 seconds. You simply put the upside-down pen into the water and stir the water to treat. You can use this UV light pen in any water container (like Nalgene bottles and store-bought bottles). The Water Quality Association awarded SteriPen with a Gold Seal, certifying its effectiveness.

Lightweight and slender, this little guy is a perfect match for the lightweight traveler.

No need for batteries as the SteriPen comes with a USB cable and you can easily charge it. You can even hook it up to a solar charger. You get about 40 treatments per charge.

Pros: The compact size and that you can purify any bottle of water in less than a minute. The geek in me loves the idea of the UV light killing bacteria. I also like that you can charge this device almost anywhere thanks to the USB charger.

Cons: Your water has to be clean (i.e. no floaties or sediment) to start with. According to some reviewers online, your water container has to be very, very clean. Beware, some Amazon reviewers reported faulty LED screens, the device has the tendency to turn on in your backpack and drain its battery.

Cost: Total cost: $99.95

Lifespan of UV light: 8,000 L

Which one would I pick?

Before this article, I would have chosen the SteriPen based on the compact design and ability to sterilize any bottle of water.

But now, it’s a toss up between the Grayl and the Lifesaver. I like to camp, and the purifier and filtration combo is very attractive because of that. Combined with the fact that the Lifesaver doesn’t rely on any outside power and seems perfect for any traveling situation.

However, the Grayl would be my choice for a traveling-only purifier. You can’t beat sterile water in 15 seconds and the low initial cost price.

But, keep in mind, I have not tried any of these devices and real life may alter my decision.

Laura blogs at Waiting To Be Read where she explores the benefits of reading and traveling, is forever making “best of” lists, and writes three-second book reviews with actors cast as the book’s main characters.

Laura blogs at www.lauralopuch.com where she explores the benefits of reading and traveling, makes tons of lists, and writes book reviews with actors cast as main characters. – See more at: https://www.vagablogging.net/how-to-combat-jet-lag-and-win.html#sthash.8HGThmRr.dpuf

Posted by | Comments (3)  | August 3, 2014
Category: Travel Gear

3 Responses to “What’s the best water purifier for traveling?”

  1. renegadepilgrim Says:

    You completely missed the Sawyer Squeeze filter….that combined with the SteriPen is my go-to for travel and actual backpacking in the wilderness.

  2. Laura Lopuch Says:

    Renegadepilgrim, you are right — I totally missed the Sawyer Squeeze! I’ll have to give that one a try. Thanks for the recommendation!

  3. Review of new Grayl Quest cup | Vagablogging :: Rolf Potts Vagabonding Blog Says:

    […] traveling. In a matter of a few gulps, you could jeopardize your health. That’s why purifying water on the road is so important. But shaking, pumping, waiting, squeezing to purify your water can take a […]