When disasters strike, they don’t always come without warnings – instructions at best to cope with the aftermath of a utility service crashing or a minor earthquake, or at worst evacuation orders to leave our homes and put as much distance between us and an impending hurricane. Bleak as the thought is, the reality is that while disasters can (sometimes) be tracked, they can’t always be prevented, and this very inevitability makes emergency preparedness so important – especially when it comes to clean water, a resource many of us otherwise take for granted in our daily lives.
Earthquakes can rupture sewerage systems and spill contaminants into our drinking water, flooding can wash volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from landfills and industrial dumpsites into groundwater sources, and an approaching tornado may force us to hit the streets without a plug-in device to safely filter out any accessible water. With climate change a real threat getting realer with every melting ice cap and every surge of global water-levels, the best act of foresight is to invest in a water filter that, in an emergency scenario, still gives us access to clean water. Here are our top candidates.
LifeStraw Family 1.0 Water Purifier
The trick to being prepared for emergencies is being prepared for the worst – including situations where we have to leave our homes in a hurry, are camping in the middle of nowhere without power or clean water, or some zombie-apocalypse level outbreak (or a maintenance glitch) has polluted our direct water lines. Our top pick earns its spot by fitting many of the criteria we have in mind to contend with these situations – including portability, price and durability. While the LifeStraw Personal Water Filter has raked up a lot of media coverage and positive reviews for its game-changing track record, especially in developing countries where, in some regions, contaminated water is a prevailing issue, we’re going with the Family 1.0 version not only for its ability to filter out microbial cysts of disease-causing bacteria and protozoa, but also viruses – something many portable water purifiers aren’t built for.
The LifeStraw Family 1.0 also scores points for portability and simplicity of design and use – available in a sealed bag you can grab on the go, the reservoir can hold 2 liters of water, feeding it through a pre-filter and then an ultrafiltration hollow fiber membrane cartridge, gravity-based filtration feeding clean, drinkable water through the blue tap, and backwash through the red. With multiple accolades and awards to LifeStraw’s name, this reasonably priced filter is a great purchase on the humanitarian front as well, as with every purchase, a schoolchild in Africa is provided with clean water for a year.
KEN’S BUDGET PICK
Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration System
Our budget pick also scores off points for portability and functionality – the Sawyer Mini Filtratation System comes with a 16-ounce squeeze pouch you can either drink from directly through the filter, or use to pour filtered water into a bottle to drink or store up for later. This means this handy, compact device you can fit in your camping gear or carry-bags can be used anywhere, whether you’re getting a drink out of a tap or from a stream. The filter also screws on to most standard sized commercially sold water bottles, equipped with a syringe you can use to clean up the system when you need to.
The filter exceeds the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s standards for filtering out bacterial and protozoal cysts capable of causing E.coli, cholera, typhoid, salmonella and other waterborne diseases, keeping you perfectly safe whether you suddenly find your public water system disrupted or run out of a drink on a trekking or backpacking trip, promising to last you through 100,000 gallons of water.
Survivor Filter Virus Tested Reusable/Cleanable Water Filter
The Survivor Filter is as capable as it looks, its triple filtration system locking down on pathogens and contaminants with an impressively efficient, fast flow-rate of 7 ounces per minute. The active carbon filtration allows you to get clean, odor- and taste-free water on the go, devoid not just of bacteria and protozoa but also viruses, traces of heavy metals and more with its 0.05 micron filtration.
The cotton pre-filter captures larger pieces of solid waste, with 4 extra replacement pieces included so you won’t have to worry about the filter getting clogged up, while the ultra membrane and carbon filters knuckle down on smaller and arguably more insidious impurities. The portable, sleek design lets you slip it into your backpack on the go, the straw system letting you suck water directly out of a stream or a bottle without worrying about coming down with diarrhea down the road later. Your filter will also last longer, since the ultra membrane filter has a capacity of over 26,000 gallons of water, the carbon and cotton filters up to 260 gallons, with all elements conveniently easy to replace.
Royal Berkey Gravity-Fed Stainless Steel Countertop Water Filter System
Despite our doomsday providences (we just like to be prepared for everything), not all emergencies are going involve you escaping into the wilderness (or at least out of your homes). So imagine there’s a town-wide power outage, or that you’re off-grid in a different location and consequently, while you do have access to tap water, you just don’t have a means of filtering it. In comes the Royal Berkey Countertop system, rugged enough to handle not just microbial impurities but also VOCs like pesticides and herbicides which might have washed into the pipelines, sediment and other turbidity, and heavy metals like lead, while still being compact enough to let you carry it be it on a camping trip or an evacuation.
Either way, clean water will be the last of your worries, since this sturdy stainless steel filter works so well it can remove food coloring from water without altering any of its beneficial components. With a storage capacity of 3.25 gallons and a lifetime of 6,000 gallons, this filter’s ability to not only remove 100% of pathogens, but also VOCs, heavy metals like mercury and lead, organic and inorganic contaminants, including fluoride, makes this filter one of the more heavy-duty options on this list as well as a literal lifesaver.