How to Choose a Water Filter for Your International Trip

Single use plastic is a problem everywhere in the world, but it is an especially large problem in major tourism destinations in developing countries, where waste disposal is limited and recycling is virtually nonexistent. Plastic water bottles are a huge issue, as in a lot of places, the tap water is unsafe to drink. You can help mitigate the problem by being aware and traveling with a refillable water bottle and a water filter. 

We strongly discourage the use of disposable water bottles, even if offered to you by your hotel or elsewhere. We encourage you to bring your reusable water bottle. A lot of hotels will offer purified water for you to fill your water bottles, often in the lobby or common areas of the hotel. Most tour operators will also provide you with clean drinking water. But there will be times where there isn’t a place to refill your bottles. That’s where water filters come in! You can easily filter tap water while you’re on the go. They are small, lightweight, and easy to use.

Learn more about which water purification method will be best for your travels here.


Mechanical – Pushing water through a filter

These are my personal favorite. There are several options on the market ranging from $25 to $120. If you are collecting water from a natural source and there is particulate matter making the water cloudy, you want to use a filter. A filter system also takes out heavy metals that can be found in the water of some developing countries. Please keep in mind you also need a purifier along with the filter. Purification will kill the bacteria and microorganisms in water. Life Straw is an affordable, very packable option that can be used while out on the trail or to easily drink municipal water. The GRAYL water bottle is both filter and purifier and a great all around product (packable, affordable, both filter and purifier).

UV Light – A wand with a light that sterilizes water

UV light at certain intensities will kill water-borne viruses, bacteria, and pathogenic microorganisms by destroying their DNA. This is a great option when sourcing from municipal water – like your hotel tap water and other place where you do not need to filter out particulate matter. UV light water purifiers kill most harmful microbes associated with common water-borne illnesses. However, it will not filter out heavy metals (like a filter would). These options are battery powered. Be sure to pack an extra set of batteries or the recharging cord.

Chemical – Iodine, chlorine, or portable water tablets

These purifiers disrupt the chemical composition of the water so that bacterias and viruses cannot thrive. However, along with the bad guys you are also ridding the water of the good flora that your gut needs. For this reason you want to make sure you include a probiotic or simply consume some yogurt while using this method. This is a good option for shorter trips and if you don’t think you’ll have a need for purifying water in the near future. The tablets are small and light. However, you will need to wait 20 minutes before water is ready to drink, and you won’t be able to filter out the heavy metals or other particulate matter.

Which ever water purification route you decide to take, thanks for not using single-use plastics!