Mom Goes Camping

Top 5 LifeStraw Alternatives

As cool as the LifeStraw water filter is, I personally don’t like it one bit. As I ranted about here, there are all sorts of issues with the LifeStraw filter – the main one being that there is no way to collect filtered water and take it with you.

The company has tried to solve this problem by making the LifeStraw Go water bottle.  You put dirty water into the water bottle, insert the LifeStraw filter, and the filter purifies as you drink.  But you still don’t have a way to get the clean water into another receptacle, like your cooking pot or water bladder.  (I guess you could suck filtered water and spit it into your pot, but that’s just ridiculous!)

Luckily, there are a lot of great LifeStraw alternatives.  All of the water filters below work in a similar way to the LifeStraw, but are much more practical to use when camping, hiking, or backpacking.


Top Picks:

#1: Sawyer Mini: Choose this if you need a lightweight solution for backcountry use. It’s affordable, effective, and you never have to change a filter cartridge.

#2: GRAYL Ultralight Purifier: In addition to bacteria and protozoa, this filter also removes viruses and many pesticides, chemicals and heavy metals. Chose this option when the water sources are particularly sketchy.

Keep reading for more LifeStraw alternatives and my reviews of each of them.


#1 Choice: Sawyer Mini Water Filter

tips for sawyer mini

I’ve been using the Sawyer Mini for about 6 years now.  The SAME Sawyer Mini.  Because it uses a hollow-fiber filter to trap contaminants, it can be used forever.  No buying replacement filters ever!!! After 4 years, I did have to change the O-ring on the filter.  But that’s it.

To use the Sawyer Mini, you just fill up the pouch with dirty water.  Screw on the Sawyer Mini and squeeze.  Drink directly from the filter or squeeze the clean water into a water bottle.  If the filter gets clogged, you just use clean water to backwash it with the provided plunger.

You can also use the straw to drink directly from a water source (as with the LifeStraw).  But who wants to crouch on their knees every time they are thirsty?

My daughter drinking the water from this lake through the Sawyer Mini filter.

The main issue with the Sawyer Mini is that it has a very slow flow rate of 1.1 liters per minute.  If the water is murky, the flow rate will be even slower!  *There is also the Sawyer Squeeze.  It is slightly bigger and bulkier, but has a much faster flow rate of 2 liters/minute.

The other issue with the Sawyer Mini is that the pouches it comes with are crap.  They will burst.  I attach the filter to a plastic water bottle instead.  You can also buy these backup pouches for the Sawyer Mini.

As with the LifeStraw, the Sawyer Mini won’t remove bad tastes from water. It also can’t be frozen once it’s been used.  The water left inside the filter will freeze, causing the fibers to get larger.



  • 1 micron rating
  • Lasts forever – no need to change filters
  • Lightweight (2oz) and compact
  • Can be used as a straw or squeeze to filter water
  • Very affordable



  • Slow flow rate (1.1 liters per minute)
  • The bags are crap and will pop. Attach the filter to a plastic water bottle or bring replacement bags.
  • Doesn’t remove bad tastes from water
  • Doesn’t remove viruses, chemicals, or heavy metals


Bottom line?

Choose the Sawyer Mini if you don’t want to worry about replacement filters ever.

Get the Sawyer Mini here


#2: GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier

GRAYL water purifier

The “One Press” water filter by GRAYL is pretty cool.  You put dirty water into the bottle.  Then you put on the lid which has the filter inside of it.  Just press down and all contaminants are pushed down to the bottom, safely out of your water.

Once you’ve pressed down, you can drink directly from the GRAYL bottle.  Or you can pour the purified water into another container.  It’s functional, practical, and easy.

Just scoop water into the GRAYL bottle…

And then press to get clean water.

The GRAYL filter really works fast.  It only takes 15 seconds to press down and you’ll get 16oz (0.5 liters) of purified water. That equals a flow rate of 2 liters per minute. (They also have a larger version which filters even faster)

The other great thing about the GRAYL filter is that it has a three-part filter.  This system removes all bacteria, parasites, and viruses – including rotovirus!.  It also removes some pesticides, chemicals, and heavy metals.

First filter layer: The first filter uses electroadsorption. Or, as it says on their website, “relatively large pores overlaid with a positively-charged mesh (think little magnets) that latch onto germs.”   Note that there aren’t any micron ratings with this type of filter.

Second filter layer:This consists of activated carbon made from coconut shells that will absorb heavy metal and many chemicals.

Third filter layer: This layer consists of an antimicrobial agent that will suppress growth of mold, mildew, and bacteria.  It basically keeps the filter from getting gross between uses.

The downsides of the GRAYL purifier if that the cartridges don’t last forever.  They say that, when using clear water, you can get 300 cycles out of one cartridge.   You’ll know that the cartridge is near the end of its life because it will take longer to press down.  When it takes 30 seconds to press down, the cartridge needs replacing.

The cartridges aren’t exactly expensive, but they aren’t cheap either.  A single replacement cartridge costs as much as the Sawyer Mini.  Still, the Sawyer Mini (or LifeStraw) aren’t going to remove viruses,  chemicals, heavy metals, or pesticides.



  • No squeezing required
  • Fast flow rate of 2 liters per minute
  • Three-layer filter system
  • Also removes viruses and some pesticides, chemicals, and heavy metals
  • Removes bad tastes from water
  • Lightweight system



  • Need to replace cartridges after 300 cycles
  • Pricier option, especially with replacement cartridges factored in


The bottom line?

Choose GRAYL One Press purifier if you will be drinking from sketchy water sources that may be contaminated with viruses, chemicals, pesticides, or heavy metals.

Get the GRAYL One Press Purifier here


#3: Survival Filter Pro

survival filter pro

The Survival Filter Pro was designed for disaster preparedness (hence the cheesy name IMO), but it is also suitable for backpacking – especially in areas where the water might be extra sketchy.

The filter uses a 3-part filtration system.

First filter layer: This is a 0.1 micron pre-filter.  It removes bacteria, protozoa, and algae.  The pre-filter can be removed.  However, it means that the carbon filter will get used up much faster. This layer can be cleaned with backflushing is effective for 100,000+ liters.

Second filter layer: This filter layer is made from activated carbon.  It will absorb and reduce levels of heavy metals, chemicals, and pesticides.  It also removes bad tastes from water.  Like all carbon filters, it doesn’t last that long.

After about 2,000 liters, the second filter layer will become ineffective. You can remove it though and still use the other parts of the filter system which essentially last forever.  Just know that, without the carbon filter, you won’t be removing chemicals or heavy metals from water.

Third filter layer: This final layer is a 0.01 micron filter.  That means it can filter out viruses!  It can be cleaned with backflushing and is effective for over 100,000 liters.

The great thing about the Survival Filter Pro system is that it removes bacteria, protozoa, algae, viruses, and some chemicals and heavy metals.

As a LifeStraw alternative, it’s also pretty easy to use.  Pumping definitely easier than squeezing (though they also make a squeeze-type filter akin to the Sawyer Mini which you can see here).

The major downsides are that this filter wasn’t made for backpacking.  The plastic casing is pretty crappy.  I can imagine it breaking easily while in the backcountry.  It also is VERY SLOW.  The flow rate (because of the 0.01 micron filter layer) is just 500ml per minute.

For ultralight backpacking, the weight will be a big issue.  It weighs 12.8oz and takes up a good amount of space in your pack.  When using in running water (like fast-moving streams), be sure the tubes are connected well.  You don’t want them to detach and disappear down the stream!



  • Three-layer filter system
  • 01 hollow fiber filter layer removes viruses
  • Also removes viruses and some pesticides, chemicals, and heavy metals
  • Removes bad tastes from water
  • Pump is easier than squeezing



  • Heavy and bulky
  • Very slow flow rate of 500ml per minute
  • Carbon filter layer only effective for 2,000 liters
  • Plastic can crack and break easily
  • Designed for disaster preparedness, not backpacking


The bottom line?

Choose if you want a system which can treat all sorts of sketchy water and don’t mind the extra weight.

Get the Survival Filter Pro Here


#4: LifeStraw Flex

Lifestraw flex

This technically isn’t a LifeStraw alternative because it’s made by the same company.  But the Flex is much more versatile than the original LifeStraw.

To use the Flex, you fill up the bottle with dirty water, screw on the filter, and then squeeze out clean water.  It can also be screwed onto plastic water bottles or put in water bladders. Basically, it works just like the Sawyer Mini.

The difference between the LifeStraw Flex and Sawyer Mini is that the Flex also has a carbon fiber filter in addition to the 0.2 micron hollow fiber filter.

The carbon filter will remove some heavy metals, pesticides, and bad tastes from water.   However (like with all carbon filters), it will meet the end of its life fairly soon.  With the LifeStraw Flex, you’ll need to replace it after just 100 liters/25 gallons.

Even the 0.2 micron filter won’t last forever.  It reaches the end of its life after 2,000 liters/500 gallons.  You can buy replacement carbon filters, but will need to buy a new filter after you’ve reached 500 gallons.

You’ll know the filter is reaching the end of its life as it becomes slower (even after backflushing).  Yes, that means the flow rate gets annoyingly slow over time.



  • Multi-use: Can be used as a straw or squeeze filter
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Affordable option
  • Carbon fiber capsule removes bad tastes
  • Also removes some heavy metals, chemicals, and pesticides



  • Carbon fiber filter needs replaced after 25 gallons
  • Need to replace entire filter every 500 gallons (2,000 liters)
  • Doesn’t remove viruses
  • Flow rate gets very slow over time


The Bottom Line?

Choose this if you want a cheap squeeze filter and don’t mind replacing it fairly frequently.

Get the Sawyer Flex Filter Here


#5: RUNACC Water Filter

Honestly, I don’t really recommend this LifeStraw alternative.  It’s definitely better than the LifeStraw, but not nearly as good as the Sawyer Mini or GRAYL filters.

It looks almost identical to the Sawyer Mini, but it has a long tube with a hand pump attached to it.  This means you can use the filter without squeezing.  Definitely a big pro if you have squeezing water!  The filter also comes with pre-filters which can remove some impurities.

But the benefits stop there. It has a filter which only lasts for around 2,000 liters.  This is still quite a lot, but you have no way of knowing when the filter has become ineffective.

Even the pump is a bit annoying.  After about 3 pumps, the pump ball will deflate.  You’ll have to detach it in order to reflate it.  Very annoying!

The flow rate is slightly less than the Sawyer Mini. However, it’s a lot easier to pump water than squeeze it, so that aspect is even.



  • Pump is easier than squeezing
  • Can drink directly from water source or pump water into a container
  • Attaches to hydration packs



  • A bit bulky
  • Pump often deflates
  • Lasts for 2,000 liters


The bottom line?

Choose if you like the Sawyer Mini but hate squeezing.

Get the RUNACC filter here


Guess what? Did you know that I wrote a book?

It’s all about what to eat while backpacking, including tons of information about backpacking nutrition, meal planning, and over 50 ultralight recipes you can make on a dehydrator.  Learn more here.

backpacking dehydrator recipes ebook

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About the author /

Diane Vukovic grew up camping and backpacking in upstate New York. Now, she takes her own daughters on wilderness adventures so they can connect with nature and learn resiliency. With dozens of trips under her belt, Diane is an expert in minimalist camping, going lightweight, planning, and keeping her kids entertained without screens.

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