Every avid outdoors person knows that a good filtered water bottle is an essential piece of adventure gear. Whether you head out on hikes for a few hours or voyage into backcountry wilderness for days at a time, you never want to find yourself thirsty and without access to clean water.
While many sources of tap water and groundwater are perfectly safe, it's never worth the risk to drink water you aren't certain about. Even if it looks clean, it could be contaminated with bacteria, viruses, protozoa or other microorganisms invisible to the human eye. And despite the Safe Drinking Water Act, tap water can still contain contaminants such as arsenic, lead, chlorine, pesticides and even particles from malfunctioning wastewater treatment.
Some reasons you may want to invest in a filtered water bottle:
- You're unsure about your tap water
- You travel to other states and countries where you don't know about water practices
- You go hiking, backpacking or on other outdoor adventures
- You prefer bottled water but want to reduce your plastic consumption
To that end, I tested six filtered water bottles to find out which ones you can trust to provide you with clean, safe drinking water, indoors or out.
How I tested these filtered water bottles
For the sake of safe drinking 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 all of the filtered water bottles 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.
How I rated these filtered water bottles
I considered five important criteria when using these filtered water bottles: filtering, materials, taste, ease of use and clean-up. These are all factors you should consider when looking for a filtered water 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 the water? Were there any particles left in the water after filtering? Water "after filtering" means the water that comes out of the drinking spout or straw.
Materials: What is the bottle made of? Stainless steel or plastic? If plastic, is it BPA-free? How sturdy is the bottle?
Taste: This one's pretty obvious. How did the water taste? Specifically, were there any remnants of mineral or chemical tastes?
Ease of use: Was the bottle easy to prep and put together? Was it easy to get water into the bottle?
Clean-up: 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?
These products and services are independently chosen by our editors. CNET may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.
The natural water I tested the bottles in already looked relatively clean, but when I poured a bit from the Geopress, I was shocked at how crystal-clear it looked. Although I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, as Grayl's heavy-duty filtering system is designed to filter out bacteria, protozoa, viruses, chemicals, particulates (like dirt and sand) and heavy metals.
The Geopress is made of BPA-free polypropylene, a durable type of plastic. The wide base diameter of the Geopress 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 bottle I'd choose to take 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 is wide enough to fit my entire hand into, meaning I could actually get to the bottom of the bottle with a sponge. Just make sure to thoroughly dry the bottle before storing it: If you store the bottle 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 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 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 bottle is made of stainless steel, and the cap is made of thick BPA-free plastic. The filter inserts snugly into the bottom side of the cap 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 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, and the cap 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 filters are $12 each and should be replaced every two months if you use your bottle regularly.
Water that comes out of the Sawyer Select filtered water bottle is clean, that's for sure. Sawyer Products offers all sorts of clean-water gadgets, but this bottle in particular uses a double-filtration system: The interior "Foam Adsorption Technology" removes heavy metals, chemicals, pesticides and viruses, while the exterior micron filter removes bacteria, protozoa, cysts, dirt and sediment.
The Sawyer Select bottle is made of BPA-free silicone, and the interior is foam. The various caps, as well as the external micron filter, are made of BPA-free plastic. The micron filter itself is a hollow fiber membrane. The bottle is squishy, but it still feels relatively sturdy.
One downfall for backpackers, though, is that this 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 filtering process requires 10 seconds of squeezing the bottle to work the foam adsorption feature. To get all of the water out of the 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 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 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 tap water, like the Astrea bottle -- but this bottle also filtered natural fresh water just fine. The Brita 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 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 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 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.
The Lifestraw Go has three simple parts (bottle, cap and filter -- four parts if you count the carbon capsule inside the filter), and the preuse prep is simple: Just run clean water over the carbon 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.
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 filter detaches easily and the bottle opening is large enough to insert a standard dish scrubber.