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Water Filters for Travel

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To travel the world cheaply, I know that I need to have a strategy for acquiring drinking water for myself, without continuously paying for it. Dropping an additional 2-3 USD a day — everyday — for bottled water is an unnecessary expense — and wanton expenses are to be isolated and stabbed dead by any budget travel strategy.

So I filter my drinking water.

To travel the world cheaply, I know that I must attempt to be as self-dependent as possible. As Andy says, “the more gear I carry with me, the cheaper travel will be.” One way that I cut down on my travel expenses is by purifying my own drinking water with a pump style hiking filter.

I purchased my water filter for $40 in 2001 (actually, my mother bought it for me because she was not confident that I would abstain from drinking the water in S. America) and I have often use this filter — or one like it — on hundreds of occasions all around the world. Filtering my drinking water over the past 8 years has probably saved me close to a thousand dollars that would have otherwise been spent on bottled water.

If $15 can conservatively be called a day of travel in most countries in the world, and I can regularly save myself $2 a day by filtering water, then using a filter everyday for a 6 month trip would provide me with 24 extra days of traveling.

I would rather take 10 minutes every morning of filtering water to ensure that I could have 24 more days of traveling. If you did this for an entire year, then you could rightfully add another month and a half on to your travels.

It is far easier to save travel funds, than it is to make them — I am learning this now the hard way, working away in Maine.

How I use a water filter when traveling


Type of hiker water filter pump that I often travel with

  1. I get one disposable 1.5 liter plastic bottle from another traveler who lives off bottled water (or from anywhere you can get one)
  2. I cut the top off of it so that I can make it fit beneath a standard size faucet
  3. I pour tap water into the plastic bottle
  4. I filter this water through the pump into my water bottle
  5. I pack everything up and carry the empty disposable bottle with me

This process takes 10 minutes a day. From these ten minutes of work I can save myself around $2 everyday. Not bad.

There are many other ways to process drinking water when traveling — boiling, iodine drops, ultraviolet light pens — but I am very partial to filtration pumps. The reasons for this are as follows:

  • The pumps can remove both bacteria and virus’
  • They can be used for both tap and stream/ wild water
  • You do not usually need to use chemicals with them — I do not want to drink water that has been treated with iodine/ chlorine drops for long periods of time
  • They are light weight and heavy duty — mine is 8 years old, though I have used others during this time
  • You can filter a few liters of water in under ten minutes — boiling water usually takes longer than this and then you have to wait for the water to cool down before bottling or drinking
  • Filtering water gets out the crusties in wild water — I do not care if all of the bacteria is supposedly killed in my drinking water, I still do not want to drink river crud
  • I do not need a power source to use a pump style water filter — boiling water takes electric or fire energy and ultraviolet purifiers rely on battery power . . . I trust the continual availability of none of these sources
  • The filters on the pumps last a long time — I only need to replace it once every year or two if I predominantly filter tap water

I like to be as self-dependent as possible in all aspects of living, I like to have everything I need to survive and travel with me whenever possible. I like the knowledge that I can go anywhere at anytime and be prepared. Carrying a water filter means that I do not need to worry about when I will come upon the next store to acquire drinking water from, as I can make any water drinkable in a matter of moments.

By carrying a water filter, I remove a portion of my dependence on an outside infrastructure, and, in the process, make my life a little simpler and routine.

I am not squeamish about drinking tap water in many places, but I always follow a simple rule: If the local people in a town drink the tap water, then I will too; if the local people process their water in some way before consuming it, then I will follow suit and use my filter.

Though it only takes me a few moments to filter out a day’s supply of water, so if there are any questions, I just break out the pump.

Filed under: Travel Gear

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Water Filters for Travel

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Filed under: Travel Gear, Travel Preparation

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3048 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Polis, Republic of CyprusMap