When we moved off grid, figuring out how to get a reliable supply of safe drinking water was obviously high priority. We have two water sources on the property: a developed spring and a year-round creek.
We knew we needed a gravity water filter to purify our water since we live without enough electricity for a pump of any sort (just enough for lights and cell phones). This type of countertop water filter is pretty standard fare. There are numerous options and they all look pretty much the same: two-chamber stainless steel with filter elements inside and a spigot on the bottom.
But there are obviously differences once you start investigating the details: which filter is best at removing contaminants, which filter is fastest, which has the biggest water tank, and on and on.
To be honest, when we chose our water filter (an Aquacera) we didn’t put a ton of time into researching which was best. We basically just searched on Amazon and the price and specs were right for the Aquacera, so we bought it.
For this article I wanted to put in some of the due diligence and research that we should have done, as a helpful guide for you—whether you’re off grid in a yurt, a cabin, a tiny house, or something else. I’ll break down the differences, so you can choose which filter best fits your off-grid needs.
Based in Colorado, Berkey Filters are by far the best known company making high quality gravity water filters. They’re basically the international standard for waterborne contaminant removal. The filter elements are made of six different media with microscopic pores that pollutants just literally can’t pass through. The elements also use adsorption and absorption to create an ionic barrier that blocks even those pollutants that are smaller than the microsopic pores.
Notably, Berkey filters are one of the best water filters for removing lead—test results show the Black Berkey filters remove 99.9% of lead, second only to the Propur filters (discussed below) which remove 100%.
The Big Berkey, their most popular filter, holds 2.25 gallons in its bottom tank, has two purification elements that can filter 6,000 gallons in their lifetime (3,000 gallons each), and can filter 3.75 gallons per hours. There are also several other sizes depending on your needs.
Starting price: $278
Replacement filter: $120 for two
Perfect for: A small household of 2-4 people, emergency preparedness, camping, off grid living
Downsides: If you’re filtering city water, you need to buy an add-on to filter out fluoride and arsenic. A bit more expensive than other options. Filters require priming.
Pro tip: If you don’t mind a dent or two, Berkey offers discounts on filters with superficial damages.
Read the Berkey lab reports here.
Based in Michigan, the Ceramic Filters Company (which makes Aquacera gravity filters) has been in business since 1989, and makes a variety of filtration products (on grid, off grid, etc.). Their gravity water filters use ceramic filters, a tried and true filtration method that reliably removes waterborne contaminants, including, unlike the Berkey, a >90% fluoride reduction. These ceramic filters also leave the good, beneficial minerals in.
The Aquacera Traveler XL model holds 1.5 gallons in its bottom tank, has two ceramic candle filters that require no priming and should be replaced each year. I can’t find a published flow rate for the Aquacera, but can say from personal experience that it’s less than the 3.75 gph that the Big Berkey achieves.
Starting price: $129
Replacement filter: $39 for one
Perfect for: A small household of 2-4 people, off grid living, emergency preparedness, camping
Downsides: Less of a downside and more of a note is to be sure to select the correct filter element for your needs. The only filters to be used with untreated water are the CeraPlus and the CeraMetix.
Read the lab report for Aquacera’s CeraMetix here.
Doulton Water Filters
Based in the UK, Doulton has been in the business for, like, ever (more than 170 years). Like Aquacera, Doulton countertop gravity water filters use ceramic filtration and achieve similar results on the major contaminants list. Like Aquacera and Berkey, the filter containers are stainless steel.
The Doulton SS Gravity Filter comes with two ceramic candle filters that have a lifetime of 2,600 gallons, and filters water at a flow rate of 1.7 Liters per hour (0.44 gallons). So, quite a bit slower than Berkey, and also slower than Aquacera.
Starting price: $165
Replacement filter: $58 for two
Perfect for: A small household, emergency preparedness
Noteworthy: Currently Doulton filters are used by such organizations as UNICEF and Save the Children Fund.
Downsides: On certain contaminants, Doulton performs worse than Aquacera, according to the lab results (published by the same lab that tested Aquacera’s CeraMetix). Look, for instance, at percent reduction of chloroform: Aquacera reduces by 99.1% as opposed to Doulton’s 88.4% reduction.
Read the Doulton lab results under “Technical Guidance” here.
Newer to the marketplace, Alexapure is in the business of water filtration and air filtration, and is hot in the preppers and survivalists crowd, which is why they’re for sale on My Patriot Supply (where it’s $70 cheaper than at Alexapure).
Let’s cut to the chase here: The Alexapure Pro is crazy good, and won’t totally break the bank at a price point below the Berkey.
The Alexapure Pro holds 2.25 gallons and comes with one filter element that has a lifetime of 5,000 gallons. I haven’t found data on the flow rate, though some reviews suggest it’s a bit slow.
Starting price: $249 ($179 at My Patriot Supply)
Replacement filter: $90
Perfect for: A small household, emergency preparedness, off grid living
Downsides: It is more expensive than the Aquacera and the Doulton, and the replacement filter is not cheap— but weigh that against the filter lifetime of 5,000 gallons, a number on par with the Black Berkey filters (and replacing both Berkey filter elements costs $120).
Read the Alexapure Pro lab test results here.
Based in Michigan, Propur has been around since 2011 and makes a variety of filtration systems, from gravity filters to whole home systems (with the unfortunate tagline “Make Water Great, Again”). Their ProOne G2.0 filters use ceramic filter technology and achieve industry-standard results, though slightly lower performance than the Alexapure Pro. That said, the Propur filter is the best gravity water filter for removing lead—test results show it removes 99.9+% of lead. It also removes fluoride without an add-on filter.
There are several different sizes for their countertop gravity filters. The Propur Big holds 2.75 gallons, comes with two filter elements that need replacing each year, and filters around 0.45 gallons per hour (so a speed on par with the Doulton, a bit slow).
Starting price: $279
Replacement filter: $139 for two
Perfect for: A small household, emergency preparedness
Downsides: Filters a bit slow, starting price is a bit high, and replacement filters aren’t cheap—but weigh that with the industry-leading lead removal of 100%. If you don’t have lead in your water, maybe you aren’t so concerned about that, though.
Read the Propur lab test results here.
I know this will sound like a cop-out, but the water filter you ultimately choose will depend on your needs. It’s worth remembering that each of these gravity filters meets industry and government testing standards. You will be safe with any of them.
Each of the filters here is sized for a small household of 2-4 people (in our case, 2 people and 2 dogs). Each of these filters can perform in an off-grid situation and in an emergency scenario.
In our experience, our Aquacera does filter fast enough, but I wouldn’t recommend a filter that filters more slowly. For this reason, I would not recommend the Doulton. And for this reason, I would also not recommend the Propur, UNLESS lead contamination is a concern in your area. (Do a water test if you’re not sure. They’re affordable and worth knowing, if only for peace of mind.)
If price is no matter, I would recommend either the Berkey or the Alexapure, whose overall testing numbers are the most impressive.
If you don’t want to drop several hundred dollars, go with the Aquacera. It meets all the same standards, also comes in a stainless steel container, and replacement filters are a bit less costly too.