The Best Backpacking Water Filter

For any long trip through the backcountry you’re going to have to figure out how to find water. On short trips you might be able to get by with a small water bottle or camel back. Extended trips into the wilderness are going to need a more permanent solution. Unless you like the idea of catching a parasite or some intestinal bacteria I would highly recommend some type of water sanitizing solution. Unless you plan on hauling around a few gallons of water, you’re going to need one of the best backpacking water filters.

What’s The Best Backpacking Water Filter For You?


Different Types of Water Filters For Hiking, Camping and Backpacking

For centuries people have been sanitizing water in one way or another. With all of the different ways to purify water it’s difficult to choose just one. Where you plan on backpacking is going to largely determine how you want to approach purification. Water purification mostly tries to target parasites, bacteria and viruses. Most people who travel in the United States aren’t going to have to worry about water borne viruses. If you’re traveling across Europe or South America that’s another story. Water purifiers typically fall into four different categories, Boiling Water, Filtration, UV Light Purifiers and Chemical Treatment. The treatment you choose will depend on how long you’re going to be in the woods.

Boiling Water Filtration

  • Kills Bacteria Protozoa and Viruses
  • Only need to boil water for 1-3 minutes depending on your altitude
  • Difficult to build fires on the go, but convenient when already cooking food

Boiling water filtration is one of the most primitive forms of water purification, yet it’s also one of the most effective. Boiling water for 3 minutes will be able to kill almost all bacteria, protozoa and parasites.  You could definitely try bringing along a lightweight camping cookware set, but that’s going to be a little to bulky on short trips.  Instead you might want to bring along one of these lightweight kettles (as seen to your right) to lighten your load.

While it’s extremely effective you’re going to need to build a fire or bring some kind of propane stove. You should never plan on boiling water as your primary means of water purification, but it is convenient if you’re already cooking dinner.

Chemical Water Treatment

  • Kills all of the bad stuff in your water with a few chemical drops
  • Very lightweight and easy to pack
  • Affordable Backup Water Treatment
  • Takes up to 4 hours to fully treat water with chlorine.

On any long camping trip you are going to bring along some form of chlorine dioxide water treatment kit. Being both cheap and small these kits are excellent for throwing into your pack. All Chlorine water treatment sets probably work the same, but I’ve had a lot of luck using this Aquamira Set that I found on Amazon.  For a few bucks it’s really worth bringing along a backup water source just in case your other gear breaks down.

Anybody who’s cleaned up a green pool can tell you just how effective chlorine can be. One small bottle of chlorine treatment can treat up to 60 gallons of water. The only real downside is that you will have to wait 4 hours for the water to be fully purified.

Hiking and Camping Water Filters

  • Best primary water filtration system
  • Removes both bacteria and protozoa(perfect for USA)
  • Relatively Affordable
  • Almost instant water throughout longer camping trips

Most long distance thru hikers or backpackers will want to buy a traditional water filter.  There are a ton of different filters available on the market that work well. Whenever I go on short 2-3 day hikes I bring along my Survivor Filter Pro Water Filter.  It’s a little bulky for short day hikes(I Bring along a lifestraw), but it works perfectly for a family of 3-4 people.

These filters work by filtering water through a porous substrate. They filter out all of the bad bacteria and parasites leaving you with clean and clear water. With a little work you’ll be able to drink water straight away allowing you to keep traveling and fill up your main traveling container quickly. Most traditional filters use some sort of pump or gravity system to force unfiltered water through the substrate.

UV Light Water Purifiers

  • Kills bacteria, protozoa and viruses
  • Nearly instant water sterilization
  • Requires very little effort
  • Modern Technology is more expensive

UV Light cleaning has been around for a while, but only recently dropped in price low enough for the consumer market. Since they’re fairly new to the market, they can also be very expensive.

Honestly I don’t have a lot of experience using this type of filter, but I have been impressed with what I’ve seen.  I tried out the Steripen Adventurer water purifier and I was pleasantly surprised. In about 90 seconds my water was purified.  Personally I couldn’t tell you if there was or wasn’t bacteria in the water I drank, but I didn’t get sick so that’s good enough for me.

UV Purifiers almost instantly sterilize bacteria, protozoa and viruses allowing you to drink water straight away. The major downside to UV purifiers is the reliance on batteries and possible malfunctions. For a few bucks I would highly recommend throwing a chemical treatment in your pack as well.

What is The Best Backpacking Water Filter?

Potable Aqua Water Purification Chlorine Dioxide Tablets

Notable Features:
  • Very Low Priced
  • Kills Most Bacteria
  • Virus and Parasites
  • Takes 4 Hours To Purify Water
  • 30 Individual Tablets
  • Treats 30 Quarts of Water

Potable Aqua’s water purification tablets are used worldwide by hikers, campers, military and emergency organizations. These easy to use low cost tablets will give you clean and safe drinking water in no time. The chemical treatment works fast and kills bacteria, viruses and protozoa that make people sick. When used as directed the tablets will purify water in about 4 hours time. All you need to do is drop a tablet in your water container and wait. So you need to either plan your water treatment ahead of time or rely on another primary treatment for water purification. You shouldn’t notice much of an after taste and it should reduce any odors in the water. These tablets were designed to be used with hydration packs and standard drinking containers.

While some of the other chemical treatments may work faster, chlorine dioxide is the only EPA approved chemical proven to inactivate cryptosporidium cysts. Cryptosporidium is a parasite that causes diarrhea and vomiting. Unless your idea of a good trip is rushing to the bathroom every 5 minutes I would highly recommend Chlorine Dioxide Tablets. For the low price Chlorine Dioxide Tablets are a must have in any long range camping pack.


MSR TrailShot Pocket-Sized Squeeze Water Filter

Notable Features:
  • Filters Up to 1 Liter Per Minute
  • Attaches Directly To Hydration Pack
  • Easy to Use Squeeze Pump Design
  • Filters Most Bacteria and Protozoa
  • Drink Straight From The Stream or Fill a Mug

The MSR Trailshot is the perfect water filter for solo hikers or small groups. Using a basic squeeze filtration system this will quickly fill a water bottle or hydration pack. What I really like about squeeze filtration systems is their basic design. It’s such a basic filtration system that it’s almost guaranteed to work. You won’t have to worry about accidentally forgetting a small part at home or breaking a plastic pump.

The Trailshot might not be the easiest filter to use, but it’s reliable. Filling a large hydration pack will most likely leave your hands begging for a break. The filter was designed specifically to be used with hydration packs. You can attach the filter directly to your pack for quick and easy fill ups. You can also drink directly from the stream with the long hose or spray directly into your water bottle. IF you’re really working you can filter up to 1 liter of water per minute. It’s effective against almost all forms of bacteria and protozoa, but you’ll need a chlorine tablet if you want to kill viruses.(not necessary in USA) The best thing about this filtration system is its compact size and lightweight design. It easily fits in your pocket and will be ready when you need it. For small groups it’s hard to beat the convenience of the MSR Trailshot.

Survivor Filter PRO Camping Water Filter

Notable Features:
  • Hand Pump Style Filter
  • Eliminates Bacteria and Protozoa
  • Filters Water Quickly and Easily
  • Perfect for Group Cooking

If you are looking for a reliable long term water solution consider the Survivor Filter Pro. The survivor filter pro is the perfect filter for individual use and small groups. Using a durable pumping system the Survival Filter Pro can give you up to 500ml per minute(1 Standard Water Bottle). I personally prefer a squeeze system due to their simplicity, but some people like easy to use hand pumps.

The Survivor Filter Pro can be pumped directly from a fresh water source. Pumping into an attached cup or any portable hydration pack. It’s perfect for filtering large quantities of water for the whole family. The filter is rated at 100,000 liters of water before you need to replace. With the high filtration capacity and durable design this unit is made to last. By using a military grade plastic shell the unit should last a very long time. The triple filtration system filters out bacteria, protozoa and even metals that make the water taste funny. Backed by a lifetime warranty the survivor filter pro is a great addition to your backpack.

SteriPEN Ultra Rechargable UV Water Filter

Notable Features:
  • UV Light Sanitizes Water Almost Instantly
  • Compact Design Stores Almost Anywhere
  • Rechargable Unit Up to 50 Uses
  • Sanitizes 32oz of Water in 90 Seconds
  • Bulb Should Never Need Replacing

have been out for a while, but they’ve only recently been adopted by a lot of campers. It really is amazing to think that a UV light can sanitize water effectively. Almost instantly you’ll have clean sanitized water that’s safe to drink.

The Steripen Ultra UV water sanitizer is a compact solution for long hiking trips. Steripen is able to kill 99.9% of bacteria, viruses and protozoa. To purify water you simply press the button and stur the water with the Steripen. After 90 seconds the water will be safe and sanitized. Able to treat a water bottle up to 32 oz and 50 bottles on a single charge. With a small portable phone charger or solar charger you can extend the charge over multi week trips. Guaranteed for over 300 charging cycles and a lamp life of over 10,000 uses. With the Steripen you should get years of clean and sterile water.

Platypus GravityWorks 4.0 Liter High-Capacity Water Filter System

Notable Features:
  • Dual Reservoir Gravity Filtration System
  • Provides Water For Entire Family
  • Perfect For Cooking Large Meals
  • Easily Filter 4 Liters of Water in Minutes

If you are traveling with the whole family or large group seriously consider getting a gravity water filter. With a gravity filter you can quickly clean lots of water without much work. Allow gravity to do the work for you with the Platypus Water Filter system.

Gravity water filters are designed to filter water extremely fast. Like all traditional filters a gravity filter eliminates bacteria and protozoa. The Platypus filter is built to last offering water for the whole family. With no pumping required you can easily filter up to 4 liters in 2.5 minutes. Just tie the dirty water reservoir to a tree and water for gravity to do the work for you. The replaceable cartridge will filter up to 1500 gallons of water before needing to be replaced. If you’re going on a camping trip with a large group you should definitely buy the Gravity Works High-Capacity Water Filter System.

Sawyer One-Gallon Gravity Water Filtration System with Dual-Threaded Mini Filter

Notable Features:
  • Affordable Single Reservoir Gravity Fed System
  • Filters Water Quickly and Easily
  • Perfect for Large Groups and Cooking
  • Removes Bacteria and Protozoa
  • Filters a Gallon of Water in Minutes

Sawyer’s One Gallon gravity fed system is a cheaper option if you camp infrequently. Sawyer’s gravity water filter only comes with one reservoir so you need to supply a separate system to catch the filtered water. You might waste a little water on overfills, but with a decent fresh water supply that shouldn’t be a problem.

Depending on what you’re doing the one reservoir system may be much easier. While cooking and filling up a hydration reservoir you’ll notice that it’s much easier to forgo the second reservoir. You can connect the gravity filter directly to your hydration reservoir automatically filling your pack. Designed out of a durable material with a high efficiency filter, you won’t have to worry about damaging this gravity filter. Sawyer claims that you can filter up to 100,000 gallons of water without needing to replace the filter. If you don’t mind a few extra trips to the nearest stream, save some money today and buy the Sawyer Gravity Water Filtration System.

Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration System

Notable Features:
  • Compact Affordable Squeeze Filtration System
  • Foolproof Simple Design
  • Attach Filter Directly To Water Bottle
  • Use as Straw or Converted Gravity System

Sawyer’s Mini Water Filtration System is another great product that you should consider carrying. Featuring a squeeze filtration system this is one of the most basic designs on the market. Using the same filter as the above Gravity fed system this squeeze filter is an awesome alternative for the price.

The best thing about this mini squeeze water filtration system is that it gives you options. Sawyer designed this filter to be used as a basic pouch filter designed, but it has other easy to use options as well. You can attach this filter to a bottle and use it as a straw or even rig it up as poor mans gravity water filter. With a filter that lasts up to 100,000 gallons you can’t go wrong with this affordable Sawyer filter.

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

Notable Features:
  • Foolproof Water System
  • Drink Directly From Stream or Water Bottle
  • Works Like an Oversized Straw
  • Can’t Use For Cooking or Hydration Packs

Lifestraw might be the best known brand in the water filtration market. Through catchy marketing Lifestraw has made a serious name for themselves over the years. While it wouldn’t be my first choice for a long camping trip, it’s worth throwing in your bug out bag or backpack.

Lifestraw is a nearly foolproof solution that you won’t have to worry about damaging. As the name implies it works like a straw filtering water as needed. Just lay on your belly and dip the Lifestraw into a stream or water bottle for instant clean fresh water. It works well for short 1 day backpacking trips combined with another sanitation option for cooking. If all you need is a filter for a one or two day camping trip you should seriously consider the indestructible design of the lifestraw.


Recent Content