Backpacking trips are fun and adventurous but the wild atmosphere can also be dangerous if there is no emergency equipment at hand. One such emergency equipment that all backpackers should keep handy is the water filters and purifiers.
Water treatment is very much important to maintain good health outdoors. Though not all the water sources are unsafe, at times even the most pristine-looking water can get a person sick. We have listed some of the best water purification units here for your perusal along with their expert buying guide. Be sure to grab any one of them next time you backpack to the backcountry.
Best Backpacking Water Filters & Purifiers
Quick Answer: The 5 Best Backpacking Water Filters & Purifiers – 
- Katadyn Water Filter, Long Lasting for Camping
- LifeStraw Mission Water Purification System
- Sawyer Products MINI Water Filtration System
- Katadyn Hiker Microfilter Water Filter
- Platypus GravityWorks Water Filter Kit
Best Backpacking Water Filters & Purifiers Reviews
This water filter is of the highest quality construction and this robust water filter is ideal for long-lasting continuous use even under extreme circumstances. The silver impregnated ceramic element is effective against bacteria and protozoa using the micro-filtration method. It is possible to clear up to 13,000 gallons of water depending on the water quality.
This pocket water filter is a favorite among outdoor enthusiasts. It features a round pump handle for easy pumping. This is the only water filter with a minimum of 20 years’ warranty.
This is the best pocket water filter designed for international travelers and outdoor enthusiasts. It is an eminent filter that filters all microorganisms that are larger than 0.2 micros to produce clean and safe drinking water.
Apart from the round pump handle, its outlet hose attaches to a container with a clip. It is an eminent water purification system for every need that includes camping, traveling, sailing, paddling, backpacking, biking, and fishing.
This is one of the best water purification systems that are gravity fed and features a high capacity and hollow membrane water purifier system. This is ideal for group and family camping and also for outdoor activities. It is also ideal for emergency preparedness. It virtually removes all bacteria, protozoa, and viruses that can contaminate water.
The Purifier is easily fillable in streams and lakes. it features a compact roll bag reservoir that is available in 5-liter capacity or 12-liter capacity. The reservoir can suspend from any tree or any other support for easy access.
The purifier is simple to use and maintain without any chemicals, batteries or any moving parts. It features a carrying strap and includes a stuff sack for portability and storage. Its lifetime filtration capacity is 18,000 liters or 5000 gallons. It produces a flow rate of 9-12 liters of purified water per hour. This purifier ensures absolute peace of mind when out of town.
This mini water filtration system is ideal for outdoor recreation, camping, scouting, camping, domestic and international travel and emergency preparedness. The high-performance filter has a 0.1-micron inline filter that fits in the palm of the hand that weighs just over 2 ounces.
The mini-units are tested individually for three times for absolute performance standards. This filter attaches with an individual drinking pouch, standard disposable water bottles, hydration packs. It makes use of the straw to drink directly from the water source.
It removes 99.99% of all bacteria including, salmonella, E. coli, and Cholera. The filter also removes 99.99% of all protozoa and microplastics. This can filter up to 1,00,000 gallons of water and includes a mini filter, reusable squeeze pouch, 7-inch drinking straw, and a cleaning plunger. The filter is the most versatile personal water filtration system that is conveniently compact and is of high performance.
This backpacking water purification system features an easy to use a design that is great for novice campers and serious backpackers. It’s 0.2 mm micron glass fiber filter media helps with high output with minimal effort.
The filter also features activated carbon at the core of the filter so as to improve taste and to reduce the level of chemicals in the drinking water. This filtration unit helps with safe drinking water in any challenging conditions.
This is one of the lowest maintenance water filters available in the market and does not require constant backflushing. With the help of this reliable water filtration unit, there is no need to carry gallons of water.
This microfilter is only of 11-ounce capacity and does not take up huge space in the backpack. It can connect directly with the hydration packs with the help of ¼” drinking tubes and water bottles.
This is a high capacity and gravity-fed hollow fiber water filtration system that is ideal for small group and family camping activities. It is also ideal for outdoor adventures and emergency preparedness. The filter meets all EPA and NSF guidelines and ensures 99.99% removal of bacteria, protozoa and other disease-causing organisms.
This filter does not require any pumping action and fills easily and hangs from a tree. It can comfortably render four liters of filtered water for cooking and drinking in 2.5 minutes.
This filtration unit includes a 4-liter dirty water reservoir and a 4-liter clean water reservoir. It also includes a hollow fiber microfilter, shut off clamp, hoses and a storage sack. It is possible to replace the cartridge that filters up to 1500 gallons of water and produces a flow rate of up to 1.75 liters per minute.
Different Types of Water Filtration Units:
A number of natural water sources can contain microscopic pathogens that can cause a wide array of diseases in humans. Most of the water filters that are meant for the backcountry filtration purposes will kill the protozoa and the bacteria. But the viruses that are from international water sources are pretty hard to remove as they are very microscopic.
Thus fine-grained filters called purifiers are required to remove them. Sometimes they have to be neutralized with the help of chemical purification agents such as UV light and Carbon dioxide. The different types of water filters available are,
- Squeeze water filters
- Gravity and inline water filters
- Bottle and Straw Water Filters
- Pump water filters and purifiers
- Chemical purification
- Ultraviolet water purification
1. Squeeze water filters:
These are single-stage filters that are efficient in removing protozoa and bacteria and not viruses. They are best for clear water sources that have very few suspended particles and organic matter. The speed of processing depends on the size of the dirty water bottle, size of the filter and the pressure the user exerts to push water through it. But these filters slow down with use and mandates constant maintenance.
2. Gravity and inline water filters:
These filters process large quantities of water at once by harnessing the power of gravity. A large water reservoir or the dirty bag is hung from a tree with a hose that leads to the water filter. The output water flows through another hose to a clean reservoir. These filters are good for small groups and generally make use of a single-stage filter.
3. Bottle and Straw Water Filters:
These filters make use of the same single-stage hollow fiber filters. The user sucks water directly from the water source through the filter and does not transfer to the secondary storage. These are best for single users in places where water is abundant.
4. Pump water filters and purifiers:
These filters chunk out bacteria and protozoa and the pump water purifiers also remove viruses. They feature hand pumps that force water through the filter and out to secondary storage for future usage. They usually filter water quickly and are best for couples and individuals. There is a pre-filter at the end of the hose that drops into the water source to remove organic matter and particles.
5. Chemical purification:
These are available in the form of a tablet or liquid. The best chemical reagent is chlorine dioxide that is capable of killing viruses, protozoans, and bacteria. But chemical purification takes a lot of time, sometimes up to four hours to completely purify the water.
6. Ultraviolet water purification:
This is the most effective form of filtration that kills all microbes. It is best with clear water as it is free of soluble particles and organic matter. While UV filtration is fast, it is not best to process large volumes of water. It works with batteries and there are all chances for it to run out of water.
FAQs for backpacking water filters and purifiers:
What is the difference between a filter and a purifier?
The main difference between a water filter and a purifier is the level of protection they render. Generally, a filter removes bacteria and protozoa from the water, whereas a water purifier combats bacteria, protozoa, and viruses.
When should I use a filter?
For those exploring the backcountries of the US and Canada, a water filter or microfilter can render sufficient protection. As these are pristine landscapes with relatively low human traffic, protozoa and bacteria are the major threats. And a filter is enough to eliminate them.
When should I use a purifier?
While traveling to developing countries where sanitation is poor, and there is possible contamination of water, it is good to choose a filter with a purifying agency such as chemical tablets.
Buyer’s Tips in Choosing The Best Water Filter for Backpacking
- Weight and Bulk of the filter
- Life of the filter
- Flow rate
- Size of the pore
- Compatibility with a hydration reservoir and water bottles
- Taste of the water
- Filter replacement and maintenance
- Emergency Backups
1. Weight and Bulk of the filter:
It is a general rule to have the backpacking gear as light and as small as possible. The majority of the water filtration and purification systems come at a lightweight and packable option. They also take up very little space in the backpack. Some of the lightweight variants such as LifeStraw and Katadyn BeFree weight not more than 2-3 ounce in weight. Pumps and gravity systems can occupy more space and are also heavy but works great for groups while base camping.
2. Life of the filter:
Filter life is the key product specification. And according to the life of the filter and the durable of the stay, it may be necessary to carry additional backup filters for the backpacking trip. Choose a filter that has a satisfactory life period and is of durable components, else it will end up a total waste of money spent.
3. Flow rate:
Most backpackers tend to drink a lot of water in the backcountry trips if the water is easy to obtain. Here, the speed of the filter and the flow rate matters a lot. Gravity filters have a fast flow rate, perhaps 1.75 liters per minute and some of the leading pump filters available in the market have a filtration rate of one liter per minute.
4. Size of the pore:
If we research the water purification filters in detail, we will come across a common term known as the pore size, which is generally in the measure of microns. This is the size of tiny openings in the filter, smaller they are, more are the particles the filter can block. As per the water treatment guide by the CDC, microfiltration units should have a pore size between 0.05 micron to 5 microns. And these filters are effective against all microbes.
5. Compatibility with a hydration reservoir and water bottles:
Almost all of the water treatment system has a connection with the hydration reservoir or the water bottle or both. They take the form of a simple cap or hose that fits into water bottle openings. It is important to ensure the compatibility of the water filter and the purifier so that it works pretty well with the drinking vessel.
6. Taste of the water:
A majority of the water filters and purifiers are able to eliminate the pathogens from the water, but they are not capable of altering the taste of the water. This need not be an issue when taking water from mountain streams, but the taste is an important factor while securing water from ponds or lakes. It is good to add an electrolyte balancing drink mix with the water for purification or use neutralizing tablets. Also, carbon filters can help with taste, as they remove chlorine, organic compounds and other bad odor inducing materials.
7. Filter replacement and maintenance:
The task of the filter is to remove contaminants from water and it is important for us to clean them of the accumulates. Straw and gravity filters are good to go with clean water backflushing or by passing air through the filter. Other demand separate equipment such as a syringe with a squeeze to get rid of debris. It is always good to clean the filter an equipment before and after every backpacking trip.
8. Emergency Backups:
It is always good to remember that every water filter and purifier can malfunction leaving no access for clean drinking water. Though one can always boil water and drink, it is an energy and time-consuming process. So it is good to carry backup chemical water treatment reagents at hand while going on long trips. Back up is a smart way that to get sick in the backcountry.
Water Treatment Tips and Best Practices:
Take the following precautions and avoid a few of these common mistakes while purifying water.
- Clearly separate and designate dirty containers from clean water containers
- Pay attention to the directions of purification units to avoid cross-contamination
- Seek clean water for purification, as sediments impair the treatment.
- While using murky water sources, use a pre-filter or allow sediments to settle down before purification.
- Keep the hands clean by using hand sanitizer
- Keep the toilet, dishwashing, and camp zones at least 20 feet away from the water source
- While backpacking at freezing conditions, store the bottle in the sleeping bag overnight. Batteries and UV pens do not last long in freezing points, the effectiveness of chemicals also diminishes. So read the directions carefully before hitting those trails.
These backpacking filters and purifiers help the backpacker with a steady source of good drinking water. We hope our guide helps you in securing the best water purifier and filter for your backpacking trips.