Best Backpacking Water Filters For Hikers And Campers

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Do you love going on hikes and camping trips but hate having to carry around a lot of weight? If so, then you’ll want to check out the best backpacking water filters on the market today.  

These filters are designed to lighten your load while still providing you with clean, safe water to drink. So, whether you’re planning an extended backcountry trip or just a short hike in the local park, be sure to bring one of these handy filters along with you! 

Best Backpacking Water Filters 

If you’re in a rush, check out this fast selection of our favorites, or continue scrolling to see our entire list with in-depth reviews. 

$44.05
as of December 25, 2022 3:49 pm
Amazon.com
$15.55
$17.49
as of December 25, 2022 3:49 pm
Amazon.com
Last updated on December 25, 2022 3:49 pm

What Is A Backpacking Water Filter? 

A backpacking water filter is a piece of equipment used to remove all bacteria, protozoa and sediment from water. There are many different types of filters on the market that use a variety of means to cleanse contaminated water. Generally, these filters work by pushing the water through a tightly woven net or mesh that traps larger particles such as dirt, silt and debris. Some also utilize carbon in their filtering systems to lower contaminants. Good filters can typically trap 99% of all impurities within a matter of seconds using only air pressure without requiring electricity or batteries. 

How Does Backpacking Water Filter Work? 

Backpacking water filters can be a lifesaver. This is especially true if you find yourself in the wilderness and you don’t have access to clean water.  

You will need this backpacking water filter to purify whatever water source that you come across, because it’s certainly not always safe to drink out of a river or a lake. 

There are several different types of backpacking water filters that you can find on the market.  

They all have slightly different designs, but they tend to have the same function – to clean out impurities from any source of water that you bring it. The most common types of backpacking water filter tend to be the pump water filter and the Gravity water filter. 

Water Filter Pump 

These types of backpacking water filters work by using a small amount of pressure to push water through tiny, tight spaces where it is cleansed.   

This method uses some sort of filtration medium such as foam or cloth, various chemicals, or even ultraviolet light to catch the larger particles. This method uses a hose that can be found on either water filter pump, which you suck water through to push it through the filter. 

This type of backpacking water filter is usually used by hikers who want something lightweight and easy to drink from for their hike. They are particularly useful for hikers who don’t want to stop and wait for water to filter as they move on.   

The hose can be fitted onto a bottle or a hydration pack, so it is easy to drink from, but the downside is that this method usually takes more time if you have a lot of water to purify. It also uses batteries, which can run out quickly. 

Gravity Water Filter 

These types of backpacking water filters are usually made up by using two buckets which you place on top of one another, with a filter in between them.  

The upper bucket has the clean water which you want to purify, while the lower bucket has the dirty water that needs cleaned before it can be used. 

The dirty water goes through the filter, and since gravity pulls it down, the clean water flows into the upper bucket while all the impurities are left in the lower bucket.  

This type of backpacking water filter doesn’t require any batteries or electricity to work properly. The downside is that this method usually takes more time than using a water filter pump to purify your water. 

Benefits of using Backpacking Water Filter 

A backpacking water filter can be very beneficial to backpackers. These filters make it easy for you to have fresh drinking water anytime. 

When hiking through the woods, there are so many different things that can meet your drinking water. It would be no problem if it were just you, but when you are out on a hike with a group of other people, it is important to have clean drinking water. A backpacking water filter will remove almost everything from the water so you can drink without worry. 

There are several different types of filters available, but one thing that they all have in common is how easy it is to use them. You won’t need any special training to use them, but it’s still important to read the instructions fully before you go on your trip. 

So now that backpacking water filters are available, what are some of the reasons they are popular?  

Backpacking water filters prevent any problems with drinking water  

One of the most important benefits is that these filters prevent any problems with your drinking water. They remove everything from the water, so you do not need to worry about getting sick while hiking in the woods. 

You can look at some of the different types of filters that are available for different situations. For example, if you are just going on an overnight hike, then one filter may be more than enough for your needs. If you are going on a longer trip, then there are some filters that work more quickly and provide better service. 

There is also a filter available for filtering water from a stream or lake if you do not have any other choice. This will still be better than drinking unfiltered water because of how it will prevent problems. 

The process of using a filter is so simple that anyone can do it. You just must fill up the container with water, and then turn on the pump. You will notice that dirty fluid starts coming out one end while clean water comes out the other. It is just that easy! 

Backpacking water filters are environmentally friendly 

Another benefit of using a backpacking water filter is that it is environmentally friendly. You will no longer need to worry about having plastic bottles or bags to carry your drinking water in because there are other options available.  

The other reason for this benefit is that you are reducing the amount of trash left behind while hiking in the woods. If you are out on a longer hike, then it is also easier to dispose of the filter when you get back home. 

Backpacking water filters prevent excess weight from being added to your pack 

Many backpackers complain about the excess weight in their suitcases and packs, so having a filter can help with this. The filter can provide all the drinking water that you need while you are out hiking. 

If there is a nearby water source, then this will be enough to help save your backpack from weighing too much. You will also still get plenty of exercise by carrying your bags because it is important to bring the filter with you for any nearby water sources. 

This is just one of the many benefits that you can receive by using a backpacking water filter anytime that you go on a hike. When you are ready to take your next trip, then remember these great benefits and how easy it is to use them. 

10 Best Backpacking Water Filters Reviews

If you’re in a rush, check out this fast selection of our favorites, or continue scrolling to see our entire list with in-depth reviews. 

1. Best Overall Water Filter: Sawyer Squeeze

This water filter system is the gold standard for many long-distance hikers and backpackers worldwide. The Sawyer Squeeze ($37) is effective against bacteria and protozoa due to its filtration down to 0.1 microns (making it slightly more effective and safer than other filters). 

It has a high flow rate and includes a kit for attaching to a hydration bladder. It is the best backpacking water filter due to its low price and lightweight. 

The Sawyer Squeeze has received over 1,000 five-star ratings from customers. Customer feedback highlights the ultralight trail weight, the ease of use (specifically the reusable roll-up squeeze pouch), and the product’s long-term durability. 

Customers appreciate that there are no cumbersome tubes; screw the filter onto a squeeze bag or bottle and drink. This filer has earned the top spot because of its usability and durability. 

Key Features 
  • Lightweight, Easy To Use Portable Water Filter 
  • High-Performance 
  • Built-In And Removable Flip Top Sports Cap 
  • Includes Two Reusable 32-Oz, Bpa-Free Collapsible Pouches 
  • Versatile Hydration 
  • Hollow Fiber Membrane 
  • Superior Filtration, Maximum Versatility 
PROS
  • Easy to use
  • Lightweight
  • Packable
CONS
  • We’ve experienced none so far

2. Runner-Up Best Water Filter: Platypus QuickDraw

Platypus Quickdraw Microfilter System, 1 Liter

$44.05
Amazon.com
as of December 25, 2022 3:49 pm
 

The small and portable Platypus QuickDraw ($44) is a newer filter system on the market. We tested it for several months last year and planned to use it a great deal more this year due to its low weight, packable size, and high filtering capacity. 

QuickDraw’s 1L plastic reservoir and hollow fiber filter component weigh only 3.3 ounces. The dual thread design is fantastic because it enables you to screw the filter onto the reservoir and a threaded plastic bottle (like a Smart bottle). 

We found it extremely simple to use and backflush, and the flow rate was satisfactory. The filter is effective for 1,000 liters before it must be replaced. 

Considering its size, weight, and cost, this filter is nearly tied for first place. But for a few dollars less, the Sawyer Squeeze filters down to 0.1 microns, which is slightly better than the QuickDraw’s 0.2 microns. The Quickdraw remains one of the best available backpacking water filters. 

Key Features 
  • The lightweight, easy-to-use QuickDraw Microfilter System offers quick and easy access to clean water on any adventure 
  • Hollow fiber technology filters water at 3L/min, micron size of 0.2, meets the rigorous NSF P231 protocol for removal of bacteria and protozoa, cartridge life is 1,000 liters 
  • QuickDraw Reservoir is taste-free, durable and has a wide mouth and handle for easy filling at any source 
  • Two easy cleaning techniques—shake-to-clean and tool-free backflushing—ensure fast flow rates for the duration of a trip 
  • System weighs 3.3 ounces total; filter cartridge measures 5×1.8 inches, reservoir measures 11.5×5.5 inches and pack to 8.2×3.5 inches; made USA 
PROS
  • Easy to use
  • Efficient system
  • Budget-friendly
CONS
  • Some wish the reservoir was larger

3. Best Budget Water Filter: LifeStraw Personal

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter for Hiking, Camping, Travel, and Emergency Preparedness, 1 Pack, Blue

$19.95
$17.47
Amazon.com
as of December 25, 2022 3:49 pm
 

The LifeStraw Personal ($20) is one of the water filters with the highest average rating. The simple straw-shaped filter employs a hollow-fiber membrane that removes microplastics, bacteria, and protozoa as small as 0.2 microns (the standard for water filters). It costs only $20 and is the lightest on the market at 2 ounces. 

However, it is only suitable for drinking water directly from the source and cannot be used to filter larger quantities of water into bottles, so it does have limitations. For long-distance backpacking, a secondary water filtration method will likely be required. However, it is an excellent choice for emergency kits, backpacking, hiking, bugout bags, and international travel. 

According to customer reviews, the LifeStraw is adequate for both day hikes and month-long backcountry excursions. Many customers praised the crisp flavor of the output, which critics praised for its portability and portability. 

The LifeStraw Personal is a must-have for ultra-minimalists and backpackers who want an easy-to-use option they can pull directly from an outer pocket of their pack. 

Key Features 
  • Removes bacteria & parasites: The microfiltration membrane removes 99.999999% of waterborne bacteria (including E. coli and salmonella), and 99.999% of waterborne parasites (including giardia and cryptosporidium) 
  • Removes microplastics: Removes the smallest microplastics found in the environment (down to 1 micron), and reduces turbidity down to 0.2 microns 
  • Rigorous Testing: All claims are verified with laboratories using standard testing protocols set by the US EPA, NSF, ASTM for water purifiers 
  • Long Lifetime: The microbiological filter will provide 4,000 liters (1,000 gallons) of clean and safe drinking water with proper use and maintenance 
  • Make an Impact: For every LifeStraw product purchased, a school child in need receives safe drinking water for an entire school year.BPA Free materials 
PROS
  • We love this filter for daily adventures and as a backup filter method on longer trips
  • It lasts for up to 1,000 L, which is plenty for almost any outdoor adventurer
CONS
  • It doesn’t work for filtering water into a bladder or bottle for reserve (you must drink as it filters)
  • You’ll also have to remember to empty the fiber chamber to prevent clogging before storing it away

4. Best Gravity Water Filter: Katadyn BeFree Gravity 3L

Katadyn Gravity BeFree 3.0L Water Filter, Fast Flow, 0.1 Micron EZ Clean Membrane Personal Small Group Camping, Backpacking Emergency Preparedness, Clear, 8020470

$74.95
$52.17
Amazon.com
as of December 25, 2022 3:49 pm
 

Gravity filters utilize gravity to pull water through the filter. Consequently, they are incredibly user-friendly. Fill it with unfiltered water, hang it, and return it a few minutes later to retrieve filtered water. 

They are ideal for large groups or when filtering large quantities of water simultaneously. Given their speed and usability, they’re also relatively lightweight. 

The Katadyn BeFree Gravity filter ($75) is the lightest gravity filter on this list at 6.8 ounces. The Katadyn BeFree is equipped with a quick-connect output hose to quickly fill multiple bottles, pots, or bladders. 

Additionally, it does not require typical filter maintenance, such as backflushing. The flow rate is comparable to the Sawyer Squeeze, and the bag’s ability to roll down makes it relatively packable. 

It came in behind the Sawyer Squeeze mainly because it’s more expensive. This is one of the best backpacking water filters available for those who don’t mind spending a little bit more or traveling in a larger group in the backcountry. It has proven itself on numerous Rocky Mountain backpacking, hunting trips, and beyond. 

Key Features 
  • 0.1 micron water filter removes harmful organisms like bacteria 99.9999% and protozoa like Giardia & Cryptosporidium 99.9%, surpassing EPA standards 
  • Collapsible 3.0L hydrapak soft bottle flask packs down small 
  • Ez-clean Membrane is simple and easy to clean by simply shaking or swishing the filter to clean debris, no backflushing or extra tools required 
  • Filters up to 1, 000 liters of contaminated water without using chemicals or other devices and hydrate quickly and easily with the free flow channels fast flow rate 
  • Made from durable BPA-free Thermoplastic Polyurethane 
PROS
  • Requires no backflushing
  • High flow rate
CONS
  • You’ll need a place to hang the filter (so if you’re traveling to beaches or deserts, this might not be the best option).

5. Best Water-Purifying Tablets: Katadyn Micropur

Katadyn Micropur MP1 Water Purification Tablets (30 Count)

$17.49
$15.55
Amazon.com
as of December 25, 2022 3:49 pm
 

Chemical treatment is an excellent alternative to a filter if you do not wish to sacrifice weight. Katadyn’s Micropur M1 tablets ($14) have been a top pick due to their purifying capabilities and simple instructions. 

Some customers say these chemical treatments have a slight aftertaste, but we prefer them to others. Additionally, many users concur that it is essential to know the wait times. The tablets are effective against viruses and bacteria within 15 minutes, but it takes four hours to eliminate the annoying cryptosporidium parasite. 

For backpacking trips, you can use tablets in the evening to ensure clean water for the next day. These are also great options for trips where side excursions are conducted from a backcountry base camp. Considering that most filters have the potential to fail, it is prudent to keep a few emergency tablets on hand. 

Key Features 
  • Ultralight tablets provide fresh drinking water anywhere you go 
  • Effective 
  • Fresh tasting water-no unpleasant taste 
  • These easy-to-use tablets meet EPA purification guidelines 
PROS
  • Destroy bacteria, protozoa, and viruses
  • Lightweight, budget-friendly, and easy to stash in a pack, pocket, or a first-aid kit
CONS
  • 4-hour wait time. (Because of this, we recommend treating your water ahead of time or in larger batches.)
  • Expire after 5 years

6. Easiest To Use: Katadyn BeFree 1.0L Water Filter

Katadyn BeFree 1.0L Water Filter, Fast Flow, 0.1 Micron EZ Clean Membrane for Endurance Sports, Camping and Backpacking, One Size, 8018006

$49.95
$40.49
Amazon.com
as of December 25, 2022 3:49 pm
 

After three rounds of testing, when it was time to clean the filters, I spent a great deal of time on YouTube learning how to clean ceramic filters and backflush with a SmartWater bottle. However, when it came time to clean the BeFree, the instructions were almost comically straightforward. Remove it from the bag, place it in a bowl of clean water, and swish it around. Backflushing this filter is not an option, as it may damage the hollow fibers and reduce their ability to remove protozoa and bacteria, as I learned from conversations with Katadyn employees. 

Surprisingly, the swishing appeared to be effective. The water in the bowl quickly turned murky brown. I repeated the procedure several times and retested it; the flow rate had increased nearly 20%. Not bad. 

The Katadyn BeFree was the second-lightest filter I tested, weighing only. Two ounces more than the Sawyer Mini despite including an enormous dirty water sack; if the Sawyer Mini were paired with a SmartWater bottle instead of the included filthy water sack, it would be the lighter of the two. This should be considered for UL purists seeking to update their Sawyer Squeeze. 

There were a few things about the Katadyn BeFree that I wished were different. First, the filter is housed within the dirty water bag, making it challenging to squeeze all the water out. This isn’t a significant issue, but it could become tedious if you’re sitting at a seep in the Southwest and the water is trickling out at a rate of 1 liter every 10 minutes. 

The second is the design of the lid cap, which resembles that of a sports drink found in a convenience store. It began to break as I lightly twisted it to test its durability. I can still use the filter as long as I retain the cap, but I would prefer a more durable cap at the expense of a few grams. 

Key Features 
  • 0.1 micron water filter removes harmful organisms like bacteria 99.9999% and protozoa like Giardia & Cryptosporidium 99.9%, surpassing EPA standards 
  • Collapsible 1.0L hydrapak soft bottle flask packs down small to fit in tight spaces (jacket pockets, purses, backpack, fly vests) 
  • Ez-clean Membrane is simple and easy to clean by simply shaking or swishing the filter to clean debris, no backflushing or extra tools required 
  • Filters up to 1, 000 liters of contaminated water without using chemicals or other devices and hydrate quickly and easily with the free flow channels fast flow rate 
  • Stay clean drink nozzle keeps the mouthpiece clean and sanitary (replaceable with standard plastic water bottle caps) 
PROS
  • Easy to clean
  • Fast flow
  • Lightweight
CONS
  • Difficult to squeeze all the water out of the bag

7. Grayl Geopress Water Purifier Bottle

GRAYL GeoPress 24 oz Water Purifier Bottle – Filter for Hiking, Camping, Survival, Travel (Alpine White)

$99.95
Amazon.com
as of December 25, 2022 3:49 pm
 

This is it if you’re looking for the best water filter and purifier for backpacking. The Grayl Geopress Water Purifier Bottle protects against all waterborne pathogens (including bacteria and viruses), chemicals, heavy metals, and even microplastics. 

It is one of the best water filtration systems and water purifiers we’ve tested for camping and backpacking. The Geopress water purifier can purify 24 ounces of impure water in 8 seconds. It is also highly portable and straightforward to use. 

This purifier can clean 5 liters of water in just 1 minute, which is quite remarkable for those who need to filter large quantities of water while camping or provide their friends with clean drinking water while backpacking. 

The Geopress Water Purifier can produce 250 liters (65 gallons) of clean drinking water with each replaceable water filter/purifier cartridge, and you can purchase spare purifier cartridges for only $29.95 each, which I recommend doing in case it becomes compromised or reaches the end of its helpful life during a lengthy backpacking trip. 

For those curious, 250 liters corresponds to approximately 350 ‘presses’ or uses of one filter/purifier cartridge; this number will vary depending on how muddy the water you filter is. 

When the press time reaches approximately 30 seconds, it is time to replace the purifier cartridge. 

Key Features 
  • Multifunctional SimpleVent Cap vents air (twisting small cap 1/2 turn) during purification and protects from cross-contamination 
  • RiverFlow Spout delivers a fast flow of clean drinking water for chugging or filling hydration reservoirs and other bottles 
  • SoftPress Pads provides ergonomic comfort for nonslip, anti-fatiguing pressing 
  • TPE TopoGrip is placed on all heavy-use surfaces for tactile, nonslip performance 
  • BPA-FREE Polypropylene #5 bottle withstands drop tests up to 6 ft (at full capacity) & disassembles for easy cleaning 
  • Replaceable Purifier Cartridge rated for 300 cycles (or 3 yrs have elapsed since first use) 
PROS
  • Meets the EPA Guide Standard and Protocol for testing microbiological water purifiers
  • Comes in 5 colors
  • Holds 24oz at one time
  • Cleans water in between 8 and 25 seconds
  • Simple purification action with two parts pressed together
  • Removes virus, bacteria, protozoan cysts), pesticides, chemicals, heavy metals, and even microplastics
  • The replaceable filters can last for up to 350 uses.
  • It’s sturdy and can withstand being dropped.
  • It has a large loop so it can be easily clipped to a backpack.
  • It comes with a 10-year warranty.
CONS
  • Sediment can clog the filter and shorten its life.
  • The large, rigid size can make it inconvenient in some situations.
  • The water capacity isn’t enough for other uses such as cooking or long treks without regular top-ups.

8. Platypus GravityWorks Group Camping Water Filter

The 2.0L, 4.0L, and 6.0L capacities of the Platypus GravityWorks water filter systems are ideal for those who prefer to filter large quantities of water with minimal effort. 

Due to their large capacity, gravity water filters like Platypus’ GravityWorks are ideal for keeping the entire group hydrated while camping overnight; they are also excellent camping water filters. 

The Platypus GravityWorks water filter system utilizes hollow fiber filter technology, which enables it to filter water more rapidly than other gravity filters. Although this system may appear more complicated than other water filters, it is straightforward. 

No pumping, pressing, or squeezing is required; fill the dirty collection reservoir (labeled “dirty”), hang it above the clean Platy bottle, and let gravity carry the water through the filter. 

Key Features 
  • Collect water anywhere 
  • Gravity does all the work 
  • Filters 1.75L of water per minute 
  • Taste- and BPA-free 
PROS
  • Painlessly filter up to 6L of water – set it and forget it
  • Carry up to 12L of water for long hauls
  • Great for groups, couples, or arid environments
  • Turns even murky water into clean drinkable water
  • Available in three sizes – 2L, 4L, and 6L
CONS
  • Bulkier than other options
  • Susceptible to freezing and breaking
  • Multiple pieces mean more to keep track of
  • On the more expensive side as far as water filters go

9. Best Pump Filter/Purifier: MSR Guardian Water Purifier

The MSR Guardian pump purifier is a quick way to filter large quantities of water for groups, even from small water sources, as the inlet hose can be placed in shallow water. Depending on your arm strength and willingness to pump continuously, the MSR Guardian has an impressive flow rate of around 2.5L per minute. 

This MSR water filter and purifier are excellent because they effectively filter out dirt and silt and purify your water (blocking harmful viruses). Unlike conventional hollow-fiber filter technology, the Guardian pump’s advanced medical-grade fibers can block viruses, which is not the case for most hollow-fiber filters. 

The pump’s automatic back-flushing feature eliminates the need to clean the filter manually. It is a portable hand cleaner of very high quality, with a high level of filtration (small enough for viruses) and a fast flow rate, as the pump operates very quickly. It is also the only portable hand purifier that is genuinely freeze-resistant and has a long-lasting filter. 

Ideal for backcountry camping in remote areas, mainly if the water is extremely unsanitary. Highly recommended and well worth the asking price. 

Key Features 
  • Military-grade water purifier pump removes viruses, bacteria, protozoa, and particulate from contaminated water sources virtually anywhere on earth 
  • Meets NSF protocol P248 testing standard of the U.S. military, using medical-grade fibers to provide protection from the tiniest waterborne threats 
  • Pumps at a rapid 2.5 liters per minute, treats up to 10,000 liters of water, and withstands freezing, drops, heavy use, and harsh environments 
  • Pump self-cleans on every stroke, providing consistently fast flow rates with zero hassle—no backflushing or filter-scrubbing ever required 
  • Ideal for backcountry, expeditions, global travel, and survival; purifier pump measures 8.2 x 4.7 inches and weighs 17.3 ounces; made in the USA 
PROS
  • Easy to use
  • Very fast (2-2.5L/minute)
  • No backflushing required
  • Impressive efficiency claims
  • Great for bigger groups
CONS
  • Initial cost may put people off
  • Getting pre-filter to engage can be annoying at times

10. Best Uv Purifier: CrazyCap UV Water Purifier

Comparable to the LARQ bottle, the CrazyCap 2 is a UV-C light purifier that eliminates viruses, bacteria, and protozoa. However, this water purifier can be used on various bottle designs, making it highly adaptable. 

The insulated bottle in the package will keep your water cold for 24 hours, which is very convenient for backpacking during the hot summer months. 

Insulated bottles add a small amount of extra weight to your pack, so you must weigh the importance of cold water when considering the weight. 

This UV water purifier runs multiple automatic purification cycles throughout the day, keeping your water bottle clean and odor-free during your backpacking trip. 

Key Features 
  • UV-C: Purification Of The Future 
  • Self-cleaning Bottle   
  • 60 Seconds To Pure Refreshment 
  • Super Insulated Stainless Steel 
  • Happy Eco-friendly Hydration 
PROS
  • Lightweight construction
  • Purifies water with a touch of a button
  • Waterproof
  • Fast charging, long charge retention
CONS
  • Can't filter particulates
  • Doesn't adapt to many other bottles
  • Small bottle size

Factors to consider when choosing a Backpacking Water Filter 

Since I started backpacking, there has been one important accessory that is a must for me: a water filter. Don’t get me wrong, I love to drink from natural sources but the thought of getting sick from bacteria and protozoa makes staying hydrated on a long trip a challenge. 

PRICE – Cheap vs expensive  

Cheaper filters tend to clog or break easier. A more expensive filter may be less likely to break but it will still wear out eventually and need replacement. I believe that a good balance for a thru-hiker is a $100 water filter. 

WEIGHT – Lightweight vs Heavy   

Most manufacturers have created lightweight, easy to use water filters that are 1-3 oz (30-90 grams) and weigh less than a few ounces. The only reason you would need to go heavy is for either an extended trip or if you’re sharing your filter with other people; then you will want something more substantial like the MSR miniworks. 

PACKABILITY –   Foldable vs Rollable  

This is a very important factor that I find that backpackers do not think about. Do you want to roll your water filter up and put it into the bottom of your pack or would you like to carry it in a smaller micro sized package? 

FIT –  Universal vs Specific   

Water filters can come in general or specific models. This relates back to the “type” of filter you are wanting to get, which I will explain later in this article. 

FILTER TYPE – Gravity vs Squeeze/Squirt/Drop/Tap vs Straw filters   

Gravity water filters allow water into the bladder through a hose that is attached to the filter, which drops down to allow you to drink. This type of system requires that you hang your water bladder up while filtering; I recommend using the MSR Reactor 3L gravity kit.  

Squeeze filters are like a normal “soda machine” push down pump style bottle except they have an attached hose that allows you to drink. This system only works on water bladders, not bottles.  

Drop filters work like squeeze filters but don’t have the pump; you drop the filter into your water bladder and drink through a hose that is attached to the filter (you can either leave it in or take it out of the bladder while drinking).  

Straw filters are exactly what they sound like: a straw with a filter on the end of it, so you suck water through the filter and pressurize your mouth. This style of filter is good for people on the go because you can drink from any water source without having to hang your bladder up or take out your drop/squeeze filter. 

TEMPERATURE – Cold vs Warm  

Water filters come in either cold or warm temperature models. The cold-water models are usually a bit more expensive but make the idea of drinking from a stream/river less intimidating because you do not have to worry about dumping boiling hot water into your bladder. 

TYPE – General vs Specific  

The type of backpacking you are doing will suggest a specific model. General models can be used for anything but require more cleaning and maintenance, while specific models are designed for a single activity such as fast-packing or international travel. 

MAINTENANCE –   Manual vs Pump vs None 

Water filters need to be maintained after each use. The more you clean your filter, the more effective it will work. Manual models usually require a small brush and cotton swabs to be able to properly clean your filter; pump models need their filters replaced, which can get costly; and some water filters such as Katadyn Micropur simply require that you add new “treatment” tablets once they wear out (therefore, I recommend the Katadyn Hiker Pro over the original Katadyn pocket water filter). 

FAQs About Backpacking Water Filter

Again, it’s whatever one that suits your backcountry needs. We cover a lot of them in our Backpacking Water Filter Review. In general, three types are used by backpackers: 

  1. Pump filters – these also come in gravity-based models. They can be expensive, but they extract the most amount of water from the source, and thus work when you need to access the water, e.g., at night or when you’re feeling lazy 
  2. Gravity filters – these are also gravity-based so they work without pumping, but they are more expensive due to their automated system 
  3. Quick/strain/chemical-based filters – These are no hassle, so they are often picked by beginners. But they are not as fast, plus they need water treatment chemicals for them to work. 

One of the most common misconceptions people have about portable water filters is that they do not work. If one follows the manufacturer’s instructions for use, they will work fine. Another common misconception is that they leave a metallic taste in the water. However, this is not the case if one follows the manufacturer’s instructions for use. 

A second common misconception is that they will leak or break on just about every occasion when used. Just as with any piece of equipment, good care and maintenance go a long way to prevent this. 

A third common misconception is that they do not work if the water is cloudy or murky. If one follows the manufacturer’s instructions for use, there should be no problem; but if one does encounter difficulty with murkiness, it can be solved by filtering twice (once through a clean cloth to remove the larger particles, and again through the filter). 

A fourth common misconception is that they are heavy. Portable water filters vary in weight, but some can be quite lightweight.

Water in the wilderness often contains microscopic organisms that can cause disease. These organisms include bacteria, viruses, and protozoa.  

Although some of these organisms may not cause immediate illness (protozoa cysts can take 1-10 days after ingestion to become infectious), they all can cause serious infections.  

Since these organisms are not visible, it is impossible to tell if the water is contaminated. Filtering water removes harmful microorganisms and improves its taste. 

There are several types of virus removal technologies used in portable filters. These include ultra-filtration using pore sizes smaller than the virus (0.02-0.2 microns), chemical disinfection using chemicals like iodine and chlorine, and filters with an absolute pore size of 0.04 microns or smaller will remove viruses. 

There are several types of filter media that have been certified to remove a significant percentage of bacteria from water. These include pleated Glassfiber, compressed cotton and charcoal, which can remove greater than 99.9% of bacteria in water that is free from dirt and silt. 

There are several types of filter media that have been certified to remove a significant percentage of protozoa cysts from water. These include pleated Glassfiber, compressed cotton and charcoal, which can remove greater than 99.9% of protozoa cysts in water that is free from dirt and silt. 

A good pump like the Katadyn® Pocket will remove more contaminants than a gravity filter because it has higher flow rates. 

Pump filters have several advantages over gravity filters, including faster water flow rates and easier maintenance. Also, some people prefer using a “trigger” type motion to clean their drinking device instead of waiting for natural filtration. A common myth is that a pump filter cannot remove viruses, but in fact all filters can reduce or remove viruses if the water is pre-filtered using a micron cloth. 

What are the advantages of gravity filters? In comparison to pump filters, gravity units have lower initial costs, no moving parts and reduced weight at comparable flow rates. They also provide an extremely reliable service. 

There is no such thing as “the best filter.” The best filter for one person may not be the best choice for someone else.  

The key to choosing a water treatment method is to know how you intend to use it and choose a unit that fits those needs. For example, if you are hiking in the desert, a lightweight pump filter might be the best choice.  

If you are backpacking in a grizzly country, an ultra-violet light unit may provide all the protection you need. It is also very important to have some knowledge about how to properly maintain your water treatment device to ensure its effectiveness. 

First, let’s define “maintenance.” In general terms, it means keeping the unit clean inside and out. This will ensure that the unit will operate as designed.  

There are several maintenance procedures you can use: back-washing, cleaning cartridges, pre-filter cleaning and replacement of the filter element. Always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific unit. 

A prefilter is installed in front of a pump filter to screen out dirt from entering the pump. A pre-filter is used when any particles in the water may cause damage to a gravity filter element, such as when filtering from a highly turbid source.  

It can be made of any material that will strain sediment including felt, non-woven geotextiles or pressed steel plate with sizes ranging from 4 to 100 microns. 

No. If you are using a pump filter then you should filter all your water, even if it appears clear. If you use a gravity filter only as needed as an extra security measure. 

The shelf-life for all filters will vary depending on storage conditions and frequency of use. It is advisable that you perform maintenance after each trip to prolong the life of your water filter. 

No, not without prefiltration. Saltwater, brackish water and stagnant surface water are all dirty and will clog up your filter very quickly. This includes raw seawater used for desalination. For this reason, a pre-filter is always recommended for all backpacking water filters. A prefilter can be as simple as a bandana or towel that you dip in the water and run through your pump filter. 

Conclusion

After reading this blog post, you should have a good idea of what features are important to look for in backpacking water filters.   

If not, feel free to contact us at the link below with any questions or concerns. We hope that these tips will help make your next hiking trip more enjoyable and safer!  Have you found the best backpacker’s filter yet? Let us know by leaving a comment below! 

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