Best Backpacking Water Filters For Hikers And Campers

Products recommended in the post contain affiliate links. We may receive a commission when you buy something through our posts.

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. 

as of September 16, 2022 12:44 am
Last updated on September 16, 2022 12:44 am

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. 

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. 


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! 

Related Posts

Why Trust Us

You will find what you are looking for at Largo Bar and Grill. From classic to luxury brands, you'll find both. We will help you to select appliances that fit your needs, budget and lifestyle. Whether you want to stop by to learn more — or plan to make a major purchase — we’ll treat you like family and assist you every step of the way. Shop with us today to receive friendly and experienced help along the way.