How To Choose A Backpacking Water Filter
A backpacking water filter is essential for long outdoor adventures. Invest in a water filter system by carefully understanding how each backpacking water system works.
Here are some of the 6 ways which can be used to pick a great water filter for backpacking.
- Identify The Purpose Or Contaminants To Filter. What is the usage of this filter? Backpacking, traveling, camping, hiking? What is the water source? Is it from the tap or streams in remote areas? Does bacteria presents in the water source?
- Personal Or Group Usage. This determines the size of the filtration system. Some systems are great for personal consumption which filters on the go and it is not suitable for group usage.
- Lifespan Of The Filter. Generally speaking, the shorter the lifespan, the higher the cost to maintain it. An ideal case is to look for a longer lifespan filter that yields a higher output of filtered water at a lower cost.
- Budget Constraint. While it is great to own a great quality backpacking filter, but the maintenance cost needs to be considered as part of your budget. Purchase what is affordable and upgrade when it is necessary.
- Portability and Weight. Backpacking and camping require traveling as light as possible. Hence, portability and lightweight is crucial when it comes to picking your own camping water filter.
- Customer Reviews. Existing customers are your source of reference when it comes to purchasing a product online. They provide you the hidden information that wasn’t shown in the sales pitch.
Best Backpacking Water Filters Review
- Sawyer Squeeze – Best Backpacking Water Filter
- Lifestraw Personal – Best Budget Backpacking Water Filter
- Katadyn Vario – Best Camping Water Filter
- Sawyer Mini – Best Portable Water Filter
- Platypus GravityWorks – Best Gravity Fed Camping Water Filter
- Katadyn Pocket – Best Hiking Water Filter
- GARYL Ultralight – Best Backpacking Water Bottle
- Katadyn BeFree – Collapsible Backpacking Filter
- MSR TrailShot – Lightweight Backpacking Filter
- MSR Guardian – Travel Backpacking Filter
- Survival Filter Pro – Lifetime Warranty Backpacking Filter
- Aquamira Drops – Backpacking Water Treatment Drop
Sawyer Squeeze – Best Backpacking Water Filter
Key Features: The Sawyer Squeeze is easy to use as it is portable and lightweight. It has the highest filtration on the market which is 99.9% that effectively removes bacteria such as Salmonella, Cholera, Leptospirosis, and E.coli, and protozoa such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium. It uses a 0.1 absolute micron hollow fiber membrane inline water filter.
It weighs 3.2 ounces and flow rates vary depending on how clean the filter is and how well the filter was cleaned. Altitude also affects the flow rates of portable water purifiers.
Maintenance: The SP131 can be maintained by using the syringe filter cleaner, that is used to backflush the filter to promote a high-flow rate as well as longevity.
It is claimed by the company that the filter can produce 1,000,000 gallons of filtered water if it was backflush properly.
Cost Per Gallon: ~$0.00005
Customer Rating: 4.5 , Our Rating: 4.8
Lifestraw Personal – Best Budget Backpacking Water Filter
Key Features: The LifeStraw Personal uses a microfiltration membrane that removes 99.999999% of waterborne bacteria such as Escherichia coli, Campylobacter, Vibrio cholera, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Shigella, and Salmonella, and 99.999% of waterborne parasites such as Giardia lamblia, Cryptosporidium parvum, and Entamoeba histolytica. Including the smallest microplastics found in the environment.
A convenient water filter that only weighs 2 ounces yet features a high flow rate. Filters up to 4,000 liters or 1,000 gallons for an individual for more than five years. It also reduces turbidity down to 0.2 microns.
Maintenance: LifeStraw Personal filters up to 4,000 liters or 1,000 gallons. However, it will no longer be able to draw water through the filter once it has reached its capacity.
Cost Per Gallon: $0.015
Customer Rating: 4.6 , Our Rating: 4.7
Katadyn Vario – Best Camping Water Filter
Key Features: The Katadyn Vario is a hiking and camping water filter that has a ceramic disc that lengthens the life of microfilter, 0.2 Micron high surface area pleated glass-fiber microfilter which removes waterborne bacteria.
Katadyn Vario Microfilter is part of the backcountry series filter line for reduction of bacteria such as Klebsiella terrigena and protozoan cysts such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium.
It weighs 15 ounces and the flow rate is up to two quarts per minute in the faster flow mode and one quart per minute in longer life mode. Highly recommended by people and is considered the best camping water filter.
Maintenance: Katadyn Vario filters up to 1875 liters or 500 gallons. The flow rate is 2L per minute and the filter typically becomes ineffective after six months.
Cost Per Gallon: $0.10
Customer Rating: 4.3 , Our Rating: 4.5
Sawyer Mini – Best Portable Water Filter
Key Features: The Sawyer Mini gives a high performance 0.1 Micron absolute hollow fiber membrane inline filter. Removes 99.99999% of all bacteria, such as Salmonella, Cholera, and E.coli; removes 99.9999% of all protozoa, such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium.
It weighs only 2 ounces and the flow rate is relatively quick but clogs up easily. Anyone can now sip from a personal drinking straw and drink directly from the source, or bottled water directly from any freshwater lake, river, or stream which makes it the best portable water filter.
Maintenance: Sawyer Mini filters up to 100,000 gallons and offers a limited lifetime warranty only.
Cost Per Gallon: $0.00022
Customer Rating: 4.6 , Our Rating: 4.8
Platypus GravityWorks – Best Gravity Fed Camping Water Filter
Key Features: The Platypus GravityWorks offers a great 4.0 capacity system for filtering and dispensing water for groups. Gravity water filter or travel indeed.
Through Hollow Fiber Technology, these filters are made of hundreds of hollow fibers bundled into a single filter. Water flows through the walls of these fibers, leaving impurities behind.
Platypus GravityWorks removes bacteria and protozoa, including Giardia, Cryptosporidium, E.coli, Salmonella, and Cholera. Truly one of the top rated backpacking water purifier.
It weighs 11 ounces and a flow rate of 1. 75 liters per minute.
Maintenance: System includes two 4-liter reservoirs, 1 for unfiltered water and 1 for clean water; reservoirs have hang loops for easy in-camp use.
Cost Per Gallon: $0.04
Customer Rating: 4.5 , Our Rating: 4.6
Katadyn Pocket – Best Hiking Water Filter
Key Features: The Katadyn Pocket is redesigned but still uses a Micro-Filtration method. It removes bacteria, cysts and parasites larger than 0.2 microns, including protozoa such as Giardia and Cryptosporidia.
Sediment, particles, and microorganisms that are found in streams or fresh water sources are filtered.
It weighs 20 ounces but filters up to 50,000 liters or 13,000 gallons. Up to 1 quart or 1 liter per minute cartridge capacity, depending on water quality. It is under a 20-year warranty, too.
Maintenance: The Katadyn Pocket uses a syringe filter cleaner, promotes high-flow rate as well as longevity. The filter or purifier membrane may never need to be replaced.
Cost Per Gallon: $0.01
Customer Rating: 4.5 , Our Rating: 4.7
GARYL Ultralight – Best Backpacking Water Bottle
Key Features: The GRAYL Ultralight is a one-press purification and filtration which is also one of our best filtered water bottles. This portable water purifier has a patented Filtration Media – three filtration technologies in one for added protection.
Removes pathogen and 99.9999% of viruses such as Hepatitis A, SARS, Rotavirus, and 99.9999% of disease-causing bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella, and 99.999% of protozoan cysts like Giardia.
It weighs 10.9 ounces and 15 seconds per 16 ounces flow rate. GRAYL is accompanied by a ten-year warranty.
Maintenance: GRAYL Ultralight filters up to 150 liters or 40 gallons for over three months. The lifespan of the Purifier Cartridge varies with the quality of the water source. High levels of silt or sediment will shorten the lifespan of the cartridge.
Cost Per Gallon: $0.37
Customer Rating: 4.4 , Our Rating: 4.5
Katadyn BeFree – Collapsible Backpacking Filter
Key Features: The Katadyn BeFree Water Filler is undoubtedly simple and easy to clean. BeFree’s 0.1-micron water filter removes harmful organisms like bacteria and protozoa such as Giardia & Cryptosporidium.
It weighs only 2.24 ounces with a flow rate up to 2L per minute. Squeezing this portable water filter bottle pushes water through the filter at a very high flow rate.
BeFree is very lightweight and is considered as one of the best portable water filters and best camping water filter. It is appropriate for every adventure.
Maintenance: It has the capacity up to 1,000 liters of contaminated water without using other chemicals.
Cost Per Gallon: $0.10
Customer Rating: 4.5 , Our Rating: 4.6
MSR TrailShot – Lightweight Backpacking Filter
Key Features: Toss MSR’s TrailShot into your backpack and you will never have to worry about staying hydrated with water free from bacteria, protozoa, and particulate anywhere, anytime.
Designed for the ultra-lightweight backpacker, the TrailShot is pocket-friendly in more ways than one. For one, it is inexpensive and two, it fits into your pocket!
This super-convenient backpacking filter weighs all of 153 grams, has safe silicone as the housing material, doesn’t keep you waiting and operates at a rate of 1 liter per minute, and can filter up to 2000 liters of water in its lifetime.
Maintenance: TrailShot features in this list of best backpacking water filters for more reasons than one. While it is super-efficient at removing contaminants from any water source, it is low on the demands of maintenance.
When you see the TrailShot’s virulent flow slowing down, it is time for some backflushing to clear up the clogged hollow-fiber filter. A few vigorous shakes with water and the filter is back at your service.
Lifespan: TrailShot filter works well up to 2000 liters of water. Once this limit is reached, it calls for a filter replacement. This shouldn’t be difficult as the filter is available online.
Cost per Gallon: This number reflects the true brilliance of MSR TrailShot. Each gallon of clean, pure, worry-free potable water it filters costs less than 10 cents, $0.0945 to be exact.
Warranty: The backpacking filter comes with a limited warranty that can be claimed through the MSR customer care, which is very active.
MSR Guardian – Travel Backpacking Filter
Key Features: The key feature of the Guardian is its ability to keep viruses out of your water. Most backpacking filters lack this feature.
This is what makes it versatile and useful in developing countries too, where the threat of viruses lurks in water sources. Moreover, it can fit over almost all wide-mouth bottles, adding to its compatibility.
Besides keeping disease-causing viruses at bay, the hand pump styled filter is also effective against bacteria, protozoa, and sediments found in the murkiest puddles of water.
The filter meets NSF protocol P248 and can withstand heavy use, freezing, rough handling, and harsh environments. It can pump, hold your breath, 2.5 liters per minute, thus, setting itself a league apart from the regular backpacking filters.
Maintenance: This is where the Guardian again tops the charts of backpacking filters. It needs no backflushing.
It cleans itself as you pump water through it, making maintenance redundant and allowing you to use all your time and energy to enjoy the outdoors.
Lifespan: Each Guardian filter removes more than 10,000 liters of water without any hiccups. With that volume at their disposal, buyers don’t need to look anywhere for a cartridge for many years to come.
Cost per Gallon: A bit of maths will tell you that the filter serves each gallon of water at a little more than 10 cents, making it a yet another strong contender among backpacking filters.
Warranty: Just like every product from MSR, Guardian, too, is guarded through a 3-year limited manufacturer warranty.
Survival Filter Pro – Lifetime Warranty Backpacking Filter
Key Features: The name of the filter says it all. It’s a pro, helps you survive in the wilderness, and provides protection from all kinds of contaminants you can encounter out there.
The three-stage filtration removes all the murky substances, bacteria, protozoa, most of the mercury, and lead and even viruses from water.
The 0.01-micron filter at its core powers this efficient filtration process that filters out the large sediment particles to the tiniest viruses in the source, to pump water at 0.5 liters/minute.
The pump-styled filter is easy to use and can pump water directly from the freshwater source. Alternatively, water can be collected in a container and filtered from there. This makes the pump usable for more than just a solo traveler when required.
The parent company supports all its products with a defect-free Lifetime Warranty. Added to this, the fact that the filter has been tested and certified at multiple independent labs in the US is a relief for buyers.
Maintenance: The Survival Pro needs periodic backflushing for cleaning the collected contaminants.
Lifespan: The Pro filter is capable of filtering 100,000 liters of water. In other words, one purchase sets you free from the purchase of another camping filter for forever!
Cost per Gallon: Icing on the cake is the filter’s cost per gallon of water. The large filter capacity and economical pricing bring this number to $0.01.
That’s as good as not paying anything at all!
Warranty: The filter is well-supported by the manufacturer’s lifetime warranty and comes with a 100% money-back guarantee.
Aquamira Drops – Backpacking Water Treatment Drop
Key Features: Your outdoor filtration gear couldn’t get tinier, and more unconventional than this.
The Aquamira water treatment drops are contained in the two small bottles. Mixing the solutions from the two bottles together by taking 7 drops of each starts a chemical reaction. This mixture is then enough to decontaminate a liter of water.
It is effective against bacteria and viruses, including Giardia, Norovirus, and Cryptosporidium.
However, it has some severe limitations. The solutions work more as a disinfectant and rid water of microbes and foul odor caused by bacterial presence. Their action is not effective against sediments.
Another drawback is the length of time that the chemicals take to clear water of the critters.
The two liquids when combined, take 5 minutes to react and produce a potent mixture that can kill all microbes. Further, depending on the level of contamination, this mixture needs to be left in water for 15-30 minutes for it to clear all pathogens.
Though a very handy, space-saving, ultra-lightweight, versatile, and innovative water-cleansing solution for wilderness enthusiasts, Aquamira cannot be the sole torchbearer in the fight against water contaminants. This is all the more true when the waters get silty.
Maintenance: This is truly a no-maintenance water cleansing option. No filter cartridges to be replaced, no tubes to be cleaned, and no O-rings to be greased, Aquamira is a zero-maintenance backpacking filtration gear.
Lifespan: Each set of two bottles of Aquamira can filter up to 30 gallons of water and has a shelf-life of 4 years..
Cost per Gallon: Each gallon of water that the liquid combination clears, costs $0.50.
Warranty: No information available
For a wilderness enthusiast, nothing can be more worrying than being out in the wild without being appropriately hydrated. With the backpacking filtration gears listed here, you are sure to find your shield against common pathogens and contaminants found in natural water sources.
Here is some more information for the beginners in the backpacking arena.
What Is Important To You In a Backpacking Water Filter?
A backpacking filter is an essential gear in the outdoors since a safe supply of water will determine how well you will be able to enjoy your camping or hiking trip.
So, here are some pointers that can help you find the best fit for yourself.
- Cost: The backpacking filters come in all sizes and price points. While some may be inexpensive like the chemical treatment methods, others like the MSR Guardian are more expensive than some of the domestic water filters.
Those at the lower range come with some limitations which rarely bother you as you increase the budget, and consider higher-priced variants.
However, the trade-off between features and cost has to be a careful one and should have budget considerations at its core.
- Weight: As a backpacker, you want to carry the least possible weight. But don’t miss out on some crucial, must-have features in a bid to forego weight. A careful study of options will reveal many models that will be light in weight but high on functionality.
- User-friendliness: Filtering water, though an essential task, should not be excessively time-consuming or laborious to take the fun out of camping. So, make sure that the model you choose is easy to operate and has a decent flow-rate.
- Ability to filter viruses: Not all filters are made equal when it comes to fathoming the viruses. Though they are not prevalent in the North American backcountry, you may want to consider a filter that removes viruses if you are traveling to any of the tropical countries.
What Are The Different Types of Backpacking Water Filter?
Mode of operation is one of the ways used to classify backpacking water filters. Based on this, the following are the broad classifications:
1. Squeeze Filters and Gravity Filters
These kinds of filters essentially work on the same principle except for the force that drives the water through the filter. In a squeeze model, water runs through the filter from the mechanical action of squeezing the water pouch. The water pouch contains the dirty water.
In the latter, gravity acts on the water stored in the reservoir bag and pulls it through the filter which is at a lower height than the bag.
The filtered water is collected in another container.
2. Pump-Styled Filters
These filters bring back the old-world charm to the modern-day. Water is sucked into the filter with the pumping action and filtered in the middle chamber. Filtered water is collected in containers.
These filters can filter water from any source, no matter how shallow.
3. Chemical Treatment
An easy to use, super cost-effective, and budget-friendly option, the chemical treatment targets microbes of all kinds and gives you the very basic protection against disease-causing microbes.
However, the method is not enough to filter contaminants of all kinds.
4. UV Purification
An expensive method, UV-light is known to render pathogens ineffective and thus make water safe for consumption.
The light is battery-powered and hence you would need to carry extra pair of batteries with you. While the light loses its efficacy in turbid water, it is effective even when the temperature dips very low and other methods fail to work due to freezing filter.
Boiling is another method that provides basic protection from diseases caused by pathogens. However, it does not remove other pollutants like heavy metals, or sediments. Also, you will always have to carry enough fuel to be able to make use of this method.
FAQ for Backpacking Water Filter
Q: Do activated carbon filters remove viruses?
No. Activated carbon filters are ineffective against viruses. They are also incapable of filtering bacteria.
However, they are efficient in reducing volatile organic compounds (VOC), herbicides, pesticides, THMs (disinfection by-product), chlorine, benzene, solvents, radon and hundreds of other chemicals.
Q: Do backpacking water filters expire?
Yes. Even the best backpacking water filters have a limited lifespan and expire. Every filter has a limited capacity to filter water. At the end of having served this volume of water, the cartridge calls for a replacement.
Getting a filtration system for camping will help to cut down any potential danger from the water source that you are drinking. Start investing on our recommended backpacking water filter, Sawyer PointOne now to keep yourselves protected.