Best Backpacking Water Filters — A Comprehensive Review [2021]

Not all outdoor water sources are dangerous, but even the cleanest-looking source might make a person sick. Most natural water sources are usually contaminated by wildlife, livestock, as well as human beings. As such, outdoor water treatment is imperative.

Outdoor Water treatments come in all kinds, sizes, and shapes. The majority of such water filters eliminate dangerous chemicals and germs that, if swallowed, can cause diseases and other health problems. Moreover, filtered water has a better taste and is more cost-effective and environmentally friendly.

Backpacking Water Filters

Top 8 Factors to Consider Before Buying a Backpacking Water Filter

Before looking at the reviews of the best water filters, here are some factors to consider before buying a backpacking water filter:

The Distance from the Water Source

For camps that are far from a water source, tourists might want to invest in a purifier that can store enough water to save them from having to make multiple visits. Gravity filters, rather than straw-shaped filters, come with storage bags for both filtered and unpurified water. However, keep in mind that if the camp is in a location with easy access to water, storage won’t be an issue.

Time Considerations

It is important to think about how much water needs to be filtered at a time, and how rapidly the water is needed. Water disinfection might take up to 45 minutes in some cases. On the other hand, water filtration systems can filter larger volumes of water in less time. That said, it all depends on personal needs and requirements.

Effectiveness in Water Purification

The main objective of buying a backpacking water filter is to remove toxins from water and provide safe water. Water fetched from any source may contain a variety of pollutants that might be harmful to a person’s health. This means that the backpacking water filter bought must be able to purify the water completely. That way, all chances of getting ill from drinking contaminated water are eliminated.

The Water Filter Cost

When it comes to buying any item, everyone wants to get the best deal possible. The case is not different for backpacking water filters. A perfect filter should be of high quality, but this does not mean it has to be expensive. Luckily, there are plenty of water filters on the market that is durable and affordable at the same time. Look for a filter that is a wonderful solution for many people and has a low upfront cost and minimal maintenance cost.

The durability of the Water Filter

The filter’s longevity is mostly determined by the filtering technology used. These methods include cartridge, hollow membrane, chemical, or UV light. Notably, water filters for backpacking can last anywhere from 250 to 4,000 liters. Those that use a cartridge can last anywhere from 200 to 500 liters before needing to be replaced.

Other filters, on the other hand, may need to be replaced entirely when they reach the end of their useful life. Some backpacking water filters can filter around 4,000 L before they stop working and needs to be replaced. That said, it is advisable to choose the water filter that is likely to provide the longest duration of service.

The Size of the Filter

Size is a crucial consideration for ultralight and light backpackers. This is because it is best to pick a filter that’s right for a person, and how much water they’ll need, as well as one that fits in their pack. Filter systems with water reservoirs and tubing roll and pack down to a tiny size.

On group travels, a gravity filter system is most preferable. However, on solo trips, people prefer a water bottle purifier, even though it weighs somewhat more. As such, the size of the water filter bought simply depends on the number of people who will be using it.

Depth and Cleanliness of the Water Source

What kinds of water sources are available, and how clean are they? Some filters, such as the GravityWorks, Sawyer Squeeze, and BeFree are best used with flowing or deeper water sources. On the other hand, pump filters can be used with shallow or still water.

Sometimes, the only available water in a hike is from a questionable source. In such a case, hikers will need a filter or purifier that can filter out organic materials, unpleasant flavors, and chemicals. They may also need extra storage bottles available for loading up when needed. This is a perfect idea if they’re going to have to trek miles between sources.

Bottle and Filter compatibility.

Some filter options necessitate the use of water bottles to collect water before treatment. Therefore, keep that in mind while shopping for bottles to ensure that they will work with the present filter. Buying a water filter that is more flexible in terms of bottle compatibility is always the best idea.

Types of backpacking Water Filters

After considering the above factors, outdoor enthusiasts can then narrow down to the filter they want. But with so many options, which one does one pick? — Consider the following types and their characteristics to know which one suits one’s needs best:

Squeeze Filters

Squeeze filters are hollow fiber membrane filters that are typically used with a soft bag or flask that is filled with filthy water. The water is then squeezed through the filter and into a clean bottle, reservoir, a cookpot, or the mouth. These filters are usually small, cheap, and don’t have any mechanical parts to worry about. However, they tend to lose flow rate over time, which can be partially addressed by backflushing with particular filters. Luckily, using a bandana or buff to pre-filter water that is murky or includes sediment can assist prevent flow rate reduction.

Gravity Filters

Gravity filters take water from a dirty reservoir bag hung from a tree, through a hollow fiber filter, and into a clean reservoir or bottle. Because of the reservoirs, hanging straps, and tubes, these filter systems are a little heavier than squeeze systems. However, they are a wonderful method to filter a lot of water with no effort and are an excellent option.

Pumps

Pump-style filters drive water through a hollow or glass fiber filter with the use of a hand pump. A hose is inserted into the water source, many of which have a pre-filter attached. Later, hand pumping is done until all the water that is required is fetched. Unlike other filtration systems, this one requires you to stay near the water source for the entirety of the filtering process. Pumps are also bulkier than other filter systems.

UV Light Filters

UV light purifiers use a UV lamp to kill bacteria, protozoa, and viruses by destroying their DNA. Consequently, this renders them unable to replicate. Pre-filtering the water with a bandana or buff is essential to ensure that there are no particles in the water. If a virus or bacteria is hanging out on the backside, UV radiation will not reach it, allowing it to reproduce uninhibitedly. UV purifiers are lightweight, but they rely on batteries, which should be considered before making a purchase.

Chemical Purifiers

Chlorine dioxide, found in chemical purifiers like Micropur tablets and Aquamira drops, kills bacteria, protozoa, and viruses over time. Another chemical therapy option is iodine, however, it does not kill all protozoa. Mostly, chemical treatments are typically used as backups, while some choose to utilize them as their primary treatment.

The Best Backpacking Water Filters

1. Platypus GravityWorks

This Platypus design is hard to beat for filtering water for many people. Water purification is hard at times and a time-consuming process altogether, but it is an unavoidable activity of every backcountry travel. The Platypus GravityWorks filter, as its name suggests, uses gravity to clean water to provide ease with little drawbacks.

The filter is simple to operate, filters rapidly, and saves both energy and time. The bigger packed size and weight won’t appeal to minimalists, but for those who need to filter a lot of water, the Platypus GravityWorks is the best alternative. For the system’s huge capacity and output, the storage size and weight are appropriate.

The tubes neatly wrap around the filter, and rolling the water reservoirs around it to fit everything into the accompanying storage bag is simple. Although it is heavier than certain lightweight water filters, such as the popular 2-ounce Sawyer Mini, a little over 11 ounces, the squeeze system’s effectiveness pales in comparison.

Pros

• It’s relatively light.
• Treatment is completed quickly.
• Up to 8L of water can be treated and stored.
• In the field, it’s simple to use and maintain.

Cons

• It is quite hard to close the zip top.
• It has weak attachments on the sides
• Water from shallow sources is difficult to collect using this filter.

2. The Swayer Squeeze

The Sawyer Squeeze could be the closest thing humans have to becoming cactus hybrids. This compact, light, and powerful equipment radically transformed peoples’ of what it takes to filter water in the backcountry. No more cumbersome set-ups, and no more chemical-infused water from strange-tasting tablets.

Additionally, the Sawyer Squeeze water filter has quickly become one of the most popular camping water filters, especially for hiking. Travelers may keep water in the supplied pouch or a disposable water bottle, then filter it directly into your mouth for clean, convenient drinking. While it can clog occasionally and doesn’t filter effectively for large gatherings, for 3 ounces and $40, it is hard to find anything better.

Consider the Sawyer Mini when looking for a filter that’s even less expensive. The Mini is the Sawyer’s younger sibling; it’s smaller, lighter, and doesn’t have as good a flow rate as the Squeeze. Moreover, it is preferred among ultralight hikers due to its minimal weight, but typical backpackers will find the Squeeze’s flow rate sufficient to justify the extra $15 and 1 ounce of weight.

Pros

• Flow is quick.
• Adaptable and versatile
• Lightweight and packable
• Excellent value for money

Cons

• Squeeze bags deflate and break easily.
• Parts are easily misplaced.
• Backwashing is required regularly to keep the flow rate constant.

3. Katadyn Gravity Camp 6L

Katadyn Gravity Camp 6L

This piece filters water using gravity alone, thus they don’t require any pumping or battery power. As a result, they are ideal for usage around camp, where the filter will continue to operate without supervision. Consequently, this frees up time to set up tents and cook. Normally, the filtration systems use Katadyn’s innovative Ultra Flow Filter. It is a pleated glass fiber filter with a pore size of 0.2 microns that fulfills industry standards for bacterial and protozoan cyst elimination.

In addition, it’s light, and because it’s pleated, there’s a lot of surface area for water to filter through. This has a significant impact on the system’s flow rate making purification faster. In comparison to hollow fiber filters, glass fiber depth filters are less prone to clogging. This eliminates the need for backflushing. They’re also more frost-resistant, making them perfect for usage in any weather.

More importantly, the cartridge has a capacity of roughly 1,500 liters, but this will vary greatly depending on the quality of the water used. As a result, it’s always worth opting for the cleanest option. Katadyn has added a few design aspects that work as pre-filters to get the most out of the cartridge. To begin, the cartridge is positioned just above the bag’s base, in a small recess known as the sediment trap. Gravity will pull larger particles past the filter element and into this recess in use, preventing dirt from entering the filter cartridge even if all the water is turned off.

Pros

• Packable and lightweight
• Extremely fast flow rate
• Quickly treats up to 6 gallons of water
• Setup is simple, and the design is long-lasting.

Cons

• There is no storage bag included.
• With turbid water, it soon clogs.
• Cleaning in the field necessitates clear water.

4. CrazyCap 17oz

CrazyCap 2.0 UV Water Purifier

CrazyCap is a small water bottle cap that houses a powerful UV-C sterilizing technology. Screw it onto any bottle, and it will kill 99.9% of bacteria and viruses at the touch of a button. Other useful additions, like silicone handles and carabiner clips, are available from the manufacturer and complement this valuable tool in practically any situation.

While the technology inside the bottle is complex, utilizing CrazyCap is pretty simple. After filling the bottle, screw on the cap, and push the top button. The UV-C sterilization technology in CrazyCap then takes over, destroying any bacteria, viruses, or other organisms in the water.

More interestingly, the sterilization process takes 60 seconds. A single cartridge kills 99.1% of bacteria, while two shots destroy 99.9%, ensuring the availability of clean water after the procedure is completed. Besides this, every four hours, CrazyCap continues to eliminate microorganisms. Even if nothing is sullying your water bottle, the device cleans it automatically, with no effort being put.

Pros

• Water cleansing is quite simple.
• Charges quickly and for a long time
• Temperatures are kept constant with an insulated water bottle.
• Waterproof and long-lasting

Cons

• Filtering out particles is impossible.
• Chemicals, heavy metals, and pesticides are not protected.

5. MSR Guardian Purifier (Personal Favorite)

MSR Guardian Purifier

MSR has long been a leader in outdoor water filtration. As such, it’s no surprise that the Guardian has become travelers’ go-to pump for long treks. The ease of use, minimum maintenance, moderate weight, and excellent durability are the most appealing qualities of this filter. While neither the cheapest nor lightest alternative on the market, the extra cost and ounces are justified in the right circumstances.

The Guardian’s setup and functionality, maintenance, weight, and packability make it an interesting water treatment solution. The Guardian’s filter can also purify up to 10,000 liters of water before it needs to be replenished. According to MSR, four people could use the Guardian to purify water for around 60 days per year for ten years before it needed to be replaced. Even for seasoned gear testers who regularly put their gear through its paces, it will take some time.

For the Guardian’s huge capacity and output, the storage size and weight are fair. The tubes neatly wrap around the filter, and everything fits easily into the provided storage bag. The Guardian is about the size of a 1-liter water bottle when fully packed. It’s a lot bigger than other pump systems, but it’s worth it.

Pros

• Water can be collected from practically any source.
• Extremely long-lasting
• Flow is quick and simple.
• Backflushing is both effective and low-maintenance.
• Filter life is extremely lengthy.

Cons

• Carrying it is tiring as it is heavy
• It is a heavy investment that needs a flexible budget

6. Katadyn Hike

Katadyn Hike Water Bottle Filter

Because of the constant presence of germs and protozoa in surface water, water purification is one of the most unpleasant tasks people have to undertake outdoors. Water can be filtered in a variety of methods, however, some hikers prefer not to pump water because it is time-consuming and inconvenient. Luckily, the Hiker Pro pumps water swiftly, is reasonably light, easy to use, and makes water taste fantastic.

Filtering water is simple if you understand where and how everything on the Hiker Pro goes. However, some assembly is required and may not be obvious, As such, it is recommended that you familiarize yourself with the filter before using it in the field. Also, the Hiker Pro comes with a lot of bits that can fall out of the carrying bag if not fastened.

To eliminate odors, tastes, and contaminants from water, some filters require a supplementary carbon filter. That said, the pleated glass filter in the Hiker Pro features an integrated carbon core that improves the flavor of the water. When using the Hiker Pro, even hazy water becomes clear and sweet, which is soothing and delightful on a hot trip.

Pros

• Pumping water is a simple and quick process.
• It has a unique and sophisticated design.
• Comes at a reasonable price.

Cons

• If the filter becomes entirely blocked, it must be replaced.
• Attaching and reattaching tubes can be a headache.

7. Grayl Geopress

Grayl Geopress

The GEOPRESS appeals to many because of its simplicity. It’s nothing short of a miracle to change dirty water into a drinkable, healthy water supply in 8-12 seconds. The primary outer cylinder, the filter cartridge, and the inner sleeve are the three main components of this Grayl water bottle. Once the outer cylinder is full of dirty water, just insert the inner sleeve into the top of the cylinder. After this, push down until all of the dirty water has been expelled through the filter and into the clean drinking reservoir.

Unfortunately, after a few sessions, the GEOPRESS becomes a little more difficult to push. What used to take 8 seconds will now take 12-20+ seconds, and it will soon be time to replace the filter. Interestingly, the ease with which the press operation may be performed significantly improves the Grayl Ultralight bottle. This alteration transformed the bottle from a creative concept to a practical hydration vessel suitable for thirsty hikers.

The purifier cartridge is constructed of ceramic media fibers that are non-woven. As a result, they give structure for two technologies, positively charged ions and activated carbon, while blocking particles. Ion exchange permanently attaches germs as filthy water is driven through the medium. Eventually, chemicals, heavy metals, tastes, and odors are absorbed by activated carbon.

Pros

• Produces water of the highest grade
• Simple to use
• Field maintenance is simple.

Cons

• The design is extremely bulky.
• Only purifies a little amount of water at a time
• It has a short cartridge life in comparison to other filters.

Wind Up

For most multi-day backpacking journeys, water filtration is essential. Most extended backcountry treks are made possible simply because people can convert any natural water source into clean water. That said, backpacking water filters are key essentials to enjoying a hike or any activity outdoors. Choosing the best backpacking water filter can be hard, but this complete review provides comprehensive guidance.

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