Nothing ruins an amazing trip faster than getting sick. Whether you like to jet set or hike in the backcountry, it’s important to have safe drinking water. Buying bottled water everywhere you go means throwing away countless plastic bottles, and that’s something nobody wants to be doing. Luckily, packing a water filter is the perfect solution. Water filters allow you to be confident that you’ll have safe drinking water no matter where in the world you are.
Comparison Table of the Best Backpacking Water Filters
Below is a list of the best water filters for backpacking. Click on the name to read reviews and check prices.
What to Look for in a Good Water Filter for Backpacking
There are so many variables when it comes to water filters, your travel style along with how you’re looking to use the water filter will determine which one will suit you best. Below are some of the things you need to consider before purchasing a water filter.
1. Ease of Use
The last thing you want to be doing on a hiking trail is having to pull out your backpacking headlamp to read the instructions on your new water filter. Some are quite straightforward to use while others are more difficult and you find yourself needing to be reminded how to properly use and maintain them in the backcountry.
2. Filter Capacity
Every filter has a lifespan, some are better than others. Some will only be able to filter 30 gallons of water while others may be able to filter around 100,000 gallons. Another thing to consider is how often you’ll have to backwash it while you’re traveling.
3. Speed of Filtration
The rate at which you get clean water will likely be more important if you’re traveling in a group or don’t want to be slowed down. Some filters can produce nearly four liters in two minutes while others are only able to produce a liter per minute.
4. Type of Filter
a. Bottle Filters
Bottle filters are convenient for both domestic and international travel. They typically give you clean water in around 20 seconds and can fit in the side pocket of your backpack. Bottle filters do allow beneficial minerals to remain in the water, however dissolved salts like fluoride aren’t reduced. The best travel water bottle with filter will be convenient to carry and have a long-lasting filter.
Best Travel Water Bottle With Filter: GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier Bottle
b. Gravity Filters
Gravity filters are a favorite amongst groups and campers because of the amount of water they produce. When you get to your site, you’ll put up your camping tent, get the fire ready, hang up your filter, and be all set to connect with nature. Each container hangs on a tree branch, with the second one hanging lower than the first. Water is poured into the first container and it will pass through the filters to produce clean water in the second, lower hanging container. From the second container you can easily fill up everyone’s water bottles. These filters typically have a pretty good life span, which is another reason why people like them. However, they are larger than many other filters and have several components to keep track of.
Best Gravity Water Filter: Platypus GravityWorks
c. Pump Filters
When using a pump filter, a lead line must be connected to the water source, and another line to the container, then a small hand pump is used to draw the water out. The filter typically only has to be changed once a year and can improve the taste and the smell of water. Do be sure to change the filter when necessary so that it doesn’t start growing bacteria. Some pump filters are larger than people would like them to be, but still won’t take up too much space in your backpack.
Best Pump Water Filter: MSR TrailShot Micro-Filtration System
d. Straw Filters / Survival Water Filter
Straw filters work pretty much like standard straws. They’re super light, but you have to be close enough to the water source to drink from it. The filtration process is straightforward, as you suck the water through the straw the bacteria, parasites, protozoa, and viruses are removed along with debris and sediment.
Best Survival Water Filter: LifeStraw Water Filter
e. UV Filters
While UV filters are not the most popular, there are some high quality ones on the market. Your water will typically be good to drink in less than one minute. These are very effective at removing parasites and bacteria, but they do run on batteries so operating cost can be high when compared to other types of filters.
Best UV Water Filter: SteriPen Ultra
It’s important to consider the weight of everything you have to carry when you’re backpacking, and a water filter is no different. Some weigh as little as a few ounces while others weigh more than a pound. The type of filter you choose will determine its approximate weight.
Best Backpacking Water Filter Reviews
Now that you know what to look for in your next water filter, here are the best ones on the market:
Aquamira Chlorine Dioxide Water Treatment
Type: Chemical purifier
Weight: 3 oz.
Treatment ratio: 30 gallons per 1 oz. set
Recommended by the CDC, this treatment is one of the best water purifiers for anyone spending time in the backcountry. Not only is it effective in killing bacteria, but it also enhances the taste of the water and doesn’t leave an aftertaste. For every one ounce set you can treat 30 gallons of water, regardless of whether it’s warm, cold, clear, or muddy water. Aquamira Chlorine Dioxide Water Treatment has a four-year shelf life, so you’ll have plenty of time to use it before it goes bad. One thing to be mindful of with this type of water filter is that if you scoop water into your reusable water bottle, you’ll need to dry off the rim of the bottle before drinking from it so that you don’t accidentally come in contact with untreated water. When you consider the ease, safety, and convenience of the Aquamira Chlorine Dioxide Water Treatment, these are a must-pack for all outdoor adventures.
Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System
Type: Bottle/straw filter
Weight: 2 oz.
Filter life: 100,000 gallons
Ideal for all outdoor adventures both domestic and international, this ultralight water filter weighs only two ounces and can fit in the palm of your hand. With 0.1 micron absolute filtration, it can remove 99.9% of bacteria and 99.9% of protozoa. It attaches to the included 16-ounce reusable drinking pouch, most disposable water bottles, and most hydration packs. You can also use the included seven-inch straw to drink directly from the water source. The Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System is rated up to 100,000 gallons, and you should get between five and ten gallons out of the filter before you have to backwash and sanitize it. If you’re on the hunt for a good water filter for backpacking, consider the Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System because you won’t have to carry around or replace a cartridge while traveling.
Type: Gravity filter
Weight: 11.5 oz.
Filter life: 1,500 liters
Especially if you tend to travel in a group, the Platypus GravityWorks may be the best water filtering system for you. The high-capacity and gravity-fed system includes a four-liter dirty water reservoir which can deliver four liters of clean water in two and a half minutes. The system also includes a clean water reservoir, a hollow-fiber microfilter, all the necessary hoses, a shut off clamp, and a storage sack. There’s no pumping required as the reservoirs easily hang from tree branches. The replaceable cartridge can filter up to 1,500 gallons, and you can clean it when you’re in the backcountry by backflushing it for four seconds. Thankfully it only weighs 11.5 ounces so it won’t add too much weight to your hiking backpack. The Platypus GravityWorks is an excellent option for a multi-day trip or a group adventure.
MSR TrailShot Micro-Filtration System
Type: Pump filter
Weight: 5 oz.
Filter life: 2,000 liters
A fan favorite for those who love outdoor adventures, the MSR TrailShot Micro-Filtration System is well-known as one of the best hiking water filter options on the market. The beauty of it is that it’s pocket-sized, so it easily fits in a stash pocket and is simple to use when you’re on the go. It weighs just five ounces and is easily operated with one hand. It filters one liter of water in only 60 seconds, and allows you to fill your water bottle or drink right from the source. It may not be the best option if you’re going to be doing hikes like the eight-day Great Ocean Walk because of its size and filtering capabilities, but if you’ll be doing day hikes in Big Sur, then this could be a perfect filter for you. It can filter up to 2,000 liters of water without chlorine, iodine, or other chemicals, and a few shakes can help restore the flow rate when you’re on the trail. To add a simple but effective filter to your travel gear collection, go with the MSR TrailShot Micro-Filtration System.
Sawyer PointOne Squeeze Water Filter System
Type: Bottle/gravity filter
Weight: 3 oz.
Filter life: 1 million gallons
No matter where you are in the world, the Sawyer PointOne Squeeze Water Filter System will ensure you always have access to clean water. It offers the highest level of filtration on the market and even includes three BPA-free collapsible and reusable pouches. The pouches are 16, 32, and 64 ounces and they easily roll up when not being used. This filter includes a built-in and removable push/pull cap that also connects to standard threaded water bottles. To maintain this filter in the field, all you have to do is use the included syringe filter cleaner to backflush it. The Sawyer PointOne Squeeze Water Filter System even comes in a handful of different models to ensure no matter what your travel style you won’t have to worry about not having safe water to drink.
LifeStraw Water Filter
Type: Straw filter
Weight: 2 oz.
Filter life: 4,000 liters
There’s no question as to why this best-seller is among the best portable water filter choices available. It doesn’t have a shelf life and can provide enough drinking water for someone for more than five years. Able to filter 1,000 gallons of water, you won’t have to worry about buying another filter for a quite some time. Weighing only two ounces, it doesn’t take up much space and can easily fit in places like your outdoor jacket pocket or daypack. It can filter to 0.2 microns and remove 99.9% of bacteria, microplastics, and parasites. Not only interested in their own profits but also in the good of others, LifeStraw promises that for each product purchased they will make sure a student receives safe drinking water for an entire school year. If you’re looking for safe drinking water for your future trips along with the ability to help others around the world, choose the LifeStraw Water Filter.
MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter Water Filter
Type: Pump filter
Weight: 16 oz.
Filter life: 2,000 liters
Known as the best camping water filter, the MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter definitely lives up to the hype. It delivers long-lasting, field-maintainable water filtration in all types of environments. It was designed for heavy and frequent use, so if you don’t feel like boiling all of your water with your backpacking stove, the MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter is a great solution. It can pump one liter per minute and the flow rate can easily be renewed without tools. The ceramic element can filter up to 2,000 liters of water, and the filter is even compatible with many wide mouth water bottles and hydration bladders. So the next time you’re packing up all of your camping gear, be sure you bring along the MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter Water Filter.
Katadyn Vario Water Filter
Type: Pump filter
Weight: 15 oz.
Filter life: 2,000 liters
Katadyn prides itself on offering a filter which provides maximum output with minimal effort. The Vario Water Filter has dual-piston technology and three filter levels – a high-performance glass fiber filter, a ceramic pre-filter that can be adjusted to the cloudiness of the water, and activated charcoal for eliminating odors. When using the longer life mode, the filter produces one quart per minute, but when using the faster flow mode the filter produces two quarts per minute. It also has a replaceable carbon core which reduces chemicals, pesticides, and bad tastes in water. This 15-ounce filter can provide 300 gallons of drinking water before it needs replacing. Whether you’re going backpacking, hiking, camping, boating, or doing any other outdoor activity, the Vario Water Filter will make sure you have safe water throughout your trip.
GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier Bottle
Type: Bottle purifier
Weight: 10.9 oz.
Filter life: 150 liters
With an award-winning one-press design, it’s easy to see way this is the best travel water filter bottle available. This 16-ounce water bottle gives you clean water from any fresh water source in only 15 seconds. There’s no longer a need to carry around additional filters which you have to pump, connect to your bottle, or wait minutes for when you can use the GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier Bottle as you would a regular water bottle. The replaceable purifier cartridge can last for around 40 gallons, and can easily be replaced. Not only does this water bottle remove bacteria and protozoa, but it also protects against viruses, several chemicals, and heavy metals. For those who are often overseas or constantly throwing away single-use plastic water bottles, this might be the best filter water bottle for you.
Type: UV purifier
Weight: 4.8 oz.
Battery life: 15,000 liters
When it comes to portable water purification systems it doesn’t get much better than SteriPen Ultra. This UV water filter can make water safe to drink in only 48 seconds. It destroys the ability of germs to reproduce and make you sick as it kills 99.9% of bacteria, protozoa, and viruses. It has an OLED display which gives you all of the information you need to know in terms of the battery status, lamp, and treatment. Weighing less than five ounces and measuring 7.3” x 1.3” x 1.6”, filters don’t get much more convenient than this. The battery life can last up to 15,000 liters with 300 charge cycles each providing 50 treatments. SteriPen Ultra allows you to travel anywhere in the world without having to carry or store your own water supply. Whether you’re wondering what is the best water filter for backpacking or how to make sure the water you’re drinking is safe while you’re exploring Mexico, the simple answer is to bring along SteriPen Ultra.
The best water filters will be simple to use and quickly offer safe drinking water. When you choose from this list you’ll never have to be concerned about drinking unsafe water again. Without that stress you’re free to enjoy the beauty of nature all over the world.