Best Backpacking Water Filters for 2019

Best Backpacking Water Filters for 2019

Part of your survival/camping equipment should be a water filter. Unless you are car camping, and unless you wish to lug around a case of bottled water, you need to have a fresh water supply. Choosing a filter doesn’t have to be complicated, but you do need to think about the conditions in which you’re most likely to use it to make the best choice. Purifiers work with different methods. Some use gravity to filter different sizes of particles out of the water using layers of filtering materials. Others use chemicals or special light to kill organisms in the water. You should also consider how fast you need the water to filter. It’s always going to be a balance between the level of filtration and how fast your water can filter. We have reviewed ten of the best water filters for camping and surviving. They cover a variety of solutions, and you should be able to find one that fits your needs.

Lifestraw Family 1.0 Water Purifier

Lifestraw is a household name for filtering out chemicals and organisms from dirty water by using a simple, gravity style filtration system. This one is a family style that can filter up to 12 liters per hour. It takes care of 99.99% of viruses, even higher percentages of bacteria, and filters protozoa cysts as small as .02 microns. It doesn’t use iodine, chlorine, or any other chemical, yet it surpasses the EPA recommendations for water safety. It can provide a family of four with clean water for up to four years before you need a replacement. That should cover even the most dedicated of camping families.
You’ll need to suspend the water carrier from a tree or other place to allow gravity to do its thing. Don’t expect to hold it the whole time. Also, it’s a little big for ultralight camping, but if you’re ultralight camping with a family of four, we salute you.
Who it’s for: Family survivalists or dedicated campers.

MSR Guardian

The Guardian is a military grade filter that passes the US military’s NSF protocol P248 testing standard. It filters up to 10,000 liters of water using a pump style filter. It removes viruses, bacteria, and protozoa.
It doesn’t require cleaning or backflushing because with each pump, 10% of the water is used to clean the filter itself. It produces around 2.5 liters per minute and withstands freezing, drops, and heavy-duty use. The medical grade fibers withstand some harsh environments and should protect you regardless of your filtering situation. It’s expensive and best for those who need the assurance of end-of-the-world filtration.
Who it’s for: Survival enthusiasts.

Grayl Ultralight Purifier Bottle

If you aren’t necessarily camping, and you need something that will purify water just for you, a bottle style might be a better choice. The Grayl filters the capacity of the bottle in just 15 seconds using a compression button. It removes over 99.9% of viruses, bacteria, and protozoan cysts, which surpasses the EPA standard. The filter also handles particulates including heavy metals and odors. It filters about 15 ounces at a time and is suitable for 40 gallons. When it’s done, just replace the filter cartridge.
It fits in standard backpacks and is best suited for light use. The button mechanism can take some practice to get it fully depressed, but after that, it’s relatively simple.
Who it’s for: Travelers.

MSR Sweetwater Water Purifier

This is another heavy-duty water filter from MSR. It uses a pump action filter that handles over 99.9% of viruses, bacteria, and protozoa, as well as particulates causing bad tastes and odors. It comes with a lifetime guarantee and can pump about a liter of water per minute. The mechanical pump makes it easier to filter water by assisting your own actions. Each filter is good for about 750 liters, and then it will need to be replaced. The whole set-up weighs about a pound, so it’s suitable for long-term camping use where you need to shave down ounces. It’s not self-cleaning, but it’s a good budget alternative to the military grade MSR above.
Who it’s for: Single or partner campers with long-term filter needs.

Platypus GravityWorks 4.0 Liter

The Platypus is a high capacity filter for groups of campers or emergency preppers. It’s a bit overkill for your average camping trip, but if you’ve got a huge family or you’re stockpiling your emergency supplies, this is a good option. It meets EPA/NSF standards and handles over 99.9% of viruses, bacteria, and protozoa. The simple gravity style filter can produce about four liters of water in about 2.5 minutes. There’s no need for a separate storage container, so you can continuously filter water as you need it. Dirty water goes in one container and moves to the clean container.
It requires suspension, so it isn’t for on-the-move use. However, for high capacity, this is a good option. It filters up to 1,500 gallons, which isn’t the highest on our list and weighs about 11 pounds.
Who it’s for: Large groups and families.

Katadyn BeFree Collapsible Bottle 1L

This is another bottle style filter that collapses down for easier storage. It filters organisms down to 0.1 microns but doesn’t handle viruses or some particulates. The membrane is cleaned by swishing the bottle, but remember to do it regularly so it doesn’t jam. The filter is good for about 1,000 liters of water, and the wider design improves the flow rate. It’s BPA free and best for travelers or for everyday use when you aren’t sure if you’ll need a filter. It can be stored in a purse. It filters about two liters per minute provided you clean it regularly. It’s not suitable for extreme cold because it won’t keep water from freezing. Also, it’s not freestanding.
Who it’s for: People who need a back up to existing filters or who want a traveling filter.

SteriPen Classic / SteriPen Ultra

The SteriPen is an entirely different type of purifier. Instead of filtering your water, it uses a UV light to kill over 99.9% of viruses, bacteria, and protozoa. If you aren’t sure about the quality of your water where you are traveling, this is a good option. It takes about 90 seconds and can handle up to one liter at a time. At that rate, it isn’t suitable for use for families unless everyone has their own pen, but the light does double as a flashlight. It is battery powered and good for about 8,000 liters of water.
It’s not going to filter out any particulates, so if you are averse to water that isn’t pleasant looking or tasting, you’ll want to pass. There’s also no indicator light, so make sure you use the pen for the duration of the recommended time frame for best use.
Who it’s for: Travelers drinking from the local tap.

Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter System

The Sawyer is a straw style filtration meant to be carried in your pack. It comes with reusable squeeze bottles, but it also fits onto standard bottles and can be used to drink directly from the water source.
It weighs about two ounces and handles over 99.9% of bacteria, and protozoa. It’s good for about 100,000 gallons, and the package comes with two mini filters. It’s best if you plan to handle your own drinking water and don’t want to deal with a big gravity fed system. It’s also best for ultralight campers who are shaving ounces off their packs. You’ll have to clean it regularly to keep the flow going, so build that time into your day.
Who it’s for: Hike-thru campers or ultralight packs.

MSR TrailShot Water Filter

Our final water filter uses a pump style filter to handle over 99.9% of bacteria and protozoa. It’s light enough to stash in a pocket but features a long hose that can reach a variety of water sources.
You can drink directly from the device, or you can use the pump to filter water into a bottle. It’s good for about 2,000 liters, and it’s easy to clean by just swishing water around the filter. It uses a one-handed operation method and can filter about a liter of water in one minute.
It works well, but we wouldn’t recommend it as your primary water filtration method for longer trips. The toll it takes on your forearm is killer.
Who it’s for: Runners, day hikers, and other travelers with day-use needs.

Katadyn Hiker Pro Transparent Water Microfilter

The Katadyn transparent water filter has a carbon filter to improve the taste of the water in addition to handling both bacteria and protozoa cysts down to .02 microns. It doesn’t take care of viruses.
The pump filter can be cumbersome, but this one is good for hard to reach water sources and it filters about a liter per minute. It weighs less than a pound including the bag. It’s good for about 750 liters before replacing the cartridge. It’s easy to pump, but we wouldn’t recommend it for groups larger than three people. If you’re traveling to places where you’ll have to find water in out of the way places (such as little desert pools), this could be an effective choice.
Who it’s for: Hikers who need flexibility.

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