Clean, safe-for-drinking water is one of the essential things for every backpacker. To stay hydrated, you can drink directly from streams and lakes, but there’s a good chance you will catch some bad parasite or some bacterial disease. To avoid that, you will need to filter your water or purify it in some way. 

There are A LOT of different backpack filters and purifiers on the market, and also, a lot of different types. For example, if you need larger quantities of water for bigger groups, you should look for chemical purifiers or pump filters. But if you need a filter just for yourself, filter bottles, squeeze-type filters, or UV purifiers are a better choice. 

Here, we selected the best backpacking water filters and purifiers for campers, hikers, and other nature dwellers. 

ALSO READ: How To Purify Water In The Wild – 6 Different Methods

1. Sawyer Squeeze Water Filtration System

Sawyer Squeeze Water Filtration System

Best for: Backpacking, Hiking

Filter Type: Squeeze, Gravity

Filter Medium: Hollow-fiber Membrane

Weight: 3 oz.

Dimensions: Filter 5 x 2 inches, squeeze pouch 11 x 6 inches

Removes: Protozoa, Bacteria, Microplastic

Price: ≈ 37$

The kit includes: filter, 2- 32 ounces collapsible pouches, backwashing plunger, inline adapters, drinking straw or gravity tube, and mesh carrying pouch. 

How does the system work? Just fill the collapsible pouch with water, screw the bag to the filter and squeeze the bag to filter water. Pouches tend to break over time, but they can be replaced with a standard soft-plastic water bottle. Sawyer also includes an adapter for converting the squeeze filter into a gravity one.

Another great feature is that filter can be cleaned in the field, you simply squeeze clean water through it with a syringe that is included in the kit. The manufacturer states that cleaning it will also restore filter flow rate up to 98.5%, and it comes with a lifetime warranty.


2. Platypus GravityWorks Water Filter System

Platypus GravityWorks Water Filter System

Best for: Camping, Backpacking for bigger groups

Filter Type: Gravity

Filter Medium: Hollow-fiber

Weight: 11.5 oz.

Dimensions: Filter 2 x 8.5 inches, each reservoir 17.7 x 9.1 inches

Removes: Protozoa

Price: ≈ 110$

The kit includes: filter, clean and dirty 4L water reservoirs (there are also 6L, 2L, and 1L versions), hose,  hose with shutoff clamp, pouch.

This is one of the most effective water filter systems, the flow rate of 1.75L in a minute makes it excellent for bigger groups. Another advantage is that there is also no need for tedious pumping, simply hang the bag with dirty water higher than the one with the clean and let the gravity do all the work. 

Hose and valves can easily be disconnected from the filter, and you can clean it on the field simply by backflushing. The lifespan of the filter is 1500L, and you can buy a replacement cartridge.


3. Katadyn BeFree Collapsible Water Filtration System 1L

Katadyn BeFree Collapsible Water Filtration System 1L

Best for: Running, Light backpacking

Filter Type: Bottle filter

Filter Medium: Hollow-fiber Membrane

Weight: 2.3 oz.

Dimensions: 11.3 x 3.5 x 2.8  inches

Removes: Protozoa, Bacteria

Price: ≈ 45$

The Katadyn BeFree is an excellent lightweight filter with an incredible flow rate of 2L per minute. You can use it the same as any other bottle of water which makes it perfect for athletes and ultra-light backpackers. When empty, the bottle can be squeezed to fit into a palm.

The backflushing isn’t necessary, but the downside is that its lifespan is just 1000L. However, there is an option of buying just replacement cartridges. The bottle can also be replaced with any 42- millimeter mouth bottle.


4. MSR Guardian Purifier

MSR Guardian Purifier

Best for: Camping, Travel

Filter Type: Pump filter/Purifier

Filter Medium: Advanced hollow fibers

Weight: 1 lb 1.3 oz.

Dimensions: 8.2 x 4.7 x 3.5 inches

Removes: Bacteria, Protozoa, Viruses

Price: ≈ 350$

Probably the best water purifier today, it was originally designed for the military. Most filters on the market will remove bacteria and protozoa, but MSR Guardian has a filter with a pore size of 0.02 microns which will also remove viruses from water. Its flow rate is 2.5L per minute, which makes it perfect for small groups. Another great thing about guardian is its self-cleaning system- with every pump 10% of water is backflushed.

This is probably an overkill if you want to travel across the U.S. wilderness, but if your plans take you to some less-developed regions of the World or backcountry with suspicious water sources, MSR Guardian should be your choice. 

The price is pretty high but this purifier is built to withstand years of heavy use, and with its sturdy design it can withstand freezing and drops (up to 6 ft). Its lifespan is an amazing 10.000+ liters, and cartridges can be bought separately.


5. Aquamira Water Treatment

Aquamira Water Treatment

Best for: Light Backpacking

Type: Drops, Chemical purifier

Active Ingredient: Chlorine dioxide

Weight: 3 oz

Removes: Protozoa, Bacteria, Viruses

Price: ≈ 15$

How is it used? Mix 7 drops from each bottle in a cap (it’s included), let it rest for 5 minutes, and then add it to 1L of water. It takes 15 min to kill all bacteria, viruses, and Giardia, but it will take an hour to kill Cryptosporidium. This is a pretty simple and inexpensive method for purifying water, however, there are some downsides. The chemicals will leave some bad taste, and if there are any particles in the water you will drink them unless you previously filter it. Still, many people carry Aquamira drops on trips in case their filters break.


6. Katadyn Steripen Ultra UV Water Purifier

Katadyn Steripen Ultra UV Water Purifier

Best for: Backpacking, Hiking

Type: Ultraviolet light

Weight: 4.8 oz. (with integrated battery)

Dimensions: 7.3 x 1.6 x 1.3 inches

Removes: Protozoa, Bacteria, Viruses

Price: ≈ 120$

Steripen is by far the fastest way of purifying water, and also one of the easiest. You simply place Steripen in your bottle of water, shake the bottle to mix water inside, and after 90 seconds the water is safe for drinking. However, just like other UV light purifiers, it won’t work in murky water, so most people combine this method with some purifying drops or tabs. The battery can be recharged on any USB source, and one charge can purify 50L of water. 


Why should you invest in a water filter?

The alternative is to drag a gallon of water with you each day you spend outdoors, which is about nine pounds. Water filters and purifiers are the perfect things for any kind of light traveling, and with a big variety on market, we are sure you can find some that will perfectly fit your needs.

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