When you’re out in the wild, the last thing you want to worry about is drinking water. Having a water filter that works can be the difference between life and death. For that reason, finding a reliable water filter for your backpacking trip is vital.
If life and death situations don’t quite frighten you, then consider how buying a faulty filter might result in picking up a lovely stomach parasite. If you’re not convinced by now, maybe you never will be.
The problem is, there are so many camping water filters out there, it’s hard to make an informed decision. That’s why this guide can help save you time and stress.
If you’re a rational human being who understands the importance of having clean drinking water while you’re hiking in the backcountry, continue reading.
What to Look For In a Camping Water Filter
First and foremost, you have to look at your budget. Filters can be both inexpensive or expensive, and your choice has to depend on your pocketbook. Chemical treatment filters are the least costly, while UV camping water filters can set you back aways. The reason for the increase in price is the UV filter’s advanced technology.
When considering camping water filters, you’ll also need to account for weight. Depending on your backpacking trip, you might want something a little smaller and more portable. Light water filters can save you up to a pound in weight compared to large water filters. That said, large filters are generally more reliable than lighter filters.
One of the last things to ask yourself when purchasing a camping water filter is how easy it is to use. In the backcountry, you have to treat water several times a day. The last thing you want to do is spend all of your time treating and none of it hiking. The best camping water filter treatment procedures are the easiest.
Water filters don’t kill viruses, water purifiers do. In North America, viruses aren’t as harmful as South America, Asia, and Africa. The reason for this is that these areas have dense forest and jungle areas that are a perfect breeding ground for viruses.
The 7 Best Camping Water Filters
When reading about the seven best camping water filters, it’s essential to understand every filter has its pros and cons. These filters were decided based on all of their characteristics.
Chlorine Dioxide Drops and Pills
Great Things: Weight, affordability, portability, kills viruses
Not So Great Things: Takes a long time
Chlorine dioxide treatment is a great tool to use in addition to your primary filtration system. Since they are pills, they are effortless to transport and don’t take up space. These pills don’t modify the taste too much and filter out viruses, which is a huge plus if you’re traveling abroad.
But the only downfall to these pills is that you have to pre-mix them and wait five minutes before adding them to your water. It also takes four-hours to kill cryptosporidium. If you think a water source is clean, you only have to wait 30 minutes for the drops or pills to kill giardia, bacteria, and other viruses.
If it’s a dirty water source, you should wait for the full four hours. But that’s a judgment call.
Great Things: Ultralightweight, affordability, versatility
Not So Great Things: Process of squeezing can be a buzz-kill, the squeeze bags wear out
Because it’s rather tiny, the Sawyer is the perfect filter for most backpacking trips. Unlike chemical treatments, you don’t have to bare that foul chemical taste, and it fits in backpacks like a charm.
The best pairing is the Squeeze with a regular water bottle. But you want to tote replacement bags for the Sawyer, as the bags wear down over time and wind up malfunctioning and tearing. Another plus for the Squeeze is that it comes in mini-sizes for shorter camping trips.
Great Things: LIghtweight, fast, convenient, quickly kills viruses
Not So Great: Expensive, batteries required, doesn’t work in murky water
The Katadyn Ultra is the belle of the ball when it comes to UV light purifiers. It’s the fastest, most convenient water purifier out there. All you have to do is flip the wKatadyn Ultra upside-down and agitate the water for 90-seconds.
The only drawback to the Katadyn is that it’s battery-powered. It can purify close to five days worth of water for two people, and it has rechargeable batteries, so it’s not a deal-breaker.
The main concern with batteries is that they might fail you at the inopportune moment. That said, the Katadyn is the best performing battery-operated filtration system on the market, and the most reliable.
Great Things: Convenience, ideal for large groups, fast
Not So Great Things: Cumbersome, high-cost
You don’t typically use the GravityWorks for extended backpacking trips. The reason for this is that its size and weight make it nearly impossible to carry on your back for long distances.
But just because you can’t use it for long distances, it doesn’t mean it’s useless. The most beneficial aspect of the GravityWorks is that it provides a lot of water, and you don’t have to do much for it to work.
MSR Trail Shot
Great Things: Cost, weight, shallow water sources, pre-filter attachment
Not So Great Things: Process is clunky
The MSR provides an affordable, light-weight filter that is good for any trail distance. Its main benefit is that you can get water from sources most filters can’t extract.
You can suck a puddle dry with the TrailShot, a valuable utility for emergencies. Though its pump-action filtration process isn’t ideal, it’s not as bad as you would think.
Great Things: Military specs, no maintenance, filters everything
Not So Great Things: Weighs you down, lightens your pockets
The Guardian is perhaps the most advanced filter on the list, given that it’s military quality. Even though the Guardian is a pump filter, it’s also a purifier. If you’re planning a route with some gross water sources, you won’t have to care if you have the Guardian.
It also operates at a high-speed and is probably the fastest filter on this list. If you can afford it, the Guardian is probably the best operator, but it also demands the most cash. And it requires the most muscle power and energy.
Katadyn Hiker Pro
Great Things: Reliability
Not So Great Things: Weight, pumping procedure
The Hiker Pro is a hiker’s standard. It’s a durable filter that gives good results for a reasonable price. Hiker Pro’s pump-action can also reach sources that other cleaners can’t.
But it’s not the most straightforward treatment method, and it’s relatively heavy, as well. It will get the job done, but it’s not going to blow you away.
Your Water Filter Depends On the Trip
As you can see, there is no one-size-fits-all camping water filter. The water filter you choose depends on where you’re going, who you’re going with, and the duration of your trip.
Next time you go camping, bring along the filter that fits your needs. Check out our own selection today!