Quick Answer – Best Camping Water Filter:
Outdoor enthusiasts know that purchasing the best camping water filter can significantly enhance your camping or hiking experience. For one, you won’t have to carry a lot of water with you when hiking. Secondly, a filter makes the water you may encounter during your trip safe to drink.
If you trek the Rubicon trail, the Dalton Highway, or other popular overlanding trails, one fact is for certain. You can easily find water sources along the way. If you have a portable filter, you can safely and easily draw water from these sources with enjoyment. These filters are designed to remove any contaminant without chemical treatments.
During an overlanding trip, a water filter can act as an emergency water solution and be a lifesaver in case your water tanks run dry. Overlanders should consider utilizing camping water filters as a backup system.
Best Camping Water Filter
Water Filters vs. Water Purifiers
If you have already tried checking your options, chances are you have also encountered those products classified as water purifiers. Some people think that these two are interchangeable but they are not.
Both water filters and purifiers are a must if you are not confident that the water is safe to drink. However, there’s a significant distinction between water filters and purifiers. Essentially, a filter eliminates the impurities and contaminants, such as chromium, chlorine, lead, copper, iron, and others without chemical treatments.
Concurrently, it inhibits the development of fungi and bacteria, but not of viruses. Meanwhile, a water purifier is designed to eliminate waterborne bacteria protozoa and viruses. As viruses are too small, generally, filters are not able to catch them.
How do you decide between the two? In the case in which you’re hiking in the backcountries of the U.S. or Canada, a water filter might be just enough. That’s because, in pristine environments, human traffic is reduced.
Still, if you’re overlanding to less-developed countries, in locations where water treatment is poor, and the people there don’t have appropriate hygiene practices in the proximity of water supplies, getting a water purifier is a safer alternative.
That being said, we’d like to introduce you to our top recommendations of products that will maximize your safety during your overlanding or hiking trips.
In this article, we will review the best portable water treatments as well as recommend the best purification tablets on the market.
Different Types of Camping Water Filters
There are different types of backpacking water filters that do not use chemical treatments. These products greatly vary in features and benefits.
It’s important to note the pros and cons of each type of filter so you’ll know which one is the best choice for your needs.
As the name suggests, this type of filter looks like and works like straws. Most straw filters use a hollow fiber membrane to filter any impurities. These membranes are tightly woven and are made with very tiny holes.
Bacteria protozoa and parasites generally can’t get through the hollow fiber. They will be trapped in the filtration system so that what will come out of the straw is safe drinkable water.
Straw filters are lightweight, small in size and portable. However, you can’t store water in it. As it is designed for you to drink through it directly from water sources, you may find yourself in an awkward position while drinking.
Pump filters are a bit larger than straw filters but they are still portable and handy. In fact, most pump backpacking water filters can easily fit inside a backpack without taking up so much space.
Unlike straw filters that require you to be very close to the water source, with pump filters you don’t have to. This type of filter comes with a pump for drawing water.
You just need to put the lead line directly to the water sources while the other line to the person drinking. You may also attach the other end of the line to a storage bottle or squeeze pack. As the pump draws water, the person on the other side can safely drink.
Pump backpacking water filters are designed to have a mechanical filtration system that prevents the contaminants such as bacteria protozoa and viruses from reaching the other end of the line. Some pump filters can even block asbestos.
On the downside, they can be a little harder to use because you need to pump manually for the water to move through the system.
This type of water backpacking filter is popular among trekkers, overlanders, hikers and emergency preppers because of its ease of use and convenience.
A gravity filter can effectively and easily turn contaminated water into safe drinking water. Most importantly you don’t have to be so close to water sources for a gravity filter to work.
Typically, a gravity filter has two chambers. The upper chamber is where you will pour the contaminated water while the lower chamber works as your storage.
One of the reasons why gravity filters are quite popular among campers and overlanders is that they can filter large quantities faster than many other water treatment filters. That is why gravity filters are ideal not just for personal use but also for families and small groups.
However, the major deal breaker for gravity filters has to do with setting up. Gravity filters need to be elevated for them to work. This means that you have to find a tree branch or something where you can hook it up and this may not be possible in some locations.
Water Bottle Filters
A bottle filter works like any other water bottle. You fill it with water from any water sources then drink from it. However, the only difference is that bottle filters come with a built-in filtration system for water treatment.
The majority of filters used in these water bottles lasts for up to 40 gallons of water but most manufacturers recommend changing the filter every two months even if you did not hit the maximum limit.
The best thing about backpacking water bottle filters is that while they remove the bacteria and contaminants, they retain important minerals such as calcium and magnesium.
Unlike the other 4 types of filters which will work without battery or electricity, most UV filters require a source of power.
A UV filter treats contaminated water with germicidal UV light. Once the water is exposed, the UV wavelength will scramble the DNA of the bacteria, fungi and other living organisms in the water. As a result, these organisms can no longer replicate. This makes the drinking water potable.
Compared to other best backpacking water filters, this type is typically more expensive. However, performance-wise, UV filters and purifiers are very effective in cleaning dirty water, making it safe for consumption. In most cases, UV water treatment filters can even improve the smell and taste of the water.
Squeeze filters such as the Sawyer Squeeze are quite popular too. Most squeeze filtration systems we have seen are lightweight and compact which make them a good choice for those who are always on the go.
The mechanism behind the squeeze filtration system is simple. All you have to do is fill up your squeeze pouch at a stream or river then squeeze the bag to start filtering.
A squeeze filter is similar to a pump filter in that it also requires a bit of effort to start filtering. The best thing about this type of filter is that the squeeze bag may last for many years if properly maintained and stored.
Factors to Consider When Choosing the Best Water Filter
As there are dozens of backpacking water filters and purifiers to choose from, it is important to know the different factors that you need to consider when choosing the best product.
Type of backpacking water filter
Choosing the type of filter is probably the most important decision you have to make when it comes to filters and purifiers. As each type is associated with certain pros and cons, make sure to check which one is more ideal for your outdoor activities.
Portability is important because who would like to carry a heavy water treatment filter on a camping or overlanding trip. As with camping water filters, they are generally small in size, but they may differ in portability because of the design and dimensions.
Straw filters are generally the smallest water treatment gear. You can even keep one in your pocket or hold it with your hand. However, they may not be the most convenient to use since you will have to be as close to the water sources as possible.
A gravity filter is perhaps bulkier and less portable if you compare it with a straw filter. But in exchange, they produce more in a shorter time. Plus you don’t have to be so close to the water source to use it.
When it comes to portability, the weight of the filter also matters. With a lightweight filter, you can carry it with you on your camping, hiking, hunting or fishing trip without feeling the extra load.
Thankfully, it is easy to check the weight of a specific filter as most manufacturers indicate the weight of the item in the label. Be sure to check this information before making a decision.
It is important to note that camping water filters greatly differ on how much time it takes before it can produce clean drinkable water. For instance, one product may be able to filter water at a flow rate of 5 ounces every minute while another model may be able to filter water at a rate of 20 ounces for the same time.
The speed to which a filter produces clean water is important as it can greatly save you time in the wilderness. Speed is oftentimes expressed as flow rate in the label.
Capacity or Life span
The filtration system in each filter has a maximum capacity which also equates to its lifespan.
For instance, if a product has a maximum capacity of 30,000 gallons, it means that it can only filter water up to that volume, after which you need to replace the filtration system or the whole unit.
The higher the maximum capacity of a filter is, the longer you can use it. The best filter should allow you to use it for a longer time. This means big savings on your part.
Ease of setup
The filter that require less effort to use is also the easiest to set up. For this factor, straw filters are the best. You can use them right away, without having to set up or assemble anything. All you have to do is find a water source then drink from it.
Additionally, squeeze and bottle filters such as the Katadyn befree and the Grayl Ultralight are also easy to set-up. They are among the best options if you want a higher-capacity filter.
On the other hand, we think that gravity filters are not the best when it comes to ease in setting up. With a gravity filter, you need to place the filtration system at a higher level for it to work. A tree branch works best but if it is not available, you have to be more resourceful.
Best Portable Water Filters
This is no ordinary straw but an award-winning water filter from LifeStraw. It is popular among campers, travellers and hikers for good reason.
Firstly, this filter will handle no less than 1,000 gallons of safe drinking water, without the use of chemicals. It eliminates 99.9999 percent of bacteria, such as Campylobacter, e-Coli, salmonella, and many others. At the same time, it eradicates 99.9 percent of protozoa.
The fact that this filter is lightweight is a major advantage when you’re hiking and you don’t want to carry unnecessary weight. To be more specific, this compact unit weighs no more than 2 oz.
Moreover, just like most straw filters, this one is easy to use and it does not require extra effort to set up. In fact, it has no moving parts and does not require batteries, which means you can use it right away. It’s also worth mentioning that it has a high flow rate.
The reviews for this water filter are unbelievably positive – as its rating on Amazon is 4.7, and the number of reviews is considerable. Long-time users have noted that the filtered water tastes amazing, even though they expected it to have an odd taste.
A minor disadvantage could be that you have to give the filter a bit more suction in order to get the water flowing. This is likely to happen when too much water gets in the filter.
- Lightweight and compact
- Ready to use anytime
- Removes 99.9% of bacteria and protozoa
- Maximum capacity is only 1,000 gallons while other straw filters have a capacity of more than 10,000 gallons
The Sawyer Mini is your compact solution for water filtration measuring only 4 x 3 x 8 inches. Not surprisingly, the Sawyer Mini is also very lightweight, weighing only 2 ounces! It is a great filtration system for any outdoor activity including overlanding, camping, and even international travel.
While The Sawyer Mini filter is small in size, it is highly efficient and can remove 99.99 percent of bacteria, parasites, and viruses present in the water. It also removes 100 percent of microplastics.
Additionally, a Sawyer Mini single filter cartridge is capable of cleaning 100,000 gallons of water, without requiring replacement. It also comes with a handy adapter that you can use for attaching it to water pouches, water bottles, squeeze bags, or faucets if you wish to enhance the quality of the water.
If you buy this item, it also includes one mini filter, a 16-ounce reusable squeeze pouch, a 7-inch drinking straw, and a cleaning plunger.
As a drawback, other customers mentioned that the squeeze bags are prone to burst. Hence, you might consider packing a water bottle as well.
- High capacity
- With adapter for attaching to a bottle or squeeze pouch
- Easy to use
- Also removes microplastics
- Some users reported quality issues with the squeeze bag
If you prefer the bottle design, then this product will be a good addition to your camping emergency kit. Firstly, this water filter utilizes a 2-stage activated carbon fiber membrane, eliminating roughly 99.99 percent of protozoa and bacteria present in the water.
Moving on to the design of this product, it features BPA-free plastic construction and is leakproof. The mouthpiece is made of food-grade soft silicone which is known to have antibacterial properties. The high qualities of the different materials used in this filter make it well-thought and well-made.
The LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle is unique in that it is fitted with two types of filters to consistently deliver clean water. The first one is the membrane microfilter with a 1,000-gallon capacity and the second one is the activated carbon filter which lasts up to 26 gallons of usage. The resulting water is not only clean but also odorless and with no aftertaste.
Reading the thousands of reviews for this purified water filter bottle, most of them are positive. However, some customers reported getting defective products, which could indicate an issue with quality control.
- 2-stage filtration system produces clean water with no aftertaste
- Does not leak
- Easy to use
- The activated carbon filter needs frequent replacement
We’d like to move on to present this complete filtration system, weighing 12.8 ounces. Since it is quite versatile, you can use it for hiking and overlanding, being a valuable unit in the case of emergencies.
Once again, it eradicates 99.9 percent of the harmful components present in the water.
A distinguishable feature is that this system comes with an innovative adapter. You can use it for connecting it to the 32-ounce pouch so that you can transfer the drinking water from the pouch to your bottle. Another option mentioned by former users is linking it to a faucet or bucket; it’s entirely up to you.
- Sawyer Squeeze comes with a limited lifetime warranty
- Convenient to use
- 1,000,000-gallons capacity
- Some verified purchaser of Sawyer Squeeze reported that while the filter is great, the accessories are not
This filter has been thoroughly tested in multiple laboratories in the US, proving its unmatched efficiency. It removes 99.9 percent of viruses, bacteria, protozoa, as well as 99.5 percent of mercury and 93 percent of lead. Its impressive performance exceeds most home filtration systems!
Another impressive characteristic of this filter is that this small water pump filters the water really fast. Every minute, this filter can filtrate approximately 17 ounces. This is one of the top reasons why many customers choose to get this product. A single bacteria filter cartridge cleans up to 100,000 liters, meaning that you’ll be using this system for a long time. A disadvantage noted in reviews is that dirty lines might contaminate the clean ones since there isn’t any way to separate them.
- Cleans up to 100,000 liters or roughly 26,400 gallons of water
- With lifetime warranty
- Removes most heavy metals
- On the expensive side
- Requires much effort by pumping to filter the water
This product is a great choice if you are looking to get a portable filter for your family camping trips. It is a bit huge in comparison with the other products we listed here, measuring about 11 x 9 x 4.5 inches and weighing 1.6 lbs.
The Family 1.0 Portable Gravity Powered Water Purifier can efficiently provide drinking water for you. It has a good track record of surpassing the EPA standards for water purifiers.
It can remove 99.99% of bacteria, 99.9999 or viruses, and 99.9% of protozoan cysts that contaminate water sources. The best thing about it is that it purifies up to 4,775 gallons without using any chemicals such as chlorine, or anything of that sort.
That is about 3 years of clean water supply in the wilderness for a family of 5! When it comes to performance, it is also efficient as it has a flow rate of 9 to 12 liters per hour. But to ensure this, you need to keep the filter elevated.
Users agree that this unit is really useful during hiking. However, others indicated that it is too bulky, while others mentioned that it operates too slowly.
- Surpasses the EPA standards in water purification
- Ideal for family use
- Some customers say that it is a bit difficult to use
If you prefer to get a filter straw, this product is a good contender. It can filter up to 26,417 gallons of dirty water while most personal straws only last 5,000 to 10,000 gallons.
Furthermore, this is another product with overwhelmingly positive reviews. Many of its users say that it offers great value for your money. It is both efficient and effective in filtering contaminated water.
Aside from the actual feedback from its users, various tests can also prove that this filter can in fact remove 99.99 percent of bacteria, viruses, and other harmful components in the water. It uses a triple filtration system to ensure consistent performance.
With the triple filtration system, the water passes through three stages of filtration. The first stage is the cotton pre-filter which is the first line of defense to remove large particles that sit in the water. The water then passes through the 0.05-micron ultra-filter that can remove E.coli, protozoa, algae, and Cryptosporidium. This filter can also eliminate 99.99 percent of bacteria, virus,es and staph. In the last stage, the water will then pass through the carbon filter which reduces chemicals and heavy metals in the water. This same filter also makes the water odorless and with no after-taste.
Despite the fact that it comes with three filters, this product is still very lightweight, weighing just 0.22 pounds. Looking at its dimensions of 1.38 x 1.38 x 7.09 inches, you can tell that it is also compact in size.
While we’ve seen the great features of this filter, there are still a few unhappy customers. They are disappointed by the fact that the water doesn’t come easily – that is to say, you require suction power.
- Hight capacity
- Lightweight and compact
- Also removes chemicals and heavy metals
- On the expensive side
The Katadyn Vario Water Filter is one of the best filters for personal and small group use. It has a flow rate of approximately 2 quarts of water per minute when set to faster flow mode and one quart per minute if it is set in longer life mode. Not bad for a portable filter!
What most backpackers like about the Katadyn filter is that despite its compact size, it can adequately produce clean water for a family or small group. It measures 16 x 12 x 4 inches and weighs 1.66 pounds. You can fit this filter inside your backpack.
The design of this filter is also commendable. It uses three filter levels: glass fiber filter, ceramic pre-filter, and carbon core filter. The 0.2-micron glass fiber filter is designed to remove waterborne bacteria while the ceramic filter is adjustable depending on the cloudiness of the water. The last level which is the carbon core reduces pesticides, chemicals, and bad aftertaste in the water. All these levels of filtrations are put in place to ensure a high degree of efficiency.
It’s important to note that this product is a pump filter. You can either pump it manually or power it with a battery.
As noted by long-time users, the filters eliminate unpleasant smells and tastes, making the water good-tasting and safe to drink. A common issue is that the piston and valve might get air-locked.
The design is also on point, comprising of an inlet hose and an outlet, measuring 36 inches each. On a different note, the filter’s pump is fast – and presumably, an advantage is a fact that you don’t have to direct a lot of effort into pumping the water.
As noted by former users, the filters eliminate unpleasant smells and tastes, making the water good-tasting and safe to drink. A common issue is that the piston and valve might get air-locked.
- Produces clean water with no aftertaste
- Easy to use
- Also removes pesticides and other chemicals
- Some customers complained that the pump is useless without lubrication
If you need a backpacking water filter for your family for your next outdoor adventure, consider getting the MSR MiniWorks Ex filter. It is bigger than most filters we listed in this review as it measures about 10 x 4 x 7 inches and weighs 1.3 pounds, but the MSR Miniworks Ex does a good job of producing clean water right from the water source.
The best thing about the MSR Miniworks Ex is that it meets the NSF protocol P231 for bacteria and protozoa removal. We know how strict the NSF Protocol P231 is when it comes to certifying that a filter can indeed convert dirty and contaminated water into pure, safe drinking water. Meeting the protocol means that the MSR Miniworks Ex is able to eliminate 99.9999 percent of bacteria and 99.99 percent of protozoa present in the water throughout the filter life of 2,000 liters.
This Microfilter does not only do an excellent job of removing water contaminants, it is also engineered for heavy and frequent use. Fitted with an innovative AirSpring Accumulator, this filter is able to pump one liter per minute. Aside from that, the MSR Miniworks Ex is also designed to be compatible with a wide range of water containers such as Camelback and Nalgene, making it versatile.
Compact and lightweight, this pump filter measures 7.5 x 2.75 inches and weighs one pound. It comes with a storage bag that you can easily carry with you.
Although we find this filter loaded with many great features, it is far from being perfect. A common complaint highlighted by users is its requirement for cleaning frequently. Depending on the source of the water it filters, it might clog unexpectedly.
- Comes with a limited lifetime warranty
- Meets the NSF Protocol P231
- Compact and portable
- Requires constant cleaning
If you want to get a compact, lightweight filter, you may find this product a decent option since it weighs only 0.96 ounces. The Aquamira water filter is quite compact too, measuring just 5 x 1 x 8 inches. As it fits inside your pocket or backpack without adding more weight, it’s a great water treatment tool for hiking, backpacking, and emergency use.
Another good thing about this best backpacking water filter is that it is made from sturdy certified lead-free plastic. This means that it can resist abuse.
Given its small size, the Aquamira water filter has a flow rate of up to 450 ml per minute with a maximum filter capacity of up to 30 gallons. This product can filter dirty water effectively, removing bacteria, and even protozoan cysts. And if you are worried that the straw will also attract bacteria, it will not. The Aquamira water filter is constructed with Miraguard Antimicrobial Technology and it is effective in suppressing the growth of bacteria protozoa, algae, mould, fungus, and mildew within the filter itself.
As this backpacking water filter has a small capacity, it is more ideal for personal use only. And most customers recommend having another type of filter if you plan on spending more time outdoors. Also, the fact that the Aquamira water filter doesn’t come with a flexible straw unlike other straw filters could be seen as a shortcoming.
- Small and lightweight
- Easy to use
- Slow flow rate
If you have been shopping for water treatment gear, you might already be familiar with some of the best filters from Katadyn such as the Katadyn Befree and Vario filters. This Pocket Microfilter too has many great features backed by hundreds of positive reviews. Featuring a high-quality, durable construction, this Katadyn water filter can withstand frequent use and abuse. It is also covered by a 20-year warranty.
Moreover, this pump filtration system cleans up to 13,000 gallons (50,000 liters) of water. And thanks to its impregnated ceramic element, it effectively removes bacteria protozoa at a flow rate of up to 1 liter per minute.
When it comes to portability, while it is not the smallest pump filter in the market, this best backpacking water filter is still portable and weighs only 1.3 pounds.
- With 20 year warranty
- Easy to clean
- Easy to use
This product is a decent option for budget shoppers. And the fact that it has so many positive reviews is proof that is one of the best filters available.
The Etekcity purify filter meets the EPA Water Quality Standards as tested by German TüV SüD Examination Institute. It is also FDA Compliant, ensuring maximum quality of the product and safety of the users.
The impeccable performance of this water treatment gear is the result of a well-thought design. The water first passes through a prefilter to remove large contaminants. Once inside, it will then undergo another level of filtration through the antibacterial activated carbon filter that comes with an ion-exchange resin. This best backpacking water filter removes heavy metals and odor. Then the last level of filtration is through the 0.01 um inline member that removes waterborne bacteria.
One Etekcity straw is enough to provide up to 1,500 liters or 396 gallons of water at a flow rate of 400 ml per minute.
We mentioned earlier its positive reviews and we’ve read that many customers liked the fact that it comes with a handful of useful accessories, such as a foldable water pouch for collecting the water and a syringe for cleaning.
- Extra durable
- Easy to clean
- Effective in removing contaminants
- Some users find it hard to draw water through it
If you’re into international traveling, or you’re an avid adventurer, getting a versatile water purifier should be on your list. It’s important to ensure that you have access to safe drinking water wherever and whenever especially if you are visiting less-developed areas. This GRAYL bottle filter is designed for such a purpose.
Weighing just 80 grams or roughly 0.17 pounds, it is lighter in weight compared to many other bottle filters in the market. At that weight, this bottle filter can hold 16 ounces of water.
With this bottle filter, you can get water from virtually any source. It removes 99.99 percent of waterborne pathogens including bacteria protozoa and viruses. The Grayl bottle filter is also effective in removing particulates, chemicals such as chlorine and chloroform, as well as heavy metals such as lead and arsenic. On top of that, it also improves the taste and smell of the water. When you use this water bottle, you can have peace of mind that the water you are drinking is free from contaminants, including the most common E. coli and Salmonella.
Just like most water bottle filters, this product is also easy to use. It doesn’t require prolonged waiting, pumping, sucking or squeezing. All you have to do is fill the bottle from any source, press on, and drink. And unlike pump or straw filters which can’t store water, this one does.
Longtime customers have actually used this bottle purifier in Nepal, among other countries, praising the fact that this is truly effective while also being very fast.
- Compact and lightweight
- The bottle is easy to maintain
- Hassle-free to use
- Effective in removing many sorts of freshwater contaminants
- Slow flow rate
Best Water Purification Tablets
Last, but not least, we’d like to mention this water purification treatment, comprising of 50 tablets. The role of these tablets is to make questionable water safe to drink.
The water is ready to drink in roughly 30 minutes. Additionally, 50 water purification tablets aim at treating around 25 quarts of water.
Once again, these tablets are excellent for international traveling. An unmatched advantage is that the tablets don’t come with an expiration date, as long as you store them according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Former users were more than happy with their purchase, and this is mirrored in the high rating and the positive feedback.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: Can you go camping or overlanding without a water filter?
You can but experienced overlanders and camping enthusiasts recommend having at least one filtration system as a backup in case you run out of water. In fact, it is one of the 10 essentials in outdoor adventures, alongside a cooler, camping stove, and an instant tent.
Q: What are the most reliable camping water filter brands?
There are several of them including Sawyer Products, LifeStraw, GRAYL, Etekcity and Katadyn. You’ll know that they are a trusted brand because of the many positive reviews they are getting.
Q: Can camping water filters remove viruses?
In most cases, a portable filter can effectively remove protozoa and waterborne bacteria. However, unless clearly specified by the manufacturer, it can’t remove viruses.
Buyers’ Advice For Choosing The Best Camping Water Filter
Needless to say, water is indispensable for enthusiast hikers and campers. Still, if it’s contaminated, then you expose yourself to a handful of unnecessary risks, which could grow into severe health conditions.
This is why a water filtration or purification system is of great importance whenever you’re traveling to a remote area. Depending on your hiking habits, you might require a unit with a smaller or greater capacity. Irrespective of that, make sure you consider this aspect since it can make the world of a difference, in terms of safety.
If you happen to be an overlander, water filters and water purification treatments can add to your safety. You can throw in one of the water filters above, according to the budget and in addition, water purification tablets if you’re planning to really travel off the beaten path. They both could act as your survival water filters and purifiers.