Skip to Content

5 Best Backpacking Water Filters: Stay Hydrated on the Trail

SHTFPreparedness may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page.

A lot of westerners take clean water for granted.

It’s fascinating (and terrifying) to find out what organisms exist in waterways, but you don’t have to deal with all of that, even in a survival situation.

Having a personal water filter device ensures access to clean drinking water.

It’s not something to mess around with, so we’ve researched everything you need to know about it, and come up with the very best backpacking water filters available.

5 Best Backpacking Water Filters Reviewed

1. LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

Sale
LifeStraw Personal Water Filter
115,929 Reviews
LifeStraw Personal Water Filter
  • This official LifeStraw personal water filter will provide...
  • Removes 99.9999% of bacteria including Escherichia coli...
  • Removes 99.9% of protozoa including giardia lamblia (beaver...

The company and product that started all the awareness about access to safer water, LifeStraw, is the flagship personal filter for just about every scenario.

We talk a lot about viruses and protozoa in the buying guide below, and while a filter isn’t enough to get rid of all of them, this 0.2 micron filter can avoid most of them. 0.2 microns has a very slow output, so please remember that this is a personal filter system designed for single-use.

LifeStraw is fairly labor-intensive to use, as it requires a lot of force and sucking to achieve clean water, but the point of the matter is that you’re still getting clean water out of it. Using a hollow fiber membrane, you can produce a massive 1,000 gallons of clean, drinkable water out of this tiny little straw.

We can’t even imagine using this in that much water, which is why it’s the perfect bug-out bag essential and survival necessity: it over-prepares you for everything.

LifeStraw tests their products not just through the EPA’s safety rating, but also through the NSF and ASTM, which help regulate viable water filters on a global scale. LifeStraw is also a purchase you can feel positive about.

They match sales with one year of safe drinking water for school-aged children in hardened areas around the world, promoting their mission statement of providing clean water for global needs.

LifeStraw weighs about two ounces and is extremely compact; you won’t even know it’s in your backpack because it doesn’t take up much space at all.

Pros

  • Extremely portable and compact
  • Weighs a mere 2 oz.
  • LifeStraw matches sales with donations.

Con

  • The output is slow when multiple people are involved.

Features

  • Dimensions: 7.9” x 0.8” x 0.8”
  • Filter Material: A hollow fiber membrane
  • Output: 0.2 microns (slow).
  • Longevity: 1,000 gallons

2. Katadyn Pocket Water Filter

Sale
Katadyn Pocket Water Filter
644 Reviews
Katadyn Pocket Water Filter
  • ULTIMATE FILTRATION: Exclusive silver-impregnated ceramic...
  • SWISS QUALITY & DURABILITY- 20-YEAR GUARANTEE. This steel...
  • RELIABLE HIGH OUTPUT: Generates up to 1 liter of filtered...

If you need a higher output or if the straw design just isn’t for you, Katadyn has a stellar solution.

For two- to four-person camping parties, this pump system provides you with a larger supply of water in a brief amount of time.

You’re able to get one liter of water for every minute of pumping, and the entire system is field-cleanable, meaning you don’t have to dip out of your trip early just to find an indoor water supply and clean it out.

In keeping with their reputation for durability and versatility, they also feature a sleek steel exterior that protects against the elements.

Katadyn isn’t an inexpensive option by any means, but the low micron rating helps filter out almost all strands of protozoa and giardia, as well as some algae found in freshwater streams with stagnant spots.

The system boasts excellent filtration, a robust output, and straightforward operation. All you have to do is pump it through the ceramic filtration system and start enjoying clean water.

However, despite its premium design and use of high-end components, Katadyn still encounters challenges. For this price, the separate sale of the carbon cartridge bottle adapter is a letdown.

However, the cost of replacement tubes and filters is relatively low, and this system has a lifespan of 13,000 gallons of water before requiring a complete unit replacement. Katadyn is an excellent solution for increased output and a more reliable system that doesn’t require much personal labor.

Pros

  • Field-cleanable for constant use
  • Durable ceramic and metal construction
  • You can quickly access more than one liter of water per minute.

Cons

  • The carbon cartridge bottle adapter is sold separately.

Features

  • Dimensions: 11” x 8” x 4”
  • Filter Material: Ceramic
  • Output: One liter per minute
  • Longevity: 13,000 gallons

3. Platypus Water Filter System

Platypus Water Filter System
1,575 Reviews
Platypus Water Filter System
  • High-capacity, gravity-fed, hollow-fiber water filter system...
  • Meets all EPA/NSF guidelines for removal of 99.9999% of...
  • No pumping required; reservoir fills easily and hangs from a...

We don’t like to imagine survival-based emergency situations, but we still have to prepare for them.

Platypus is perfect for you if you’re a family man with children to care for, or just a dad who wants to have high levels of clean water at the campsite every weekend. You simply fill the marked bag with dirty water and hang it up on a higher tree branch than you did with the clean water bag.

They’re both clearly marked and color-coded, preventing mix-ups. Use the included straps to hoist it up, and let gravity do the work. The dirty bag feeds water through the filter in the center of the hose, which then feeds clean water into the appropriate bag.

This low-micron filter helps remove 99% of all waterborne bacteria and protozoa, which is as good as you’re going to get from any filtration system without also boiling the water (more on that in the buying guide below).

This meets EPA and NSF guidelines, so you know you’re getting a quality filter. The only downside is that those hanging straps have a weak plastic buckle closure, but the nylon in the straps themselves is of excellent quality.

Filtering four liters of water takes about two and a half minutes, and each filtration cartridge lasts for 1,500 gallons before needing replacement.

As long as you clean and store the system properly, it has no life expectancy, provided you change the filters when necessary. Lastly, the hollow fiber filter doesn’t leave a taste or flecks like carbon filters do, but it still makes the water taste great.

Pros

  • High capacity for large volume needs
  • Almost no labor is required to clean the water.
  • It includes a storage rack and simple operation.

Cons

  • Hanging straps have a weak plastic buckle closure.

Features

  • Dimensions: 13.2” x 2.8” x 5.8”
  • Filter Material: Hollow Fiber
  • Output: four liters in 150 seconds.
  • Longevity: 1,500 gallons (per filter)

4. LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle

LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle
1,075 Reviews
LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle
  • Protects Against Bacteria: Filters out 99.999999% of...
  • Removes Parasites: Filters out 99.999% of parasites like...
  • Removes Microplastics: Filters out 99.999% of microplastics,...

We know LifeStraw is the best, but their Go Bottle needs more attention. This is their underdog product, but it’s the perfect solution for hikers who aren’t looking to pitch a tent and stay a while.

In the center spire of your bottle, you get the full power of the LifeStraw design, which filters water through a two-stage carbon filter. Unlike those dollar stove “filter bottles” you’ve seen, this one doesn’t leave black flecks or a nasty taste in your mouth.

Carbon usually gets a negative rep, but it is one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to filter water. You’ll get twenty-two ounces of capacity, so you can fill up from the stream and keep going.

There’s a lanyard that’s built into a plastic ring just under the cap and includes a nylon loop with a metal hook; that’s about as durable as you’re going to get without sewing it onto your backyard.

The bottle has an EPA-approved design, is completely BPA-free, and has a comfortable silicone mouthpiece to prevent sharp plastic from scratching your lips and teeth.

With anything, there are some downsides. One drawback is that it emits a low whistling sound during suction and has a somewhat flimsy cover. It’s leak-proof if you seal it like a pickle jar, but otherwise, placing it on its side can result in light leakage from around the cap.

LifeStraw matches sales with the promise of clean water for school-aged children in areas of the world that usually don’t have access to clean drinking water, making you feel positive about the brand you’re choosing.

Pros

  • High capacity for large-volume needs
  • Almost no labor is required to clean the water.
  • It includes a storage rack and simple operation.

Con

  • Hanging straps have a weak plastic buckle closure.

Features

  • Dimensions: 3.1” x 3.1” x 9.2”
  • Filter Material: Two-stage carbon filter
  • Output: 0.2 microns (slow).
  • Longevity: 1,000 gallons

5. GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier Bottle

Grayl, a relatively new player to the game, is last on our list.

These guys produced something truly spectacular: a three-stage filtration system that used ceramic fiber, ion exchange, and activated carbon to purify water (as much as it could).

Grayl promises to remove 99.99% of all waterborne viruses, bacteria, and protozoa, and based on their filter system and certifications, we’re inclined to agree.

Compared to LifeStraw Go, the total life of each filter is fairly low. You only get forty gallons per filter, and while it’s a complex system that handles it, it’s still financially disappointing.

However, Grayl picks up the slack with usage: you fill the bottle and apply pressure to it to begin the filtering process. It takes fifteen seconds to get two fluid cups of water, saving you time compared to “sipper bottles” like the LifeStraw Go.

GRAYL is part of the 1% for the Planet Foundation, providing 1% of your purchase price to help environmental projects around the world.

Every little bit helps. This is the ideal travel cup if you’re backpacking across countries with high lead volumes in their water (such as India or Indonesia), and it leaves a fresh taste after every single sip.

There is nothing extraordinary about it; simply fill the container, press down, and you will have clean drinking water. A few of these would be ideal for individual bug-out bags.

Pros

  • Apply pressure to filter water.
  • They designed it for use in harsh environments.
  • Grayl donates 1% of its profits to environmental projects.

Cons

  • The total life of each filter is fairly low.
  • Low output volume.

Features

  • Dimensions: 3.9” x 11” x 7.9”
  • Filter Material: Ceramic fiber and activated carbon
  • Output: 16 ounces per 15 seconds.
  • Longevity: 40 gallons

What to Look for Before Buying

water filters for camping

It’s about efficiency and survival over aesthetics, so we need to make sure that you’re walking away with the best portable water purifier to fit your specific needs.

We’ve covered it all, from understanding certifications and brands to exactly what lives in unfiltered water.

Size

This directly affects portability. If you’re heading to the campsite for a weekend, you’re trying to pack as light as possible so you’re not wrecking your back carrying everything there.

While even the most hefty camping water filters don’t take up a lot of space, every little bit helps. Compact and lightweight design characterizes most camping water filters.

Type

You have multiple systems: straw, gravity, and pump, all of which are displayed in the selection we’ve made.

The best water filtration system backpacking veterans use is a gravity-fed system, but a straw-based filter is best for bug-out bags and survival situations due to being lightweight and compact.

We’ll describe the details of each type later on, but they greatly affect your decision.

Output

This defines how much it’s going to output before the end of its life. Thankfully, most systems are rated to supply you with an insane amount of water.

For a single person with the recommended daily dosage of a half-gallon, a LifeStraw could sustain you for five years if you drank from a stream every single day.

Pay attention to the maximum output, but know that this is least likely to impact your purchase decision since most brands do a decent job at providing excellent outputs.

Flow Rate

Camping for four? Personal filters, such as LifeStraw or the Platypus system, have a much higher flower rate and provide more water in a single use.

The flow rate is all about practicality, and higher flow rates generally come with a higher price tag, no matter what brand you’re looking at.

Durability

How long is it going to last? You should ask yourself that before buying, especially if you’ll use it often.

Straw-based systems are simple and sustainable, but you have a lot more moving parts in a pump or gravity water filter.

You’ll find a lot of helpful information in user reviews about the sustainability of systems with more than one working part.

Certifications

Some filtration systems are only EPA-certified, and not all are certified. As a general rule, you should not be impressed with a product’s only certification.

Look for separate organization certifications like COSUPA, which have received widespread accreditation for accuracy.

Different Types of Water Filters

water filter system on table

Straw-Based

The LifeStraw and other similar products have all revolutionized how the world has access to clean water.

They take a lot of force and suction to use properly and don’t collect water (you ingest it directly through the straw), but they are great for survival situations and bug-out bags.

Gravity Fed

Looking for high volume without having to break your back? Gravity-fed systems are perfect for you. These have separate storage compartments for “dirty” water, as well as another bag that hangs lower for clean water.

Using a hose and the central filtration system, gravity does the work for you, often giving you one liter of water per minute (for most basic gravity systems), all by simply hanging up a bag.

You’ll need to clean these out thoroughly and possibly replace tubing on a regular basis.

Pump Activated

These work with a bit of manual labor, but not as intensively as a straw-based filtration system.

Using a lever or pump, you gently run water through the carbon filter and receive clean water on the other side.

These systems feature more moving parts than a straw-hased filter, but they are not as complex as a gravity-fed system.

FAQs

metal water bottle for survival

Can Water Filters Remove Viruses?

No, they cannot. A filter effectively eliminates high levels of chlorine, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, lead, and mercury, whereas purification does not. So even if you’re filtering your water, you still need to boil it.

How Long Can Viruses Live in Water?

Water naturally contains norovirus, rotavirus, torovirus, and other virus strands that can survive for three weeks without food. Generally speaking, sunlight is beneficial for these bacteria to thrive. Only the introduction of high-density UV light, or bringing them to a rolling boil, can kill viruses.

Do Water Filters Remove Giardia?

Your water filter doesn’t completely filter Giardia; you must boil and kill it. Giardia thrives in a fairly average temperature range, typically encountered on camp and hike-worthy days. This temperature range is so small that it can easily pass through your water filter’s carbon filter.

Does Boiling Water Purify It?

Yes, and no. Boiling water for an extended period of time can kill bacteria, pathogens, viruses, and protozoa, which are basically what your filters are aiming to do. Boiling water is technically the safest method of achieving clean, potable drinking water, and it can work in tandem with your portable purification system.

How Often Should You Change Your Carbon Filter?

You should change it every six to twelve months, as a rule of thumb. That time frame begins after its first use, even if you wait weeks. On the other end, when you receive purified, clean drinking water, the toxins, potential diseases, and bacteria you’re bringing in from that water become stuck on the filter.

Wrap-Up

Choose one of the best water filtration systems backpacking veterans use on every camping trip, which seasoned pros use on their hikes.

Have some peace of mind knowing that you’ll have a far more durable means of protecting yourself from microbes and diseases, as well as maintaining your hydration in survival situations.