If you’re gearing up for your upcoming backpacking adventure, it’s important to be aware that wilderness water sources are teeming with various bacteria, viruses, parasites, and, quite possibly, harmful chemicals.
So you need to make sure you grab a water filter that’s light and small but tough enough to turn any sketchy water source into a drinkable one.
As an avid backpacker and drinker of water myself, I’ve spent six months researching and analyzing the best backpacking water filters based on filtration performance, ease of use, cost, and certifications. Let’s dive in.
1. LifeStraw Peak Series Collapsible Water Filter System: 9.70/10
- Super compact and high-performing water filter that is perfect for any outdoor adventure
- Used in emergency situations all around the world; socially concious company
- Very affordable considering its effectiveness
LifeStraw’s Collapsible water filter bottle is certified to capture 99.999% of bacteria, parasites, cysts, and microplastics from any water source. Its collapsible, lightweight body can be squeezed into a shape as small as your fist.
LifeStraw uses high-quality hollow membrane fiber in their filters with a pore size as small as 0.2 microns, capturing anything bigger than that. This includes bacteria, parasites, cysts, and microplastics.
One of the things that gives me peace of mind is the authentic certification this filter comes with. This LifeStraw filter is certified against both US EPA and NSF P231 standards for capturing bacteria and cysts in water.
The filter bottle comes in two sizes — 650 mL and 1 liter — made of BPA-free materials. Both bottles can clean 500 gallons of water before giving up. The replacement filter will cost you just $17.95.
One big benefit you will get out of this filter is that it stops working when it expires, so you don’t inadvertently sip on unwelcome pollutants. There is no way to indicate the filter’s life, so you’d need to track it yourself. It’s probably a good idea to always travel with a spare, especially as you approach that 500 gallons.
The filters come with a backwashing accessory that you can use to push clean water through the filter every now and then and flush out any gunk or dirt that might have built up inside.
If you don’t want to use the compressible bottle, you could even screw the filter to any water bottle and filter your water.
LifeStraw is very transparent about what pollutants its filters can capture. You can find detailed performance sheets on its website. This speaks volumes about a brand.
The best part is, with every purchase, LifeStraw provides a year of safe water to a child in need. Meaning you’ll be indirectly helping those in need if you buy from this brand. I love that companies are doing things like this more and more. Maybe I’m drinking the Kool-Aid, but at least it’s made with clean water.
The collapsible bottle might not hold up as tough as the brand boasts. After about a year, I could start seeing the bottle give way and some drips here and there. But considering the price, I’d say it’s got a decent enough lifespan.
LifeStraw’s Collapsible water filter bottle is not designed to remove heavy metals like lead, chromium, or mercury. So, it’s better to look for a water source that is free of heavy metals and does not contain fertilizers. If you’re far enough out in nature, this shouldn’t be too hard.
The LifeStraw collapsible water filter system is guaranteed to remove 99.999% of bacteria, cysts, and microplastics in water. It’s easy to carry and can be squeezed into the size of a wallet.
For the price, this water filter system is a great addition to your backpacking adventures. If you want a portable filter that is super light on the pocket and is certified to remove disease-causing microbes in water, buy the LifeStraw here.
2. Sawyer Squeeze Water filter: 8.40/10
- Versatile design let’s you use your own bottle or drink right from the filter
- Allows you to store filtered water and carry it with you
- More expensive than other options with similar filtration qualities
The Sawyer Squeeze filter is independently tested to eliminate 99.999% of bacteria and protozoa from water, ensuring you have safe and delicious water wherever you are. Weighing a mere two ounces, this filter is incredibly convenient to use, and here’s the kicker — it comes with a limited lifetime warranty.
The Sawyer Squeeze filter uses a 0.1-micron rated hollow-fiber membrane to remove 99.999% of bacteria and protozoa, including E.coli, salmonella, cholera, giardia, and cryptosporidium. It is independently certified to treat these pollutants, and according to its website, this filter is tested three times at different points during manufacturing.
You’ll get 32-ounce reusable squeeze pouches that can be easily folded and stored in your bag. It’s super lightweight and convenient to carry on hikes. You just have to fill the pouch with water, attach the filter and squeeze the pouch to produce fresh and clean water. No need to wait for hours like with gravity water filters.
The Sawyer filter fits standard water bottles with 28 mm threads. But you don’t actually even need to bring one along. You can drink directly from the flip-top filter.
I like that if you backwash and purify it regularly, you can make it last up to 100,000 gallons, which is impressive.
But the best thing about this filter is you’ll get a limited lifetime warranty.
One issue with the design of the Sawyer Squeeze is that the mouth of the collapsible pouch is too small to effectively gather water from shallow water sources.
Another drawback is that it lacks a carbon filter, which means it won’t enhance the taste and odor of water. While the water will be safe to drink, you might find yourself pinching your nose as you take a gulp.
The Sawyer Squeeze filter is super easy to use and is certified to produce 100,000 gallons of bacteria-free water if backwashed and maintained regularly. Know that it is not designed to improve the taste and smell of water, but it will make it safe to drink. You can buy it here.
3. Waterdrop Gravity Water Filter Straw: 7.50/10
- 1,400-gallon capacity makes this one of the longest lasting bacpacking filters on the market
- Not as tough against bacteria and parasites as other options on the market
This Waterdrop portable filter straw comes with a collapsible bag and a 1.5-gallon gravity bag to make your wilderness trip more enjoyable. It is capable of filtering out 99.99% of total coliform, chlorine, particulates, and dirt. Priced at just $36.99, you’ll get 1400 gallons of life.
The Waterdrop straw filter uses hollow-fiber membrane, activated carbon, and fabric filters to capture dirt particles along with total coliform. The filter boasts a 0.1-micron rating and maintains a commendably high flow rate of 700 ml per minute.
What makes this water filter truly exceptional is its clever blend of straw, gravity bag, and collapsible pouch. Depending on your convenience, you have the flexibility to employ various setups for filtering your water.
The filter can last 1400 gallons (or 5000 liters), but its filtration capacity can hit 100,000 gallons if you regularly backwash the straw. At such a small price, it’s really worth giving it a try.
For your peace of mind, this filter is SGS tested and certified to remove 99.9% of total coliform in water. You can download the test report yourself from the website.
The filter is only tested for E.coli bacteria but not for parasites, protozoa, microplastics, or chlorine. Although the brand claims that its filter can free the water of disease-causing bacteria and microbes, it’d have been better if I had some proof.
On your initial use, it could be necessary to flush it multiple times with a mixture of fresh water and vinegar in order to eliminate any plastic-like scent or taste from the water.
The Waterdrop gravity water filter straw can be used in multiple arrangements to filter the water. It uses a strong hollow fiber filter and activated carbon to remove E-coli, chlorine, and dirt from wilderness water. But it only has certification for removing E.coli. If this doesn’t bother you, you can get it here.
4. Survivor Filter Pro Pump Filter
The Survivor Filter Pro is a pump-style water filter equipped with a 0.01-micron pore size filtration. This is the smallest pore size you can find in water filters in this category. The Survivor Filter Pro easily traps any particle bigger than 0.01 micron, including bacteria, viruses, and all other microbes.
I like that this also includes a carbon filter to treat chlorine and the objectionable smell and taste.
Survivor is quite transparent about what its filter can remove, as seen in test reports. Plus, the Survivor Filter Pro is NSF certified. The filter is easy to set up and assemble. You might need to spare some space in your backpack to store it, though.
Here’s the catch: you need to do some pumping to get that clean water flowing. And let’s be real, it can get pretty darn boring, especially when you’re already wiped out from all that hiking and trekking. I’m talking about around 60 pumps back and forth, and all you’ll get is a measly eight ounces of water.
Another issue is its price. The filter costs $69.95, and the replacement runs around $48.
The filter lasts 26,000 gallons of water, which is decent enough. A good thing about this brand is that you’ll get a limited lifetime warranty and a 60-day money-back guarantee.
5. LifeStraw Straw Filter
If you’re looking for a convenient straw filter that can take out 99.999% of bacteria, parasites, cysts, and microplastics in water, LifeStraw’s straw filter is the way to go. The best part is you can clean the trickiest of pollutants at just $11 with this straw.
LifeStraw uses the same technology in all its filters — a hollow-fiber membrane technology with holes as small as 0.2 microns that don’t let microbes pass through them. I like that LifeStraw is US EPA & NSF P231 certified to remove microbes in water.
Sure, you might be really tempted to snag it because of the sweet price, but remember, it’s not meant to catch heavy hitters like lead, mercury, and chromium, plus it won’t exactly turn water into a flavor party. If you do give it a go, best to scout out a water source that’s devoid of heavy metals and chlorine.
This filter will produce 1000 gallons of clean water. Good thing it stops working once it reaches this mark so you don’t end up consuming dirty water. However, you must keep track of how many gallons it has filtered so you’re not left high and dry in the middle of your adventure with just a few sips to spare.
6. Grayl GeoPress Water Purifier Bottle
The Grayl Geopress water filter bottle is another convenient option if you want bacteria and virus-free water without the hassle of squeezing or pumping your water filter.
Just fill this 24-ounce bottle with water and press the filter down. In just seconds, you can chug down clean water free of microbes and even some heavy metals. I like that this filter is NSF 42 and 53 certified.
This bottle will cost you $99.95 and last about 65 gallons before giving up. The replacement filter is priced at $29.95. For most users, this price is a bit too high.
One downside is that if the water is packed with dirt and junk, the filter bottle can totally gunk up. To tackle this, you’ll have to filter water through a piece of cloth first. And let’s be real, nobody has time for that.
The Grayl Geopress water bottle is a bit expensive, but you’ll get a 10-year warranty with it. One thing to like about this brand is that it actively participates in the 1% for the Planet movement, demonstrating its commitment to social responsibility. As part of this initiative, the company allocates 1% of its annual revenue to support initiatives to combat climate change.
7. Platypus GravityWorks Water Filter System
This Platypus gravity filter can pump out four liters of clean water at the rate of 1.75 liters per minute. When journeying with a group of friends, this gravity filter can become your ultimate travel companion.
The Platypus gravity filter is priced at $134.95 and is capable of cleaning about 1500 liters of water before needing a replacement. The filter uses a hollow-fiber membrane and can capture 99.999% of bacteria, protozoa, and microplastics owing to its 0.2-micron pore size.
One knock against this filter is its short life. Many users have reported that it clogs up quickly and, due to not having any backwashing feature, the filter gives up way before it completes the 1500 liters mark.
You might be stoked about snagging four liters of water in under five minutes on your first go with this filter, but heads up, it’s going to take more time each round after that. And if your water source is all grimy and full of junk, which happens a lot in the wild, the filter’s lifespan takes an even bigger hit. Considering its price tag, I expected it to be more durable.
You can find better performance at half the price tag with LifeStraw or Sawyer Squeeze water filter.
The Bottom Line
I’ve had a lot of clean wilderness water — and some not-so-clean water — while researching these portable water filters. After scouring the internet for the best water filter for camping for over six months, I can confidently say that LifeStraw’s collapsible filter system is an excellent choice for filtering water on your next wilderness adventure.
Most water sources in the backcountry are a concoction of bacteria and parasites. LifeStraw is EPA and NSF certified to treat 99.999% of bacteria, cysts, and microplastics in water. The filter can clean 500 gallons, and the replacements are as low as $17.
It’s lightweight and can be easily packed in tight spaces. Simply fill the bottle with water and squeeze it to filter the water into a cup or directly into your mouth.
The best part is with every purchase you’ll be indirectly helping in providing clean water to a child in need for one whole year.
You can snag one right here.
This section will walk you through the steps I took to determine the best water filter for hiking, camping, and backpacking adventures.
Step 1: A big list of backpacking filters
I began by collecting the names of the top-notch backpacking water filters available out there. This involved a thorough exploration of online marketplaces and even a few visits to local stores.
The goal was to compile an extensive roster of water filters including pump filters, gravity filters, straw filters, and squeeze filters tailored for camping, hiking, and those memorable backcountry adventures.
Step 2: Online reviews
While diving into this task, I figured, why not go the extra mile? I dedicated an entire day to poring over online reviews for each of the products on my list. I scoured websites like Consumer Reports, Angie’s List, and Amazon Reviews.
It was a bit of a marathon, but it proved to be totally worth it. By the end of the day, I had a solid grasp of the strengths and weaknesses of every filter, giving me a well-rounded perspective on what each one had to offer.
Step 3: Product analysis
Moving right along, I dived into the world of backpacking water filters. I turned to my trusty friend Google and fired off questions like, “What’s the top-notch filtration technology for purifying backcountry water?” I delved into a handful of research articles and even pored over guidelines from the US EPA about safe drinking water.
And here’s the takeaway: The absolute first priority is tackling those disease-causing bacteria, pesky viruses, and sneaky microorganisms lurking in the water. Ever had giardia? Yeah, it’s not fun.
By properly researching these products, I got the inside scoop on what truly matters when it comes to filtration out there in the wild.
Step 4: Interviews with real customers
Next, I got in touch with people who had used these backpacking water filtration systems. Some went all out and shared their test results, while others didn’t respond much. But it was super enlightening — I got a real sense of how each filter worked in real-life situations.
Step 5: Interviews with companies
Moving forward, I took a proactive approach by shooting off emails to the brands on my radar. I dug deep, asking about the legitimacy of their certifications and the nitty-gritty of their warranties.
To add a twist, I even passed along a few customer complaints to see how they handled critique. It was like a litmus test for their customer care prowess. This phase unveiled a lot about their commitment to customer satisfaction and gave me valuable insights into how these brands respond to challenges and feedback.
Step 6: Test drives
The best part was yet to come — the hands-on testing. I gathered some friends, and we headed out on a backcountry trip, each with a water filter in tow. At a selected water source, we put each filter to the test, one after another. With a water testing kit, we measured their filtration performance.
We also checked things like how fast the water flowed, how easy the filters were to use, and how simple they were to clean. Trying them out in a real situation gave us a clear picture of how well they worked in the great outdoors.
Step 7: Ratings
I put everything I learned into action. I looked at each water filtration system and scored it based on important things:
- How small and easy it was to carry
- How simple it was to use
- How well it filtered water
- How fast water flowed through it
- How easy it was to clean
- How long the filter lasted
- How much it cost
- What kind of warranty it had
This helped me figure out which filters were the best fit for our backpacking trips.
The Best Backpacking Water Filter
I’ll be honest — I’ve researched a lot of water filters in my time, but this was by far the most fun I’ve ever had on the job. Taking each of these filters on a hike with my friends was a blast. But it wasn’t all fun and games.
I was able to determine that the LifeStraw Collapsible water filter system is the best portable water filter for hiking, for the following reasons:
- Removes 99.999% of bacteria, cysts, protozoa, and microplastics
- EPA and NSF certified
- Long life
- Easy to carry
- Easy to use
Snag it for your next wilderness trip here and stop lugging around heavy water bottles filled with water from home.
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