The best water filters for backpacking
Water is absolutely essential to any backpacking, camping, cycling, hiking, and general outdoors trip.
Carrying liters of water at a time is simply impractical, as any outdoors enthusiast knows. Water is heavy, and carrying additional weight means you’ll exert more energy and take more time with any activity you do.
A source of clean, safe drinking water is absolutely essential to both your health and your well-being, but whenever we go out into nature, or travel to a place without reliable potable water, we need to take extra precautions.
A personal water filtration system or device is the best way to ensure that you have consistent access to clean drinking water whether you’re camping, hiking, traveling, or in any disaster or emergency situation.
Thankfully, there are dozens of portable water filtration devices on the market that are designed for this purpose. However, with more options available you’ll need to take some more time researching these products to identify the best one for you.
This is why we’ve compiled the following reviews of the best water filters available on the market. The reviews include many different types of filter, from personal drinking straws, to gravity systems, to pump operated systems, tablets, and even water bottles.
|Name||Pore Size (Microns)||Protects From||Our Rating|
|Camelbak All Clear Purifier Bottle||Uses UV technology
||Bacteria, protozoa, viruses||9.6 / 10|
|MSR AutoFlow Gravity Filter||0.2
||Bacteria, protozoa||9.4 / 10|
||Bacteria, protozoa||9.4 / 10|
|MSR Guardian Purifier Pump||0.02
||Bacteria, protozoa, viruses||9.4 / 10|
|LifeStraw Family 1.0||0.02
||Bacteria, protozoa, viruses||9.4 / 10|
||Bacteria, protozoa||9.4 / 10|
||Bacteria, protozoa||9.4 / 10|
||Bacteria, protozoa||9.2 / 10|
|Sawyer Personal Water Filtration Bottle||0.1
||Bacteria, protozoa||9.2 / 10|
|Sawyer SP191 Bucket Purifier Assembly Kit||0.02
||Bacteria, protozoa, viruses||9.2 / 10|
||Bacteria, viruses||9.2 / 10|
||Bacteria, protozoa, viruses||9.2 / 10|
||Bacteria, protozoa||9.2 / 10|
|Katadyn Hiker Pro Microfilter||0.2
||Bacteria, protozoa||9 / 10|
|Katadyn Combi Microfilter||0.2
||Bacteria, protozoa||9 / 10|
|MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter||0.2
||Bacteria, protozoa||9 / 10|
|Survivor Filter PRO||0.01
||Bacteria, viruses||9 / 10|
|Katadyn Gravity Camp, 6-Liter||0.2
||Bacteria, protozoa||8.8 / 10|
||Bacteria, protozoa, viruses||8.8 / 10|
|MSR SweetWater Microfilter||0.2
||Bacteria, protozoa||8.6 / 10|
- Long battery life with reliable charging.
- Easy to clean, easy to use, easy to store.
- No need for extra equipment.
- Lasts for 10,000 cycles.
- Has an LCD to ensure accurate filtering.
- Reduces 99.9999% of bacteria, 99.99% of viruses and 99.9% of protozoa.
- Does not remove sediment from water.
Looking for a way to purify water on the go without any complicated set up? This portable water purification system from CamelBak is built in to an easily accessible water bottle. Without any tubes, bags, faucets and cleaning required, this minimalist system works well and is so convenient.
The CamelBak All Clear Purifier Bottle uses UV technology to treat water without any chemicals in only 60 seconds. There is a built in LCD that you can use to confirm your results, removing any guesswork from the purification process.
The bottle is powered by rechargeable lithium ion batteries that are included. The batteries will last for over 80 cycles of use before they need to be recharged.
The kit includes the plastic water bottle, the UV purifier unit, a neoprene case to store the purifier unit, a second cap that you can use to close your water bottle, and a USB cord that you use to charge the purifier unit.
The water bottle can be used without the purifier cap so you have another bottle to add to your collection! The purifier cap also fits with other standard water bottles, like the 1 liter CamelBak bottle.
This product is great for individual use during outdoor backpacking trips, cycling, or travel. The UV purification system is strong enough to eliminate bacteria, viruses and protozoa, though you should avoid using this bottle with water that is not clear as it will not reduce sediment.
Specifications: The All Clear Purifier Bottle is clear, weighs 0.22 pounds when empty and measures 3 inches by 3.25 inches by 11.25 inches.
- Protects against 99.9999% of bacteria and 99.9% of protozoa.
- Lightweight and easy to clean.
- Perfect for large quantities of water and for groups of 4-8.
- Can filter up to 1,500 liters before replacing.
- Comes with universal bottle adaptor.
- Is not effective against viruses and chemical toxins in water.
The MSR AutoFlow Gravity Filter pumps over 1.75 liters of water per minute into 4-liter reservoirs, making it perfect for large groups.
The filter can process 1,500 liters of water before MSR recommends the filter be replaced, which is great compared to many other filters on the market.
To operate the MSR AutoFlow Gravity Filter, just fill the 4-liter reservoir with dirty water, hang the bag from a tree and let gravity do the work, eliminating the need for pumping.
With the included Universal Bottle Adapter, you can filter water directly into almost any bottle or additional reservoir.
At only 0.69 pounds, the filter won’t add unnecessary weight to your pack, making it perfect for long-range hikers and backpackers.
MSR recommends that you backflush the filter after every 8 liters of water that you process, or more often if you are filtering particularly cloudy water. This helps to clean the filter and to remove sediment that may be trapped in the fibers.
To backflush this filter, you must flip the unit over so the flow direction is reversed and then allow around half of a liter of water to flow through the filter cartridge.
Specifications: The filter is 10 cm wide, 15 cm tall, and weights 315 grams. The filter is made of hollow fibers with a pore size of 0.2 microns.
- Protects against 99.99999% of bacteria and 99.9999% of protozoa.
- Ultra light weight and small.
- Can filter large quantities of water.
- Can be attached to disposable water bottles, drinking pouches and hydration packs.
- The filter cannot remove viruses or chemicals from water.
The Sawyer MINI is a smaller and lighter version of Sawyer’s most popular filter. This system only weighs 2 ounces and easily fits in the palm of your hand. The kit includes the Sawyer MINI Water Filter with Tip Cap, a 16 oz. reusable squeeze pouch, a 7 inch drinking straw, and a cleaning plunger to assist you in cleaning the product while in the field.
The system also comes in a variety of colors: blue, green, pink, orange, black, and a multicolor 4-pack that’s great for groups. Made in the U.S.A. this system is perfect for outdoor use or for suspect water overseas.
This filter is recommended for up to 100,000 gallons of use, 30 times more than comparable filters, so you will definitely get your use out of this product. Flow rates depend on how clean the filter is and doesn’t need to be pumped to filter water.
Sawyer recommends back-washing your filter whenever your flow rate begins to diminish, before you intend to store the product for an extended amount of time, and when you use the filter again after a long period of non-use. Proper back-washing is necessary to maintain the filter’s flow rate, but with proper back-washing you will not need to replace filter cartridges.
The MINI will screw directly on to most water bottles, or you can use the attachable drinking straw to drink directly from the water source. You can also use the filter and Squeeze Pouch to fill a larger water receptacle.
Specifications: Sawyer uses a proprietary 0.1 micron absolute hollow fiber membrane incline filter that is unique to the entire water filter market. This product is also BPA-free.
- Removes bacteria, viruses, and protozoa.
- Pump can withstand freezing temperatures and being dropped from 6 ft.
- High flow rate makes it ideal for use in groups.
- Is self cleaning.
- Treats up to 10,000 liters of water.
- Pricier than most other filters.
If you’re looking for a heavy-duty pump that’s built to last, check out the MSR Guardian Purifier Pump. Originally designed for and used by the military, the Guardian Purifier Pump filters 2.5 liters of water per minute and can treat up to 10,000 liters of water.
This filter removes viruses, bacteria, protozoa, and organic particulates like sediment and dirt. It makes a great addition to a disaster preparedness kit, or for use during your backpacking travels in areas where water quality is an issue.
Because this pump removes all viruses from the water, you won’t need to purchase any additional water treatment chemicals or tablets to guarantee your safety. The unit has a high flow rate and is ideal for use in groups or when you need a lot of water quickly.
To use, you place the intake tube into your water source; as you pump, dirty water is pushed through the medical-grade hollow fibers in the filter. The filter has an adaptable base that you can screw directly on to most wide-mouth water bottles, or into any other receptacle using the outtake tube. The product comes with its own bag, making storage easy both in the field and after your trip.
This filter is self-cleaning so you will never need to backwash or spend time scrubbing it. The pump itself retains 10% of the newly filtered water to push back through the filter, removing any residual sediment and impurities with every pump. This is unique to this pump, it eliminates the need for constant cleaning and extends the lifetime of the product dramatically. Unlike many other purifier filters, this product can withstand freezing temperatures and won’t degrade in freezing conditions.
Specifications: This pump weighs 1.1 pounds and measures 12.25 inches by 5 inches by 5 inches. The filter is made from hollow fibers and the product is designed to be self-cleaning, eliminating the need for backflushing.
- Great for daily and extended use with a high filter life.
- Removes 99.9999% of bacteria, 99.99% of viruses and 99.9% of protozoa.
- Ideal for groups of people.
- For every LifeStraw water filter sold, a child in a developing community will receive a year’s worth of clean water.
- The flow rate is quite slower than other filters.
Looking for a filtration system designed for the entire family? The LifeStraw Family 1.0 is used by over 13 million people worldwide and will provide a family of four with clean water for 3 years.
This product has won many awards and is praised for its reliability. It is perfect for daily and consistent use, especially in emergency or disaster scenarios, making it ideal for a backpacker.
Using gravity rather than a pump, this filter has a flow rate of 9-12 liters per hour.
This filter removes viruses, bacteria, and protozoa from your water. It also reduces turbidity, i.e. muddiness in the water.
The pore size of the filter is 0.02 microns, and will filter up to 18,000 liters of water before LifeStraw recommends replacing it.
There is a removable pre-filter that keeps larger pieces of sediment out of the filter, which extends its life. With a built in backwash filter, you can clean the filter without any additional tools or time.
To use the Family 1.0, you fill the two-liter water bucket with water. This water bucket is easily cleaned and infinitely reusable. Water travels down the attached hose and is forced through the hollow fiber membrane cartridge to remove impurities.
The newly filtered water can be released through the attached tap into any container or bottle that you desire. The built in backwash bulb cleans the filter by pushing out the collected sediment and bacteria.
Specifications: Weighing 1.5 pounds, this product is easily stored and handled. The overall dimensions of the product are 11 inches by 9 inches by 4.5 inches when folded into the re-sealable bag. The filter has a 0.02-micron pore size.
- Affordable and lightweight, this is an easy addition to your water filtration kit
- You can drink directly from the water source, eliminating the need to carry heavy dromedary bags or water bottles.
- Removes 99.9999% of bacteria and 99.9% of protozoa.
- World renowned, has been used by millions and reviewed by thousands of people.
- Does not remove chemicals, viruses, heavy metals, salt or bad taste from water.
As LifeStraw’s original product, this is one of the most recognizable and best-known water filters on the market today. It weighs only 2 ounces, and is a perfect addition to a backpackers first aid or disaster preparedness kit. It is also great as an inexpensive backup filter for traveling or outdoors trips. The flow rate of this filter is approximately 1.7 liters per minute, though this is dependent on the suction that you use.
To use this product, you remove it from its sealed hygienic packaging, kneel down and use the filter to drink directly from a water source. You can also use the LifeStraw to drink from a container of contaminated water if a natural water source is inconvenient or unavailable.
The LifeStraw is made of BPA free plastic. To clean it, you have to backflush by blowing a breath of air back through the mouthpiece. This will flush out any remaining water and will force out any impurities caught in the filter.
LifeStraw recommends that you backflush the filter after each use. To store, leave the caps on both ends open to let the filter air dry at room temperature.
This personal water filter removes bacteria and protozoa from water, and can filter up to 1000 liters before LifeStraw recommends replacing the product.
Specifications: The LifeStraw is ultra lightweight and weighs only 2 ounces. It is 9 inches long and 1 inch in diameter. The filter is made of a 0.2-micron hollow fiber membrane.
- Durable, lightweight, and very portable.
- In its sealed bag, this product can be kept indefinitely before use.
- Can be used in a number of different ways.
- Most viruses are small, around 0.02 microns in size. Because the pore size of this filter is 0.05 microns, it may not protect against all viruses.
If you’re looking for a portable water filtration system that’s an alternative to the LifeStraw, the Survivor Filter is a great option. Lightweight and adaptable with almost every water bottle and hydration bag, this filter is easy to pair with any other container.
This three stage filtration systems uses a carbon filter, an internal ultra filter, and a cotton pre-filter. Survivor states that the internal ultra filter can be removed and cleaned, so it can be used for up to 100,000 liters of water. The carbon filter, which is replaceable, lasts up to 1000 liters. The cotton pre-filters also last up to 1000 liters, and the Survivor Filter comes with 4 extra pre-filters.
The filter has a 0.05 micron pore size that will remove bacteria, protozoa, chlorine, heavy metals, and dirt from water. The ultra filter is made of hollow fiber membranes that trap impurities, and water goes through the activated carbon filter to improve taste and remove odor.
To use this filter, you can drink directly from the water source or from another container. Many people prefer to first fill another container, like a water bottle, and to filter the water through that rather than bending down and drinking out of a moving water source. This filter has a flow rate of 200 ml per minute, though this will depend on how much suction you use while drinking.
Specifications: Weighing only 3.5 ounces, the Survivor Filter is very portable and is a lightweight addition to any bag or kit. The filter is 7 inches long and 1 inch in diameter, and has a threaded end to attach to many water bottles. The three-filter system is made of cotton, carbon, and a hollow fiber membrane.
- Is effective against bacteria, protozoa, chemicals, and bad taste or odors.
- Base can be directly attached to water carrying containers.
- Filter adjustment settings extend lifespan of the product considerably.
- Is compact and easy to use.
- Is not effective against viruses.
The Katadyn Vario is perfect for small groups or for individuals on demanding treks.
To use this filter, you place the intake hose into your water source, and use the hand pump to pump water through the three filters.
The double piston design pumps water more quickly than other pump models on the market, which is great if you need significant quantities of water quickly.
This pump has dual pumping modes, a faster flow mode and a longer life mode. The faster flow mode will filter up to 2 liters of water per minute, and the longer life mode will filter 1 liter per minute.
If you are pumping from dirtier water, you are able to individually adjust the ceramic pre-filter to provide stronger filtration. Using the ceramic filter in dirtier water helps to extend the lifespan of the glass fiber filter for normal water conditions.
The ceramic, carbon core, and glass filters can all be replaced. Katadyn recommends doing so after 2000 liters of water have been processed.
The base of this filter is also a threaded adapter that will attach directly to water bottles or to an output hose of a larger container.
This pump is easily disassembled and reassembled so you will be able to individually clean each piece to protect against contamination.
Specifications: This filter weighs 1.3 pounds. It is 6.5 inches tall and is 3.9 inches in diameter. There are three filters: a 0.2 micron ceramic filter, a 0.2 micron glass fiber filter with AntiClog Technology, and an activated carbon filter.
- Protects against 99.99999% of waterborne bacteria and 99.9999% of protozoa.
- Filters water as quickly as you can drink it.
- Very lightweight and portable, making it perfect for use in the field or overseas.
- Filter will not remove viruses or chemicals from water.
Looking for an individual water filter that doesn’t require additional tubes, bags, or equipment? Consider a filtration water bottle, like this one from Sawyer.
This lightweight BPA-free water bottle has a built in 0.1 micron absolute hollow fiber membrane inline filter. The filter removes bacteria and protozoa from water.
The bottle also includes a matching cap, a syringe to help you backwash the filter, and 2 replacement straws. The cap allows you to use the filter with any other wide-mouth water bottle, not just the included bottle.
The bottle is squeezable, so you can squeeze clean water into another container or water bottle if you wish. This also makes it easier to filter water instead of relying on suction, as you drink.
To use, unscrew the cap and fill the water bottle with unfiltered water then reattach the cap. As you drink from the water bottle, the filter cleans the water directly. So as fast as you can drink water, that’s how fast this filter will clean your water! This product is designed for individual use and is not recommended if you require large amounts of water to be filtered.
Sawyer recommends that you backwash your filter if you ever begin to notice that water is filtering more slowly than usual. They also recommend back-washing before and after prolonged storage or non-use. To backwash, Sawyer has included a cleaning syringe so you can push clean water through the filter to remove any residual particles or organic matter. With proper care, the filter can last a lifetime!
Specifications: The Personal Water Filtration Bottle weighs just 5.5 ounces, making it a super light addition to your pack. It measures 12.75 by 4 by 4 inches. The PointONE filter removes both bacteria and protozoa, and is designed to have a high flow rate.
- Removes 99.997% of viruses, 99.99999% of bacteria and 99.9999% of protozoa.
- Can filter large amounts of water, depending on the size of the bucket that you use.
- Requires a plastic bucket that is not included.
- Water filters slowly through the 0.02-micron fibers so don’t rely on this product as a source of quickly filtered water.
This small and lightweight product can filter up to 170 gallons of water per day and has a one million liter lifetime. Sawyer suggests using this product as part of a disaster preparedness kit or for use in emergency situations.
The filter has a 1-liter per minute output, and the filter is made of Sawyer’s 0.02 micron absolute hollow fiber membrane. This kit will remove viruses, bacteria and protozoa from water, making it great for questionable water sources.
To use this product, you need a plastic bucket or large water receptacle to hold the dirty water. The product includes everything else you need, such as the filter, an adapter, hose, filter backwash syringe, hole cutter, and filter hanger.
To assemble this product you will need to cut a 1 inch hole in your plastic bucket using the included hole cutter. Attach the filter to the hole in the bucket using the filter and adapter. The bucket will hold the dirty water, and gravity will push the it through the filter. From there, just open the re-sealable cap on the filter to let freshly filtered water flow into whatever container you desire.
To clean the filter, reserve approximately 1 pint of filtered water. Using the included backwash syringe, force the clean water through the filter to remove any remaining sediment or impurities. As with most filters, the more frequently you use this filter with dirty water will determine how often you need to backwash.
The pores of this filter are very small, so if you are attempting to filter water that has a high amount of sediment, you will need to backwash the filter frequently to maintain a steady flow rate. In addition, the small pore size of the filter will mean that this kit will not filter water quickly. Rather, it is intended to provide safer water at the expense of speed.
Specifications: This product is 5.88 inches by 7.25 inches by 7.25 inches and weighs less than a pound.
- Easy to use and work fast.
- Treats 2 liters of water with 1 tablet.
- Ideal for use with a microfilter or for water that is already sediment free.
- Effective against viruses, bacteria and Giardia cysts.
- Does not remove protozoa, sediment, or chemicals from water.
It takes these tablets 30 - 40 minutes in total to treat your water, which is relatively quick compared to other tabs on the market. They will treat up to 60 liters of water, so assume one tablet will treat 2 liters of water. These are a great addition to a first aid kit, to your backpack, and for use with other types of filter.
Aquatabs will remove bacteria and viruses from your water. The active ingredient in these tablets is Sodium Dichloroisocyanurate, which is similar to chlorine, is more powerful than bleach, and will dissolve steadily into your water.
They are ideal if you are looking for an additional water treatment to your already-filtered water. Many water filters and pumps don’t remove viruses from your water, so Aquatabs are a great way to ensure that you’re protected against viruses when you are uncertain of the water’s quality.
To use, remove a tablet (1 tablet per 2 liters of water) from the individual packaging. Put into your water bottle or hydration bag and shake for 10 minutes. Let the water sit as the tablet continues to dissolve for 30 minutes. After that, you have clean water!
MSR Aquatabs can be stored for a few years, but remember to check the expiration date on your tablets before use. They have very little taste and are great for water on the go when you’re unable to carry a filter.
Specifications: The MSR Aquatabs come in a 30 pack of individually wrapped tablets. The entire box weighs only a few ounces and is roughly 1.5 inches by 9 inches in dimension, although you can easily carry the individually wrapped tablets without the original cardboard packaging.
- Protects against 99.9999% of bacteria, 99.999% of viruses and 99.99% of protozoa that contaminate water.
- Comes with the choice of a 5 or 12 liter bag which can be compactly rolled.
- Very durable, lightweight, and ideal for use in groups.
- Filters up to 18,000 liters of water.
- Slower filtration rate due to small pore size.
The LifeStraw Mission model is a gravity powered water purification system that is ideal for group settings.
The system comes with a wide-mouth bag reservoir that you can easily fill from any water source. It is collapsible and can be rolled tightly for easy storage.
You have the option of a 5 liter or 12 liter reservoir bag. After you fill the bag with water, hang it from a tree or high support to allow gravity to pull water down through the attached filter.
With a 0.02 micron pore size, this filter removes viruses, bacteria, and protozoa. It can be used to treat 18,000 liters of water before LifeStraw recommends a replacement.
LifeStraw recommends that you clean the pre-filter after every use and to rinse out the reservoir bag. To do this, close both taps and squeeze the red bulb 3 times. Then, open the red tap and let all the remaining water drain from the filter. Detach the quick release to separate the dry bag and filter. Let both the filter and the bag dry before you store them.
At 0.02-microns, the pore size of this filter is very small. With this in mind, the filtration rate of the Mission model is going to be slower than other pump or gravity powered models. LifeStraw states that the filtration rate should be 9 - 12 liters per hour, though dirtier water may take more time to be properly cleaned.
LifeStraw will donate one year’s worth of safe drinking water to a school aged child in a developing community with any purchase of one of their products.
Specifications: This system weighs slightly less than 1 pound and has 4 inch by 5 inch by 12 inch dimensions. There is a slight weight difference if you chose the 5 liter or 12 liter bag, but this difference is approximately 2 ounces. The filter is a made of ultrafiltration hollow fiber membrane with a 0.02-micron pore size.
- Lightweight and compact, this filter is easy to add to your pack or survival kit without sacrificing much space.
- Versatile as it can be used in many different scenarios.
- Removes 99.999% of bacteria and protozoa.
- Filters up to 20,000 liters of water before it needs replacing.
- This filter does not remove chemicals, heavy metals or viruses from your water.
The HydroBlu Versa Flow light weight water filter is designed with versatility in mind. This filter can be used with a hydration pack or as a gravity filter, can be screwed into a plastic water bottle, and can be used as a straw that you can use to drink directly from a water source.
When you use this product, you can do so in a variety of ways. If you want to use it as a gravity filter, you will need either a hydration bag to attach above the filter, or to use a plastic bucket with a hole cut a few inches above the bottom. If you use the Versa Flow this way, gravity will push the water through the filter and out into the attached outtake tube.
If you’d like to use the Versa Flow as a drinking straw, you can either use the threaded end to attach it to any standard water bottle or fill a plastic bottle with dirty water and use your mouth’s suction to draw water through the filter directly into your mouth. You can use the Versa Flow to drink directly from a water source as well.
It weighs only 2 ounces and has a flow rate of 1 gallon per 5 minutes. The filter can be used for up to 20,000 liters before HydroBlu recommends replacing your unit.
The hollow fiber filter has a 0.1 micron pore size and removes bacteria and protozoa.
To clean the Versa Flow, you can backflush the unit to push out any contaminates left in the filter. Regularly backflushing the Versa Flow will extend its lifetime and will maintain its flow rate.
The Versa Flow is an inexpensive addition to your bag or preparedness kit. It is versatile, provided you have the additional equipment required for your desired method, and is both light-weight and easily stored.
Specifications: The Versa Flow weighs 2 ounces and comes with a water bottle adaptable threaded attachment and a bag hook.
- Protects from bacteria, protozoa and chemicals.
- Extremely lightweight.
- Activated carbon in filter improves taste.
- Easy to use.
- Filters up to 1150 liters of water before the filter needs replacing.
- Does not remove viruses from water
To use the Hiker Pro filter, simply place the intake hose in your water source and use the attached hand pump to push water through the filtration system. Water will flow through the pleated glass and carbon core, purifying it of bacteria and microorganisms. Newly cleaned water will come out through the outtake hose.
The pump has an 11 oz capacity, and depending upon your pumping speed, will filter approximately 1 liter of water per minute.
The ¼ inch outtake hose connects easily to many hydration packs and bottles so you can filter your water directly into its container, using the Katadyn Quick Connect technology. The Easy Fill bottle adaptor allows you to directly connect the outtake hose to your water bottle, if desired.
The filter is removable and easily cleaned, even in the field, which will extend cartridge life. Katadyn does offer replacement cartridges, and they suggest a new filter after pumping 1150 liters of water, or less depending upon water quality.
The Hiker Pro Microfilter is effective at removing chemical toxins, microorganisms, and bacteria from water. You are able to use this pump with very dirty and cloudy water and it will effectively remove the impurities and bad taste that many other pumps cannot.
This filter is best for individual use, and is not recommended for large groups, making it ideal for individual backpackers and hikers.
Specifications: The pump is 2.96 inches wide, 6.44 inches tall and 2.38 inches in diameter.
- Protects against bacteria and protozoa.
- The activated carbon cartridge core reduces bad taste in water.
- The product is easy to store, has few parts to remove and clean, and is very portable.
- Can filter up to 13,000 gallons of water.
- Does not protect against viruses.
The Combi Microfilter is designed to balance efficiency without sacrificing its lightweight qualities. It weighs 21 ounces which is great for backpackers and hikers who are concerned with their pack weights on long treks.
To use this pump, you place the intake tube into your water source and attach the adaptable bottom of the filter to your water receptacle, such as a water bottle. The filter will remain attached to the water receptacle as there is no separate outtake tube to attach.
To filter the water, you begin pumping as you secure the filter and receptacle for stability. This filter works best if you can place the water receptacle on a flat surface while you pump, to protect against spills and displacement.
This pump is easy to store and very easy to clean. Katadyn is known for their Swiss-made products and are a reputable company known for their customer service and commitment to quality.
The product has a 13,000 gallon capacity per filter, after which Katadyn recommends replacing the filter for maximum efficiency and efficacy. This capacity is significantly higher than many similar filters. The Combi will filter water at a rate of one quart per minute, though this rate is dependent upon your pumping speed.
The Katadyn Combi Microfilter is effective against bacteria, microorganisms, and protozoa and it reduces both chemicals and bad taste. The filter has an activated carbon core that dramatically improves the taste of water.
Specifications: This product weighs 1.28 pounds and is 10.63 inches by 2.36 inches by 2.36 inches in size. The filter is a 0.2 micron ceramic depth filter with an activated carbon granulate to remove impurities. The filter has a 13,000-gallon capacity.
- Protects against 99.9999% of bacteria, 99.9% of protozoa chemical toxins and particulate.
- Easily cleaned in the field without additional tools.
- Designed for extended use and is very durable.
- Filters up to 1 liter of water per minute.
- Is not effective against viruses.
The MiniWorks EX is MSR’s most popular water filter, and for good reason. It is intended for heavy, frequent, and extended use and is very durable. This pump is great for individual or group use while outdoors or traveling. At just 16 ounces, the MiniWorks EX is lightweight and compact.
To use the filter, you first place the intake tube into your water source. The tube has a float that keeps it off the bottom of the water and a pre-filter to block larger pieces of sediment. As you pump, water pushes through the filter.
The filter is made from durable carbon and ceramic, and is designed to remove bad taste and odor from any water source. Each ceramic filter can be used for up to 2000 liters, after which MSR recommends replacing the cartridge. It is effective against protozoa, bacteria, particulate, and chemicals.
You can use the water bottle adapter to pump directly into a water bottle or into one of MSR’s dromedary bags. You can also attach a separate outtake tube to the filter to direct the water into another container, although the MiniWorks EX does not include a separate tube for this. Equipped with the AirSpring Accumulator, this pump will filter 1 liter of water per minute.
To clean the filter, you gently scrub the ceramic filter with clean water and let it air dry for several days. You don’t need to do this in the field, but you have to remember to clean the filter when you get home and before you store it.
The filter outside of its protective cover is relatively fragile so you have to be careful if you handle the ceramic cartridge in the field. You shouldn’t need to remove the ceramic cartridge in this scenario, but should be mindful if you ever have to.
Specifications: This item has 14 inches by 10 inches by 8 inches dimensions and weighs 1 pound. The 0.2 micron filter is made of ceramic and has an activated carbon core.
- 0.01 micron pore size is the smallest available for portable water filters.
- Removes viruses, bacteria, and reduces heavy metals found in water.
- Compact, lightweight and easy to use.
- This pump requires the user to clean the product thoroughly, which may be difficult in the field.
The Survivor Filter PRO is great for outdoor, travel, home, and emergency use. It uses a 3 level filtration system to filter water through pores of 0.01-microns, which is the smallest pore size available on the market for portable water filtration devices.
The Survivor Filter Pro comes with tubing, a hose clip for easy attaching, a zippered carrying case, and an attachable cup in addition to the pump filter. The plastic casing is made of military grade BPA free material. The filter itself weighs 8 ounces, and all together, the entire kit weighs about 1 pound and fits in a 6.5 inch long carrying bag.
Depending on your pump speed, the Filter PRO will filter 0.5 liters per minute. The 0.01 micron internal ultra filter can be used up to 100,000 liters before Survivor recommends a replacement. The carbon filter and cotton pre-filter both last up to 2000 liters before replacement is necessary. They recommend that you clean the filters after 1000 liters, though this is dependent upon the quality of the water you’re filtering.
You can use the Filter PRO to filter water directly from the source, into the included attachable cup, or into any other water container using the outtake tube. The filter is chemical free, so you won’t notice a chlorinated or chemical after taste in your filtered water. The filter will eliminate viruses and bacteria, and also reduces heavy metals in water.
Specifications: The Survivor Filter PRO weighs 8 ounces, and the entire kit weighs less than one pound. The kit can fit in its 6.5 inch carrying case that is 6.5 inches by 2 inches by 3.2 inches. The 3-filter system includes a cotton pre-filter, an internal ultra filter made of a hollow fiber membrane, and an activated charcoal filter. All three filters are individually replaceable.
- Protects against bacteria, protozoa and sediment.
- Versatile: Katadyn offers an adapter (sold separately) to turn your Gravity Camp 6-Liter into an outdoor shower.
- The product is lightweight, portable, and can be folded for easy carrying.
- Detachable hose makes this pack easy to clean.
- Does not protect against viruses.
The Katadyn Gravity Camp 6-Liter model uses gravity to filter water for personal use. Simply hang the reservoir from a tree or other standing structure, fill it with water, and let gravity do the work to provide you with clean potable water.
The Gravity Camp will filter up to 2 liters per minute, which is faster than many other packs on the market. This model doesn’t require the user to backflush during use, eliminating a step from the already easy filtration process.
The reservoir holds up to 6 liters of water, making this item ideal for larger groups or for individuals using the system on a long trek.
The filter is equipped with Katadyn’s AntiClog technology, allowing the glass fiber filter to purify dirty water and remove any sediment.
Proper cleaning of the filter will help to extend its lifespan, which Katadyn estimates to be up to 1,500 liters of water. If the filter becomes clogged within one year of purchase, Katadyn will replace the it, no questions asked and free of charge.
Specifications: The Gravity Camp dimensions are 9 inches by 9 inches by 3 inches. The product weighs 1.8 pounds and is collapsible. The 0.2 micron Ultra Flow Filter can filter up to 2 liters a minute.
- Removes 99.997% of viruses, 99.99999% of bacteria, and 99.9999% of protozoa.
- The faucet adapter makes it easy to fill up a variety of water bottles and hydration bags.
- Lasts for a long time.
- Larger in size than many other filter systems.
This product uses gravity to filter water, eliminating the need for time-intensive pumping, and will purify 4 liters of water in about 10 minutes.
To use, simply fill the gray receptacle with unfiltered water and attach the filter with the filter hose. Then hang the gray reservoir and let gravity push water through the filter into the blue reservoir. You can use the blue reservoir as a campsite water source by hanging the bag by its attached handle.
This complete system includes a 4 liter gray reservoir, a 4 liter blue reservoir, the Sawyer 0.02 hollow fiber filter, a drink tube, a quick-release hose adapter, and a faucet adapter.
The filter is made of hollow fiber and removes bacteria, viruses, and protozoa from water and removes residual chemical taste. The drinking tube can be used with a faucet adapter to easily fill water bottles and hydration bags or pots and pans for cooking.
Since the filters can be backwashed as many times as needed, you won’t need to replace the filter for a long time. To clean the filter, Sawyer recommends backwashing with clean water. Since the filter has a large surface area, you will rarely need to backwash in the field, but it is easy to do if you need to. Backwashing will clean out the pores of the filter and will improve water flow if you notice that it’s slowing down.
Specifications: Together the system has 9.8 x 3.5 x 14.5 inch dimensions. The reservoir bags can be easily folded, making them easy to store in the field. Each 4 liter bag is 20 inches by 10 inches.
- Protects against 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria and 99.9% of protozoa.
- Very lightweight and easily stored.
- Can be cleaned in the field without additional tools.
- Activated carbon core eliminates tastes.
- Does not protect against viruses.
The MSR SweetWater Microfilter is a great option if you need a dependable and efficient pump for a modest price. The Microfilter weighs 13.65 ounces, including the storage case and attached hoses, and has a pump rate of 1 to 1.5 minutes per liter.
The filter alone is 11 ounces and measures 2 inches by 7.5 inches. This is fairly comparable to other filters at this price point, both in size and flow rate.
To use, you place the intake tube into your water source. The intake tube does have a pre-filter attached at its opening to remove larger particulates and sediment before the water reaches the primary filter.
As you pump, water is pushed through the filter. For easy storage, the handle is detachable and folds to reduce the size and bulk of the filter. The filter is water bottle adaptable, and you can use the outtake hose to fill other hydration bags or receptacles.
The filter is made of 0.2 micron silica depth fibers and removes bacteria, chemicals, protozoa, and particulates from your water. The filter also has an activated carbon core to help eliminate bad taste and odors from your water. MSR recommends a replacement cartridge for the filter after 750 liters of water have been processed.
This filter is ideal for light and moderate use. If you’re looking for a pump to use daily or for extended periods of time, another pump with a longer filter lifetime is recommended. As the handle is detachable, some users report that the handle can be broken if you apply too much force, so keep that in mind if you let small children use this pump.
What do water filters do?
Most water filters use microfiltration to remove impurities and contaminants from water. They work with municipal water, tap water, freshwater lakes, streams, ponds, and even some swimming pools.
Water filters can remove bacteria, protozoa, viruses, and chemicals or any combination of these. What you need your filter to remove is dependent upon the sort of water you will be filtering.
For example, North American and European freshwater and municipal sources rarely contain viruses, so purchasing a filter that does not remove viruses is a viable option.
If you intend to filter water in an area where the water is known to contain particular protozoa or viruses, you need to take this into consideration before buying a filter.
Another important thing to consider is the amount of water you intend to filter. Filters all have a lifespan, meaning their manufacturers recommend replacing them after a certain amount of water has been processed. This is because over time, the filters will degrade and become less effective at removing impurities.
Backwashing, or backflushing, is a cleaning process that pushes clean water in the reverse direction through some filters to remove any particles or contaminants that are stuck in the fibers of the filter. Backwashing consistently (and after the filter is used with sediment-filled water) can extend the lifespan of the filter and will help to ensure that the flow rate of the water remains consistent.
Some filters are easy to clean and may even come with special cleaning products to help you. Others require more thorough cleaning that can’t be done in the field, or require special products to maintain the fiber’s integrity.
Manufacturers will recommend cleaning after a certain amount of liters filtered, though noticing a reduction in the filter’s flow rate will often alert you that you need to clean your filter before you reach the recommended limit.
Flow rate refers to the amount of water the filter can process and clean within a specific time frame. Pump operated filters tend to filter water more quickly than drinking straws or gravity powered systems, though they rely upon the user’s strength to pump water quickly.
Gravity filters can be time intensive, so if you need water quickly and on the go, they may not be the right option for you. However, they are great for campsites and will filter water as you go about your day.
Drinking straws are best for personal use, as sharing straw filters without sanitation between different people can mitigate the filter’s purification effects.
Filter fibers & prices
Fibers can be made out of a variety of different materials, and some of the most popular filters are made of hollow fibers, glass, or ceramic.
Each filter has a specific pore size that is measured in microns. Microns refer to the size of the small holes, that water passes through. The size of the pores will determine what sort of contaminants the filter can remove from water.
The smaller the filter fiber’s pore size is, the more the filter can remove. Most regulatory agencies require that filter pore sizes be less than 1 micron, though the majority of portable water filters have pore sizes less than 0.4-microns.
Filters that remove viruses will take a longer time to filter water than those that do not. This is because virus-eliminating filters must have smaller fibers, which take a longer time to filter water, as there is less surface area for water to pass through.
The initial price of many water filtration systems may be startling for first timers. Drinking straws and tablets tend to be less expensive, though they have their own limitations in regards to what they can remove and how long they will last.
When shopping and researching, keep in mind that this is the product that will ensure that you have clean water in nearly any situation, so spending a bit extra is definitely worth it.
Things to consider before choosing a water filter
The size and weight of filters are important to consider, especially if you plan on traveling with them. Some filters are bulkier than others, come with more additional parts, or may require more set up and maintenance.
As you decide which filter is best for your needs it may be helpful to ask yourself the following questions:
How much additional weight am I willing to carry?
Will I be able to clean the filter in the field?
What is the filter’s life span?
What does the filter remove (bacteria, sediment, particulate, viruses, chemicals, protozoa)?
What sort of water will I be using this filter with (turbid, sediment filled, clear, etc.)?
How quickly do I need to filter the water (on the go, for campsite use)?
How much water do I need to filter (just for myself, for traveling companions, for large groups)?
Asking yourself these questions will help you to choose the best filter for your needs!
Why you need to drink clean water
Clean water can literally be the difference between life and death in emergency and disaster situations, and can turn a long hike from physically exhausting to medically dangerous.
If protozoa, bacteria, chemicals, and viruses contaminate the water that you drink, you are at risk of contracting any number of potentially debilitating illnesses.
Millions of people across the world have no reliable access to clean water. The World Health Organization estimates that 1.8 billion people across the world use a water source that is contaminated with feces.
The WHO also estimates that 842,000 people die each year from a diarrheal infection caused by unsafe drinking water. These deaths would be entirely preventable if every person had access to filtered and sanitized drinking water.
Every year, 3,575,000 people die from water related disease, and 2,200,000 of these deaths are of children. Many of the manufacturers producing the products reviewed in this article partner with disaster relief and non-governmental organizations to provide life-saving water filtration devices to those in need.
While many of us will be using these filters for backpacking, camping, and hiking, these water filtration systems are also great for home use to purify municipal and tap water.
How much water do you need?
For one hour of moderate exercise, the average person needs to drink 1 liter of water to replace what is lost. In extreme heat, this number rises to about 3 liters lost per hour.
For reference, 1 liter of water weighs 2.2 pounds. So if you’re doing a moderately difficult hike in a moderate climate for three hours, you’ll need at least three liters of water to ensure that you’re in peak physical condition and that you’re keeping yourself safe.
This means you’ll either need to carry 6.6 pounds of water, or use a water filtration device to filter water on the go.