Best Backpacking Water Filter • Reviews & Buying Guide (July 2020)

Updated: February 4, 2020

Best Backpacking Water Filter • Reviews & Buying Guide (July 2020)

When you go backpacking, it’s not always possible to find a clean source of water – which is where a water filter comes into play. Drinking fresh water is vital; it keeps you hydrated which is necessary for overall health, but drinking poor water is positively dangerous.

When you go on a camping trip out in the wilderness, you are going to need water. Trouble is, how will you know if what you are drinking is safe? The answer is, you can’t – which means that a vital bit of kit to take with you is a water filter that will keep you safe.

If you are a camper, backpacker or international traveler, there are going to be times when you need to use a water filter. There are many portable water purifiers on the market, but some of them do slightly different things or have different levels of filtration.

Water filtration systems for camping and backpacking mean that you can be sure of having safe water to drink no matter where you are. These lightweight water purifiers are easy to pack – and can mean the difference between life and death.

These lightweight water purifiers are easy to pack – and can mean the difference between life and death.

Water is too heavy to take with you, but the water you find in the backcountry, or when you go fishing or hunting can be riddled with bacteria and protozoa such as E.coli, salmonella, cholera, cryptosporidiu and giardai.

Water is much too heavy to carry when you go on a camping trip. Just one gallon of water weighs 8.35lbs, and while that may not sound too much, how far will one gallon get you? So a camping water filter is the obvious solution.

Drinking from a lake or river may seem like a romantic, back to your roots kind of thing to do, but if you are a serious survivalist, then you won’t take this kind of risk to your health without having filtered the water first.

When you are looking for a portable water filtration system, it is important that you get one that best suits your needs. For example, if you are a camper who travels to designated camp sites that have tap water, your level of filtration won’t need to be as great as someone who uses a river as a water source.

Think, too, about whether the water sources that you use will just need to filtered from bacteria and protozoan cysts, or whether you need to protect yourself against viruses as well. Portability is also another issue – you need to be able to access your water filter easily, and it needs to be lightweight.

Best Backpacking Water Filter

The Katadyn Vario Water Filter

The Katadyn Vario Water Filter

Weighing in at just 1.7lbs, this camping water filter from Katadyn is the perfect solution to having clean and safe water when you are camping – no matter where you go. Its dimensions are 9 x 10 x 4 inches, so it is compact enough to have in the trunk of your car until you get to your site, and not too cumbersome if you have to tote it anywhere on a trek.

It has two modes for speed: the first will produce up to two quarts of clean water per minute, or one quart per minute if you use the longer life mode. This is achieved by the dual piston technology that works to give you maximum output with minimum effort.

This water purifier for camping uses a replaceable carbon core that reduces the amounts of toxins, chemicals and odors in the water.

This water purifier for camping uses a replaceable carbon core that reduces the amounts of toxins, chemicals and odors in the water, which means that you will have safe and fresh tasting water for as long as the cartridge lasts.

There are two different filters depending upon the water that you are using. The first is ceramic pre-filter that is engaged by a simple turn for longevity in dirty water, and the second is a pleated glass fiber filter for using under normal conditions.

This portable water purifier from Katadyn can be adapted depending upon your water source and the speed with which you want your water. It has a ceramic pre-filter for using with dirty water and a pleated glass fiber filter for normal water conditions.

The two flow modes will give you up to one quart a minute if you put the filter into ‘longer life’ mode, or up to two quarts a minute if you use ‘faster flow’ mode’. This output is achieved effortlessly thanks to the dual piston technology it has.

The replaceable carbon core reduces the pesticides and chemicals and other toxins that can be found in ‘normal’ water.

The replaceable carbon core reduces the pesticides and chemicals and other toxins that can be found in ‘normal’ water, as well as improving the flavor. The micron pleated microfilter reduces water borne cysts and bacteria that are inherent in outdoor freshwater supplies, such as rivers.

You can use this water filtration system with a number of different receptacles, which makes it the perfect traveling companion. The adapter base will attach directly to most water bottles, or you can use an output hose to fill larger containers.


The MSR Miniworks EX Microfilter

The MSR Miniworks EX Microfilter

The MSR Miniworks EX Microfilter, as its name suggests, is by no means the biggest water filter in the world. It measures just 7.5 x 2.75 inches and weighs 1.5lbs – but it can filter up to one liter of water per minute using its AirSpring Accumulator.

This portable water purifier has been designed to last for years regardless of how often you use it. Simply clean it without having to disassemble it or use any tools so that it carries on looking brand new year after year.

The carbon/ceramic element means that the water that you drink will be safe and free from any organic compounds such as pesticides, chlorine and iodine.

The carbon/ceramic element means that the water that you drink will be safe and free from any organic compounds such as pesticides, chlorine and iodine – and which can create bad tasting and smelling water as well as health risks.

As a water purifier for survival on camping trips, this filter is effective against the ingestion of other chemicals and toxins, as well as harmful bacteria such as E. Coli and Salmonella, and protozoan parasites.


The Survivor Water Filter

The Survivor Water Filter

The Survivor Filter has been tested at the Intertek Labs in Ohio and the results have shown that it achieves the highest certifiable filtration level available at 99.9% for bacteria and viruses thanks to its triple absolute filtration to 0.05 microns.

Many survival water filters don’t filter viruses from water, or you need to purchase an additional carbon charcoal filter for them, but this one is an all-rounder making it safe for use in any outdoor situation (apart from salt water).

Many survival water filters don’t filter viruses from water, but this one is an all-rounder making it safe for use in any outdoor situation.

There are few freshwater sources in the US that are contaminated with viruses but if you are an international traveler you would probably be happier with the additional assurances of this portable water purifier that will protect you from illness and disease.

Although this water filtration system weighs only 3.4oz (which makes it perfect to slip into a backpack) it is very durable. It uses no chemicals, relying instead on particle, carbon, and ultra-filters, which will filter 264 gallons of water before they need to be replaced.


Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration System

Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration System

This product from Sawyer is an ideal water purifier for camping or any other outdoor recreational activity that takes you away from sources of fresh water – or tap water that you are not sure about. It is the lightest in the Sawyer range of water filters, weighing in with a total field weigh of just two ounces.

Although it is tiny, this water filter removes 6 Log (99.9999%) of all protozoan parasites and 7 Log (99.99999%) of bacteria. These rates at least equal, and in some instances, exceed other filtering options, which make it one of the best portable water purifiers.

EPA guidelines allow protozoa levels to be ten times higher than those left behind when you use the Sawyer Mini Water Filter.

In fact, EPA guidelines allow protozoa levels to be ten times higher than those left behind when you use the Sawyer Mini Water Filter, which is backed by a limited lifetime warranty for added peace of mind.

This mini filtration system uses a 0.1 Micron inline absolute hollow membrane filter, and can be attached to most disposable water or soda bottles; the included drinking pouch; hydration packs, or you could use the included personal straw to drink directly from your freshwater source.


LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

This backpack water purifier from LifeStraw is perfect for those who like to travel light, but don’t be fooled by its tiny 2 oz. size. Winner of Invention of the Year from Time magazine, this water filter will remove a minimum of Log 3 (99.9%) of protozoa and Log 6 (99.9999%) of bacteria.

Used worldwide for humanitarian relief, the personal water filter will leave no after-taste because it does not rely on iodine, chlorine or any other chemicals to purify the water. You won’t need to tote any batteries with you for this model, nor does it have any moving parts that could break.

This portable water filter can be used directly from your water source, whether that is a river or puddles.

This portable water filter can be used directly from your water source, whether that is a river or puddles – but please note, it will not offer protection against water that contains viruses such as that that has been contaminated with human feces.

Three to five seconds of sucking will initiate the water flow and you will be able to use the LifeStraw Personal Water Filter to filter and cleanse 1,000 liters (264 gallons) before you will need to replace it.

The LifeStraw Personal Water Filter has got to be one of the best survival water filters on the market – an assertion backed by Time Magazine when they voted it winner of their Invention of the Year competition.

This filter removes a minimum of 99.9% of protozoan parasites and 99.9999% of water borne bacteria such as Salmonell and E.Coli, and surpasses EPA standards. Its ability to remove such numbers of contaminants is thanks to its filtering ability of 0.2 microns.

This portable water purifier doesn’t use any chemicals, including chlorine and iodine.

This portable water purifier doesn’t use any chemicals, including chlorine and iodine, and is capable of filtering up to 1000 liters of water that has been contaminated. Please be aware, however, that it will not filter salt, chemicals, viruses or heavy metals, and it will not alter the taste of the water.

You can drink directly from the water source using the LifeStraw or transfer the filtered water into another receptacle. Consequently, this filter has been used throughout the world for humanitarian reasons under extreme conditions. It will take between three to five seconds of sucking for the water to start to flow.


The Katadyn Pocket Water Filter

The Katadyn Pocket Water Filter

This pocket water filter has been designed with those who love the outdoor life in mind, as well as international travelers. It is also the camping water filter of choice of the US military and other militaries throughout the world.

This best seller has a silver-impregnated ceramic filter that is effective against protozoan parasites and bacteria, and is able to filter out all microorganisms that are larger than 0.2 microns, which will leave you with clean, fresh drinking water.

If you are looking for a backpacking water purifier that is both portable and is up to the job, then this one is certainly worth a second look.

If you are looking for a backpacking water purifier that is both portable and is up to the job, then this one is certainly worth a second look. It can produce a quart of clean water in just one minute, and the replaceable cartridge can clean up to 13,000 gallons before it will need to be changed.

When you purchase the Katadyn Pocket Water Filter you will also receive a useful carry bag, a bottle clip, a pre-filter, a hydration accessory, cleaning pad and measuring gauge. This filter is heavier than some others at 3lbs but not excessively so, and has a height of a manageable 10 inches.

Frequently Asked Questions

How good is it at doing what it should do?

Manufacturers will always tell you the percentage rate of their contaminant removal, and this should be as close to 100% as possible.

When you are looking for the best backpacking water filter, the main thing that you need to take into account is how effective it is at doing the job it has been designed to do, which is making freshwater from a number of different sources safe to drink.

Manufacturers will always tell you the percentage rate of their contaminant removal, and this should be as close to 100% as possible. Sometimes a ‘log’ number is used to demonstrate the effectiveness of the water purification system but this is always followed by the actual figure so you will never be in any doubt.

How portable is the water filter?

Unless you are responsible for providing clean water for an entire group, you will find that the best backpacking water filters weigh only a couple of ounces.

If you are a backpacker you need to travel light, which means only taking the absolute essentials to get you through your journey. Those essentials also need to take up as little space as possible, so small as well as lightweight is the order of the day for a water purifier for camping.

Unless you are responsible for providing clean water for an entire group and need to take a field bucket, you will find that the best backpacking water filters weigh only a couple of ounces and will slip, quite easily into your backpack, for easy and lightweight transportation.

The best portable water purifier will work fast

The best backpacking water filters will allow you to drink directly from the source through the filter.

If you have been trekking for hours and are thirsty, the last thing you want to do is to wait an age for the water that you find to be cleansed before you can rehydrate. The best backpacking water filters will allow you to drink directly from the source through the filter.

This means that you don’t have to complete any complicated set-ups: simply drink directly from the river, stream, lake – or even a puddle, and be confident that you will not be poisoned by any bacteria or protozoan parasites that will lead to debilitating ill health that will leave you vulnerable.

Pick a portable water filter that is reusable

Look for one that has a cartridge that you can change when the old one is all worked out.

If you are a keen camper or backpacker, then you are going to be looking for a camping water filter that is light and small enough to stash with your belongings, but that you can take with you on trip after trip so that you can always be sure of clean, safe water.

Look for one that has a cartridge that you can change when the old one is all worked out. Manufacturers will state what capacity their cartridges will cope with so if you are getting close to the number of liters they state, simply pack a new cartridge so you can have continuity with your clean water.

Going to be out in the wilderness, or a city far from home?

Some portable water filters are making sure that you won’t be poisoned by bacteria or by the chemicals and toxins that can be found in any water supply.

If you are a seasoned traveler you will know that an upset stomach doesn’t have to be caused by drinking unfiltered water from a puddle; it can be the result of drinking tap water in a place that you are new to, and unfamiliar with.

Some portable water filters are able to deal with both scenarios making sure that you won’t be poisoned by bacteria and/or protozoan parasites, or by the chemicals and toxins that can be found in any water supply. And better models have accessories such as a carbon charcoal extension, which means you can drink water from even more sources.

$70 or $300 – what’s the difference?

The best portable water purifiers have metal components rather than plastic, and they include features that make your life easier, such as belt clips.

Although both camping water filters will do the job, it is accepted that the more expensive models will do a much better job of it – and depending upon where you are and what water you are exposed to, that could mean the difference between being well and very, very ill – or worse.

The best portable water purifiers also tend to be more robust; they have metal components rather than plastic, and they include features that make your life easier, such as belt clips. If you want an indication as to how good a filter is, have a look at the warranty. The better it is the more confident the manufacturer is that you won’t need to use it.

The best portable water filtration system

The trouble is, you can’t really put a price on your health so don’t compromise on a water filter that won’t do the things that you need it to.

This is something different to everybody – and it it isn’t just about your needs, it’s also about your budget. These portable water purifiers range in price so research is an important part of the buying process so that you get the one that ticks all of your boxes.

The trouble is, you can’t really put a price on your health so don’t compromise on a water filter that won’t do the things that you need it to. But, don’t oversell your trip and pay for features on your water filter that you will never need such as protection against viruses if you don’t need to.

A water purifier that means you can drink out of puddles

Check out micron size and the percentage of contaminants that are removed when you look at filters.

When you are home, would it ever occur to you to drink out of a puddle? Especially if it was a particularly muddy one? The answer is probably not, but when you are out trekking in remote areas, either home or abroad, it seems like a natural thing to do.

Natural, that is, if you have a portable water filtration system that can separate the water that will hydrate you from the bacteria, such as Cholera, E. Coli and Salmonella and the protozoan parasites that will make you desperately ill. Check out micron size and the percentage of contaminants that are removed when you look at filters.

Would you drink water that has been contaminated with feces?

It needs to have a carbon charcoal filter in addition to the other filters that can be found in the more usual water purifiers.

We’re sure this is not on the top of your list of things to do, but depending on where you are this may be your only choice (this is unlikely in the US). If you are likely to be an area where water supplies are contaminated with viruses, make sure you have a proper survival water filter.

This means that it needs to have a carbon charcoal filter in addition to the other filters that can be found in the more usual water purifiers. Some portable water filters have them as part and parcel of their set-up whereas some others have them as an optional accessory for which you pay extra for.

In Summary

If you are planning an excursion where clean water supplies are likely to be in short order, it makes sense to take a portable water purifier with you. These have been especially designed to be lightweight and to take up little room, but that makes no difference to their powerful capabilities to purify water.

When you are looking for the best portable water purifier to take with you on your travels, have a look for one that suits your particular needs. For example, do you need one to filter the impurities from tap water abroad, or do you need a deeper clean to rid freshwater sources of bacteria and protozoans? The choice is yours.

If you are going to be using unreliable water sources, or ones that you are not sure about when you are on your travels, then you definitely need a portable water purifier. Make sure that you examine what is available before you make your choice, and that the one you decide on will keep you safe from illness.

Check Prices on Amazon

Click this link to enjoy Exclusive JULY 2020 Deals »