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Best Backpacking Water Filter: Get The Best One For Your Trip

A man drinking water from the LifeStraw Water Purifier wich is the Lightest Backpacking Water Filter
John C. Porter
Written by John C. Porter

The human body consists of 70 % water. Water is an essential part of our everyday life and how much water you need in a day depends on the conditions like temperature, altitude, humidity and the amount of physical activity one does during the day. On average, men need almost 3 liters water and women need 2.2 liters water a day. And if you’re hiking through the mountains this percentage can increase by 50.

There is water available mostly when you’re backpacking or hiking in forms of lakes, streams, snow runoffs etc., but the water contains lots of contaminates in forms of microscopic parasites and bacteria’s. To avoid all this you need best water filter treatment to clean the water of all contaminates and make it drinkable.

Image of a woman using a Backpacking Water Filter

Carrying a water filter is a smarter option than carrying all the water it’ll be a lot less weight otherwise you’d need to carry around. There seems to be a different kind of options of available water filters in the market.

We are going to delve into some of the best backpacking water filters and give you all of the information that you need to know in order to make an informed purchase. Read on for features and reviews of backpacking water filters!

Product NameWeightDimensionsWater FilteredPrice
LifeStraw Mission12.9 oz4 x 5 x 12 in18k liters / lifetimeCheck price on Amazon
MSR MiniWorks16.1 oz12 x 9 x 6 in1 liter per minuteCheck price on Amazon
KATADYN MP1N/AN/A1 liter per 30 minutesCheck price on Amazon
Katadyn Vario15 oz10 x 10 x 4 in1.8 liters per minuteCheck price on Amazon
MSR SweetWater11 oz12 x 9 x 6 in1.25 liters per minuteCheck price on Amazon
Sawyer Complete32 oz9.8 x 3.5 x 14.5 in4 liters per 10 minutesCheck price on Amazon
MSR Guardian35 oz13 x 9 x 6 in10000 liters / lifetimeCheck price on Amazon
Sawyer Products Mini32 oz8 x 3.5 x 3 in378541 liters / lifetimeCheck price on Amazon
Platypus GravityWorks10.75 oz5.8 x 2.8 x 13.2 in4 liters in 2.5 minutesCheck price on Amazon

Features to Consider

Before making any decision there are a few things that you need to take a look at. Here is the list of few important things.

Weight

Everyone knows that why weight is an important factor while choosing a product for backpacking. You have to carry the water filter with you so need to choose a product that weighs less. Backpacking is more pleasant if there is less weight in your backpack. You need to consider that you’ll be carrying other necessary things with you too. Mostly lightest weight water filters are chemical treatments or tablets that take almost no space.

A-backpacking-water-filter-on the grass

Another thing that you should know is that once you have used a filter on the ground, it’ll get heavier and to remove the traces of the water out the filter gets hard too.
So in order to avoid this, you need to use the filter overnight to remove all the water out.

Speed

Speed is a really important factor in a water filter if you don’t want to get into some serious trouble during your backpacking trip. On most backpacking trips, water source can be six miles away, that’s enough of a reason to buy a water filter that cleans water immediately. Straw filters and gravity filters are known to work quicker.

Performance/Reliability

If you’re going to a place where the chance of water source being contaminated by viruses is high, then you need a water filter that eliminates viruses too. Here are a few systems that are known to remove viruses effectively:

  • Iodine treatment
  • Latest Gravity filters
  • UV light treatment systems
  • Chlorine dioxide

Most of the other water filters can eliminate bacteria and protozoa. Virus shield is usually required for international trips.

A man filtering the water using a backpacking water filter

Reliability is another factor that shows how much you can depend on your product when you’re hiking  your way through the mountains. Whether you  are going to need a backup system or not. You can evaluate the reliability by the maintenance required and how easy or difficult it is.

Convenience

If the water filter is easy to use that means you will save the time and the energy. If the maintenance method is complex it can take much of your time too. Chemical treatment usually doesn’t require any maintenance, which means less waiting time and it’s convenient to use.

Be wise in selecting a backpacking water filter so you stay hydrated and enjoy more time outside exploring our nation's great outdoors.

In latest water system’s convenience and less or no maintenance is trending.

Capacity

You need to consider the capacity of the water filter if you plan on going with a group of people or in the case of long trips. Capacity is basically how much water can be treated through the water filter.

Sawyer-Backpacking-Water-Filter on the ground

Pump filters are known for filtering  never-ending amount of water. Chemical treatment is expensive, but it is mostly effective for individual use.

Taste

Though the taste is not such an important factor while choosing a water filter, but there is an obvious difference between these water treatments. Chemical systems change the flavor of the water a little. Iodine is known for awful tasting but that can be avoided by using taste-neutralizing tablets. Chlorine dioxide gives a pool like taste.

Cost

Chemical and tablet treatments are usually expensive. Gravity water filter treatment and pump water filters are cost effective mostly. If you are going with a group then pump water filter is cost effective for you.

A person uses a lightweight compact water filter to pump safe drinking water

Here are a few types of water filter system that you must know about.

  • Filter straws: In this kind of water filter, you have to drink water directly through the straw as the name ‘Filter Straws’ indicates that doubles as a hollow fiber filter.
  • Pump Filters: Pump Filters are quite famous and are basically what people think first of a filter this comes to their mind. In this system, the filter in the device has a small pore through which the microorganisms are filtered by pumping the water through it.
  • Gravity Filters: In Gravity filters the water is pushed through the filter by using the force of gravity. It saves you the time and trouble of the pumping process.
  • UV light: This system uses Ultraviolet light to cleanse water, the mechanical device works more efficiently than other because it kills viruses too. Though these products work on charging batteries or chargers.
  • Tablets and Chemicals: In this treatment, chemicals or tablets are added to the water to kill the bacteria and other microorganisms. This product also has the advantage of killing viruses as well.

Top Product Reviews

There are a variety of products available in the market these days. Here are the reviews on the best products that you must check out.

Lifestraw Mission LifeStraw Mission

Price: Approx. $125

Weight:  0.81 pounds

Dimensions: 4 x 5 x 12 inches

Specific features: High capacity, ideal for group camping, removes all bacteria and viruses, easy maintenance and use

Best use: Car camping, boating, backpacking

Description: The producer claims that LiveStraw Mission Water Purification System can eliminate 99.99 % of all protozoa, bacteria, and viruses which pollute water. It’s a gravity powered water purifier, which requires no batteries or chemicals to work.

This is one of the best portable water filters that can clean 9 to 12 liters in an hour and will purify 18000 liters over its lifetime. Because of its large capacity, this product is perfect for a group. It is simple to use, you just need to fill the reservoir with the cleanest water available, then fold the top to cover and hand the device with a strong support. Using the force of gravity the water will move through the ultra filtration membrane of the purifier.

All the contaminates are trapped and the clean water is available in the .02 micron pores in the walls of the hollow fiber. The product has a shoulder strap to carry it conveniently. The product comes with a drawstring stuff bag to store it and carry it in the backpack. Four extra pre-filter screens come with the product for on spot maintenance. The price is fairly priced between $119 and $148.

PROS:

  • Comes in 5 and 12 L
  • Compact reservoir
  • No chemicals

CONS:

  • Can leak over time
  • Length makes it harder to pack

Related: While in the wilderness, it is important to have clean water, and it is important to have a way to start a fire. The Survival Spark Magnesium Fire Starter with compass and whistle will last up to 15,000 strikes!

Check the price on Amazon

MSR MINIWORKS MSR MiniWorks

Price: Approx. $90

Weight: 1.01 pounds

Dimensions: 12 x 9 x 6

Specific features: Fast flow, reliable, field maintainable, tastes better

Best use: Hiking, camping

Description: The MSR MiniWorks Microfilter is made from durable carbon and ceramic elements which guarantee tasteless water even when you are using it frequently. The price of this product is between about $90 depending on where you buy.

This product has an innovative air spring accumulator, which makes it capable of pumping one liter water per minute. It can clean completely with no tools required for full filter recovery. This micro filter is effective against protozoa, bacteria, and chemicals that may contaminate the water. It doesn’t eliminate virus contaminates, though.

The product comes with water bottle adapter. It’s compact in size and lightweight and has a limited lifetime warranty. The carbon core of this filter eliminates unpleasant smell and taste produced by organic compounds, for example, iodine, pesticide, chlorine. At only a pound, you will be able to carry this with ease. It will get rid of 99.9999% of bacteria and 99.9% of protozoa, so you will not get sick from drinking dirty water.

PROS:

  • Weighs 1 lb
  • Gets rid of almost all bacteria and protozoa
  • Carbon core gets rid of bad taste and odor

CONS:

  • Pressure can build up in the filter chamber
  • O Ring can get damaged

Related: You can get a new ceramic filter by MSR, the MSR B071RB Ceramic Element that can be cleaned several times, and has a lifetime warranty.

Check the price on Amazon

Katadyn Mp1 KATADYN MP1

Price: Approx. $10

Weight: 1 lb box

Dimensions: 12 x 2 x 2 in

Specific features: Ultra light, easy to use, pleasant taste, chlorine dioxide tablets

Best use: Hiking, backpacking, camping

Description: KATADYN MP1 Tablets are ultra light and gives fresh and clean water wherever you are. These tablets effectively remove all bacteria, viruses, giardia, cryptosporidium. Each tablet treats 1-liter water, you can take 20 or 30 tablets with you.

This product provides you fresh water with no unpleasant taste or smell. This product also meets EPA microbiological water purifier test standards. It uses chlorine dioxide to purify the water. The product is reasonably priced between $8 and $25, which makes it cost effective.

This product is really easy to use, easy to carry, so it’s perfect for backpacking and hiking trips. It cleans the water quickly so you don’t need to wait for the time-consuming process. The simple one-step procedure makes this convenient product. The tablets can be put right in your backpack so you do not have to worry about any extra weight. You also do not have to worry about any odor or taste as the tablets will take any unpleasant feature away.

PROS:

  • Effective against viruses
  • No mixing
  • No measuring

CONS:

  • Must be stored in a cool area
  • Hard to open package

Related: If you are unsure about using a filter or tablets, you can check out the Nas-co N-B01449WA Bags which are leak proof and can be frozen.

Check the price on Amazon

Katadyn Vario Katadyn Vario

Price: Approx. $80

Weight: 15 оz

Dimensions: 10 x 10 x 4 inches

Specific features: Two best technologies, ceramic and pleated ultra microfiltration, glass fiber filter

Best use: Camping, hiking

Description: Katadyn Vario Water Filter offers dual technology filters combining personal efficiency with the easiest possible handling.

This product has three level filter a high-performance glass fiber filter, a ceramic pre filter which can be adjusted personally according to the cloudiness in climate, and active charcoal to remove the smell.

The ceramic disk is cleanable and it prolongs the life of the primary micro filter. The .02 microns high surface are pleated, fiberglass filter eliminates all microorganisms. This filter uses a replaceable carbon core to decrease pesticides, chemicals, and unpleasant taste.

The product comes with a 1-year warranty, a pre filter, cleaning pad, and deluxe carry bag. This water filter can purify 2liter per minute with fast flow. The product is cost effective with the price of about $80. Uses like this product because of the dual pumping modes, the ease of transport, and the price. Plus, it has a glass fiber filter.

PROS:

  • Great for backpacking and camping
  • 2 quarts per minute

CONS:

  • May clog
  • Flow path is flawed

Related: Eventually, you will need to replace the filter. The Katadyn B000O0 Replacement Carbon is a replacement that you can use for this model.

Check the price on Amazon

Msr Sweetwater  MSR SweetWater

Price: Approx. $90

Weight: 11 oz

Dimensions: 12 x 9 x 6 inches

Specific features: Lightweight, activated carbon core, lever-action pump handle

Best use: Hiking, camping, backpacking

Description: MSR SweetWater Microfilter is available in Gray and Red color. Its unique lever pumping handle gives you 4 to 1 mechanical advantage. The handle of the filter folds flat when the filter is not being used to store and pack easily.

The product removes 99.99% of waterborne bacteria and protozoan microorganisms for example giardia and cryptosporidium. The price of this product is somewhere around $90, which depends on where you buy it from.

The activated carbon core in the filter helps in removing the foul smell and taste. It weighs less than a pound so it’s perfect for backpacking use. It has the capacity to purify 1.25 liters of water in one minute.

Not only does it meet NSF protocol for removing unwanted germs and dirt, but it tastes fresh and is easy to pack down and store. The handle will fold down so you can store it simply. Users like this micro filter because it works well, really does remove odors and bad taste, and is easy to carry with them.

PROS:

  • Removes nearly all of protozoa and bacteria
  • Light weight and easy to store
  • No taste or odor

CONS:

  • Does not pump high volume

Related: If you are worried about your water, you can use Aquamira B016DS Water Treatment Drops as they treat up to 30 gallons and have a 4 year shelf life.

Check the price on Amazon

SAWYER COMPLETE Sawyers Complete

Price: Approx. $180

Weight: 2 pounds

Dimensions: 9.8 x 3.5 x 14.5 inches

Specific features: Light weight, made of abs plastic, dual bag, .02 micron water purifier, 4 liters capacity

Best use: Hiking, camping, fishing

Description: The Sawyers Complete Bag Water Purifier is portable which means you can take it wherever you want. This purifier claims to remove 99.99% of bacteria, viruses and protozoa/cysts. This water purifier can effortlessly clean 4 liters of water in only 10 minutes.

It is a gravity system so you don’t have to worry about pumping. It’s really easy to use you just need to fill up the gray reservoir with the unclean water, then attach the filter and tube to the clean blue reservoir and let gravity do its work.

When the blue reservoir gets full with clean water, then you can hang it by its handle and fill your water bottles, pots, and containers. The purifier is made of ultra lightweight food grade ABC plastic which makes it easy to maintain on the ground.

The product has 0.02 microns absolute inline water purifier to remove all the bacteria efficiently. The product is priced somewhere around $90, depending on where you buy. The producers offer a lifetime limited warranty.

PROS:

  • Gravity system
  • Easy to use
  • Lifetime limited warranty

CONS:

  • Hard to get flow at the start
  • No replacement parts if damaged

Related: If you are outdoors, you may get cold, so you should have a warm blanket to get under. The EKTOS B01FBD7 Blanket is made of wool, is warm and large in size.

Check the price on Amazon

Msr Guardian MSR Guardian

Price: Approx. $350

Weight: 2.19 pounds

Dimensions: 13 x 9 x 6 inches

Specific features: Ultimate protection, fast and easy, long lasting, self-cleaning, extremely durable

Best use: Hiking, camping, backpacking

Description: MSR Guardian Pump is a reliable product for long distance trips. The price of this product is $349. This purifier eliminates viruses, bacteria, protozoa and even sediments from worse case water conditions effectively.

This makes this product useful for emergency situations. It works quickly by purifying 2.5 liters of water in one minute without any batteries or charging. This water purifier needs no back flushing because the pump self-cleans on every stroke.

The product is long lasting lifetime because of the leading edge hollow fiber cartridge that can treat up to 10000-liter water. This product is made to endure heavy use, harsh surrounding and freezing temperature.

Overall, users like this product because it is self cleaning, last a long time, and is very durable. It can go through heavy use and through freezing weather and harsh terrain. Plus, if you drop it under 6 feet, you do not have to worry about damage.

PROS:

  • Great for worst case scenarios
  • Self cleaning pump
  • Durable

CONS:

  • Expensive
  • Can leak from base O Ring

Related: Eventually you will have to replace the pre filter on this product. The MSR B01ATZ Prefilter Replacement is the replacement for this product and is made in the USA.

Check the price on Amazon

Sawyer Mini Water SAWYER MINI WATER 

Price: Approx. $20

Weight: 2 ounces

Dimensions: 8 x 3.5 x 3 inches

Specific features: Versatile, high performance, personal straw, cleaning plunger

Best use: Camping, travelling, hiking

Description: Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration System is perfect for outdoor adventures such as hiking, camping, traveling or even emergency situations. The product is ultra light weight and still performs efficiently with its .01 micron absolute hollow fiber membrane inline filter.

The water purifier can be attached to water bottles, drinking pouches, hydration packs also it has a straw from which you can drink directly from your water source. The producer claims that this product can remove 99.99% of all bacterial for example cholera, E.coli, salmonella and protozoa like giardia and cryptosporidium.

The product comes with 16-ounce reusable squeeze pouch, 7 inch drinking straw and a cleaning plunger. The price of the product is somewhere around $20, which depends on where you buy. This filtration system comes in a single, 2 pack, or a 4-pack, in several colors for you to choose from. At such a low price, this product sure works well!

PROS:

  • Various sizes and colors
  • Low price
  • High performance

CONS:

  • Hard to drink directly from it
  • No cap for the bottle end

Related: If you need adapters for your hydration packs, the Sawyer Products SP115 Adapters for Hydration Packs are compatible with many Sawyer filters and is easy to use.

Check the price on Amazon

Platypus Gravityworks Platypus GravityWorks

Price: Approx. $120

Weight: 10.75 оz

Dimensions: 5.8 x 2.8 x 13.2 inches

Specific features: Fast, lightweight, effective, easy maintenance

Best use: Hiking, backpacking, camping

Description: Platypus GravityWorks Filter System, four liters of water in 2.5 minutes quicker. The product is fairly priced around $120. This filter system is ultra lightweight, thus perfect for backpacking.

This water filter back flushes in only 4 seconds without requiring any extra tools or parts. It uses gravity force you no pumping is needed. Platypus Gravity Filter meets all the EPA and NSF guidelines for the elimination of bacteria and other microorganism. It has a zip opening which helps in collecting water easily in all kinds of situations.

The great thing about this filter system is there is no pumping. It can filter 1.75 liters per minute, and it has a filter lifetime to up to 1,500 liters. There is an 8 liter size that is perfect for group camping, backpacking and other activities. Users like this product because of its simplicity and the fact it can filter water quickly!

PROS:

  • Works quickly
  • Hollow fiber advantage
  • No pumping

CONS:

  • Holes that hole straps can deteriorate
  • Grommets come loose

Related: For a filter cartridge, check out the Platypus B004LA Filter System. It is the replacement for this product and meets EPA guidelines!

Check the price on Amazon

Concluding Thoughts

You should always carry a water filter when you’re backpacking or traveling where you don’t have a reliable drinking water source. Contaminated water can prove to be life-threatening if you don’t filter it properly. Choose your water filter carefully and stay safe!

A woman drinking water from a backpacking filter

If you had some experience on this topic and would love to share it with us, feel free to leave a comment in our comments section below.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John C. Porter
John C. Porter

John is passionate about hiking long distances. His record is over 65 miles in one day with backpacking gear. John hiked over 10 thousand miles, tried over 100 hiking shoes and visited 56 countries so far. His favourite hiking route is West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada.

  • Grace Walter

    I bought the Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration System from Amazon last year because of the raving review it was receiving. I am happy to say that the reviews did not lie. It is small and light, so it is very ideal for my backpacking adventures, and it works perfectly.

  • John C. Porter

    Thanks for the valuable input Grace and I’m pleased that the Sawyer has served you well. It’s a fine product and provides the safety you need without the hefty price tag.

  • Mabel Anderson

    MSR’s SweetWater Microfilter looks like something that would fit in with our upcoming camping trip and its price is within my budget too. But before I add it to my shopping list, I need to know if it comes with all the accessories like the brush, stuff sack and bottle adapter.

  • John C. Porter

    I think it comes with the bottle adapter as specified by the manufacturers. You might want to get in touch with them to inquire about the brush and stuff sack.

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