This review discusses the best backpacking water filters currently on the market.
Drinking untreated water is extremely dangerous. There are a number of methods to treat contaminated water. We’ve made a list of our top choices in each of the categories.
Make sure you test your filter before you leave. Ensure that you know how to use it and that all the components are there. Once out on the trail, it’s too late to read the manual.
Below is a list of the top 5 water filters, so you can choose which one is best for you.
Take a look at the comparison table below before moving on, it might help you make a quick decision based on the most important specs.
Sawyer Squeeze SP131
Best Squeeze System
3.2oz / 91g
Up to 1,000,000 gallons
9.5 x 4 x 3.5 in / 25 x 10 x 9 cm
Aquamira Chlorine Dioxide
Safest Chlorine Treatment
2oz / 57g
Up to 30 gallons
5 minutes premix / 0.5 - 4 hours to purify
4 x 2 x 2 in / 10 x 5 x 5 cm
Best Gravity Filter
11.5oz / 326g
1.75 liters per minute
2 x 8.5 in / 5 x 22 cm (Filter)
Katadyn Hiker Pro
Best Pump System
8.2oz / 232.5g
1 liter per min
3.14 x 6.69 in / 8 x 17 cm
SteriPen Aqua UV
Best UV Purification
6.28oz / 177.5g (with batteries)
8000 treatments per UV lamp
7.3 x 1.7 x 1.7 in / 18.5 x 4.3 x 4.3 cm
There are a number of products available in the Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter range. We preferthe SP131, which comes with three different sized pouches.
Weighing just 3.2 ounces, the Sawyer Squeeze system is compact and easily portable.
To use, simply fill up the pouch with the water. Screw on the filter and squeeze the bag to decant the water into another container. Alternatively you can drink directly from the filter with the supplied push-pull cap.
While sterilization is almost immediate, the amount of water available, and how quickly it is available, is entirely dependent on how hard you squeeze.
However, resist the urge to squeeze and twist the pouches to speed up the flow as this could result in the seams of the pouch splitting open.
If you’re looking for an easy and fast system to purify your water on a trail, the Sawyer Squeeze is an excellent option. Featuring a fast flow rate while being compact and light, it should be an essential component of your hiking gear.
Of all the available options, Aquamira Chlorine Dioxide is the most cost-efficient. This two part chemical composition however does require premixing. Once mixed, you need to wait for 5 minutes before it is added to the water.
The actual sterilization process though takes a bit longer. For most bacteria and protozoa, 30 minutes is a sufficient wait time, but some water-borne organisms may require a longer wait, some up to 4 hours. When in doubt of the water source, the manufacturers recommend waiting for the full 4 hours.
Compact, lightweight and easy to pack into your backpack, this is a good backup option to keep on hand. As a chemical treatment, the chlorine dioxide is available in tablet form, however for storage purposes, we prefer the liquid treatment.
When treating large amounts of water, the treated water can be preserved for up to 5 years if properly sealed. This might not mean much when out backpacking but on a multiday hike, you know you can sanitize water and store it for later as and when you come across a good water source.
The Chlorine Dioxide liquid is an excellent backup product to keep on hand. We suggest it as a backup because of the long wait period. It’s lightweight and compact and should be stashed in your backpack – just in case.
The Platypus GravityWorks system relies on its namesake – gravity - to work.
Without the need for chemicals, batteries or much human interference, simply fill the 4L dirty water reservoir with the contaminated water, and hang it up above the empty clean reservoir. Then relax and let gravity do the work. No pumping or squeezing is required.
The Platypus GravityWorks meets all EPA/NSF guidelines for removal of bacteria and protozoa, including Cryptosporidium, Giardia, E-Coli, Salmonella, and Cholera.
With no moving parts, this GravityWorks system is easy to use and maintain.
Back flushing to clean and restore the system is easy, taking just four seconds. To back flush simply reverse the process by placing the clean reservoir above the one with contaminated water.
Works great for hydration packs.
The Platypus GravityWorks is ideal as a water station setup at base camp. With the large capacity and fast filtering, it can easily be shared by a number of people. The shutoff clamp allows you to access the filtered water on demand, so it’s much like having a tap away from home.
The Katadyn Hiker Pro lets you have clean water on tap wherever you go.
With this Microfilter in your backpack you’ll have peace of mind that safe drinking water is just a few pumps away.
Simply connect the supplied fittings directly to your hydration pack or drinking bottle. The quick-connect fitting fit most standard bottles or reservoirs, allowing you a quick one-step filtering process.
The Katadyn Hiker Pro is ideal for a single person use but it should be flushed before use on the trail for the first time to remove any excess charcoal from the filter.
The Katadyn Hiker Pro is a simple to use, convenient portable water filter to have on the trails. Because of its mechanical nature, it is recommended to have a backup option as mechanical failures can occur.
A nifty gadget that’s compact and effective, the SteriPEN is a great addition to your backpacking must haves list. Make sure that you check and pack spare batteries too though.
In order to understand portable water filter features that would provide the best experience, consider the following list of things to pay attention to before purchasing.
Your options are squeeze; chlorine; gravity; pump or UV filtration. Each of these purification methods has its individual pros and cons. Due to the importance of safe drinking water, it’s not a bad idea to have more than one option as a backup. This is especially true if you’re backpacking alone.
Consider how much space, and how heavy the filter is. Whatever option you choose, you will need to carry this in your backpack. Bear in mind though that clean safe water is a priority, and as such should never be compromised for the sake of saving a few ounces.
How fast does the filter / purifier work? Look at the manufacturer’s claims and consider if this is sufficient for your requirements. Waiting four hours might be fine if you’re purifying water for cooking later, but if you need to hydrate immediately, look for an option that gives you an immediate result.
Whether you’re on your own or in a group, decide whether you want a filtration system that will filter enough water for one, or if you can filter a larger volume of water that can be saved or decanted into another container for later consumption.
A filter system is going to be much more expensive than chlorine drops or tablets. While you don’t want to compromise your health to save a few dollars, your budget has to be considered. A more integrated system with a filter will always require replacement parts. Have a look at how much these cost.
Some other questions to consider: