Best Backpacking Water Filter – Expert Review

Updated: February 12, 2024

Drinking untreated water is extremely dangerous, so choosing the best water filter for you is essential.

If you are after pure simplicity, lightweight and high pace, then you can't go wrong with the Sawyer Squeeze. It's as easy as screwing it on to the top of your bottle. 

For the best low budget option, go check out the Aquamira Chlorine Dioxide. These tiny 1oz bottles treat up to 30 gallons of water while taking up literally no space in your bag.

When traveling in a group, it can be easier to split the load on a big trip. The Katadyn Hiker Pro is the "Big Boss" of water filters. With a capacity to store enough water for 4 people, you are sure to stay hydrated.

Make sure you test your filter before you leave. Once out on the trail, it’s too late to read the manual.

Best Backpacking Water Filters (Top Picks)

Sawyer Products SP131 Squeeze Water Filtration System w/ 3 Pouches (One 16-Oz, Two 32-Oz)

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Aquamira - Chlorine Dioxide Water Treatment Two Part Liquid (1 oz Droppers Bottles)

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Platypus GravityWorks Group Camping Water Filter System, 4-Liter

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Top Water Filters For Backpacking

(Detailed Reviews)

We reviewed over 11 backpacking water filters for this article. Below are the best backpacking water filters that made our short list.

  1. Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter SP131 - Best Squeeze System
  2. Aquamira Chlorine Dioxide - Best Chlorine
  3. Platypus GravityWorks - Best Gravity
  4. Katadyn Hiker Pro
  5. SteriPen Adventurer Opti UV

Read our complete buyers guide for backpacking water filters.

1. Best Squeeze System

Sawyer Products SP131 Squeeze Water Filtration System w/ 3 Pouches (One 16-Oz, Two 32-Oz)

4.5/5 Overall Rating

There are a number of products available in the Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter range. We prefer the 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.

Main Features
  • Uses hollow tube technology
  • Tested using EPA protocols to 0.1 microns
  • Removes 99% of bacteria and protozoa
  • Squeeze screw-on water filter
  • 3 BPA-Free water pouches in 16, 32 and 64 ounce sizes
  • 1 replaceable pop-up drinking spout
  • Syringe filter cleaner
  • Lifetime warranty
What we like
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to use with no setup requirement
  • Fast and effective
  • Filter can be attached to any standard threaded bottle
What we dislike
  • The pouches aren’t transparent so you can’t see how much liquid is in them
  • If squeezed too hard, the seams of the pouches can split
Key Takeaway

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.

2. Best And Safest Chlorine Treatment

Aquamira - Chlorine Dioxide Water Treatment Two Part Liquid (1 oz Droppers Bottles)

4.5/5 Overall Rating

Of all the available options, the 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.

Main Features
  • Kills odor causing bacteria and enhances taste
  • Can treat up to 30 gallons of water
  • Lightweight kit
  • Recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Proven effective in clear, muddy, warm or cold water
  • 4-year shelf life
What we like
  • No aftertaste
  • Simple to use
  • No mechanical parts that are subject to failure
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Affordable
What we dislike
  • 4-hour wait period before water can be used
Key Takeaway

Aquamira Chlorine Dioxide is an excellent product to keep on hand. We suggest it as a backup though because of the long waiting period. It’s lightweight and compact and should be stashed in your backpack – just in case.

3. Best Gravity Water Filter

Platypus GravityWorks Group Camping Water Filter System, 4-Liter

5/5 Overall Rating

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.

Main Features
  • Produces 1.75L of clean, consumable water per minute
  • BPA free
  • SlimeGuard™ Antimicrobial treated reservoirs
  • EPA and NSF compliant
  • Removes 99% of bacteria and protozoa
  • 4-liter dirty an clean water reservoirs
  • Hollow fiber micro filter
  • Hoses and shutoff clamp
  • Storage sack
What we like
  • Simple and easy to assemble and use
  • Fast purification process
  • Easy to clean
  • No mechanical parts to go wrong
  • Good capacity
What we dislike
  • Clean bag takes a long time to fully dry out
  • The Grommets / eyelets to hang bags by, are not very durable
Key Takeaway

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.

4. Best Pump Water Filter

Katadyn Pocket Water Filter for Backpacking, Group Camping & Emergency Preparedness

5/5 Overall Rating

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.

Main Features
  • Includes a pre-filter and carry bag
  • 0.2 microns filter removes harmful bacteria and protozoa
  • Activated carbon inside the filter cartridge improves the taste of the water and reduces the chemicals in the filtered water
  • A field cleanable protector screen protects the filter cartridge
  • A transparent outer allowing you to see the filtration working
What we like
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Quick and easy to use
  • Can be connected directly to most reservoirs/bottles
What we dislike
  • Plastic parts are less durable
  • No indicator to warn when filter needs replacing
  • When filtering very dirty water, using an additional pre-filter is recommended.
Key Takeaway

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.

5. Best UV Purification

SteriPEN Adventurer Opti UV Water Purifier

4.5/5 Overall Rating

The SteriPen is a handheld device that purifies water at the touch of a button. 

Using Ultraviolet UV-C rays, the water is sterilised by destroying water borne organisms like protozoa, bacteria and viruses. 

Simply place the device inside a container with a minimal opening diametre of 1.75 inches. A Nalgene container is recommended for best results. 

The SteriPEN water purifier meets with the US Environmental Protection Agency standards and is independently tested, so you can rest assured that the water you drink is safe. 

Main Features
  • Comes with 2x CR123 batteries
  • Destroys 99.9% of harmful bacteria, viruses and protozoa
  • Indicator signal alert when the sterilization process is complete
  • Can be registered for the SteriPen Life Pledge for a replacement after 8,000 uses
What we like
  • Optical sensor doubles as LED flashlight
  • Fast, safe, effective and chemical-free
  • Small and compact
  • Quick purifying process
  • No setup requirements
  • Water sensor doubles as an LED flashlight
What we dislike
  • Battery-operated
  • Doesn’t work well in cold conditions
Key Takeaway

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.

Backpacking Water Filter - Buyer's Guide (Key Features)

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.

Size and Weight

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.

Other Features

Some other questions to consider:

  • Does the manufacturer have additional parts that are compatible with your system?
  • How readily available are replacement parts? This includes consumables, like filters.
  • For the higher ticket items, does the manufacturer offer a warranty?
  • Can systems be used safely in conjunction with one another without compromising the efficacy?

About the author 

Mark Whitman

Mark has trekked extensively in Asia, Europe, South America and Africa. He founded Mountain IQ in 2014 with the sole aim to be the best online information portal to some of the most popular mountain destinations around the world. When not writing for Mountain IQ, Mark is out exploring the outdoors with his wife!

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