Water filters for backpacking and camping certainly aren’t the most glamorous outdoor equipment. However, their ability to turn contaminated water into a drinkable source will make any outdoor excursion more enjoyable. A quality water filter might even be the difference between life and death.
Best Overall Chemical Water Treatment
Aquamira Water Treatment Drops
The Aquamira Water Treatment Drops are perfect…if you plan ahead a little.
These lightweight and packable drops manage to kill most bacteria in around 15-20 minutes. That said, 4 hours is ideal. This is especially true if you’re not familiar with your water source (and its contaminants).
While the wait time is quite steep compared to other water filters for backpacking and camping, their ease of use and transportability more than makes up for it.
When using the drops, the hiker simply needs to activate the substances, then drop them into their water. These treatment drops do not filter out particulates, so they are often used in tandem with other filters, or even a bandana.
At a price of under fifteen dollars, the Aquamira water treatment drops are the best a backpacker or hiker can buy. Just plan ahead a few hours for complete purification.
Best Value Water Filtration System
Katadyn Gravity Camp 6L
This gravity-fed filtration system excels because of its ease of use and high flow rate.
The Katadyn Gravity Camp has a total capacity of six liters. It’s able to treat its full capacity in just minutes.
Impressively, the Gravity Camp 6L also doubles as a handwashing station. This can make camp chores like cleaning dishes and preparing meals quite simple. You can also add a shower component, sold separately.
To use the Gravity filtration system, all you need to do is collect water from the source via the bag’s large opening. You can then suspend the bag and let gravity do its thing.
Gravity forces the water to fall through a series of filters. These eliminate particulates and bacteria. The only apparent downfall to the Katadyn Gravity Camp filtration system is its reliance on suspension. In sparsely-wooded environments, this could become a problem.
In a pinch, however, the filtration system can be hung from the roof of your tent.
Best Ultralight Water Filter
When it comes to solo hiking and ultralight packing mechanics, the Sawyer Squeeze is the best water filtration system on the market.
At a total weight of under six ounces, the Sawyer Squeeze still packs quite a punch. The system is equipped to filter out all major forms of particulates, protozoa, and bacteria, and has been tested throughout the years by a variety of outdoor enthusiasts. Of all the water filters for backpacking and camping, it’s become a standout and crowd favorite.
In terms of metrics, the Sawyer Squeeze is able to filter about a liter of water in under a single minute. The system’s Achilles heel is its reliance on flimsy hydration bladders.
However, if you pair this system with a tested and reinforced hydration bladder, it will perform beautifully trip after trip.
Best Group Water Filtration System
Unlike most water filters for backpacking and camping, which accommodate one to two persons at most, the Platypus GravityWorks excels in a large group dynamic.
The filtration system is able to filter up to four liters at a time, and the system comes complete with two separate bags for clean and dirty water.
What’s more, GravityWorks is comparable to the Katadyn Gravity Camp 6L—and, just like the Gravity Camp, it can easily double as a handwashing station or a solar shower.
In addition to its ease of use, the GravityWorks is also durable and will stand up for multiple backpacking excursions.
If used to purify high sediment water, the GravityWorks may need to be cleaned occasionally.
Best Water Filter for Extreme Conditions
MSR Guardian Purifier
Without a doubt, if you are looking for the king of extreme water purification, you will want the MSR Guardian Purifier.
Not only is the Guardian able to treat water packed with viruses, it also requires no maintenance for its entire life span—upwards of ten years.
The Guardian can filter even water with the highest of sediment counts, and does not freeze in cold weather.
The major flaw with the Guardian is its hefty price tag, which is three to ten times that of most water filters for backpacking and camping. However, if you are looking for a purification system that you can take across the world and not worry about once, the Guardian is the only way to go.
Stay Hydrated Out There
A quality water filtration system will do more than simply keep you hydrated. It will also provide you with peace of mind and comfort, freeing you up to enjoy more of your trip outdoors.
After all, the last thing you want to be worried about while hiking through the woods or navigating an isolated trail is where to find fresh water.