If you’re an avid backpacker or camper you already know how important it is to have a water filter with you for drinking water instead of carrying a water bottle everywhere with you. Unfortunately, finding the best one from the hundreds of options out there can be a challenge. When you’re buying something that could be a tool you’d use for water filtration in a life and death situation, you need to take your time and make sure you get a filter that is reliable and offers exactly what you need.
What should you consider when shopping for a backpacking water purification filter for camping?
First, you should think about which type of water filter is going to be best for you. Do you want a true filter or would a water purifier actually work best? Do you need a pre-filter? Would you even know how to use the filter if you’re out in the wilderness and your water supply runs out?
Let’s start by looking at the difference between filters and purifiers.
The primary difference between a purifier and a filter is the size of contaminant the tool is able to block. Water filters strain out cysts and bacteria, which are the primary contaminants you’ll face when backpacking and camping in the United States and throughout a good portion of North America.
Purifiers, on the other hand, do all that filters do and also combat viruses. Viruses are much smaller and can be missed by filters. This means if you’re headed to areas outside of the United States, especially those that are undeveloped or known for having contaminated water, you’ll need a purifier to protect your health.
Understand How Purifiers and Water Filters Work
Both filters and purifiers feature internal cartridges that are designed to catch debris. Over time, this element needs to be replaced because it becomes clogged, but in general, both purifiers and filters work the same. The difference is on a filter the strain holes are larger.
Additionally, purifiers use chemicals to kill viruses—the ones that are too small for even a purifier to catch. Both purifiers and filters tend to contain activated carbon that removes any unpleasant taste from the water—sometimes even safe water can taste bad, so you’ll want to look for a filter that has activated carbon to freshen the taste of the water you’re filtering.
Do You Need a Pre-Filter?
Whether or not a pre-filter is necessary varies from camper to camper and much of it depends on where you plan to backpack and camp. Pre-filters, as you might have guessed from the name, give you a pre-filtering clean up when water is from an especially murky source. This can be the case if a river or water source is filled with leaves, if a recent storm has stirred up mud, or if you’re pulling water that’s close to a glacier.
Pre-filter just adds an extra step to the filtering process. It takes out the larger particles and usually requires the person using the filter to pump the water through the pre-filter. This makes it easier to finally filter your water because it flows faster since all of the larger sentiment and contaminants are already captured. It can also make the filtering process more efficient and give you a higher quality end product.
Our Favorite Backpacking Water Filters for Camping
Now that you have an idea of what you need, you can take a look at some of our favorite water filters and why we like them.
This filter uses gravity to purify your water. It eliminates protozoa, Cryptosporidium, and bacteria, and it’s easy to use and only takes a short time to file. It’s lightweight, so it’s perfect for hiking and camping, and it requires minimal maintenance to keep it working properly. This filter allows you to treat smaller amounts of water at a time, but can also handle more if you’re traveling with other people or you want to clean and carry a water supply with you. Keep in mind this is a filter, so it’s not going to treat viruses and won’t be the best option if you’re traveling to underdeveloped areas.
It’s one of the priciest filers on the market, but we think the cost is worth it if you are looking for the best backpacking water filter.
This is a budget-friendly filter that is capable of eliminating bacteria, Protozoa, and Cryptosporidium from your water supply. It’s small, which is why it’s one of the less expensive options available, but this also means it’s great for hiking and backpacking because it’s lightweight and easy to fit into your pack. It’s not able to treat larger quantities of water, but if you’ll have ongoing access to a water source, this won’t matter. It’s also not the best option if you’re camping with a group of people and want a single filter to supply clean water to everyone, but if you’re an individual user you can’t beat this filter in terms of it being a great value.
We love this filter because it can be used as just a straw to drink directly from a water source, but it can also be connected to a bottle or hydration bladder if you prefer to drink that way.
The MSR Guardian is a filter and purifier, which means it can be used to clean water in areas that are underdeveloped. It’s the ideal choice if you’re traveling outside out the United States and Canada. It eliminates bacteria, protozoa, and viruses, and is one of the most durable filters available.
This water purifier works fast, but it’s heavy, so you’ll want to take that into account when evaluating your backpacking load. It’s also pricey, which is no surprise considering it’s a high-quality purifier able to handle most water contaminants.
We love this purifier because it’s incredibly easy to use and has a hand pump filter for purification. It also maintains a consistent level of performance due to its backflushing mechanism.