The 10 Best Backpacking Water Filters of 2021

Stay healthy on the trail by drinking clean water

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The Rundown

Best Overall: LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle at Amazon

"Operates similarly to a standard water bottle, so it's an easy adoption for people who are new to filtering water."

Best Budget: LifeStraw Personal Water Filter at Amazon

"Consider this compact, lightweight filter system an affordable emergency option."

Best Lightweight: Sawyer Mini Water Filter at Amazon

"The entire four-piece kit weighs just two ounces."

Best for Groups: MSR AutoFlow XL Gravity Filter at Amazon

"With a 10-liter capacity, this system minimizes trips to the stream for easy group filtering."

Best Gravity Filter: Platypus GravityWorks Water Filter System at Amazon

"Lightweight and high volume, this gravity-fed filtration system is great for group hikes."

Best UV Light Filter: Crazy Cap UV Filter Bottle at Amazon

"Features a UV light that kills viruses and parasites by dismantling their DNA, rendering them harmless."

Best Chemical Treatment: Katadyn Micropur Purification Tablets at Amazon

"Taking up nearly no room, these cubes are great to pack for backup purification."

Best Bottle-Integrated Filter: Sawyer Products Select S3 at Amazon

"Just a few squeezes of this bottle is all it takes to purify your drinking water."

Best for International Travel: Grayl Geopress Water Purifier at Amazon

"Filters pathogens from bacteria to viruses so you can drink water from questionable locations."

Best Splurge: Katadyn Pocket Water Filter at Amazon

"A pump-style filter that’s meant to last for adventures where you can’t afford for it to fail."

Any survivalist can tell you that having a safe water source is one of the most important things to consider when heading out on a camping or backpacking adventure. Car campers can just carry jugs of water from home, but when you get further afield, carrying becomes impractical since water is extremely heavy. Drinking water from unknown sources is never a good idea, especially when you’re far from civilization and medical care.

Enter portable water filters. They let you carry a device for purifying water so you can use those wild sources of hydration without worrying about contamination. We rounded up our top backpack water filters across several categories so you can find the right solution for your adventures.

Read on for the best backpacking water filters available.

Our Top Picks

01 of 10

Best Overall: LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle

LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle

 Courtesy of Amazon

While this filter bottle costs a bit more than a regular water bottle, it’s not by much. And the operation, thankfully, is not far off the way a standard hiking water bottle works, making this an easy adoption for people new to having to filter their water. The inline filtration system starts with a membrane microfilter that catches bacteria and parasites and is followed by a carbon filter which removes chemicals and improves water taste, even if you’re just drinking chlorinated tap water.

The 23-ounce size is definitely only adequate for personal use, so if you need to filter large quantities of water for cooking or for group use, consider one of our other recommendations below. Still, the volume is plenty for longer hikes where you don’t want to carry water and know you’ll want to refill by using local water sources such as lakes and streams.

02 of 10

Best Budget: LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

Consider this compact, lightweight filter system from LifeStraw an emergency option. Because it only weighs a couple of ounces, it’s easy to throw in a pack. Since you need to literally suck the water through the straw, it’s not particularly convenient for repeated filtration, but it’s affordable enough to buy for those just-in-case situations.

Throw one in any activity-specific bag from a backpacking pack to your preparedness “bug out” bag, so you know a lack of clean water won’t be the thing that sends you home early. Iodine or chlorine tablets take up very little pack room and are often recommended as emergency water purification, but they don’t offer physical filtration, aren’t reusable, and confer an unwelcome taste.

03 of 10

Best Lightweight: Sawyer Mini Water Filter

Sawyer Mini Water Filter

 Courtesy of REI

This ultra-compact filtration system offers a straw/suck function and has a convenient to-go option with the included collapsible, reusable pouch. Incredibly, the entire kit weighs just two ounces. As an emergency filter in a pinch, just combine the filter with the included straw and suck up clean water. However, the more convenient way to use the Sawyer Mini as a regular personal water filter is to fill up the pouch and then squeeze to force the water through the filter, using your hands rather than your mouth to do the work.

04 of 10

Best for Groups: MSR AutoFlow XL Gravity Filter

Water filtration in the field can be tedious, especially when filtering for a group. Pumping gets tiring when you’re filling bladders, bottles, and cooking vessels for a posse. Gravity filters make the process more passive, if a bit slower, and the AutoFlow XL does it at a scale that is truly meant for larger groups with a 10-liter capacity to minimize trips to the stream.

True to MSR’s pedigree, there is a lot of welcome attention to detail, with a durable, 1,000-denier base to prevent punctures, a minimalist design that's easy to clean, and a heavy-duty hanging strap.

Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10

Best Gravity Filter: Platypus GravityWorks Water Filter System

This passive, gravity-fed filtration system comes in either 4- or 6-liter sizes making it great for a pair or small group backpacking excursion. Unlike some gravity-operated filters, the Platypus is a complete system that includes both a bladder for the dirty water as well as an equal-sized bladder for collection. The membrane filter is good for 1,500 gallons of water, meaning you may never have to replace it.

Despite being totally passive, the filtration only takes a few minutes, running at around 1.75 liters per minute. And even with both bladders included, the entire kit weighs less than a pound, making it ideal for long hauls in the backcountry.

06 of 10

Best UV Light Filter: Crazy Cap UV Filter Bottle

Crazy Cap UV Filter Bottle

 Courtesy of Amazon

Purification via UV light is one of the latest and greatest additions to the world of personal water purification. While it doesn’t filter water, this little bottle cap features a UV light that kills 99.99 percent of viruses and parasites by dismantling their DNA, rendering them harmless. If you’re in an area where you are dealing with murky water, you’ll need to find something to first strain the water, such as pouring it through a shirt.

But for international travel and everyday use, the Crazy Cap is simple and easy to use. Just tap the button twice and wait a few minutes. This process also runs automatically every four hours so your bottle doesn’t become befouled, even when you’re not actively using it on the trail.

07 of 10

Best Chemical Treatment: Katadyn Micropur Purification Tablets

Chemical water treatment in the form of tablets is one of the most common methods of water purification. While they don’t mechanically filter water, they neutralize the most common sources of contamination: bacteria and protozoa. Their greatest advantage is their size and weight, taking up nearly no room in a pack and weighing less than an ounce.

The biggest drawback is the time. You’ll need to wait half an hour to ensure you’ve killed viruses, bacteria, and Giardia. Plan on waiting four hours if cryptosporidium is a concern. Consider this an emergency or backup solution for water purification.

08 of 10

Best Bottle-Integrated Filter: Sawyer Products Select S3

Sawyer has taken filtration to the extreme with their Select S3 bottle that features an integrated filter cap. While most systems focus on the bacteria and parasites that are found in water, the S3 filters out chemicals, particulates, viruses, pesticides, and heavy metals, meaning you can drink from even the most suspect sources if you need to.

The operation is simple: squeeze the silicone bottle back and forth ten times and then just squeeze to drink as you would with a regular sports bottle. At 20 ounces, this is a personal filtration solution, though you can use it to filter water into a larger container 20 ounces at a time.

Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10

Best for International Travel: Grayl Geopress Water Purifier

Grayl Geopress Water Purifier

 Courtesy of Backcountry

In North America and much of the Western world, we luckily don’t have to contend with sewage contamination of water sources very often. That means that when traveling in the North American wilderness, viruses aren’t a real concern. That changes in countries where sanitation hasn’t yet reached Western standards and thus requires a filtration system that eliminates viruses as well.

This integrated bottle and filter solution from Grayl provides nearly instant purification and filtration in what looks on the outside to be nothing more than your average water bottle. It removes all pathogens, can hold up to 24 ounces of water, and comes in nine different color options.

10 of 10

Best Splurge: Katadyn Pocket Water Filter

If you’re new to water filters, you might be wondering why on earth you’d pay several hundred dollars for one. But if you’ve used cheap filters and had them fail on you in the field, you won’t think twice. The design of this long-running model from Katadyn has withstood the test of time as evidenced by the many online product reviews touting decades of reliability. The unit isn’t light, weighing in at over a pound thanks to its heavy-duty construction. But it’s built for sustained use and comes with cleaning pads and a gauge that lets you know when it's time to change the filter, making it worth the weight penalty for those who can’t take chances on questionable filtration options.

Why Trust TripSavvy?

Author Justin Park is a lifelong outdoorsman based in Breckenridge, Colorado. In the summer he drinks nearly as much water from streams and lakes as he does from his home and municipal sources. He’s tried every purification method in the book from iodine tablets to big gravity-fed bladder systems. He’s currently testing the Sawyer Select S3 as his personal water bottle filtration system.

FAQs

Do I need to worry about filtering water if I’m just day hiking?

While you might be able to comfortably carry all the water you need for a shorter hike, you should always head out prepared for worst-case scenarios. If you don’t want the bulk or expense of fancier systems, consider chemical tablet purification or one of the lightweight options above. These are easy to carry and while you hope you’ll never need them, they’re there if your hike takes longer than your water lasts.

How much capacity do I need in a water filter?

This depends on several factors including the size of your group, time in the field, and your access to water. If you're looking for a solution for a larger group, consider one of the gravity-fed options. Likewise, if you are camping some distance from your water source, you’ll want a larger-capacity filter system to minimize trips. However, if you’re mostly looking for a personal water filtration system for travel or day hikes, consider one of the many bottle-integrated options above.

Why do I need to filter water while backpacking?

Since there’s no good way for someone to test and ensure the potability of water in the field, it’s good practice to filter any water you drink. Becoming ill in the backcountry can be dangerous due to your distance from medical care and other resources. The most common immediate dangers to your health are from bacteria, parasites, and viruses which can cause gastrointestinal issues among other concerns. Filtration, depending on the method, can also filter out common pollutants such as pesticides, heavy metals, and agricultural runoff.

What to Look for in a Backpacking Water Filter

Efficacy: When it comes to water filters, this is the one key thing you want to look for above all else. After all, if the filter isn’t as effective as it should be, your chances of getting debilitatingly—even dangerously—sick on the trail go way up. The more you can filter out, the better your hiking experience will be. 

Price: After rounding up filters based on how effective they are, your next consideration should be price. If you’re depending on your filter for a long expedition or regular outings into the wild, you’ll be getting plenty of use. Some can filter hundreds of thousands of liters of water before they need replacing.  

Size: You don’t want something too bulky, but you also want to be sure that the filter has enough parts to deliver high-quality filtration. Luckily, plenty of filters are small enough that making space for them won’t be a problem.

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