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Best Overall: Potable Aqua Water Purification Tablets at Amazon
"Your water will actually taste good to drink with these tablets."
Best Fast-Acting: Aquatabs AQT100 Tablets at Amazon
"Has a purification time of just 30 minutes."
Best Value: Katadyn Micropur MP1 Tablets at Amazon
"If you only use one or a few at a time, the others stay sealed and safe."
Best Shelf Life: Aquatabs Mightie Water Purification Tablets at Amazon
"These tablets have a five-year shelf life."
Best for Portability: Potable Aqua Chlorine Water Purification Tablets at Amazon
"Some of the most thorough tablets out there."
Best with Case: Expedition Research LLC TAC-H2O at Amazon
"The case is made of four layers of safety-heat sealed Mylar."
"Chlorine tablets that eliminate all bacteria and all known viruses."
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Potable Aqua Water Purification Tablets
Water purification tablets remain as one of the most lightweight and convenient systems to purify water, and this handy pack comes with a bottle of 50 germicidal tablets, as well as a bottle of 50 PA+ tablets — treating a total of 25 liters of water. Within 35 minutes, the tablets get rid of bacteria and giardia lamblia in sketchy water. The PA+ tablets are a critical bonus to neutralize the color and taste of the iodine in purification tablets, meaning your water will actually taste good to drink, encouraging you to stay hydrated on the trail. Plus, they’re trusted by the military and emergency crews.
Best Fast-Acting: Aquatabs AQT100 Tablets
These handy rip-off packets of water purification tablets have been aiding adventurers for more than 20 years — and are a go-to for organizations like NATO in emergency situations when drinking water is no longer guaranteed. The effervescent tablets dissolve in water to wipe out the microorganisms that cause typhoid, dysentery, and cholera. They’re also one of the quickest-acting out there, with a purification time of just 30 minutes. Just be sure to filter the water first!
Best Value: Katadyn Micropur MP1 Tablets
Although it’s a relatively expensive water purification system, there are a lot of pluses that justify the cost. For one, these tablets are individually packaged — if you only use one or a few at a time, or need to share them around, the others stay sealed and safe. Katadyn has been in the business of water systems since 1928, and they’re effective against viruses, bacteria, giardia, and cryptosporidium in all water conditions. One tablet treats one quart of water, so you might want to stock up on these if you're out hiking for a few long days.
Best Shelf Life: Aquatabs Mightie Company Water Purification Tablets
If you need to buy in bulk for an expedition or group backpacking trip, the Aquatabs Mightie water purification tablets are one of the most popular picks out there — more than 1 billion of these are sold each year. It’s the only water purification tablet with NSF 60 certification and, most importantly, an approved formula for routine use by the World Health Organization, meaning they can be used in households that don’t have safe drinking water access. The tablets have a five-year shelf life as well, so if you don’t use them all on the first hike, they’ll last for a long time. One tablet treats two quarts of clear water.
Best for Portability: Potable Aqua Chlorine Dioxide Water Purification Tablets
These purification tablets are some of the most thorough out there, and they come with one more superpower up their sleeve — beyond the “Big Four” of bacteria, giardia, lamblia, and viruses, they also treat cryptosporidium. And, though this also makes them a bit more expensive, avoiding a parasite might well be worth it. Their effectiveness meets EPA microbiological water purifier test standards, too. The only downside is that the treatment time is four hours.
Best with Case: Expedition Research LLC TAC-H2O
With one tablet able to treat up to five liters of water, these are a great pick if you just want a big batch of purified water to split up and share around with a group. Best of all, it takes just 30 minutes. The Aquatabs come in a TAC-H20 case that’s made of four layers of safety-heat sealed Mylar with a resealable zip — it’s also sunlight-proof and waterproof, so you don’t have to worry about the elements interfering with the tablets’ shelf life. There is a slight chlorine smell left in the treated water sometimes, but the ease of use might be worth it for some.
Best Bulk: Ef Chlor Portable Water Purification Tablets
If you like to be super-prepared for any survival situation, and you want to ensure your family's safety in the face of a natural disaster or other emergency, then purification tablets sold en masse might be what you need. Ef Chlor are chlorine tablets that eliminate all bacteria and all known viruses. Each tablet purifies 6.6 gallons of contaminated water or 13 gallons of clear water per tablet. The tablets, which are WHO-approved, also contain an effervescent additive that reduces the taste of chlorine.