Drinking water is one of the two things required to sustain life. Being able to access clean water while camping or hiking for extended periods of time may get tricky. Depending on your camping situation, you may not be able to bring in all the drinking water you'll need. The recommended amount of water a single person should drink every day is about a half-gallon, and that weight can add up quickly. When you are active and expending energy, such as you do when hiking to and from a campsite, you need to increase that amount. How can you enjoy a relaxing hiking and camping trip and still have the energy and space needed to bring all that water around with you at the same time?
The solution is you don't have to take all the water you need. Instead, you can invest in a good camping water filter to ensure you have clean drinking water whenever you need it. Being able to utilize naturally occurring water sources as you work your way through a trail is a game changer for saving time and space, as well as providing peace of mind that you can drink from any water source safely. What are some essential features to be on the lookout for in a water filter? Continue reading to find some helpful tips.
Sawyer Products MINI Water Filtration System
Less than five minutes
Can process up to 10 gallons of water in the field before it needs to be backfilled, which can be done in the field.
Katadyn Hiker Pro Water Filter
Less than five minutes
Can process up to 1150 liters of water before the filter needs to be replaced.
Platypus Gravity Works
1 liter per minute
Can process up to 1500 liters of water before the filter needs to be replaced.
No products found.
1 liter per 90 seconds
Can process up to 150 liters of water before the batteries need replacing.
Aquatabs Water Purification Tablets
Each tablet treats approximately 2 liters of water. It comes in 30 or 60-count tablets.
LifeStraw Personal Water Filter
Each filter can cycle up to 1,000 liters with regular backflushing.
1. What Is the Difference Between a Water Purifier and Filter?
Water filters and water purifiers have been created with the same goal in mind: To give you suitable drinking water when on the go. Since there are a multitude of water-borne illnesses that can be spread through streams, rivers and lakes, it is best to know whether a filter or a purifier is going to work better for your particular situation.
The difference between a filter and a purifier is the level of organisms that get filtered out. Filters use an activated carbon element or ultraviolet light to separate the dangerous bacteria and spores from the water. Thus, all that's left behind is the clean drinking water. Purifiers take it a step further and remove viruses with the use of chemical additives such as iodine. Viruses are too minuscule for a filter to remove. Purifiers are recommended if you are traveling abroad to different countries such as Africa or South America. If you’re staying in North America, a purifier is not as critical, and a filter will be able to effectively clean an adequate supply of drinking water for your camping needs.
2. How Does a Camping Water Filter Work?
Hearing the term water filter may elicit images of an extensive system attached to the outside of the house at the water source or a funny looking contraption attached to a faucet. Since neither of these is portable or appropriate for camping, there has to be some adaptation of this concept into a more mobile and contained unit that can be carried around freely in your backpack.
There are many different styles of water filters to choose from.
Pump filter – Put a hose in the water, secure the pump mechanism to your bottle and pump the water up through the hose to the container.
Bottle filter – Filtration system is built into the water bottle. Fill the water bottle and drink.
Drop filter – Gravity filtration system that consists of a large bag and hose. Fill the bag with water, hang it up and wait for it to drop through the tube.
Straw filter – Cylinder tube system that allows one to drop down to a water source and drink directly from it through the straw.
Squeeze filter – This system is the same as a bottle filter except it's a soft bag that can be collapsed down to fold flat.
Ultraviolet filter – A wand-like mechanism can be dropped into any water receptacle (check the size on the instructions), then a button is pushed and when the light illuminates, it's safe to drink the water.
Chemical tablets – Add to water per the directions. Chemical tablets usually consist of iodine and/or chlorine and can be combined to make water drinkable. The chemicals can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours to fully process water, so don't want until you are in absolute dire need of water to treat it.
You can also boil water if you have the time. Just be sure you take the extra fuel into account when you pack. If you boil any water for at least 1 minute, it will kill just about anything that shouldn't be there. Remember, viruses, bacteria, and protoplasm are all living organisms, and no living thing fares well in boiling water. Also keep in mind the time it takes for the water to cool before you can drink it. Don't boil up a batch of water when you need it; plan on doing this well ahead of time so you can get the water down to a temperature you can tolerate before drinking.
3. How Can You Choose a Camping Water Filter?
In terms of the best type of system, that will all be dependent on your needs at the time. If you are preparing water for a large group, the gravity system may be your best bet as the receptacle holds a more significant amount of water, which also makes it great for cooking with. If you have the time and patience, then boiling water is just as useful as any filter system and it will only cost you fuel. However, if you want a portable solution to the water purification process, then one of the other methods will prove to be the most practical. Because of this, we focused on these types of systems when conducting our research and creating this list.
Overall Price Range of Camping Water Filters
The price of a water filter will vary based on the type of system it utilizes (ultraviolet, carbon filter, etc.) and the amount of water it processes. You can expect to pay anywhere between $9 to $120 for the products reviewed below. You can find camping water filters at camping and outdoor stores such as REI, Cabela's and Bass Pro Shops. You can also find them online at these same retail outlets, as well as Amazon and Walmart.
How We Came Up With This List
Let's face it, when you want to go camping, you don't want to be bogged down in more details than necessary. If you're a camper and hiker who likes to live more with nature and take as little as possible, this becomes even more important to your method of recreation. We are here to help you decide between the hundreds of choices of water filter systems out there. Instead of staring at endless examples of filters, we've provided a select few below that meet the following criteria: weight, length of time it takes water to be ready, price, pros and cons, and reviews.
The 6 Best Camping Water Filters
1. Sawyer Products MINI Water Filtration System
- Ideal for outdoor recreation, hiking, camping, scouting, domestic and International travel, and emergency preparedness
- High-performance 0.1 Micron absolute inline filter fits in the palm of your hand and weighs just 2 ounces; 100% of MINI...
- Attaches to included drinking pouch, standard disposable water bottles, hydration packs, or use the straw to drink...
Where to Purchase: REI, Amazon, Walmart
2. Katadyn Hiker Pro Water Filter
- Proven protection against bacteria and protozoan cysts down to 0.2 micron with pleated glass-fiber filter media
- Activated carbon in the core of the filter improves the taste and reduces chemicals in your drinking water
- The field cleanable filter protector screen extends the life of the cartridge in challenging conditions
Where to Purchase: REI, Cabela's, Amazon
3. Platypus Gravity Works
No products found.
Where to Purchase: Amazon, REI, Backcountry, Cabela's
4. SteriPEN Classic
- Battery powered Ultraviolet light water purifier that is perfect for travel and outdoor use. Purifies up to 150 liters...
- Purifies a half liter of water in 48 seconds or 1 liter in 90 seconds. Simple and easy to operate. Device activates when...
- Destroys over 99.9% of bacteria Viruses and protozoa, like Giardia and Cryptosporidium Certified for purification by the...
Where to Purchase: REI, Backcountry, Amazon, Bass Pro Shops
5. Aquatabs Water Purification Tablets
- Deluxe pack of 250 tablets, enough to purify 500 quarts of water (25 strips of 10 each)
- Trusted for over 20 years for use in emergency situations like Hurricanes - Tornados - Earthquakes - Floods
- Over 3 billion gallons of water treated annually
Where to Purchase: REI, Backcountry, Amazon
6. LifeStraw Personal Water Filter
- Award-winning LifeStraw water filter is a must-carry tool for hiking, camping, travel, and emergencies; no disaster kit...
- Filters up to 1,000 gallons (4,000 liters) of contaminated water without iodine, chlorine, or other chemicals; does not...
- Removes minimum 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria, 99.9% of waterborne protozoan parasites, and filters to 0.2 microns;...
Where to Purchase: REI, Walmart, Amazon, Target
Being sure you get the right amount of water at any time is critical, but that urgency doubles when you're out hiking in the woods. Unless you can carry a significant amount of water with you, which isn't always practical, you are going to need to invest in a portable camping water filter of some kind. There are a number of styles to choose from, and once you get your first, you may go back to get a second. When taking all the reviews and specifications into account, we decided to name the Sawyer Products MINI Filtration System as the best filter to take along on a camping trip. It was the only filtration system that even came close to being perfect. Sawyer makes a variety of water filter products, so if you enjoy the MINI, you can go back and order more feeling confident you made the right decision.