Best Backpacking Water Filter

Best Backpacking Water Filter

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This is a gear review of the Best Backpacking Water Filters for 2024.

When you’re out hiking, clean water is important. In the wilderness, there’s plenty of water to be found, but it’s not necessarily clean. There are so many different bacteria, parasites, and viruses that live in rivers, streams, and puddles, that you can’t just fill a water bottle with it straight away.

I’ve done all the research and testing of backpacking water filters to determine the best ones on the market. While testing products for this review, I drank water with cow poo floating on top, drank from silted glacial rivers, chlorinated swimming pools, water in third-world countries and so much more. Water filters and water purifiers for backpacking are so good nowadays. Despite all the testing in very difficult circumstances, I am fine and only got sick on one occasion, keep reading to the end to find out how it happened.

Keep reading to find out the Best Backpacking Water Filters of 2024.

Best Water Filters for Backpacking 2024

Here are the Best Water Filters for Backpacking in 2024.

Best Backpacking Water Filter – Overall

Sawyer Squeeze Review

Sawyer Squeeze water filter review

Weight: 2.5 oz / 71 grams
Filter Type: Squeeze

> Lightweight
> Very popular with thru-hikers
> Very effective as a backpacking water filter
> Works as an inline filter and can screw onto many water bladders and soft water bottles
> Water bladder that is supplied with the filter is weak and will break easily
> Filter will crack if frozen

The Sawyer Squeeze filter is probably the most popular water filter you will see in the backcountry. It ticks many of the boxes when it comes to a backpacking water filter. It is lightweight and can screw onto the top of a platypus water bladder, coke bottle, or more commonly a Smart Water Bottle. It just works.

I’ve filtered 1000s of liters of water with this filter over my many years of thru-hiking. It works well at filtering water and what I like best is the ease of use and thread compatibility with Smart Water Bottles that I can buy at any gas station. I also like how when I am carrying a lot of water in the desert it will also work with my water bladder such as the Platypus water bladder.

When the hollow fiber filter becomes blocked with debris or dirt it can be backflushed with the supplied syringe. Just add clean water to the supplied syringe and pump the water in from the outlet to force out the dirt.

The filter works well and allows a good flow rate of water. It works much better than the Sawyer mini when it comes to the flow rate of the water and for most people, it is a much better option.

Over the years I have been forced to purchase several of the Sawyer Squeeze Backpacking water filters because they just don’t seem to last as long as they say they do. And the supplied water bladder is not very durable. When you fill the dirty water into the bladder and attach the filter you may find that the seams break and leak water quite easily. Don’t rely on them. Take another water bladder and even better, take a smart water bottle to attach to the filter.

Overall, this is a very popular backpacking water filter that does a great job at keeping your drinking water clean. There is a reason almost every thru-hiker and backpacker uses this filter. It provides one of the best balances between weight, cost, and the ability to filter water. Highly recommended.

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Best Ultralight Water Filter

Platypus Quickdraw Microfilter System

Weight: 3.3 oz / 95 grams (inc 1L water bladder) the filter is only 2.2 oz / 63 grams
Filter Type: Squeeze

> Ultralight
> Very compact size
> Very efficient filter
> Thread of the filter will fit most water bottles including Smart Waterbottles, soda bottles and all other Platypus bladders
> Very good flow rate
> Filter will crack if subjected to temperatures below freezing just like all similar filters

The Platypus Quickdraw has one of the best flow rates of all the squeeze water filters in this review. Direct competition such as the Sawyer Squeeze and Lifestraw Peak can’t compete with the flow rate of this unit.

The Platypus Quickdraw comes with a quality 1L water bladder and compatibility with all Platypus bladders, smart water bottles, and more this is a great product. And if you choose it can be purchased without the bladder and is ultralight at only 2.2 oz / 63 grams for the filter alone.

The filter is good enough to filter out all the worst bacteria, protozoa but it only has a filter life of around 1000L compared to most other filters in this review which is a little more than that. Having said that, I’m yet to have any filter in this review last to the end of their claimed life without breaking from misuse (I’m tough on my gear), or me accidentally taking the filter into temperatures below freezing which destroys all hollow fiber filters!

During the testing of this product, I found that the flow rate is awesome and allows the filter to be used a bit longer than most of the others before it needs to be backflushed and cleaned. Making this a good option for those that want or need good water flow rates. And of course, platypus makes some of the best water bladders on the market so I love the included water bladder which is hundreds of times better than the Sawyer version but not quite as good as the Lifestraw version.

Overall, it is one of the best backpacking water filters for 2024 and the filter I currently use in the backcountry.

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Best Lightweight water filter for backpacking

Lifestraw Peak Squeeze

Lifestraw Peak Water Filter

Weight: 3.8oz / 108 grams (inc bottle)
Filter Type: Squeeze

> Ultralight
> Can be attached to a standard water bottle or use the flexible squeeze bag
> Compact Size
> Needs to be backflushed quite often
> Slow flow rate, much slower than stated by the company

The Lifestraw Peak Squeeze is the new and updated version of the Lifestraw Flex. They fixed many of the durability issues that plagued the Flex. The soft bottle flask is more leakproof and stronger than before.

The Lifestraw Peak Squeeze uses an ultralight filter that is one of the most versatile in the whole review. It can be used with the soft flask provided with the item, it can be used with a standard water bottle, it can be used as a gravity filter, and more.

While this is an improvement I am yet to decide if this has the kind of durability that I would like. Keep in mind that when I purchased the Lifestraw Flex my initial impression was that it was awesome. So I am waiting for some long-term testing to see if this will stand up to the abuses of a long distant thru-hike or many months of use.

Overall, I love the Lifestraw Peak. It ticks a lot of boxes by being ultralight, durable, and with an above-average flow rate. It can be used in so many ways which is impressive. If this product stands up to long-term testing then this could take out the top spot as one of the best backpacking water filters of 2024. Time will tell.

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best Gravity water filter for backpacking

Platypus GravityWorks Water Filter System

Platypus GravityWorks Water Filter System

Weight: 11.4 oz / 330 grams
Filter Type: Gravity

> Portable
> 2 Water Reservoirs with either clean water or dirty water
> The clean water bladder can be used as a water bottle when hiking
> Durable
> Filters the water very quickly
> Can filter water without being hung from a tree or similar
> Not always gather water from shallow sources
> Doesn’t remove Viruses

If you are hiking and backpacking in a group then look no further than the Platypus GravityWorks Water Filter System. This Gravity Water Filter for Backpacking is very quick at filtering water, is very portable, and is simple to use.

There is a lot to like about the Platypus Gravityworks filter. There is a choice of a 4L or 6L bladder system which includes both a clean water bladder and a dirty water bladder. That means you don’t need to filter into a separate water bottle. It is an all-inclusive system that is quite lightweight. Unlike most of the other gravity filters, this method allows you to hang the gravity filter and walk away without having to filter into separate bottles. It is so easy to use.

The filter works quicker than most other filters with a quite good flow rate, just like the Platypus Quickdraw mentioned above. If there are no trees and you can’t hang the bags to get optimal water flow, you can put the dirty water bladder on a slope or rock to ensure it is above the clean water bladder. Or even hold the dirty water bladder with your hand if you want. While this method is slower it will ensure you have clean water in areas without trees, in very flat areas, or in places where you can’t hang the bag.

While there is a lot to like you need to be aware that this system doesn’t filter viruses and does not have activated carbon to remove chemicals and flavors from the water. And like all the filters in this review, the flow rate will slow down a lot when it is not hung correctly or when the filter is blocked. But don’t worry, you can clean the filter very easily in the field.

When I tested the gravity filter I was impressed that it had a good flow rate and was easy to use. I was able to fill the dirty water bladder easily and walk away while gravity filtered the water. Full in-depth review coming soon.

Overall, the Platypus GravityWorks Water Filter System is the best gravity water filter 2024 and my preferred option. If you are interested in gravity water filters then read more about the best gravity filters for backpacking.

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best pump water filter for backpacking

Katadyn Hiker Pro Transparent

Katadyn Hiker Pro Pump water filter

Weight: 8.2 oz / 233 grams
Filter Type: Pump
> Compact – easy to carry and pack away with your hiking gear.
> Transparent – see the filtration process in action.
> Effective – proven to get rid of harmful bacteria and protozoan cysts.
> Heavy.
> You will need to rinse the water filter first before you use it.

The Katadyn Hiker Pro transparent water pump filter and purifier is the essential piece of kit that you need for your hiking expeditions.

It’s been proven to protect users from bacteria and protozoa, as well as harmful parasites that can lurk in natural water sources.

The Katadyn Hiker Pro makes use of activated carbon in its core to make water taste better. The activated carbon works to reduce the chemicals that appear in the water, too.

A great feature of the Katadyn Hiker Pro is that you can see the filtration process working. Thanks to its transparent nature, you’ll be able to see the filtration process in action, giving you extra peace of mind.

It also comes with features to ensure it lasts you a lifetime, including a cleanable filter protector screen.

You won’t have to worry about this water filter purifier system being a burden to carry. It may not be the lightest filter in this review but it is very effective. The compact size can easily be fitted in with the rest of your hiking essentials ready for you to use when you need it most.

Another great backpacking water filter system for expedition-style trips or when hiking in groups in remote areas.

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Best Water Filter Straw

LifeStraw Personal Review

Lifestraw Personal Water Filter

Weight: 1.6 oz / 46 grams
Filter Type: Straw
> Ultralight – won’t take up too much room in your backpack and light to carry
> Effective – removes 99.999999% of waterborne bacteria, 99.999% of waterborne parasites, and 99.999% of microplastics
> Easy to use – filters as you drink the water
> Best for the wilderness and not general travel.
> Does not attach to water bottles.

The LifeStraw Personal is the perfect choice if you’re looking for something that’s super lightweight.

This particular water filter only weighs 2 ounces, so will be an ultralight addition to your backpack. It actively filters the water as you use it to drink.

This means you won’t have to do any pumping, and there aren’t any batteries needed.

The LifeStraw Personal works to remove 99.999% of waterborne parasites, 99.999999% of waterborne bacteria, and 99.999% of microplastics.

It uses its unique microfiltration membrane to do so, as well as to reduce cloudiness, sand, and silt. All you need to do is stick your LifeStraw in the water and drink.

Another great feature is that it’s designed to last you for a long time. The microbiological filter gives you 4,000 liters of clean, safe drinking water.

The Lifestraw Personal does not attach to water bottles so it must be used like a straw by placing it into a bottle and sucking. Also great for drinking directly from streams or when using a large mouth water bottle.

The flow rate of the filter is OK and it works as promised.

This is a brand-name water filter that is best when used in remote areas as a straw to sip water from remote streams.

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Best Water Bottle Filter and Purifier

GRAYL Ultrapress Water Purifier Review

Grayl Ultrapress Water Bottle Filter and purifier

Weight: 12.5 oz / 354 grams
Filter Type: Water Bottle Filter
> Lightweight filter that you can add to your backpack.
> Removes the majority of bacteria and protozoa, parasites, and even many chemicals.
> This is the best lightweight filter for international travel.
> You will need to wait for the water to filter before it’s safe to drink.
> Can’t be used if the water has sediment which will restrict the flow rate and block easily.

The GRAYL Ultrapress water purifier is great for long hiking trips but much better suited to travel than backpacking in the wilderness. It is the updated version of the Grayl Geopress and is lighter and better.

The GRAYL is one of the better backpacking filters and purifiers which is quite compact and will easily fit in with the rest of your hiking or travel equipment.

It removes harmful waterborne pathogens to leave you with clean, safe water. Not only that, it works to make the water taste better overall, too.

The GRAYL Ultrapress water purifier is able to remove sediment, silt, as well as many chemicals such as chlorine and benzene. But when the water is filled with a lot of sediment it is very difficult to filter. Better to pre-filter the majority of the sediment first. For that reason, this is not the best lightweight filter for thru-hiking where water quality can be very poor.

This water bottle filter is capable of holding up to 16 ounces of water. This makes it the perfect addition for hiking as you can fill it up at a water source, then carry on with your hike while the water filters.

It’s easy to use. All you need to do is fill the container, press down on the lid, then drink once the water has had time to filter through.

An interesting feature is that it’s been designed for harsh environments. The filter itself contains two layers of media to ensure that you’re drinking safely during your adventures. This works to enhance impurity removal, and also gives you a second layer of protection.

Overall, this is one of the best backpacking water bottle filters and water purifiers for overseas travel to areas with very sketchy water sources.

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Best Water Purification Tablets

Katadyn Micropur MP1 Purification Tablets

Katadyn Micropur water purification tablets

Weight: oz / grams
Filter Type: Chemical
> Effective against bacteria & viruses
> Effective against Giardia and Cryptosporidium
> Ready to use in 30 to 240 minutes
> Has a 5-year shelf life
> There’s no aftertaste
> The time it takes to purify water depends on how cold & dirty it is

The Katadyn Micropur tablets offer excellent protection against bacteria and viruses in general, but they also offer very effective protection against two specific parasites, namely Giardia and Cryptosporidium.

I’ve been using this product since I first started hiking and they have been in my pack ever since, primarily as a backup only. The main reason I carry these as a backup is they can take between 20 minutes and 4 hours to purify dirty or cold water.

It tastes ok, there is not too much aftertaste to complain about. And it tastes much better than iodine-based purification tablets.

Using it was easy, just add one tablet per liter of water and give it a good shake.

The box of 20 tablets has a shelf life of 5 years, but I’ve kept mine a little longer than that without issue.

Overall, these are the best water purification tablets on the market in 2024.

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Best Backpacking UV Water Filter

Katadyn Steripen Ultra UV Filter

Steripen Ultra UV Water Treatment

Weight: 4.9 oz / 140 grams
Filter Type: UV Filter

> Quick
> Easy to Use
> Good battery life for about 50L
> If the battery runs out you can’t use it
> Does not filter the water so not so good in dirty water
> Not waterproof

I have used the Steripen Ultra for several years. It uses UV Light to kill everything in the water including viruses, bacteria, and more. Recently they have been purchased by Katadyn and is now called the Katadyn Steripen Ultra.

The Steripen Ultra is one of the quickest and simplest to use. Just fill up your bottle, insert the Steripen and turn it on. Depending on how much you are treating it will take 90 seconds for one liter.

The filter is not waterproof and can’t be used in the rain. I used this product in very light rain, not even enough to use a rain jacket and the filter broke. Despite some warranty issues early on I still use it to this day. Just be careful using it in wet weather.

The Steripen Ultra is rechargeable with a cable supplied with the product. And is good enough for around 50 liters and I can confirm that that is correct with real-world use. Just be sure to only use it with clean water. Dirty water must be pre-filtered first. Also, it doesn’t remove the bugs that are inside. They may be dead but you still ingest them. Not everyone will appreciate this.

Overall, the Katadyn Steripen Ultra is the best UV filter for backpacking and hiking.

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Sawyer Mini Review

Sawyer Mini water filter

Weight: 1.4 oz / 40 grams
Filter Type: Squeeze
> Effective – removes the vast majority of bacteria and parasites, as well as 100% of microplastics.
> Compact – small, lightweight, and easy to stash away in your backpack.
> Long lasting – filter life is up to 100,000 gallons of water over its lifetime.
> Clogs easily – silt and dirt build up quickly inside the filter due to its small size.

The Sawyer Mini water filtration system is very popular with ultralight thru-hikers. Weighing only 2 ounces / 56 grams, it is one of the most popular water filters for ultralight backpacking when completing any of the Hiking Triple Crown Trails.

The Sawyer Mini is attached to the end of a water bottle instead of the cap. You then squeeze the bottle and suck the water through the filter.

The hollow fiber filter does a good job but as it is so small it will clog up easier than any other filter which makes for a much lower flow rate. It is easy to back flush sediments and dirt from the filter with the lightweight syringe that is supplied.

Its lightweight and compact nature make it the perfect addition to your hiking gear. This particular water filter is highly effective.

It’s capable of removing 99.99999% of all bacteria from the water you filter as well as harmful parasites and microplastics that can lurk in the water. Giardia and cryptosporidium are removed with this filter.

A handy feature is that it’s capable of filtering up to 100,000 gallons of water. In reality, it will probably not last that long. I tended to replace this filter after every thru-hike or around 150 days of very heavy use, which can be around 1500 liters of water. I just drop the filter a lot and wanted to make sure it was not cracked or broken.

For those wanting a slightly faster flow rate, take a look at the Sawyer Squeeze. The Sawyer Squeeze is slightly heavier but for many hikers, they are a better option.

Overall, this is one of the best backpacking water filters to invest in if you are an ultralight thru-hiker who wants one of the lightest filters on the market. It just suffers from a slow flow rate and it clogs easily, go with the Sawyer Squeeze.

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Lifestraw Flex Squeeze

Lifetstraw Flex Water Filter

Weight: 1.7 oz / 48 grams
Filter Type: Squeeze

> Ultralight
> Has carbon filter to remove taste and flavor
> Compact Size
> Has some issues with leaks between the filter and the squeeze bottle
> Slow flow rate, much slower than stated by the company

I have been using the Lifestraw Flex for a couple of years. It is ultralight and very compact and can be used as an inline filter if you want to connect it to your hydration bladder.

The Lifestraw Flex comes with a nice flexible water bladder that comes in either 650 ml or 1 L. While the bladder works very well there are many hikers that have issues with leaks between the bladder and the filter. I have used this product for quite a while and have not had this issue. When I used to manage an outdoor retailer we had many people return this item for warranty claims!

The Filter that comes with the flex is super lightweight and comes with a carbon filter to remove chemicals and reduce the taste. The flow rate of the filter is OK but overall it is not as good as some other filters and is not even close to what the manufacturer claims. And it will block a bit easier than some others in this review.

The Lifestraw Flex has recently been replaced by the Lifestraw Peak but this item is still available at some retailers online.

Overall, I like the idea of the Lifestraw Flex. It ticks a lot of boxes. It is lightweight, compact, and great for ultralight hikers. But it really hasn’t impressed as well as it could have. Look to the Lifestraw Peak for an ultralight water filter for backpacking.

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Katadyn Vario

Katadyn Vario Water Pump Filter

Weight: 15 oz / 425 grams
Filter Type: Pump
> Versatile – can be used with a water bottle or adapter hose for larger containers.
> Fast – produces 2 quarts of water per minute.
> Replaceable components – you can easily replace some of the internal filters to keep it working for many years to come.
> Heavy.
> Expensive – costs a bit more than some competitor filters.

If you’re a passionate hiker who’s looking for something that will last you for several adventures, the Katadyn Vario water pump filter is a perfect choice.

The Katadyn Vario is pricier than some competitor products, however, it includes a range of features that make it a worthy investment. You can even replace some of the internal components for longevity.

I used one of the early versions of these pump filters back in the 1990s when I hiked my way around Alaska and South America. It worked perfectly to filter all the worst water sources back then and this model is no different.

This pump filter is super easy to use. All you need to do is give it a simple turn to make use of the ceramic pre-filter. Add the suction end to your water source, then use the pump to filter clean water into your water bottle.

It is capable of producing up to 2 quarts per minute in the faster flow mode. If you want to ensure that your filter lasts you for longer, you can choose the longer life mode, which produces 1 quart of water per minute.

A wonderful feature of the Katadyn Vario is how versatile it is. The adapter base can be used with water bottles directly, or you can attach it to an output hose to fill larger containers. This will make it a versatile addition to your hiking and camping gear.

This is one of the best expedition water pump filters for remote areas.

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Katadyn BeFree 0.6L Water Filter

Katadyn Befree 0.6L water filter

Weight: 2 oz / 59 grams
Filter Type: Squeeze
> Compact – features a collapsible flask for easier portability.
> Effective – removes 99.9999% of bacteria and 99.9% of harmful parasites.
> Long lasting – filter life up to 1,000 liters of contaminated water.
> Biological filter – not designed for chemically polluted water.

Another great product from Katadyn, the Katadyn BeFree 0.6L water filter is a perfect choice if you want something even more compact.

What’s great about this Katadyn BeFree is that you can easily fold up the bag when it’s not in use. This means it won’t take up loads of room in your pack.

This filter is highly effective. It works to remove harmful bacteria and protozoa from your water sources. So you won’t have to worry about whether the water you’re drinking will harm you or not!

The filter itself is super easy to clean after your hiking trips, too. Simply shake or swish the filter to get rid of any debris.

The Katadyn BeFree water filter is capable of filtering up to 1,000 liters of contaminated water. This makes it the perfect addition to your hiking equipment and should last you for ages.

Overall, the Katadyn BeFree is a simple water filter that is great for traveling and trail running. Just fill from a stream when trail running and off you go.

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EHS Water Filter Straw Review

EHS budget water filter straw

Weight: 2 oz / 59 grams
Filter Type: Straw or Bottle
> Lightweight
> Versatile – can be combined with tubing or a bottle for easier drinking.
> Effective – removes the vast majority of bacteria, harmful parasites, and other unwanted contaminants.
> Tubing not included – if you want to use tubing this will need to be bought separately.

The EHS water filter is a great choice if you have your heart set on a water filter straw. Slightly cheaper than the Lifestraw but just as effective.

This particular filter has been designed to be attached to the tubing so that you don’t have to get close to the water source in order to use it.

Simply attach the tubing to the end, dip this in your water source, and drink away. You can also easily attach a water bottle to the end instead of the straw instead if you would prefer to use it that way.

This water filter is highly effective. It’s capable of filtering out 99.99% of particles and other harmful materials. It also works to reduce the amount of microplastics, silt, and waste that may be present in the source water.

The EHS water filter is super lightweight and only weighs roughly 2 ounces. This will make it the perfect addition to your hiking backpack as it won’t take up too much room, and won’t be noticeably heavy in your pack.

A great alternative to the Lifestraw Personal Water Filter at a cheaper price.

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Waterdrop Gravity Water Filter

Waterdrop budget gravity filter

Weight: 4.6 oz / 130 grams
Filter Type: Gravity
> Highly effective – removes 99% of harmful substances
> Gravity operated – no need to get pumping for cleaner water
> Long lasting – can filter up to 100,000 gallons of water
> Needs gravity in order to filter properly

The Waterdrop gravity water filter will be a welcome addition to any hiker’s equipment. This particular water filter uses gravity to filter the water you find from natural sources.

Simply fill up the water bag, then wait for gravity to do the hard work for you. You can even attach this to any water bottles you have if you want the water to go into an easy-to-use container.

The equipment itself is lightweight, and won’t take up much room in your backpack when empty. This smaller frame also gives you a much larger capacity than competitive water filters. It’s capable of filtering up to 100,000 gallons of water, so will last you for many years to come.

The Waterdrop gravity water filter for backpacking is quite efficient. This water filter reduces 99% of harmful substances, leaving you with clean water that’s safe to drink. It even makes use of an activated carbon filter to help improve the taste of the water it filters.

One of the best basecamp or group gravity filters with a decent flow rate. Also great when hiking in the desert where large amounts of water need to be filtered between water sources.

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Best Backpacking water filter for the desert
Filtering water in the desert from a water source used for cows

More Great Water Filters

Here are some great hiking water filters that are not on the main list. Most have not been tested yet:

  • MSR Miniworks EX: The MSR Miniworks EX is a great filter for remote areas and expedition travel but the Katadyn filters are also great.
  • MSR Guardian: The MSR Guardian is just too expensive for anyone other than a Guiding Company looking for a top-quality hollow fiber gravity filter and water purifier.

Buyer’s Guide

Trying to find the best lightweight water filter for thru-hiking or backpacking is not an easy task. There are so many different types of water filters to choose from and with so many different weights. Rather than drink directly from a river or stream keep reading for more info on water filters to remove bacteria, protozoa, and viruses.

Best Water Filter for Drinking Very dirty water
This was some of the worst water I ever had to drink. Water was taken from an almost dry dam complete with cow poo and smelled like piss. The Sawyer Squeeze did the job.

Types of Filtration Systems

There are 8 main types of water filtration systems:

  • Pump Filters
  • Chemical Treatments
  • Gravity Filters
  • Straw Filters
  • Squeeze Filters
  • Filtered Water Bottles
  • UV Light Filters
  • Boiling Water

Pump Filters

Most Pump Filters use a hand pump and are generally heavier than all the other filters and best suited to expedition-style trips into the backcountry or large groups. It takes a lot more effort to use these filters but they have the advantage of usually having the best filters that can also act as water purifiers.

Usually, they use a ceramic filter instead of hollow fiber filters which makes them heavier but more reliable and for the most part, they will be easier to clean.

Chemical Treatments

Chemical treatment generally uses chemicals to kill the bacteria, protozoa, viruses, and other nasty things in the water. Chemicals such as chlorine dioxide tablets, iodine, and odorless bleach are among the best and should be a part of any purification system. Chlorine Dioxide is the most common chemical treatment and this system should be in every backpacker’s rucksack.

The main downside of this method is the wait time, which is usually 30 minutes. While I prefer squeeze filters as my primary treatment method I always carry these with me as a backup. Take a look at the review of the Best Water Purification Tablets for a better understanding of why you need to carry these with you on every backpacking trip.

Gravity Filters

A Backpacking Gravity Filter is one of the best backpacking water filters and a water purifier for backpacking in large groups. Gravity filters are able to filter large quantities of water very quickly due to the fast flow rate. When hiking in a large group it is often very weight efficient compared to each group member carrying their own filters.

testing a backpacking gravity filter
Testing the Platypus Gravityworks filter in a mountain stream

Straw Filters

Straw Filters are small lightweight water filters that are simple to use and only need to be placed into the water and used like a normal drinking straw. The straw filter lacks the functionality of most of the other water filtration devices in this review but they still work great and are very simple. The 0.2 microns filters are good enough to remove all the nasty bugs but not viruses.

They are almost the complete opposite of a gravity filter which is best suited to group hiking trips. The Straw filter is best suited to solo backpacking and as an emergency water filter.

Squeeze Filters

Squeeze filters are the best choice for ultralight hikers and solo hikers. They are lightweight, simple, and do a great job. These filters can be attached to an inline hydration bladder or to a drinking bottle such as a smart water bottle. They can be easily cleaned by back-flushing while out in the field. These 0.2 microns filters are my choice for ultralight thru-hikers but they cannot remove viruses.

Compared to pump and gravity filters they are much lighter and usually quite a lot cheaper but will block up quicker and require back flushing which is very easy to do. They also have a lower flow rate than other filters.

Using the Sawyer Squeeze water filter while testing in the desert
Squeeze water filters are the choice for ultralight thru-hikers

Filtered Water Bottles

Filtered Water Bottles are the best choice for travelers and not really the best for taking into the backcountry. Some water filters and purifiers can filter not only bacteria and protozoa but also plastics.

Some have carbon filters which is the preferred treatment method to reduce the smell and chemicals in the water for the total water purification systems. The bottled filters usually last a long time and can be replaced when they have reached their end of life.

UV Light Filters

Using an Ultraviolet Light Filter is great as a water purifier for backpacking trips. They use UV light purifiers to kill the protozoa and bacteria and viruses present in the water. This water purification method is great for traveling and great in the backcountry when the water is not too dirty.

Unlike other filters and purifiers that use a filter the treated water may still have dirt or sediment which some people may not like. If hiking in areas with sediment in the water the ability to filter water to remove sediment is preferred.

The best ones use a rechargeable battery and can treat 1 liter of water in 90 seconds. When it comes to killing protozoa, bacteria, and viruses, the Ultraviolet Light Water Filter works best.

Testing the Steripen UV filter in a mountain stream
I have used and tested the Steripen UV filter for more than 8 years, still going strong

Boiling Water

The age-old method of boiling water never fails to kill all the nasty bugs in the water. It is a water purification method that works. Just be sure to make sure the water is on a rolling boil for at least 2 minutes. Also, take into account altitude. If at a high altitude the water will boil at a lower temperature which limits how well it can kill all the bugs.

Filtering Bacteria, Protozoa, Viruses, and Parasites

The most important factor to consider is what kind of filtration your chosen water filter is able to offer you.

There is all manner of harmful viruses, bacteria, protozoa, and parasites lurking in natural water. I found this out the hard way. I have picked up both Giardia and Cryptosporidium while in the backcountry on hiking trips. Cryptosporidium and Giardia are both unpleasant and preventable with a good filter.

It is worth noting that not all filters will kill all bacteria, protozoa, and viruses. Viruses usually are so small they are not filtered from the water by most filters.

Good water filters for backpacking can also remove harmful chemicals. This will of course depend on where exactly you go hiking, as there may be no need to worry about human interference if you’re out in the wild.

The best backpacking water filters can remove microplastics. These are known to slip through water treatment plants and get released into water systems around the globe.

Need a good water filter for drinking bad water in the desert, using the Sawyer Squeeze.
You need one of the best backpacking water filters for the desert when hiking the Continental Divide Trail

Removing Taste and Chemicals

An activated carbon filter attached to the main filter is best to remove chemicals and the bad smell of polluted water sources. They are a great addition to water filters and purifiers to remove the taste. But carbon filters need to be replaced regularly, often after as little as 100 liters of filtering.

I have used activated carbon filters many times over the years. In my opinion, they work best when traveling overseas and filtering water from sketchy hotel rooms. Overall, activated carbon does a great job of reducing chemicals and the taste of water.

Pre Filtering

In really bad areas you will need to pre-filter the water. Many years ago I was backpacking trip in the remote sections of Denali National Park and my only water source was from a heavily silted glacier. The dark grey water for so silty I had to put the water into my pot and allow it to sit for at least an hour before I could filter it. Glacial silt is no joke and will clog any filter very quickly.

If I had something like a pre-filter I could have filtered the water much easier. Pre-filtering with something such as a clean cloth or pantyhose can be used to great effect when on backpacking trips where the water is disgusting.

Flow Rate

The flow rate refers to the amount of water that can be filtered in a given period of time, usually measured in liters per minute. Most of the units in this review had a flow rate of between 0.5 L/min to 2.5 L/min. Gravity filters do well with this metric and units such as the straw style filters are the slowest.

Testing the platypus quickdraw which has a good flow rate
Testing the Platypus Quickdraw water filter system which has a good flow rate

Filter Life

Most of the filters in this review have a filter life of at least 1000 liters. To put that in context, that is a lot of water and is enough for most people to use for 100 days and nights of use or more.


You will of course want a water filtration system that’s lightweight. This makes it easier to carry around while you go hiking.

Take a look at how much the backpacking water filters weigh. A compact filter will also be easier to stash away in your backpack when it’s not in use.

When hiking in a group it is possible to share the weight of the larger bulkier filters. A gravity filter may be heavier than an inline filter that attaches to a water bottle but when the weight is shared between 4 people or more they work out to be lighter.

Drinking water from streams in the backcountry without a water filter
The easiest water filter is no filter at all! In the backcountry, it is always best to use some sort of filtration system

Easy of use

There are so many different types of water filters available. You should opt for a water filter or purifier that’s easy for you to use.

The last thing you’ll want while you’re out hiking is a water filter that’s too complicated to use in a pinch! Take a look at the style of water filter that you would prefer.

Gathering water from a Stream in New Mexico about to be filtered
Collecting water from a small desert stream before attaching a Squeeze Filter.

Price and Value

From only a couple of dollars all the way up to around $100 for the most expensive items in this review. When purchasing one of the best backpacking water filters, the cost often means it will last a lot longer. Some of the cheaper ones will not last forever and will need to be replaced. In most cases, the filter can be replaced.


Overall, there are many methods that can be used for water purification. Which water purification method and filter you choose is up to you. I have used all the methods described in this review and each has pros and cons depending on the purpose of the backpacking trip and how many people are coming along.

Overall, here is the best backpacking water filter for thru-hiking and camping on the market in 2024:

Another one of the Best Hiking Gear Reviews from BikeHikeSafari.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you filter water while backpacking?

You can filter water while backpacking by using a water filter! There are many different types to choose from.
Some feature a straw design that you stick into your water source; some require you to pump the water through the filter; some even use gravity to do all the work for you.
You can take a look at the best ultralight water filters for hiking above to get you started with the best water filters for your backpacking needs.

Best Water Filter for Backpacking
Complete Guide to the Best Water Filters for Backpacking

BikeHikeSafari Gear Review Process

The author, Brad McCartney from BikeHikeSafari is a small independent adventurer and outdoor gear tester who owns and runs

BikeHikeSafari is not part of a large blog network and is proudly independent. All reviews on this site are independent and honest gear reviews of outdoor products by the author.

The author, Brad McCartney is a very experienced triple crown thru-hiker, adventurer, and bike tourer having spent 1000s of nights sleeping in a tent and sleeping bag (Read more). He was a manager of an outdoor retail store and is very experienced in what is important when using and testing gear for reviews like this.

BikeHikeSafari will never receive any money for reviews and they do not accept sponsored reviews on this website. All the comments about the gear reviews are from the author based on his years of experience. Hope this independent review was helpful for you.

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About the Author:
Brad is an Australian who has completed the hiking Triple Crown after he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail. He has hiked on every continent (except Antarctica) and has cycled from Alaska to Ecuador. He is an expert on outdoor gear currently living in Chile.

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