Water is one of the essential items that you need to survive. Without access to safe water, you’re not going to finish your backpacking trip. The good news is that you don’t have to carry all of your water with you. Using the best backpacking water filter, you can refill your water anytime you come across a stream or river on the trail.
The average person needs between 2 and 4 liters of water a day, sometimes more when hiking in hot weather. That’s a lot of water to carry on a multi-day hike. And if you’re cooking on your backpacking trip, you’ll need safe water to cook and clean with too.
Getting all that water is easier if you have a backpacking water filter with you to purify H2O as you go. How will you know which backpacking water filter is right for you? This guide will help you find the best backpacking water filter for your journey.
For more of our top backpacking gear recommendations, check out the Best Backpacking Water Purifiers.
Quick Answer - The Best Backpacking Water Filters
- Katadyn Hiker Pro
- MSR Miniworks Ex
- Katadyn Vario
- Platypus Gravityworks
- MSR AutoFlow Gravity
- Katadyn Gravity Camp
- Sawyer Mini
- Etekcity Portable 1500L Emergency
Comparison Table - Best Backpacking Water Filter
|Katadyn Hiker Pro||1.0 liter per minute||11.0 ounces||Pump||$$||4.5|
|MSR Miniworks Ex||1.0 liter per minute||14.6 ounces||Pump||$$||4.4|
|Katadyn Vario||1.1 liters per minute||17.6 ounces||Pump||$$||4.4|
|Platypus Gravityworks||1.8 liters per minute||11.5 ounces||Gravity||$$$||4.6|
|MSR AutoFlow Gravity||1.8 liters per minute||10.5 ounces||Gravity||$$$||4.7|
|Katadyn Gravity Camp||2.0 liters per minute||12.4 ounces||Gravity||$$||4.3|
|Sawyer Mini||N/A||2.0 ounces||Straw||$||4.7|
|Etekcity Portable 1500L Emergency||N/A||2.1 ounces||Straw||$||4.5|
MULTI-DAY HIKING PACKING LIST
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Reviews - The Best Water Filters for Backpacking
Katadyn Hiker Pro
BEST FOR: 3-SEASON BACKPACKING
PROS: Glass fiber/carbon core filter medium, BPA free, includes field maintenance kit, filters water quickly, can connect directly to hydration reservoirs, removes protozoa and bacteria down to 0.2 microns, can handle silty and muddy water
CONS: Doesn’t perform well in freezing temperatures, filter can clog over time, handle and intake valve are not durable
MSR Miniworks Ex
BEST FOR: ALL WATER ACCESS CONDITIONS
PROS: Ceramic with carbon core filter medium, BPA free, field cleanable, filters water quickly, screws onto wide mouth bottles, removes protozoa and bacteria down to 0.2 microns
CONS: Heavy, doesn’t perform well in freezing temperatures, filter can get clogged by silty and slimy water, pump takes a lot of force to use, filter requires a lot of cleaning, output hose not included
BEST FOR: SHORT TRIPS
PROS: Pleated glass fiber/ceramic filter medium, BPA free, field cleanable, filters water quickly, 2-filter system, removes protozoa and bacteria down to 0.2 microns, two modes – one that extends the lifetime of the filter, attaches to bottles, output hose included
CONS: Heavy, ceramic filter can get clogged by silty and slimy water, prone to leaks, inlet port protrudes and can get damaged
BEST FOR: ALL-SEASON HIKING/BACKPACKING
PROS: Inexpensive, lightweight, hollow fiber membrane filter medium, BPA free, field cleanable, filters water quickly, lifetime filtering of up to 1,000 liters, removes protozoa and bacteria down to 0.2 microns
CONS: Requires straw suction from either water source or bottle to filter, straw takes a bit to get going, filters only for immediate consumption
BEST FOR: LONG TRIPS
PROS: Hollow fiber filter medium, BPA free, field cleanable, dirty and clean water reservoirs have 4-liter capacity, filters water quickly, removes protozoa and bacteria down to 0.2 microns, shutoff hose clamp, antimicrobial treatment, made of durable material, has strap to hang while it filters
CONS: Expensive, filter can get clogged by silty and slimy water, filter can freeze which inhibits use in cold weather backpacking, need to use a cup to fill the dirty water reservoir when at shallow water sources
MSR AutoFlow Gravity
BEST FOR: BASE CAMP
PROS: Hollow fiber filter, BPA free, field cleanable, dirty water reservoir has 4 liter capacity, filters water quickly, removes protozoa and bacteria down to 0.2 microns, universal bottle adapter included, shutoff clamp, durable fabric reservoir, has strap to hang while it filters
CONS: Expensive, filter can get clogged by silty and slimy water, need to use a cup to fill the dirty water reservoir when at shallow water sources
Katadyn Gravity Camp
BEST FOR: FASTEST OUTPUT
PROS: Pleated glass fiber/carbon core filter, BPA free, includes field cleaning supplies, dirty reservoir has 6-liter capacity, filters water quickly, removes protozoa and bacteria down to 0.2 microns, sediment trap grabs dirt before it enters filter, clips into hydration bladders, has strap to hang while it filters
CONS: Flow rate is inhibited if there isn’t a good place to hang the bag, filter can get clogged by silty and slimy water
BEST FOR: EASY ACCESS WATER CONDITIONS
PROS: Inexpensive, lightweight, hollow fiber membrane filter medium, BPA free, includes syringe for field cleaning, filters water quickly, includes reusable water pouch, lifetime filtering of up to 378,000 liters, removes protozoa and bacteria down to 0.1 microns
CONS: Filter can freeze which inhibits use in cold weather backpacking, requires straw suction from either water source or bottle to filter, straw takes a bit to get going, filters only for immediate consumption, problems with durability
Etekcity Portable 1500L Emergency
BEST FOR: BACK UP USE/EMERGENCIES
PROS: Inexpensive, lightweight, carbon fiber filter medium, includes syringe for field cleaning, includes reusable water pouch, includes a longer straw to attach to the filter, lifetime filtering of up to 1,500 liters, removes protozoa and bacteria down to 0.01 microns
CONS: Requires straw suction from either water source or bottle to filter, straw takes a bit to get going, flow rate is slow, filters only for immediate consumption
HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST BACKPACKING WATER FILTERS
WATER FILTER TYPES
In this guide, we recommend three kinds of water filter types: gravity, pump, and straw. What do these terms mean and how do you know which backpacking water filter will work for you?
Gravity filters use the force of gravity to direct the dirty water through the filter. They usually consist of an elevated dirty reservoir bag that you fill with water. Gravity helps push this water through the filter and into a clean reservoir, water bottle, or hydration pouch.
Gravity filters are easy to use. They can also be a great option if you need to filter large amounts of water for a group trip.
Because they use gravity to work, you’ll have to find somewhere to hang the dirty water reservoir. If you’re in an area without trees, this can be a challenge. It can also be hard to adequately fill the reservoir if only shallow water sources are available.
Pump filters use a pumping mechanism to pull water from the source. This water is directed into a tube, through the filter, and into your waiting water bottle.
With a pump filter, you can easily pull water from deep or shallow water sources. There’s also no water waste as you only pump what you need.
The downside is that pumping can take a lot of energy and force. When you’re tired from a day of backpacking, this extra work can feel like quite the hassle.
Straw filters work like drinking straws. Sucking water through the filter, you can draw safe water from almost any source.
These filters are lightweight and incredibly easy to use. However, there’s no way to filter large quantities of water with a straw filter. You’re also only getting water when you’re next to a water source. If you need a lot of water or if you’re in an area with limited water, the straw filter will leave you high and dry.
PROTOZOA AND BACTERIA REMOVAL
Your backpacking water filter does more than remove grit and dirt from your water. It also gets rid of the microscopic protozoa and bacteria that can leave you stuck on the toilet if you drink them.
The filters included in this guide all remove protozoa and bacteria down to at least 0.2 microns. According to the Water Quality Association, the smallest bacteria are 0.2 microns wide. So, you can trust that these water filters are keeping even the smallest bacteria out of your water.
While most water filters eliminate protozoa and bacteria, they aren’t designed to remove viruses. If you’re traveling in an area where viruses might be in your water, you’ll need a water purifier. Check out our article, Backpacking Water Purifiers 101, to find one that’s right for you.
CLEANING AND BACK FLUSHING
The silt, tiny bugs, and other gross stuff that you take out of your water will eventually clog your filter. As your filter gets blocked, its filtering speed may slow down to a trickle or a stop.
To fix this, you’ll need to clean or back flush your water filter. Unclogging your water filter is something that you may need to do in the middle of your journey. Choose a filter you think will be easy to clean on the trail.
REPLACING THE FILTER
How long will your filter last before it needs replacing? Some filters can do a few thousand liters. Others have only a 500-liter lifespan.
Replacement filters are available for many backpacking water filters. Some water filters are no longer usable once they’ve hit their lifetime number of liters.