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When you’re backpacking, water is the number one necessity. Water is also incredibly heavy, so you don’t want to – and simply won’t be able to – carry all the water you need for a trip on your back. That’s where backpacking water filters come in. They provide clean water anywhere you find a water source. But with all the different types, how do you choose the backpacking water filter that’s right for you? Here at The Adventure Junkies, we have sifted through an assortment of water filters to provide you with clarity in water and in your choice of the best backpacking water filter.

For more of our top backpacking gear recommendations, check out the Best Backpacking Water Purifiers.

 

Quick Answer - The Best Backpacking Water Filters

  1. Sawyer Micro Squeeze
  2. LifeStraw Universal Bottle Adapter
  3. Platypus GravityWorks
  4. MSR TrailShot
  5. Katadyn Hiker Pro
  6. Grayl Ultralight
  7. SteriPEN Ultra
  8. Aquamira Frontier Max
  9. Katadyn BeFree
  10. MSR Trail Base

 

Comparison Table - Best Backpacking Water Filter

PictureNameWeightFilter ActionRemoves/EliminatesPriceRating
Sawyer Micro Squeeze2.5 ozStraw/SqueezeProtozoa & Bacteria$4.4
LifeStraw Universal Bottle Adapter3.7 ozStrawProtozoa & Bacteria$4.2
Platypus GravityWorksProtozoa & BacteriaGravity11.5 oz$$$4.6
MSR TrailShot5.2 ozSqueezeProtozoa & Bacteria$4.1
Katadyn Hiker Pro11 ozPumpProtozoa & Bacteria$$4.0
Grayl Ultralight10.9 ozPressProtozoa, Bacteria, & Viruses$$4.3
SteriPEN Ultra4.94 ozUltraviolet LightProtozoa, Bacteria, & Viruses$$$3.7
Aquamira Frontier Max7 ozGravityProtozoa, Bacteria, & Viruses$4.2
Katadyn BeFree2.3 ozSqueezeProtozoa, Bacteria, & Viruses$3.9
MSR Trail Base1 lb 0.3 ozGravity/SqueezeProtozoa & Bacteria$$$4.0
PictureNameWeightFilter ActionRemoves/EliminatesPriceRating
Want to learn more about a technical term? Check out our Features Explained section below.

Need buying advice? Take a look at these Things to Consider.

Reviews - The Best Water Filters for Backpacking

Sawyer Micro Squeeze

Specs
  • Weight: 2.5 oz
  • Filter Action: Straw/Squeeze
  • Removes/Eliminates: Protozoa & Bacteria
Features
  • Can Drink Directly From Water Source with Straw Attachment
  • Attaches to Hydration Pack Tube and Some Water Bottles
  • Included Drinking Pouch

BEST FOR: HYDRATING ON THE MOVE

If you’re out on a solo backpacking trip and want your water on the go, the Sawyer Micro Squeeze is the perfect backpacking water filter to keep in your pack. The Micro Squeeze filters water quickly, although its ideal use is for one person. You can use the included straw to drink directly from a water source if you need immediate hydration, or you can fill the included 32oz drinking pouch and drink from that. The filter can also attach to standard size water bottle threads as well as to your hydration pouch, so it is quite adaptable.

The Sawyer Micro Squeeze can be prone to clogging, especially if you’re filtering water with a lot of sediment. A syringe is included to wash out the filter after each use, and it is a good idea to bring it with you on a multiple day trip.

LifeStraw Universal Bottle Adapter

Specs
  • Weight: 3.7 oz
  • Filter Action: Straw
  • Removes/Eliminates: Protozoa & Bacteria
Features
  • Interchangeable Caps & Mouthpieces to Fit a Range of Water Bottles
  • Carbon Filter Improves Taste of Water
  • Comes with a Carry Bag

BEST FOR: COMPATIBILITY WITH WATER BOTTLES

The Lifestraw Universal water filter turns your own water bottles into a source of fresh and clean water. The Lifestraw kit comes with two sizes of caps and two different mouthpieces, so it works with just about any water bottle that is tall enough to fit the Lifestraw. Once you attach the cap, mouthpiece, and LifeStraw itself, you simply drink out of the bottle, so you’re good to go as you hike.

One concern with the LifeStraw is that the straw filter can be prone to getting disconnected from the cap, so you’ll want to check and make sure it is securely in place before drinking from it (especially if your water bottle is not translucent so you can’t keep an eye on it).

Platypus GravityWorks

Specs
  • Weight: Protozoa & Bacteria
  • Filter Action: Gravity
  • Removes/Eliminates: 11.5 oz
Features
  • Filters Up to 4 Liters of Water in a Few Minutes
  • Shutoff Control Valve to Easily Fill Bottles & Other Containers
  • Antimicrobial Treatment Keeps Water Reservoirs Clean

BEST FOR: GROUP CAMPING

When you’re backpacking and camping with a group, the Platypus GravityWorks system is a great choice to filter a lot of water quickly. You can easily fill the designated dirty water reservoir with untreated water, then simply hang it above the clean water reservoir, and gravity does the work of passing the water through the filter between them, giving you 4 liters of filtered water in just a few minutes. You then can fill water bottles, pots, and other containers from the clean water reservoir without spilling thanks to a shutoff control valve.

The Platypus GravityWorks does best with deeper water sources, such as lakes or rivers, since you need to be able to scoop up the water with the dirty reservoir.

MSR TrailShot

Specs
  • Weight: 5.2 oz
  • Filter Action: Squeeze
  • Removes/Eliminates: Protozoa & Bacteria
Features
  • Easy to Clean in the Field with No Tools Required
  • Can Drink Straight from Water Source
  • Simple to Set Up and Use

BEST FOR: COMPACTNESS

Though you’ll probably stow it in your pack most of the time, the MSR Trailshot is small enough to fit in your pocket and is very lightweight. It also is extremely simple to use – with the included tube, you can drink straight from a water source or pump from the source into a water bottle or hydration pack to take with you as you head down the trail. The Trailshot doesn’t require any setup or have any extra parts that you might lose or forget.

While the MSR Trailshot offers simplicity, the pump can tire your hand out over time, so if you need lots of water or are on a long trip, it might not be your best choice.

Katadyn Hiker Pro

Specs
  • Weight: 11 oz
  • Filter Action: Pump
  • Removes/Eliminates: Protozoa & Bacteria
Features
  • Can Directly Connect to Hydration Reservoirs
  • Comes with Carry Sack and Bottle Adapter
  • Included Field Maintenance Kit to Keep Filter Running Smoothly

BEST FOR: SHALLOW WATER

The Katadyn Hiker Pro is a standard pump filter that requires some manual labor to get your water but works well, especially in areas without high flowing water. Thanks to its long intake tube, you can access shallow pools and small crevasses of water very easily. A clear container lets you see when the filter needs cleaning or replacement. The Katadyn Hiker Pro comes with a field maintenance kit for when it does need cleaning, and you’ll probably have to use that a lot when filtering silty water.

The Hiker Pro comes with a carry bag to stow all the elements of the kit, including a bottle adapter. Though it is a reliable and simple filter, it does run on the heavy side, so a solo backpacker should look for a lighter option.

Grayl Ultralight

Specs
  • Weight: 10.9 oz
  • Filter Action: Press
  • Removes/Eliminates: Protozoa, Bacteria, & Viruses
Features
  • Removes Viruses Which is Especially Useful for International Travel
  • Durable Plastic Bottle
  • Filter Can Withstand Freezing

BEST FOR: REPLACING A WATER BOTTLE

The Grayl Ultralight is a water bottle on its own with a purifier inside, so instead of attaching to your own personal water bottle, it takes its place. To use it, fill up the water bottle, then use the filter like a plunger to purify it. You can then dump the water into a larger container if you need more, or simply drink from the bottle as you continue on your way. The Grayl Ultralight removes viruses from water, which is important if you’re traveling internationally.

The Grayl Ultralight does require some muscle power to use, and it doesn’t handle silty water well or at all if it is especially full of sediment.

SteriPEN Ultra

Specs
  • Weight: 4.94 oz
  • Filter Action: Ultraviolet Light
  • Removes/Eliminates: Protozoa, Bacteria, & Viruses
Features
  • Ultraviolet Light Filter Doesn’t Require Any Manual Labor
  • Destroys Viruses Which is Useful for International Travel
  • Can Be Used in Just About Any Water Container

BEST FOR: VERSATILITY

The Steripen Ultra is a unique backpacking water filter that uses ultraviolet light to remove bacteria and viruses. All it takes is a press of a button and a stir in any water container, and you’re ready to drink. It’s small enough to fit in cups, mugs, and water bottles, making it extremely versatile.

It is powered by an internal battery which needs to be charged, so if you’re out in the backcountry for a long time, that could eventually become an issue. However, it can be recharged via a USB cable used with a solar panel, if that is part of your kit.

Aquamira Frontier Max

Specs
  • Weight: 7 oz
  • Filter Action: Gravity
  • Removes/Eliminates: Protozoa, Bacteria, & Viruses
Features
  • Connects to a Variety of Hydration Packs
  • Won’t Accidentally Disconnect Due to Two-Button Release
  • Can Convert to a Straw Filter

BEST FOR: ADAPTABILITY

The Aquamira Frontier Max can be used in multiple ways as it includes a number of adapters to work with hydration reservoirs and gravity filters. With the bite valve, it can also be used as a straw filter if necessary. A two-button release system means it is difficult to accidentally disconnect the filter. The Frontier Max removes viruses, too, so it is a good choice if you’ll be traveling internationally.

However, the Aquamira Frontier Max is somewhat slow during the filtration process, so it can take awhile to get clean water. This is especially pronounced in silty, sediment-filled water sources.

Katadyn BeFree

Specs
  • Weight: 2.3 oz
  • Filter Action: Squeeze
  • Removes/Eliminates: Protozoa, Bacteria, & Viruses
Features
  • Collapsible Water Bottle is Easy to Pack When Not in Use
  • Simple to Clean by Shaking or Swishing
  • Cap Keeps Drink Nozzle Clean

BEST FOR: PORTABILITY

Combining a water filter with a collapsible bottle, the Katadyn BeFree is an extremely portable system that you can carry with you on the trail or squish down to fit in your pack. Filling the BeFree is as simple as dunking it in a water source, and then sipping fresh clean water through the filter. You can also use it to fill other water bottles if you need more volume.

Although the Katadyn BeFree is easy to stow and throw in a pack, the collapsible bottle is not the most durable, so you should be a bit careful when using it and putting it away with a bunch of other gear.

MSR Trail Base

Specs
  • Weight: 1 lb 0.3 oz
  • Filter Action: Gravity/Squeeze
  • Removes/Eliminates: Protozoa & Bacteria
Features
  • Includes Both a Gravity and Squeeze Filter System
  • 3-in-1 Cap Makes It Easy to Fill, Pour, and Drink
  • Can Fill From Lots of Water Sources With Hand Pump or Bag

BEST FOR: VARIETY OF ADVENTURES

The MSR Trail Base combines a gravity filter with the MSR TrailShot pump filter, so you can use it for large groups at base camp or take the TrailShot with you on solo or smaller adventures. The gravity system is set up using the TrailShot as the filter and provides up to 4L of water quickly.

As might be expected, the MSR Trail Base is quite heavy, so it isn’t ideal to take the whole system if you’re out on your own. However, because you can use the TrailShot on its own, having the Trail Base in your gear closet gives you a great option for any kind of adventure.

 

 

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING BACKPACKING WATER FILTERS

Water filtration is one of the most important considerations on a backpacking trip. If you get dehydrated, it could at the very least make your hiking miserable, and if you’re way out in the backcountry and run out of water, it could be life-threatening. But if you drink contaminated water, you could get extremely sick, so not filtering your water is really not an option. REI explains the basics of filtering water and the different methods to do so. Depending on your needs, different factors will affect your choice of the right backpacking water filter for you.

WHAT IT REMOVES

Most water filters remove both protozoa and bacteria, which is what is important when you’re in the backcountry in the United States. However, if you often travel internationally, you’ll want a filter that also removes viruses, which are more common to find abroad. Also, some filters use activated charcoal to improve the taste of the water, if that is a concern for you.

 

SPEED OF FILTERING

When you’re thirsty, you want water right away, so it’s key to consider the speed of your water filter. With a straw filter, you can drink directly from a water source, but it won’t be as useful if you’re with a group. A hand pump requires you to work for your water, while a gravity system gives you a lot of water quickly without much hands-on action. Additionally, some filters handle sediment-filled water well, while others slow or stop if there is too much silt.

 

WEIGHT

The weight of your gear is always a consideration when you’re backpacking, and water filters are no exception. If you’re traveling solo and want to keep things super light, look for a small squeeze filter or perhaps the SteriPen. However, if you’re heading out to the backcountry in a group and need water at your basecamp, it’s worth the extra weight to bring a gravity system that can supply you with a large volume of water for everyone.

 

 

FEATURES EXPLAINED

STRAW FILTER

Allows you to drink directly from a water source.

GRAVITY FILTER

Hanging hydration bags with a filter in between doesn’t require manual pumping or squeezing.

HYDRATION RESERVOIR

A flexible plastic water bag that you can put in a pack and drink through a tube.

READ MORE

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