Finding the best backpacking water purifier is an important yet confusing, experience. A few too many protozoan cysts in your water on a backpacking trip and you’ll be doubled over in your tent wishing for home.

But do you need to filter or purify that water to make it safe to drink? Should you get something that removes viruses or protozoa like Giardia and Cryptosporidium? Or both? Does a UV purifier do what you need? How can you tell?

That’s where we come in. There are many gear decisions to make. One of our goals here at The Adventure Junkies is to simplify shopping for outdoor gear. In this article, we’ll cover things to keep in mind when choosing backpacking water purifiers. We’ll also show you how to find one that works best for you and keeps your water clean and you feeling great on your trip.

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QUICK ANSWER – THE BEST BACKPACKING WATER PURIFIERS 

1. MSR Guardian Purifier

2. Camelbak All Clear Water Purifier (Uv)

3. MSR Aquatabs

4. Grayl Ultralight Purifier Bottle

5. Aquamira (Chlorine Dioxide Drops)

6. MSR Sweetwater Water Purifier

7. Lifestraw Family 1.0 Water Purifier

8. Katadyn Micropur Tablets (Chlorine Dioxide)

9. Potable Aqua Iodine Tablets

10. Steripen Classic 3 Water Purifier

 

 

 

BACKPACKING WATER PURIFIERS REVIEWS

MSR GUARDIAN

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon |REI

BEST FOR: Hikers who don’t want to wait for chemicals or are in extreme conditions

TYPE: Pump filter/purifier

WEIGHT: 25 oz

SPEED: 2.5 liters per minute

LIFESPAN: 10,000 liters per replaceable cartridge

PROS: Fast, durable, 10,000 liter cartridge, no waiting for chemicals, self-cleaning as you pump

CONS: Heavy, expensive, have to pump

 

 

 

CAMELBAK ALL CLEAR WATER PURIFIER BOTTLE

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon |REI

BEST FOR: Hikers wanting a purifier and bottle in one

TYPE: UV bottle

WEIGHT: 10.6 oz

SPEED: 1 liter per minute

LIFESPAN: 80 cycles per charge, 10,000 cycles per battery

PROS: USB rechargeable, easy to use, effective against protozoa, bacteria and viruses

CONS: Doesn’t pre-filter silt, requires charging

 

 

 

MSR AQUATABS

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: A lightweight option for viruses

TYPE: Tablets

WEIGHT: 0.32 oz

SPEED: 30 minutes to treat

LIFESPAN: 2 liters per tablet, 30 tablets in pack

PROS: Lightweight, inexpensive, easy to use, long expiration date

CONS: Not effective against Cryptosporidium, adds some taste

 

 

 

GRAYL ULTRALIGHT PURIFIER BOTTLE

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon |REI

BEST FOR: Filtering and purifying everything in one bottle

TYPE: Filter/purifier bottle

WEIGHT: 10.9 oz

SPEED: 2 liters/minute

LIFESPAN: 150 liters per cartridge

PROS: Filter and purifier in one, removes some heavy metals and chemicals, lightweight for filter/purifier

CONS: Don’t know when to change cartridge, water source needs to be deep enough for bottle, only holds ½ liter

 

 

 

AQUAMIRA WATER TREATMENT DROPS

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon |REI

BEST FOR: A lightweight option to treat all protozoa and viruses or backup treatment

TYPE: Chlorine Dioxide drops

WEIGHT: 3.2 oz

SPEED: 20-35 minutes depending on turbidity

LIFESPAN: 1 package treats 113 liters

PROS: Lightweight, inexpensive, reliable, effective against Cryptosporidium, adjustable amount for your container

CONS: Slow, can make bad water taste better, doesn’t filter silt, need to mix chemicals and wait

 

 

 

MSR SWEETWATER WATER PURIFIER

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon |REI

BEST FOR: Good value for silty water

TYPE: Pump filter + chemical solution

WEIGHT: 16 oz

SPEED: 1 liter/minute + 5 minutes for virus solution

LIFESPAN: 750 liters per filter cartridge, virus solution bottle treats 300 liters

PROS: Can just carry filter, handle is easy to pump, good price for pump, easy to tell when to replace cartridge

CONS: Have to filter then add solution, heavier than tablets, handle feels delicate

 

 

 

LIFESTRAW FAMILY 1.0 WATER PURIFIER

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Setting up base camp

TYPE: Gravity filter/purifier

WEIGHT: 24 oz

SPEED: 0.15 – 0.2 liters/minute

LIFESPAN: 18,000 liters

PROS: No chemicals, long lifespan, easy to use, good for groups

CONS: Slow, heavy

 

 

 

KATADYN MICROPUR TABLETS

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon |REI

BEST FOR: Lightweight option effective against Cryptosporidium, backup treatment

TYPE: Chlorine Dioxide tablets

WEIGHT: 0.9 oz

SPEED: 15 – 30 minutes/liter

LIFESPAN: 1 liter per tablet, packs of 20 or 30

PROS: Lightweight, individually wrapped, only 15 minutes if not waiting for Cryptosporidium

CONS: Slow for Cryptosporidium, slight taste, doesn’t filter silt

 

 

 

POTABLE AQUA IODINE TABLETS

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon |REI

BEST FOR: Lightweight option just for Giardia and viruses

TYPE: Iodine Tablets

WEIGHT: 2.27 oz

SPEED: 30 minutes/liter

LIFESPAN: 2 tablets per liter, 50 tablets per bottle

PROS: Small, light, inexpensive

CONS: Doesn’t treat Cryptosporidium, can’t use for extended periods of time, chemical taste

 

 

 

STERIPEN CLASSIC 3 WATER PURIFIER WITH PREFILTER

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon |REI

BEST FOR: Places with clear water, traveling

TYPE: UV stick

WEIGHT: 4.8 oz

SPEED: 1.5 minutes/liter

LIFESPAN: Up to 150 liters on 4 AA batteries, 8000 uses per bulb

PROS: Faster than chemicals, lighter than pumps, used with any kind of bottle

CONS: Pre-filter is separate, uses batteries, have to be careful with the glass bulb, doesn’t work well with turbid water

 

 

 

COMPARISON TABLE – THE BEST BACKPACKING WATER PURIFIERS

PICTURE
PURIFIER
TYPE
WEIGHT
SPEED
PRICE
RATING
PICTURE
PURIFIER
TYPE
WEIGHT
SPEED
PRICE
RATING
MSR Guardian Purifier
Pump filter
25 oz
2.5 liters/minute
$$$
4.8
CamelBak All Clear Water Purifier (UV)
UV water bottle
3.5 oz
1 liter/minute
$$
4.8
MSR Aquatabs
Tablets
0.35 oz
30 minutes to treat
$
4.7
Grayl Ultralight Purifier Bottle
Water bottle filter
10.9 oz
2 liters/minute
$$
4.7
Aquamira (Chlorine Dioxide drops)
Chlorine Dioxide drops
3.2 oz
20/35 minutes to treat
$
4.7
MSR SweetWater Water Purifier
Pump filter
16 oz
1 liter/minute
$$
4.6
LifeStraw Family 1.0 Water Purifier
Gravity filter
24 oz
9-12 liters/hour
$$
4.6
Katadyn MicroPur Tablets (Chlorine Dioxide)
Chlorine Dioxide tablets
0.9 oz
15-30 minutes to treat
$
4.6
Potable Aqua Iodine tablets
Iodine Tablets
2.27 oz
30 minutes to treat
$
4.6
SteriPEN Classic 3 Water Purifier
UV Purifier
4.8 oz
0.67 liter/minute
$$
4.5

 

 

 

HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST BACKPACKING WATER PURIFIERS

PRE-FILTER OR NOT?

If the water has a lot of particulates like silt or leaves in it then you’ll need a filter or pre-filter. Some purifiers are also filters. Some purifiers require 2 steps, pre-filter the silt, sand and leaves, then purify.

 

GIARDIA, CRYPTOSPORIDIUM & VIRUS REMOVAL

Protozoa and bacteria are common in the backcountry around North America. They cause issues like Beaver Fever that’ll have you running to the bathroom constantly. You’ll want to eliminate viruses when traveling abroad. Most filters don’t cover viruses. Some chemicals don’t kill all the protozoa. UV (ultraviolet light bulb) purifiers do both.

 

BATTERY REPLACEMENT

It can be hard to tell when it’s time for new replacement filter cartridges or batteries. Some filters and UV filters show you clearly when it’s time to replace them. Half way through a backcountry trip is not a good place to find out your purifier isn’t working anymore.

 

RECHARGEABLE OR REPLACEABLE BATTERY?

The UV filters require batteries or recharging a battery pack. This can be tough to do in the backcountry. A spare set of batteries or a way to recharge is always a good idea.

 

CONTAINER

Some purifiers come attached to a particular bottle like the Grayl Ultralight or CamelBak All Clear. On the other hand, a SteriPEN Classic or MSR Guardian can use any container.

 

CHEMICALS

The lightest options for purification are chemicals, either drops or tablets. Some people don’t like the flavors they give the water or the idea of ingesting chemicals too often. Other options like UV purifiers are a bit heavier and still purify your water.

 

BACKUPS

Will you have a backup water treatment for your trip? Some people just chance it or boil all the water if their purifier fails. While the chemicals might not be your first choice, they can be a small and lightweight backup.

 

SALTWATER

None of these filters are able to filter salty or brackish water. So you’ll need to find a salt-free water source to start with.

Top 10 Best Backpacking Water Purifiers – Hiking Tips For Beginners – Backpacking Tips and Tricks for Women and Men
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