The Ultimate Guide to Backpacking Water Filtration

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Man in orange shirt drinking water out of stream with a backpacking water filtration device

Whether it’s hiking, camping, or backpacking, one thing is for sure: staying hydrated is essential. However, with contaminants in the water, it’s crucial to have a reliable backpacking water filtration system to combat biological pathogens and other contaminants.

Furthermore, drinking contaminated water can lead to serious health risks, but with the right filtration system, you can enjoy your backpacking trip without worrying about getting sick.

In this ultimate guide to backpacking water filtration, I’ll provide you with all the information you need to safely stay hydrated on your next backcountry trip.

Table of Contents show

Why Backpacking Water Filtration Matters

When you’re backpacking, access to clean water is mandatory for your health and well-being. Drinking contaminated water can lead to serious illnesses, such as diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration.

A reliable filtration system can help remove harmful bacteria, protozoa, and viruses, ensuring that you stay safely hydrated during your backpacking trip. That is why it’s important to understand the risks and how proper filtration methods can help prevent them.

1. The Importance of Clean Water in the Outdoors

You know that clean water is essential for your health, especially when you’re out exploring nature. Our bodies need water to survive. So, it is equally important to understand how to properly treat and filter water, especially on the trail. In addition, you must research water sources along your route to ensure you have water available.

For example, abandoned mining operations may make the groundwater non-potable. Heavy metals and other mining contaminants may have seeped into the groundwater. In addition, farming activities may cause water to be polluted with pesticide residue.

Several water sources in the Grand Canyon have radioactive residue from uranium mining.

This is why knowing where water sources can be accessed along the trail is essential. In addition, a reliable backpacking water filtration system that addresses the potential contaminants in water sources along the trail is essential.

2. Risks of Drinking Untreated Water While Backpacking

Drinking untreated water while backpacking can lead to serious health risks. Therefore, it’s important to understand the dangers and take necessary precautions.

Contaminants from livestock, wildlife, and human excrement can be present in natural water sources. These may include bacteria, protozoa, and viruses that cause illnesses such as diarrhea, nausea, and fever. Without a proper backpacking water filtration system in place, you run the risk of becoming sick during your trip.

Abandoned mining operations, farming operations, and the oil and gas industry may contribute to water
pollution in sources along the trail. Contaminants such as heavy metals, radiation, hydrocarbons, and
pesticides can pollute water sources, making them unfit to drink.

To avoid these potential health hazards, it is essential to invest in a reliable backpacking water filtration system appropriate for your outdoor adventure.

3. How to Learn About Backpacking Water Filtration Sources Before Your Adventure

When hiking, it’s important to have a plan for finding clean water sources.

Before your trip, research the area you’ll be hiking in and identify potential water sources, such as streams, lakes, or natural springs.

Additionally, you can also use topographic maps, aerial photos, guidebooks, and online hiking forums to gather information about the area’s water sources. Also, you can call the forest service and ask about available water sources in the area you are planning to hike.

When you’re on the trail, be observant and look for signs of water, such as vegetation or animal tracks. Always carry a water filtration system or purification tablets to ensure that any water you collect is safe to drink. Remember, staying hydrated is vital for a successful and enjoyable hiking experience.

Types of Backpacking Water Filtration Systems

Now, let’s look at the different types of backpacking water filtration systems.

  • Pump filters use a hand pump to force water through a filter, which can be heavy and bulky, but
    highly effective.
  • Gravity filters are convenient and easy to use – just fill the bag with water and let gravity do the
  • Squeeze filters are lightweight, portable, and collapsible, making them perfect for backpackers
    who need to save space.
  • LifeStraw filters for compact, lightweight, and ultimate convenience
  • Bottle filters for on-the-go water filtration.

Consider your specific needs when choosing the right type of filtration system for your next backcountry

Mature hiker pump filtering water sitting by campfire

Pump Filters: How They Work

If you’re considering a pump filter for your next backcountry trip, it’s important to understand how they
work and the advantage and disadvantage they offer.

  • Pump filters physically strain protozoan cysts and bacteria from the water by forcing the water through a filtration element with a pore size of 0.2 microns or smaller.
  • They typically require pumping by hand, which can be time-consuming and
    tiring, especially if you need to filter large quantities of water.
  • One advantage of pump filters is that they can remove most types of contaminants found in
    backcountry water sources, including protozoa and bacteria.
  • They also tend to have longer lifespans than other types of filters. Moreover, you can clean them by backflushing them instead of replacing the filtration element entirely.
  • Also, some models come with additional features like activated carbon to improve the taste and odor of
    filtered water.
  • However, pump filters tend to be heavier and bulkier than other types of filters. This makes them less ideal for ultralight backpackers or those with limited space in their pack.

woman holding a gravity fed water filter on the side of a mountain filtering water

Gravity Filters: A Convenient Solution for Filtration

Another type of water filtration system is the gravity filter.

  • These systems use the force of gravity to move water through a filter element, making them a convenient solution for filtration on backpacking trips.
  • With this method, you can fill up the dirty water bag and hang it from a tree branch or other elevated surface.
  • The clean water will then flow through the filter element into a clean water bag or container below.
  • They tend to be lighter and less bulky than pump filters, making them easier to pack.
  • Gravity filters are great for groups because they allow you to filter large quantities of water at once without having to constantly pump or squeeze a filter.

However, it’s important to note that gravity filters may not be as effective as pump filters at removing certain contaminants like viruses. In addition, cross-contamination of unfiltered water with clean water is possible if care isn’t exercised in the filtering process.

backpacking water filtration squeeze filter sitting on a log with trees in background

Squeeze Filters: Lightweight, Portable, and Collapsible for Backpacking Water Filtration

  • Squeeze filters are a lightweight and portable option for backpackers seeking an efficient way to filter water while on the go.
  • These types of filters work by filling a small reservoir and then squeezing the water through a filtration element, contaminants are removed in the process.
  • Squeeze filters are popular among ultralight backpackers because they are easy to pack and can be used to filter water quickly.
  • The squeeze bag can carry extra unfiltered water prior to reaching your next water source.
  • One of the main benefits of using a squeeze filter is its portability. They tend to be smaller and lighter than other types of filters, making them ideal for backpackers who want to travel light.
  • Another advantage is that they offer quick filtration, allowing you to have clean drinking water in just minutes.
  • Additionally, squeeze filters can be backflushed, so you don’t need to buy a whole new filter every time it gets clogged up.

However, there are also some downsides to using squeeze filters. One common issue is that they can be difficult to clean properly, especially if they become clogged with sediment or debris.

They also tend to have slower flow rates than other types of filters, which means it may take longer for you to get enough drinking water for your needs.

Finally, some people find that squeeze filters require more effort than other methods (such as gravity or UV purifiers), which can be tiring over long periods of use.

Straw Filters: Compact and Lightweight Filtration Option

  • For a compact and lightweight filtration option, consider the LifeStraw filter. This filter is great for day hikes and offers quick and easy access to clean water while on the go.
  • This straw-style filter is small enough to fit in your pocket and can be used directly from the source of water.
  • The LifeStraw filter removes 99.9999% of bacteria and 99.9% of protozoan parasites, making it an effective choice for backcountry trips.
  • The LifeStraw filter is also affordable and simple to use. It doesn’t require pumping or batteries to filter water.
  • In addition, it has a long lifespan of up to 4,000 liters (1,000 gallons) before needing replacement.

However, it’s important to note that this filter does not protect against viruses or chemicals in the water. Additionally, due to its design, it may be difficult to fill larger containers such as hydration bladders or bottles.

Also, over time as the filter starts to become clogged with sediment and debris, it takes more effort to suck the water through the straw.

A Epic filtration water bottle sitting on a rock with a waterfall behind it
Epic Nalgene OG Artist Series Indian Pools Sierra National Forest

Bottle Filters: On-the-Go Filtration for Backpackers

If you’re looking for a convenient and efficient way to filter water on the go during your backpacking trip, consider using a bottle filter.

  • Bottle filters offer the fill-and-sip simplicity that makes them perfect for quick hydration breaks while hiking or at camp.
  • Bottle filters are lightweight and easy to pack. This makes them ideal for ultralight backpackers who prioritize minimalism.
  • Additionally, they can be used with any standard-sized water bottle, which means you don’t need to carry extra containers.
  • The only caveat is they don’t hold a lot of water. Therefore, you need to make sure that water sources are available along the way to refill the bottle.

One of the most popular backpacking bottle filters is the Grayl Geo Press Water Purifier Bottle. It has a one-press durable construction and utilizes a replaceable purifier cartridge that removes bacteria, protozoa, and viruses from water sources. In addition, it has global protection. Meaning, that it is effective for use on all 7 continents.

The Grayl Geo Press Water Purifier Bottle also features an activated carbon filter that removes chemicals, heavy metals, and bad taste from the water. In addition, the Geo Press 24oz model has a new cartridge with one-way valve for electrolytes and drink mixes.

Other notable bottle filters include the Epic Nalgene OG, Katadyn BeFree, and LifeStraw Go water filter bottles.

FIltering can be fun shop Chroma Grayl ad woman sitting on paddle board on the lake drinking from water bottle

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Backpacking Water Filtration System

When choosing a water filtration system for backpacking, there are several factors to consider.

  • One of the most important is finding the right balance between filtration rate and capacity.
    You want a filter that can process enough water to meet your needs, but you also don’t want to sacrifice speed for volume.
  • Additionally, weight and portability are pressing considerations for backpackers who need gear that won’t weigh them down on long hikes.
  • Finally, maintenance and filter lifespan are key factors in keeping your system efficient over time. So, besure to choose a filter that is easy to clean and has replaceable parts when necessary.

1. Filtration Rate and Capacity: Finding the Right Balance

As mentioned above, it is important to consider the filtration rate and the capacity of your chosen backpacking water filter.

Filtration rate refers to how quickly the filter can process water, while capacity refers to how much water it can hold.

Finding the right balance between these two factors will ensure that you can efficiently collect enough clean water for your trip without slowing down your pace.

If you’re traveling with a group or plan on using a gravity filter, a higher capacity may be more important than a fast filtration rate.

On the other hand, if you’re hiking solo and need to cover more ground, a faster filtration rate may be necessary. It’s also important to keep in mind that as filters become clogged with sediment and debris over time, their flow rates will slow down.

So, when choosing a backpacking water filter, make sure to consider both its initial filtration rate and its
long-term performance.

2. Weight and Portability: Gear Considerations for Backpackers

The weight and portability of your backpacking water filter are important because, let’s face it, no one
wants to lug around a heavy and bulky piece of gear on their outdoor adventure.

When choosing a water filter, consider the weight and size of the filter in relation to how much you will be carrying on your trip.

Ultralight filters like the Sawyer Squeeze or Katadyn BeFree are great options for those looking to minimize pack weight. While heavier-duty filters like the MSR Guardian are better suited for international trips or extended backcountry expeditions.

In addition to weight, consider how portable your water filter is.

  • Will it fit easily into your backpack?
  • Can it be used immediately, or does it require setup?
  • Can you attach it to the outside of your pack for easy access?

Look for filters that can be compactly stored and quickly set up when needed. Remember that every ounce counts when you’re hiking long distances with a full pack.

With a lightweight and portable water filtration system, you’ll be able to stay hydrated without weighing yourself down.

3. Maintenance and Filter Lifespan: Keeping Your System Efficient

Maintaining a clean and efficient backpacking water filtration system is crucial for any outdoor adventure, ensuring that you have access to safe drinking water no matter where your journey takes you.

Regular cleaning and maintenance of your filter will extend its lifespan and keep it working efficiently. It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and storing your filter, as well as replacing any worn or damaged parts.

In addition to regular maintenance, it is important to be aware of the lifespan of your filter cartridge. Most filters have a recommended number of liters or gallons that can be filtered before the cartridge needs to be replaced. Keeping track of this information will ensure that you always have a functioning filter when you need it.

With proper maintenance and replacement, your backpacking water filtration system can provide reliable access to clean drinking water on all your adventures.

How to Use Backpacking Water Filtration Systems

If you’re planning a backpacking trip, it’s important to know how to use your water filtration system properly before you hit the trail.

  • Pump filters require extra effort to pump water through the filter.
  • Gravity filters are easy to use, with no pumping required. However, they require a height difference between the dirty and clean water bags.
  • Squeeze filters need pressure applied to the unfiltered water reservoir.
  • Straw-style filters allow you to sip safely from the source.
  • Bottle filters offer on-the-go convenience by sucking water through the bottle straw.

Step-by-Step Guide: Using Pump Filters Correctly

To ensure you have clean drinking water on your backcountry trip, mastering the proper use of a pump filter is essential.

  1. Find a water source that is clear and free of sediment to maximize the
    effectiveness of your filter.
  2. Remove any debris or large particles from the water by using a pre-filter or cloth before filling your filter’s reservoir. Once filled, attach the hose and outlet to their respective locations on the filter and begin pumping.
  3. As you pump, keep an eye on the outflowing water; it should be clear and free of any cloudiness or
    discoloration. If not, this may indicate that your filter needs cleaning or replacement.
  4. After filtering enough water for your needs, detach all components and securely store them in their designated storage bags avoiding cross-contamination.

Gravity Filters Made Easy: Setup and Filtration Process

These filters are great for larger groups or when you need to filter a lot of water at once. Gravity filters work by allowing the force of gravity to push water through a filtration element and into a clean container.

  1. Setting up a gravity filter is easy: simply fill the dirty bag with water from your source, hang it from a tree or another high point, and let gravity do the work as the water flows through the filter and into your clean container.

One benefit of gravity filters is that they don’t require any pumping or squeezing. So, they’re great for those who want an easier filtering process.

Keep in mind that just like with pump filters, it’s important to maintain and backflush your gravity filter regularly for optimal performance.

Squeeze Filters: Apply Pressure for Clean Water

  1. Get clean drinking water quickly and easily with squeeze filters. There is no need for pumping or gravity.
    Just apply pressure to the reservoir of unfiltered water and watch clean drinking water flow out of the
  2. Squeeze filters are lightweight and compact, making them ideal for backpackers looking to minimize weight and pack size.

With their simple design, they’re also easy to use and maintain in the field. Simply fill up the reservoir with water and then use your hand to squeeze the water through the filter element into your clean container.

The filter element can be backflushed when the flow rate slows.

  • Keep in mind that you must designate separate dirty and clean water containers to avoid cross-
  • It’s also important to seek out clean water sources as sediment and debris can impair treatment effectiveness.
  • In addition, squeezing the water through a filter requires some effort. So, if you
    have issues with your hand you may want to consider an alternative option like gravity or straw filters.

Sipping Safely: Proper Use of Straw Filters

Looking for a lightweight and easy-to-use option for clean drinking water on your next backpacking trip?

Consider straw filters, which offer the convenience of sipping directly from the water source while effectively removing harmful contaminants. They are best suited for personal use and can be an excellent addition to any backpacker’s gear collection.

Straw filters work by using a filtration element to physically strain out protozoa and bacteria as water is sucked through the straw. They are compact, affordable, and do not require pumping or squeezing like other types of filters.

  • Before using a straw filter, it’s important to pre-filter sediment and debris from the water source to prevent clogging.

It’s also important to follow manufacturer instructions on cleaning and maintenance to ensure proper function and longevity.

Bottle Filters: Filtering Water on the Move

If you’re searching for an easy and efficient way to filter water while on the move, consider using bottle filters.

These compact filters are designed to fit onto the top of most water bottles and can be filled up directly from a stream or other water source. Some popular affordable options include the Epic OG, Katadyn BeFree, and LifeStraw Go. Additionally, Grayl Water Purifier Bottle is one of the more popular filtered water bottles with its 24oz GeoPress Purifier – Nature Edition Drink-Mix & Electrolyte Ready feature.

Bottle filters typically use a combination of physical filtration and activated carbon to remove bacteria, protozoa, and sediment from your drinking water.

They are lightweight, portable, and easy to use. Simply fill up your bottle with dirty water, attach the filter cap, and drink clean filtered water right away.

Keep in mind that not all bottle filters are effective against viruses. Therefore, it’s important to research the specific capabilities of each filter before purchasing one for your trip.

In addition, spec sheets are available on each bottle filter’s website.  Some extreme filters even filter out heavy metals, pesticides, and radiation.

Different types of backpacking waters filtration systems on a table

Tips for Maintaining and Cleaning Your Water Filtration System

Maintaining and cleaning your backpacking water filtration system is crucial to ensuring clean drinking water on your backcountry trips. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper cleaning procedures.

Make sure to avoid common mistakes such as using abrasive materials or failing to properly dry the filter before storage. By taking care of your backpacking water filtration system, you can enjoy safe and clean drinking water on all your adventures.

1. Cleaning Procedures for Pump and Gravity Filters

Pump filters require more maintenance than other types of filters, but they are effective against protozoa, bacteria, and viruses. After each use, it’s important to clean the filter by backflushing it with clean water. This will remove any particles that could potentially clog the filter.

To backflush a pump filter:

  1. Remove the intake hose from the water source.
  2. Attach the outtake hose to a clean container filled with clean water.
  3. Pump the handle several times until all the dirty water has been expelled from the filter.
  4. Repeat this process until no more sediment or debris comes out of the filter.

Gravity filters are easier to maintain than pump filters because they don’t require pumping or backflushing.

Simply place the filled clean water bag higher than the dirty water bag and let the clean water travel backward through the filter.

Afterward, remove the dirty water bag from the system and rinse it out with clean water before reattaching it to begin filtering again.

2. Ensuring Longevity: Maintaining Straw and Bottle Filters

Make sure your straw and bottle filters continue to function properly by regularly cleaning them and replacing the filter cartridges when necessary.

  • To clean a straw filter, simply backflush it with clean water after each use.
  • For bottle filters, remove the filter cartridge and wash the container with soap and
    water before replacing the cartridge.
  • When replacing a filter cartridge, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper installation.

Regular maintenance will ensure that your straw or bottle filter holds up and continues to provide safe drinking water while backpacking.

3. Common Mistakes to Avoid When Cleaning Filters

Don’t ruin your backpacking trip by making these common mistakes when cleaning your water filter.

  • First and foremost, don’t wait too long to clean it. Waiting until the filter is clogged can cause irreversible damage and render it useless.
  • Additionally, make sure to use clean water for backflushing or cleaning your filter.
  • Using dirty or contaminated water can introduce harmful bacteria into the filter and
    defeat the whole purpose of filtering in the first place.
  • Another mistake to avoid is not properly storing your filter after cleaning. Make sure to let it dry completely before putting it away. Moisture can lead to mold growth and reduced effectiveness over time.

In addition to this, water expands when it freezes. Therefore, do not store your filter in areas below freezing at home or on the trail. The pore size in backpacking filters is 0.2 microns or less. Any moisture remaining in the filter will freeze and ruin the filter.

Finally, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and maintenance, as each type of filter may have its own specific requirements.

With proper care, you can ensure that your water filtration system is ready for your next backpacking adventure.

Rushing waterfall in the mountains with trees and rocks. Sitting on the rock is an Epic OG backpacking water filtration bottle.

Additional Considerations for Backpacking Water Filtration

If you’re planning a backpacking trip in cold weather, it’s important to consider the challenges and solutions for water filtration. Sediments and particles can also pose a problem when filtering wilderness water. Additionally, different geographic regions may have varying water sources that require specific treatment methods.

1. Cold Weather Filtration: Challenges and Solutions

Staying safe and healthy while backpacking in cold weather requires special considerations for water filtration, including understanding the challenges and solutions.

  • One of the main challenges is that some filters can freeze or become less effective in freezing temperatures.
  • To combat this, it’s important to choose a filter that is designed specifically for cold weather use or to store your filter in a warm place during the night. Additionally, keeping your filter close to your body during the day can help prevent freezing.
  • Another challenge with cold weather filtration is finding clean water sources that are not frozen over.
  • Look for areas where water is moving or use a shovel to dig through any ice on top of a stream or lake.
  • It’s also important to keep in mind that sediment and particles can impair treatment effectiveness even more so in colder temperatures. So, seek out clear water sources whenever possible.

By taking these precautions, you can ensure that you have access to clean and safe drinking water even in challenging winter conditions.

2. Filtering Wilderness Water: Dealing with Sediments and Particles

Filtering water in wilderness environments can be challenging. The presence of sediments, particles, and forest debris in water sources can hinder effective filtration. Your water filter is easily clogged by unclean water.

The Geez has firsthand experience with sediments from the Colorado River on our last backpacking trip. It took almost 12 hours for the silt and dirt particles to settle enough for us to filter the water. In addition, we had to constantly backflush our filters to keep them operational.

For areas like the Grand Canyon mentioned above, carry a collapsible water bucket to allow the water to settle.

Carefully pour settled water into your dirty water reservoir before filtering it, being careful not to disturb the sediment on the bottom of the bucket. You might try stirring in a clarifying agent such as aluminum sulfate to speed up the settling process.

  • When selecting a water source, it’s important to choose clear and moving water whenever possible.
  • Avoid stagnant pools or areas with visible sediment buildup. Filtering water from these sources may
    require additional pre-filtering steps or more frequent cartridge replacements.
  • To deal with sediment effectively, consider using a pre-filter or filter with an integrated pre-filter system.
    These filters are designed to strain out larger particles before they reach the main cartridge filter,
    prolonging the life of the filter and ensuring clean drinking water.

Remember that even with pre-filtration in place, regular maintenance is essential to keep your filter working effectively.

With these tips in mind, you’ll be better equipped to tackle any sediment challenges you encounter while backpacking and enjoy safe drinking water on your adventure.

3. Water Sources in Different Geographic Regions

Exploring different geographic regions requires an understanding of the water sources unique to the locality. Safe, effective water treatment requires an understanding of the contaminants likely present in the water there.

Depending on where you are hiking, the quality of the water may vary greatly.

For example, in desert regions, natural water sources such as streams or lakes may be scarce and unreliable.

As such, in these areas, it is important to carry extra water with you. In addition, have a backup method for treating any questionable water from atypical sources such as stormwater catchments along the way.

In contrast, mountainous regions often have plentiful natural water sources such as streams and rivers. However, these sources can sometimes be contaminated by animal waste or other pollutants due to increased human traffic.

It’s important to research the specific area you will be backpacking in beforehand and prepare accordingly. Most importantly, carry the appropriate filtration method for that region’s unique challenges.

Top Backpacking Water Filtration Brands and Products

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced backpacker, choosing the right water filter can be a daunting task. Looking for the best backpacking water filtration systems depends a lot on you. Where you will be venturing off to, how many hikers are in your group, what water sources are available, and what time of year are you trekking.

Brand Spotlight: Innovative Backpacking Water Filtration Solutions

Check out these innovative filtration solutions to make sure you have clean drinking water on your next outdoor adventure.

GRAYL GeoPress 24 oz Water Purifier Bottle - Filter for Hiking, Camping, Survival, Travel (Oasis Green)
Save 10% on your first order.

GRAYL 24oz GeoPress Purifier: This is the newest edition of the GRAYL line of water purifiers. It is a compact, easy-to-use choice for backpacking that combines filtration and purification in one device. Simply fill the bottle with water and press down on the filter. No other purifier rivals the speed, simplicity, and effectiveness of the GeoPress.

The beauty of this filter for backpackers lies in its design.

It allows drink-mix and Electrolyte powder to be added to the filtered water. You simply add those to the clean water. A two-way valve prevents it from traveling backward through the filter. In addition, Grayl has quick start guide and video.


  • Filters 24 oz. of water at a time in 8 seconds. No pumping, squeezing, or sucking.
  • Disposable purifier filter is good for 250 liters.
  • Removes global waterborne pathogens (viruses, bacteria, protozoan cysts) and filters pesticides, chemicals, heavy metals, and microplastics.
  • Improves the taste, smell, and clarity of the water.


  • Heavy – weighs 15.9 oz.
  • Can only filter a small quantity of water at a time.

Epic Nalgene OG Water Bottle with Filter. USA Made Bottle and Filter, Dishwasher Safe Filtered Water Bottle Perfect For Travel. BPA Free. Removes 99.99% Tap Water Impurities

Epic Nalgene OG Artist Series: The Epic filter is coupled with a Nalgene bottle for a total weight of 9 ounces. It is my favorite bottle filter because of the scenic artwork on the Nalgene bottle.

In addition to classic design, the company’s mission statement dovetails with the Leave-No-Trace wilderness etiquette.

By reducing disposable plastic bottles, especially in developing countries, oceans, and waterways are favorably impacted. Each filter cartridge replaces 550 landfill-bound single-use plastic bottles.


  • Reasonably priced
  • Disposable purifier filter is good for 285 liters.
  • Strongest bottle filter on the market, capable of removing over 200+ contaminants.
  • Independently tested across the globe in both field and laboratory tests against NSF/ANSI
    drinking water standards.


  • Weighs 9.1 oz.
  • Filtered water must be sucked through the bottle straw.
  • Only filters 24 oz. at a time.

LifeStraw Flex Advanced Water Filter with Gravity Bag - Removes Lead, Bacteria, Parasites and Chemicals Blue, 1 gal

LifeStraw Flex with Gravity Bag: Another innovative solution is the LifeStraw Flex with Gravity Bag. This system allows for hands-free filtering by using gravity to push water through the filter into a separate bag for storage or dispensing.

The Lifestraw Flex can be used as a straw-style filter or with the included gravity bag for larger quantities of filtered water. The filter can even be attached to most hydration reservoirs to filter water on the go while hiking.

This is one of the best options for those who hike with hydration reservoirs, as you don’t have to fill them with clean water. Just be sure there isn’t a lot of debris in the water.


  • Weighs 7 oz.
  • Filter is good for 500 gallons.
  • Removes 99.9999% of bacteria and protozoa, including E.coli and salmonella, as well as
    microplastics. Check their data performance sheet for a complete list.


  • Filter requires backflushing.
  • Potential for cross-contamination.

MSR Guardian Water Purifier for Backcountry Use, Global Travel, and Emergency Preparedness

MSR Guardian: At 1 lb. 1.3 oz., the MSR Guardian is heavy compared to other purification filters in the category. However, it has up to 2.5 liters per minute flow rate, making it excellent for group settings.

The MSR Guardian is a top-of-the-line pump purifier with military-grade quality that can handle all 7 continents for international destinations.



  • Filters 2.5 liters per minute.
  • Self-cleaning. No backflushing or filter-scrubbing is ever required.
  • Filter lasts up to 10,000+ liters.
  • Removes viruses, bacteria, protozoa, and sediment from “worst-case” water conditions.
  • Engineered to withstand heavy use, freezing temperatures, and harsh environments.


  • Heavy – weighs 1 lb. 1.3 oz.
  • Expensive

SteriPen Adventurer Opti UV Water PurifierSteriPen Adventurer Opti UV Water Purifier: The SteriPen Adventurer Opti UV is a fast, convenient way to purify a half liter of water on the trail in as little as 48 seconds. Powered by two CR123 batteries, bacteria, protozoa, and viruses are quickly eliminated by ultraviolet light.

It is essential gear for ultralight backpackers due to its weight. In addition to water purification, the SteriPen can be used as an LED flashlight for added convenience on the trail.


  • Purifies .5 liter in 48 seconds, or 1 liter in 90 seconds.
  • Lightweight – Weighs 3.63 oz.
  • Long-lasting UV lamp purifies up to 8,000 liters.


  • Requires batteries.
  • Heavy metals, pesticides, and microplastics are not filtered.
  • Murky water sources require pre-filtering.

Brand Spotlight: More Traditional Filtration Solutions

To find the right water filter for your needs, consider the product comparison in this section for more traditional water filters.

These filters meet EPA guidelines for the removal of 99.9999% of bacteria and 99.9% of protozoa, including giardia, E.coli, salmonella, and cholera. Having a 0.1 or 0.2-micron filter, water passes easily through the filter trapping the bacteria, protozoa, and suspended silt particles that are common in wilderness settings.

Weigh factors such as price, weight, capacity, and effectiveness in your decision-making process.

Whether you’re a seasoned backpacker or a first-time hiker, having access to clean drinking water is crucial for your health and well-being in the backcountry. Here are some must-have water filtration systems that the Geez uses and recommended by other backpackers:

Platypus GravityWorks Group Camping Water Filter System, 4-Liter

Platypus GravityWorks: This gravity filter is perfect for small groups as it’s easy to refill multiple bottles at once. It has an impressive flow rate of 1.5 liters per minute, making it quick and efficient.

However, at 11 oz. the Platypus GravityWorks may be too heavy or bulky for solo backpackers or those with limited space in their pack. The filter cartridge is rated at 1,500 gallons. It can be cleaned in the field by backflushing with the included syringe, thereby extending its lifespan.


Sawyer Products SP129 Squeeze Water Filtration System w/ Two 32-Oz Squeeze Pouches, Straw, and Hydration Pack Adapter

Sawyer Squeeze: If you are looking for an ultralight option, Sawyer Squeeze is your best bet. Weighing only 3 ounces, this filter can fit easily into any backpack or pocket.

Its squeeze design allows you to fill up a small reservoir and then squeeze water through the filtration element. Sawyer Squeeze is highly recommended for ultralight backpacking due to its lightweight design.

Periodic backflushing, by means of the syringe included in the original purchase, maintains its flow rate. In addition, backflushing extends the life of the filter, rated at 100,000 gallons.

Katadyn BeFree 1.0L Water Filter, Fast Flow, 0.1 Micron EZ Clean Membrane for Endurance Sports, Camping and Backpacking, One Size, 8018006

Katadyn BeFree 1.0L: The Katadyn BeFree offers the best flow rate from an ultralight water filter. It will filter up to two liters of water per minute!

Its soft flask design makes it easy to carry around on long hikes without weighing down your pack, as it only weighs 2 oz. Also, cleaning the filter is a breeze, as you simply shake or swish the EZ Clean Membrane.

No backflushing is required, and the filter is good for 1,000 liters before it needs to be replaced.

MSR TrailShot Pocket-Sized Backcountry Water Filter

MSR Trail Shot: The MSR pocket-sized water filter is designed specifically for outdoor enthusiasts who want an effective, reliable water filter without the weight.

Compact in size and ultralight in weight, it easily stows in a stash pocket when backpacking. The easy one-handed pumping mechanism filters a liter of water in 60 seconds. With the attached pick-up hose, you can dangle it in any water source, such as a lake, river, or stream, and pump water.

As an added bonus, the Trail Shot is easy to clean on the trail with just a few shakes to restore the flow rate. Finally, the filter is rated at 2,000 liters before needing replacement.

What I like and dislike about the more traditional water filters are:


Easy to use.
Filter bacteria and protozoa. May filter microplastics as well.


  • Do not remove viruses.
  • Filter may clog over time.
  • Care must be taken to prevent freezing,

backpacking water filtration supplies sitting on a log and on the ground in the mountains.

Backpacking Water Filtration Safety Tips

As you have learned so far, to ensure you stay safe and healthy while backpacking, it’s important to take precautions to prevent waterborne illnesses. This always includes using a reliable water filtration system and practicing proper hygiene when handling water sources. Additionally, maintaining hydration is crucial for outdoor activities, so it’s important to have a strategy in place for staying hydrated while on the trail.

1. Preventing Waterborne Illnesses: Key Precautions

Make sure you take the necessary precautions to prevent waterborne illnesses while backpacking, as contaminated water can not only ruin your trip but potentially harm your health.

  • Always remember to seek out clean water sources and properly treat any water before drinking it.
  • Choosing the right water filter or purifier is also crucial for backcountry trips, as each method has its own pros and cons.

In addition to filtering or purifying your water, there are several other key precautions you can take to prevent waterborne illnesses.

  • Always designate dirty and clean water containers to avoid cross-contamination and handle them with clean hands.
  • It’s also important to keep camp, toilet, and dishwashing areas at least 200 feet from any water source.
  • Remember that freezing conditions require special consideration when choosing a filter or treatment method.

By taking these precautions, you can help ensure that you stay in peak condition on your backpacking trip.

2. Hydration Strategies: Staying Safe in the Outdoors

Knowing how to stay hydrated safely and effectively on the trail is mandatory.

  • One key strategy is to drink frequently and consistently throughout the day, rather than waiting until you feel thirsty.

This can help prevent dehydration and keep your body functioning properly. Make sure to carry enough water or have a reliable way of filtering or purifying water from natural sources like streams or lakes along the way. The key is sourcing water before you hit the trail.

Another hydration strategy is to balance your electrolytes by consuming foods high in sodium and potassium or adding electrolyte tablets to your water. This can help prevent cramping and other symptoms of electrolyte imbalance.

Remember that even mild dehydration can affect your physical performance and mental clarity. So, don’t underestimate the importance of staying hydrated on your outdoor adventures.

And if you find yourself without access to clean drinking water, be prepared with emergency water purification techniques such as boiling, chemical treatments, or UV light purifiers.

3. Emergency Water Purification Techniques

Staying hydrated while exploring the outdoors is crucial. But when unexpected situations arise where clean water is not readily available, it’s important to know emergency water purification techniques.

  • Boiling water is one of the most effective methods for treating water in an emergency situation. Bring
    water to a rolling boil for at least one minute (or three minutes if you are above 6,500 feet) to kill bacteria, protozoa, and viruses. While boiling can take longer than other methods, such as using a filter or chemical treatment, it’s a reliable option that requires minimal equipment.
  • Another emergency purification method involves using chlorine bleach. Add eight drops of regular bleach per gallon of clear tap or filtered water and stir well. Wait 30 minutes before drinking. If the water is cloudy or discolored add 16 drops per gallon instead. Remember to use unscented bleach.
    Scented bleach contains additional chemicals that could be harmful when ingested.
  • Potable Aqua chlorine dioxide water disinfection tablets can disinfect water with tablets that contain chlorine, iodine, chlorine dioxide, or other disinfecting agents. They offer emergency water purification for hiking, travel, and natural disasters. They are ideal to keep with all backpacking and camping equipment and as a backup for emergencies.

These methods are effective during emergencies but always remember to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for any portable filters or purification devices you carry with you on your hike.

Conclusion: Stay Hydrated, Explore Adventurously

Now that you know about the importance of water treatment for maintaining your vitality when outdoors, it’s time to recap.

Consider factors such as price, weight, ease of use, flow rate, filter lifespan, and contaminants filtered when choosing a water treatment method.

Each filter has its pros and cons, so it’s important to research and test different options before heading out on a backpacking trip.

Most importantly, seek out clean water sources and have a backup method in case of filter failure. Choosing the right
water filter or purifier can ensure you a safe and enjoyable backpacking experience while staying hydrated anywhere.

Follow manufacturer instructions for proper use and maintenance, including regular cleaning and replacement of filter cartridges. And always adhere to Leave No Trace principles when disposing or recycling filter cartridges.

With reliable water treatment equipment from top brands you trust, you’ll have access to safe drinking water no matter where your next adventure takes you. So go ahead – explore adventurously while staying hydrated and in peak condition.


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