8 Best Water Filter for Camping in 2019 [Reviews + Buying Guide]

Anyone backpacking, basecamping, hiking or traveling needs water to stay constantly hydrated. However, we can’t drink water straight from the source (rivers, lakes, etc.) and store it. Why? It is to protect ourselves from water-borne illnesses that can be contracted through bacteria, protozoa, and viruses that are common in the backcountry.

To drink clean water safely, you need filtration or/and purification system that is built specifically for backpacking purposes. There are several models on the market, and so it’s left to you to make your choice on which will best suit you.

Here are our top 8 best water filter for camping with an included buyer’s guide, an explanation of the different treatment types and answers to some frequently asked questions. If you want to jump straight to our final verdict, here are our top picks.

best value

  • very fast and easy to us
  • Portable
  • No pumping, sucking or batteries Needed
  • Features screw-on lid and filter

Premium

  • Superior heavy-duty filter
  • Filter media - advanced hollow fiber technology
  • mechanism for self-cleaning
  • Check Circle
    3-year manufacturer warranty

We have designed a comparison table below for your easy reference. However, it is important to note that the positions are in no particular order of importance. 

ProductFeaturesOur Rating


SteriPen Ultra UV Water Purifier
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Dimension (inches): 7.3 x 1.3 x 1.6

Weight: 5 ounces

Technology: UV

Battery: USB rechargeable

Per Charge: 50 Liter

Lamp Life: 8000 activations
4.6/5.0

Price: $$

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Grayl Ultralight Purifier
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Dimension (inches): 9.6 x 2.875

Weight: 10.9 ounces

Capacity: 16 oz

Flow Rate: 2 Liter/min

Lifespan: Replaceable cartridge for 300 uses (150L)

4.4/5.0

Price: $

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Platypus Gravityworks 4L Water Filter System
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Dimension (inches): 9.5 x 3.25

Weight: 11.5 ounces

Flow Rate: 1.75 liter/min

Filter Pore Size (microns): 0.2

Lifespan: 1500 Liter
4.3/5.0

Price: $$

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MSR Trailshot Pocket-Sized Water Filter
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Dimension (inches): 6 x 2.4

Weight: 5 ounces

Flow Rate: 1 liter/min

Filter Pore Size (microns): 0.2

Lifespan: 2000 Liter
4.0/5.0

Price: $

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Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration System
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Weight: 2 ounces

Filter Pore Size (microns): 0.1

Lifespan: Up to 100,000 gallons
4.6/5.0

Price: $

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Katadyn Hiker Pro Transparent Water Microfilte
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Dimension (inches): 3 x 6

Weight: 11 ounces

Flow Rate: 1 liter/min

Filter Pore Size (microns): 0.2
4.2/5.0

Price: $$

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Survivor Filter Pro Water Filter
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Dimension (inches): 3.2 x 2 x 6.5

Weight: 8.2 ounces

Flow Rate: 0.5 liter/min

Filter Pore Size (microns): 0.01

Lifespan: 100,000 Liter

Technology : Triple filtration system

4.5/5.0

Price: $

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MSR Guardian Purifier
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Dimension (inches): 8.25 x 4.5 x 3

Weight: 1 lbs 1 ounces

Flow Rate: 2.5 liter/min

Filter Pore Size (microns): 0.02

Lifespan: Up to 10,000+ Liter
4.0/5.0

Price: $$$$

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8 Best Water Filter for Camping Reviews

1. SteriPen Ultra UV

Best water filter for camping

The SteriPen Ultra is a different story from previous SteriPen models whose designs impacted on performance. This SteriPen ultra water purifier makes it safer to drink water in less than 50 seconds wherever you are, lessening the need to store water while hiking or traveling. This model utilizes UV light to turn non-portable water into one that won’t affect the drinker.

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2. Grayl Ultralight Purifier - Best Portable Water Purifier

Are you on the hunt for a water purification mechanism that is super reliable, light and gets rid of waterborne nasties? Then, you can pick up the Grayl Ultralight water purifier. It is a superbly practical and portable bottle that is fast. It doesn’t only get rid of all the nasties that come with bad water, but it also saves you time while you are on the trail. 

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3. Platypus Gravityworks 4L Water Filter System

Lightweight, reliable and easy to use, the Platypus GravityWorks 4L is a filtration system that allows you to set it, then forget about it. It is an excellent choice for solo and group backpacking alike. It is a filter that removes particulate, protozoa and bacteria from your water before you can drink it. 

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4. MSR Trailshot Pocket-Sized Water Filter   

The Trailshot is a new MSR model which works with a one-handed squeeze. Pocket-sized and straightforward are the two words that come to mind when describing this water filter. It is an ultralight backpacking water filter. Despite its compact size, it delivers efficiently.

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5. Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration System   

This Sawyer water filter works hard as your intestine’s guardian against sources of drinking water that are questionable. It offers several options to cleanse contaminated water. It can fit into any part of your backpack as it is super light.

Its filter pore size is small enough to block unwanted protozoa and bacteria while still letting in clean water. You can decide to squeeze out water through the filter or drink through a straw. The Sawyer mini water filter can be set up to work as a gravity filter. 

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6. Katadyn Hiker Pro Transparent Water Microfilter   

Backpackers have used this water microfilterackers for over ten years. Though it is a pump-mode filter which is not so popular; it has some superb features, and it gets the job done. For a pump filter, this Katadyn water filter is lightweight, but it feels heavy in hand.

In short, if pumping is too much of a chore for you, it will be better you go for filters with UV purification or those that are gravity-based. However, it is highly effective against all protozoa and bacteria with the 0.2 standard micron size.

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7. Survivor Filter Pro Water Filter 

This is ideal for filtering out clean water for a solo camper or a large group of people at the campsite. But even while fishing, you can utilize it by placing the pre-filter into the water and then pumping clean water on the boat. As it’s lightweight and portable, it is perfect for emergency preparedness and international travels.

It has been tested to be effective against protozoa, virus, staph, and bacteria. With three levels of filtration, this backpacking water filter improves on the odor and taste of the water. It is said to exceed the EPA water filters' standard.

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8. MSR Guardian Purifier

This MSR Guardian Purifier follows in the old tradition of the hand pump style which weighs a lot, is stressful but quite efficient. It is efficient in such a satisfying way that its negative points fall away. It’s a water purifier which pumps 2.5 liters each minute, and it automatically backflushes.

It gets rid of protozoa, bacteria, and virus which is the total of what you’ll encounter while on the trail or in a foreign country. It’s a superior heavy-duty filter that treats up to 10,000 liters of water, endures freezing temperatures, heavy use, drops and all forms of harsh environments.

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Buying Guides of Water Filters for Camping

There are several things to consider when purchasing a portable water filter or purifier. Here are some things to look out for.

Weight

You need to be conscious of the exact purpose your device is going to serve. There is no point buying a heavy unit when you need a water filter for traveling. So, you should take the weight of the product into consideration before you buy it. If you are going backpacking, you should aim for light products.

Speed of Filtration

There is a particular rate at which a portable water filter sieves contaminant away. You should consider it while going through the specs of the model before purchase (this is a must). This is also called flow rate. Some can only release a few ounces of water in a minute while some release more within the same timeframe.  Units with a high flow rate are advantageous for camping or traveling with a large group.

Pore Size

If you’ve done your research on the product you want to buy, you’ll come across the term “filter pore size”. The pore size is measured in microns. It merely refers to how tiny the openings in the filter are. The tinier they are, the more pollutants the filter can block. Most of the units reviewed are between .1 or .2 micron which is the standard.

Filter Life

This is another term you should have come across. It refers to the durability of your filter – how long you can use it before you need to replace it. Every water filter has a limited lifespan, and you should take the manufacturer-listed spec as the maximum lifespan. You might be able to use some for only a few days while some can last for months.

Portable water filter lifespans with the best quality last for a longer period. The amount of polluted water you can clean up with a cartridge depends on the model. Some afford you the luxury of cleaning up to 100,000 gallons such as the reviewed Sawyer Products Mini Water Filter.

Ease of Procedure

How easy is it to apply? As portable as these water filters are, not all of them can be employed easily. Some are very easy to use, and for those that seem complicated, you can go through the instructions that are included in their package.

Price

The best way to buy a water filter without breaking the bank is to first set a budget before perusing for one. Different models, different prices. Does this mean that the most expensive is the best? No! Just be sure of the quality of what you are getting. Lots of top-quality water filters can be obtained at affordable prices like those in this review.

Replacement / Maintenance of Filter

Since these filters are responsible for removing pollutants from your water, it is expected that you clean them. Most of them require you to backflush clean water via the filter. While some can make self–clean by ejecting the contaminants back into their source like the MSR Guardian Purifier. 

While some require complex processes just to be maintained. In essence, before taking out your water filter, you need to read up on how to maintain it, so it doesn’t flop. If you’re not that much of a maintenance person, you can opt for models that do not need maintenance.

Water Taste

If you are particular about your water tastes, you need to be careful about your choice. While most water purifiers and filters can get rid of bacteria, protozoa, and virus, they do not take care of how your water tastes. If your water source is decent, this might not be an issue.

But, the lesser the quality of your water source, the more of a problem it is. Carbon filters also help with the taste of the water. Some of the filters on our lists like the Grayl Ultralight Purifier and the Katadyn Hiker Pro include carbon filters while some like the Platypus GravityWorks 4L offers it as an accessory.

Backups

Your water filter or purifier might malfunction while you are still out on the field. So, you can include a light chemical purifier in your backpack for emergencies. This way, you will not run out of drinkable water while on the trail. If it isn't an extra load on you, you can take a backpacker stove and fuel so that you can heat your water in such scenarios.


8 Types of Treatments - Pros and Cons

Different treatment modes can be used for water filtration. There are 8 types which are widely used ie, pump filters and water purifiers, gravity purifiers and filters, ultraviolet (UV) purifiers, squeeze filters, straw style filters, chemicals and boiling.

1. Pump-Style Treatment Type

This method dominated backcountry water filtration until it was recently overshadowed by new technology like UV and gravity. A pump filter operates by pumping to draw off water from the source, via a hose, into a little filter and out through another hose into a clean water vessel. Unlike gravity filters, they are great for use while you are on the trail. There are different pump mechanisms and as they differ, so do flow rates.

PROS

  • It affords you the control to precisely process the quantity of water you require
  • You can siphon water from shallow water sources while on the trail
  • You can easily replace the cartridge instead of replacing the whole device if something comes up

CONS

  • It can be quite tasking filtering water with the use of a pump
  • Lots of field maintenance, cleaning the components are required
  • It weighs more than other styles of treatment

2. Ultra-Violet Light Treatment Type

Take for instance the SteriPen Ultra which employs this method. You place it in the water, press a button and swirl it around. Stop in about a minute or so when the light goes off or turns green on some devices. All the water in the water bottle you placed it into will have been treated.

PROS

  • The treatment process is not difficult, and in a short while, the water is drinkable
  • No cleaning or replacement of element is required
  • It can be used while you are on the go

CONS

  • If the water is cold, then it takes more time to process
  • It requires electronics and batteries to work, and this can go dead or even fail to work while you are in the backcountry
  • To produce good water in large amounts, multiple treatments are required

3. Gravity Filters Treatment Method

This is one of the easiest ways to get water while in the backcountry. Once you have a not-too-bad water source, fill up your dirty bag, hang it from a hook or tree and see gravity in action. Instead of you having to pump or employ a UV light, good water flows downwards via the filter and into a separate tank for drinking purposes.

PROS

  • This method processes large amounts of water without the stressful chore of pumping. Thus, they are great for basecamping and backpacking in groups
  • It dispenses clean and clear water easily
  • Utilizes replaceable cartridges

CONS

  • Finding a place to hang your tank could prove difficult
  • This treatment method works slower than the previous two
  • You need to clean the device on the field
  • Filling a tank can be tasking due to shallow water sources and seeps
  • The components can be bulky – a dirty bag, two good water bags or bottles, the filtration unit, and hoses

4. Bottle Filters Treatment Style

This water treatment style is very simple to use. Just fill in the water bottle and let the built-in purification or filtration elements do the work. While some of these bottle filters operate like a coffee press, some operate with suction when you drink from the valve.

PROS

  • The treatment process doesn’t take too much time before it produces drinkable water
  • The cartridge or inner element can be replaced easily
  • It weighs less and cost lesser than gravity, pump or UV filters

CONS

  • The amount of water you can process is limited to the size of the bottle in question
  • You need to maintain the unit through field cleaning

5. Squeeze Filtration Treatment Style 

This treatment method is almost like that of the bottle filtration style. But, in this case, you fill in a relatively small tank and then squeeze out water via its filtration component. This kind of treatment style is not suitable for group backpacking. Check out size before purchasing because the size of the bottle varies depending on the product.

PROS

  • Some can serve the dual function of a gravity filter or a straw style filter
  • It’s a simple treatment procedure that produces drinkable water in no time
  • Its cartridge is replaceable
  • It is smaller, lighter and less expensive than the other treatment styles

CONS

  • The flask, reservoir or bottle size determines the amount of water you can process
  • It cannot be utilized for large groups of people as it is best suited for a solo backpacker
  • Field maintenance is necessary

6. Straw-Style Filtration 

Straw filters or water purifiers are mostly used by trail runners, mountain bikers and day hikers who do not want to carry the extra load of water as they move. With the straw treatment type, they can drink water straight from its source.

The suction pressure is used to move water from a water source – lake, stream or bottle through the filtrating unit and into the mouth. That is, they are cylinders with integrated elements that enable you to drink directly.

PROS

  • Lighter and cost less than gravity, pump and UV filters
  • Drinkable water is easily provided from a simple procedure

CONS

  • You can only get water when you are at a water source. Hence, water isn’t just available as none is stored
  • A single person can only use it
  • Not every model of this treatment method has elements that could be replaced
  • Requires field cleaning

7. Chemicals Style of Treatment

This method works well against viruses, bacteria, and protozoa. All you need to do is add them to the water you intend drinking and wait a while. These products are either based on chlorine or iodine, and they are available in various modes – pills or drops.

PROS

  • Very simple to use
  • It serves as a good backup plan you can carry along in case your main filter fails you
  • Extremely small, inexpensive and light

CONS

  • The time of wait before drinking varies from 30 minutes to about 4 hours. It takes longer if the water is cold
  • It gives a chemical taste
  • It can be an issue for pregnant women

8. Boiling

Stove, pot, and fuel can also be utilized in battling biological pathogens. To make your water consumable, boil it for about a minute but if you are close to 7,000 feet, boil for 3-4 minutes.

PROS

  • The only extra requirement is fuel
  • It is a great backup just like chemicals
  • Murky waters do not affect its efficacy

CONS

  • The time needed for the water to cool
  • You need to put in effort and time
  • If it is serving as your primary filter, then you might need to take an additional fuel container along

Water Filtration or Water Purification

Several people are using these two terms interchangeably, but they do not mean the same thing. Essentially the difference between the both is determined by the microorganism they can battle against.

Water filters which are the most popular, fight against the more common bacteria – Salmonella, Shigella, and protozoan cysts – Giardia lamblia. These pathogens are the common concerns if you are traveling in Canada or the U.S. Water purifiers fight against viruses – norovirus, rotavirus and Hepatitis A in addition to bacteria and protozoa.

Water filters are cartridges with microscopic pores that can eliminate harmful substance like bacteria and protozoa. Purifying water takes place through the application of ultraviolet light, tiny fibers or chemicals. There are however some models that combine both water purifying and water filtration like the SteriPen Ultra which was reviewed earlier.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How regular should my backwashing be?

Once you notice that your flow rate is deteriorating, we recommend that you backwash your filter. Also, you should backwash when you pick up the filter again after a long time of storage.


2. How can I determine the time to replace my filter?

Well, this depends on the filter. The manual that comes with the filter should also give you a heads-up on when replacement is required. Some filters have a measuring device that lets you know it’s time for a replacement. For most of the reviewed water filters, you know it’s time for a replacement when it becomes difficult to pump or after a specified amount of water has passed through it.


3. How do I know the cleaning requirements of my filter?

The cleaning requirement for a filter varies from product to product. So, it is usually specified in the specs of the product provided by the manufacturer.


4.Can water filters remove viruses?

Yes, water filters can remove some viruses. Filters with UV light are generally more effective and they kill bacteria as well.


5.What viruses are found in water?

Common viruses found in water are adenovirus, hepatitis A and E, norovirus, rotavirus, coxsackieviruses, polioviruses and enteroviruses.

FINAL VERDICT

After a careful review of the 8 best water filter for camping, we find the SteriPen Ultra to be the best among them all. It doesn’t only combine filtrating elements with purifying, but it also has excellent features.

It is lightweight, has an OLED display which is not found in the rest. It is WQA tested, has a healthy battery life and provides drinkable water in less than 50 seconds. We rate this water filter 4.6 stars of the possible 5.

If you find this review useful to you, feel free to share this with others.


4.6/5.0
Our Rating
Douglas Keister

Douglas Keister here, an adventure fanatic that loves nature and adventure sports like kayaking, camping, water sports etc. I have been doing this for almost 10 years now and have learned quite a few tricks. With my experience, I hope to provide you the most reliable and accurate information.

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