8 Best Water Filter for Camping in 2020 [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.
- The 8 Portable Water Filters for Camping [Table of Comparison]
- 8 Best Water Filter for Camping Reviews
- 1. SteriPen Ultra - Best UV Water Purifier for Camping
- 2. Grayl Ultralight Purifier - Best Portable Water Purifier
- 3. Platypus Gravityworks 4L Water Filter System - Best backpacking water filters
- 4. MSR Trailshot Pocket-Sized Filter - Best Ultralight Water Filter
- 5. Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration System
- 6. Katadyn Hiker Pro Transparent Water Microfilter
- 7. Survivor Filter Pro Water Filter
- 8. MSR Guardian Purifier
- Buying Guide
- 8 Types of Treatments - Pros and Cons
- Water Filtration or Water Purification
- Frequently Asked Questions
- FINAL VERDICT
The 8 Portable Water Filters for Camping [Table of Comparison]
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.
SteriPen Ultra UV Water Purifier
| Dimension (inches): 7.3 x 1.3 x 1.6|
Weight: 5 ounces
Battery: USB rechargeable
Per Charge: 50 Liter
Lamp Life: 8000 activations
Grayl Ultralight Purifier
| 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)
Platypus Gravityworks 4L Water Filter System
| 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
MSR Trailshot Pocket-Sized Water Filter
| Dimension (inches): 6 x 2.4|
Weight: 5 ounces
Flow Rate: 1 liter/min
Filter Pore Size (microns): 0.2
Lifespan: 2000 Liter
Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration System
| Weight: 2 ounces|
Filter Pore Size (microns): 0.1
Lifespan: Up to 100,000 gallons
Katadyn Hiker Pro Transparent Water Microfilte
| Dimension (inches): 3 x 6|
Weight: 11 ounces
Flow Rate: 1 liter/min
Filter Pore Size (microns): 0.2
Survivor Filter Pro Water Filter
| 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
MSR Guardian Purifier
| 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
8 Best Water Filter for Camping Reviews
1. SteriPen Ultra - Best UV Water Purifier for Camping
The SteriPen Ultra is a different story from previous SteriPen models whose designs impacted on performance. This model makes it safer to drink water in less than 50 seconds wherever you are, lessening the need to store water while hiking or traveling. It utilizes UV light to turn non-portable water into one that won’t affect the drinker.
This camping water filter has been tested and proved to be effective in getting rid of 99.9% of viruses, bacteria, and protozoa which lead to water-borne illness such as cholera. The UV form of purification is an excellent option because you don’t need to boil your water or add chemicals. It makes the process of water filtration simple, making it our best camping water filter.
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? If yes, you can pick up the Grayl Ultralight 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.
This camping portable purifier is easy to use as you have to scoop in some amount of water, push down on the interior press and drink! More also, it is highly effective as it removes 99.9% of protozoan cysts, virus and bacteria. It filters heavy metals, chemicals, and particles.
3. Platypus Gravityworks 4L Water Filter System - Best backpacking water filters
Lightweight, reliable and easy to use, the Platypus GravityWorks 4L water filter 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.
Though it does not filter viruses, it gets what is most common in the backcountry. As its name suggests, this camping water filter works with gravity as you need to hang it up and allow gravity to filter your water. It is one of the best gravity water filters on the market.
4. MSR Trailshot Pocket-Sized Filter - Best Ultralight 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 comes to mind when describing this filter. Despite its compact size, this water filter for camping delivers efficiently.
If you are an adventurer who desires a reliable and adequate water filter without much weight, this is an ideal option. At just five ounces, this ultralight camping water filter can fit into your pocket while trail running, hiking, mountain biking or backpacking.
It is an excellent tool to have in emergencies as it provides clean water quickly. You can drink straight from water sources (e.g., rivers) you encounter on the road through its tube attachment. You can still fill in a water bottle and filter a liter in a minute.
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 water filter straw. Lastly, this camping water filter can also be set up to work as a gravity filter.
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 model is lightweight, but it feels heavy in hand.
In short, if pumping is too much of a chore for you, it will be better to go for camping water 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.
7. Survivor Filter Pro Water Filter
This camping water filter 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 filter improves on the odor and taste of the water. Many survivor filter pro reviews even mentioned that this model exceeds the EPA water filters' standard.
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.
You may never know if the water from the rivers or lakes are safe for consumption, hence a portable water filter for camping comes in handy when you are going for an outdoor expeditions
There are several things to consider when purchasing one. Here are some things to look out for.
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. 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. Water filter units with a high flow rate are advantageous for camping or traveling with a large group.
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.
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 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.
The best way to buy one without breaking the bank is to first set a budget. Different models, different prices. Does this mean that the most expensive is the best? No! Just be sure of the quality of what you will be 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Filtration works using 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 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, they 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.
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 model 4.6 stars of the possible 5.
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