The Best Hiking Water Filters: Eliminate Bacteria & Drink Safely
A hiking water filter is essential if you’re an outdoor enthusiast.
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BY Zach Faulds / LAST UPDATED ON July 30, 2021
Anyone who spends a significant amount of time outdoors knows the importance of drinkable water. Staying hydrated is at the top of any camper’s, hiker’s, or sportsman’s priorities. Odds are water is also one of the heaviest things you’ll carry. The longer you plan to be outdoors, the more water you will need. One way to cut down on the weight is to bring a hiking water filter. These portable water systems turn murky water from ponds, streams, and lakes into clean, safe drinking water. They’re compact and light enough for even a daypack, and we wouldn’t recommend hitting the trail without one. Take a look at the list below to find the best hiking water filter for you.
This filter uses a replaceable carbon and ceramic filter to remove 99.9 percent of harmful contaminants, including bacteria, particulates, and organic material to provide clean drinking water.
- Hand pump processes up to one liter of water per minute
- Base can be attached to the included hose or mounted directly to compatible large-mouth water bottles and hydration system bladders
- Filter has a tendency to build up pressure inside the filter chamber, slowing the water filtration speed per pump down to a slow crawl
A compact hand pump uses three separate filtration units to provide clean, clear drinking water at a rate of 500 milliliters per minute.
- Pre-filter removes dangerous algae and protozoa that can cause serious illness, while the primary filter removes 99.9 percent of viruses
- Both have a lifespan of 100,000 liters
- Constructed from entirely plastic and has a design flaw in its pump handle, which tends to snap.
This filter weighs only 3.5 ounces and measures 4 x 3 x 8 inches. The filtration unit can be attached to the included 16-ounce drinking pouch, seven-inch drinking straw, or standard disposable water bottles.
- Filter removes 99.9 percent of bacteria, 99.9 percent of protozoa, and 100 percent of microplastics
- Capable of cleaning 100,000 gallons of water
- Known to have issues with O-ring, which creates a seal
- O-rings have been known to break or crack, so you may need to replace them over time
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Benefits of Hiking Water Filters
- Removes bacteria: Perhaps the most obvious benefit of a hiking water filter is that it removes bacteria, including E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter and Shigella, and protozoa Cryptosporidium and Giardia lamblia.
- Convenient: A hiking water filter is extremely convenient because it can be used in any water source, including ponds, lakes, rivers, streams, and more, to convert dirty water into safe drinking water.
- Environmentally-friendly: Hiking water filters are a great economical option that can help save you from purchasing plastic water bottles that will either be recycled or may end up in a landfill.
Types of Hiking Water Filters
Pump water filters typically feature a hand pump and intake hose. Insert the intake hose into your water source and the other end of your hose to the water bottle or reservoir. Start operating the pump to bring the filtered water into your bottle or reservoir. Pump water filters are useful because they can be used even in the shallowest water sources. However, the pumping can be a lot of work, since flow rates are different depending on the model.
A gravity water filter is typically used to filter large amounts of water. First, you fill a reservoir or large container with water from your water source. Then, that container is hung from a tree or somewhere up high on your campsite. Gravity water filters are a convenient option because gravity does all the work for you, and no pumping is needed. It can sometimes be difficult to find a place to hang your container, though, and this is also not a great option for use in shallow water.
Bottle water filters have built-in filtration systems. Some models have a convenient bite valve or suction straw, while others work like a coffee press or use UV light. This is a great option for one person and can conveniently be carried inside your backpack. It is the most budget-friendly option, and the water is readily drinkable within a short period.
Founded in 1969 and currently headquartered in Seattle, MSR, or Mountain Safety Research, is a quality manufacturer of camping, hiking, and mountaineering equipment. In addition to hiking water filters, MSR produces tents, camping stoves, cooking sets, snowshoes, and more.
Survivor is a reputable company specializing in clean, drinkable water for the home, outdoor, and more. All of its products come with a defect-free Lifetime Warranty and personalized customer support. Survivor Filter produces quality home filters, electric filters, travel canteens, and other water filtration accessories.
Founded in 1984, Sawyer specializes in advanced outdoor products that protect against bacteria, sun, bugs, water, and injuries. Sawyer produces insect repellents, sunscreen, snake venom extractor, and other outdoor accessories in addition to water filters.
Hiking Water Filter Pricing
- Under $50: Hiking water filters in this price range provide excellent value. They are typically smaller filters or compact bottles that conveniently fit into your backpack while hiking, camping, fishing, and climbing.
- $50-$100: This is the most common price range for hiking water filters. You can find high-quality filters in this price range of all different types and sizes.
- $100 and up: Although priced at a premium, hiking water filters in this price range provide excellent filtration and protection against all types of bacteria and protozoan. They can even be used for large groups.
The capacity of your hydration filter can be an important feature to consider when making your purchase. If you are hiking alone or looking for something to fit inside your backpack conveniently, then a bottle filter may be your best option. But if you are camping in a large group, you may want to consider a pump filter or gravity filter, which typically includes large reservoirs for water.
Perhaps the most important feature of hiking water filters is its safety features. The best hiking water filters can easily turn dirty water from lakes, ponds, streams, and more, into safe drinking water. Water filters will protect you against protozoan, like Cryptosporidium and Giardia lamblia, bacteria, including E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Shigella, and even some types of viruses, such as hepatitis A, rotavirus, and norovirus.
The weight of your hiking water filter can be an important consideration. If you are using your water filter for backpacking, you will want to consider one of the more compact, lightweight options. Although gravity filters may weigh more, they are a good option for group hiking or group camping. Just make sure to find a sturdy tree or pole in your campsite that can hold your reservoir's weight when filled with water.
- Speed: If you are looking to get clean water in a hurry, then the bottle water filters are typically the best option. Some types of pump water filters can provide clean drinking water in a few minutes, but they require a lot more manual labor than comparable alternatives. Gravity water filters typically have the slowest filtration speed, but they are great for filtering large amounts of water with little manual effort.
- Maintenance: The amount of maintenance and cleaning is something to consider when purchasing a hiking water filter. Some water filters come with many parts that need to be thoroughly cleaned after each use. If you do not keep up with routine cleaning and maintenance of your water filter, then the product may not last as long or could have issues with mold over time.
- Warranty: Both the type and length of the warranty are important considerations. Most hiking water filters are produced by either reputable outdoor companies or trustworthy water filtration companies. Look for your hiking water filter to include at least some type of warranty that covers manufacturing defects. The best companies will even offer lifetime warranties that cover any issues with your product.
Best Hiking Water Filter Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- When using your hiking water filter, look for flowing water, particularly streams or rivers. Flowing water typically does not contain as many algae, microorganisms, or insects like mosquitoes.
- If you use your hiking water filter in calm water like a lake or pond, look for clear water without much sediment. This clear water will pass through your filter quickly and will not clog as easily.
- After a heavy rain or storm, wait before gathering water for your filter. Heavy rains increase bacteria and make your water much dirtier and difficult to filter.
- Gather your water from the surface if possible. That allows you to grab the clearest water possible with the least amount of sediment.
- Carry any excess water at least 200 feet away from water sources to dispose of it and to prevent the spread of pathogens in the water.
Q: How do you filter water for hiking?
Water for hiking can be filtered using various types of filters, including pump, gravity, and bottle filters. The water can be gathered from rivers, lakes, streams, and more.
Q: What is the best hiking water purifier?
Our top-rated hiking water filter is the MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter Water Filter, but many other quality water filters are available from reputable brands. Read our reviews to determine which one is the best fit for your needs.
Q: Can water filters remove viruses?
In general, a water filter is designed to remove protozoan and bacteria from water sources, but not viruses. However, water purifiers are designed to remove protozoa, bacteria, and viruses.
Consider the MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter Water Filter for a high-quality hiking water filter, which removes 99.9 percent of harmful contaminants, or the Survivor Filter PRO, which uses three separate filtration units.
Drop us a comment and let us know your favorite hiking water filter and what you love about it.