Reviews

The Best Hiking Water Filters (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021

A hiking water filter is essential if you’re an outdoor enthusiast.

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BY Zach Faulds / LAST UPDATED ON February 20, 2021

Anyone who spends a significant amount of time outdoors knows that one of the most important things you need is 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 on the go outdoors, the more water you’ll need. One way to cut down on this 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.

Best Overall
MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter Water Filter
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Summary
Summary

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.

Pros
Pros
  • 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
Cons
Cons
  • Filter has a tendency to build up pressure inside the filter chamber, slowing the water filtration speed per pump down to a slow crawl
Best Overall
MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter Water Filter
Best Value
Survivor Filter PRO
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Summary
Summary

A compact hand pump uses three separate filtration units to provide clean, clear drinking water at a rate of 500 milliliters per minute.

Pros
Pros
  • 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
Cons
Cons
  • Constructed from entirely plastic and has a design flaw in its pump handle, which tends to snap.
Best Value
Survivor Filter PRO
Honorable Mention
Sawyer Products MINI Water Filtration System
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Summary
Summary

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.

Pros
Pros
  • 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
Cons
Cons
  • 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
Honorable Mention
Sawyer Products MINI Water Filtration System
The Best Hiking Water Filters
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All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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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

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.  


Gravity

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

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. 

Top Brands

MSR

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

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. 

Sawyer

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.

Key Features

Capacity

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.

Safety

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.

Weight

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.

Other Considerations

  • 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

Best Overall
MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter Water Filter

This system 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. The hand pump processes up to one liter of water per minute. Attach the base to the included hose, or mount it directly to compatible large-mouth water bottles and hydration system bladders. Each filter is capable of cleaning up to 2,000 liters of water before needing to be replaced. The entire system can be cleaned and maintained without tools. It weighs one pound and measures 7.5 inches tall and 2.75 inches in diameter, so it’s easy to add to your gear. 


One downside is that the filter tends to build up pressure inside the filter chamber, which decreases the water filtration speed per pump down to a slow crawl. Also, this filter is not able to remove viruses.

Premium Pick
Platypus GravityWorks High-Capacity Water Filter System

This water filtration system takes all the work out of cleaning your drinking water. Simply fill the “dirty” bladder with water, attach the included hoses, filtration unit, and “clean” bladder, and let gravity do the rest. Water flows from the elevated bag into the drinking water bag at a rate of 1.75 liters per minute. The four-liter bladder can be filled with clean water in as little as 2.5 minutes. The high-quality filter removes up to 99.9 percent of bacteria and dangerous protozoa. Replacement parts, bottle adapters, and taste-removing carbon elements can be purchased separately.


One downside to this system is its plastic construction. When the reservoir is full of water, the plastic holes that hold the straps have been known to start breaking and falling apart. It has been reported that the customer service team is happy to help with these issues and send a replacement product.

Best Value
Survivor Filter PRO

This compact hand pump uses three separate filtration units to provide clean, clear drinking water at a rate of 500 milliliters per minute. The 0.1-micron pre-filter removes dangerous algae and protozoa that can cause serious illness, while the 0.01-micron primary filter removes 99.9 percent of viruses. Both have a lifespan of 100,000 liters. The carbon filter eliminates pollutants like heavy metals and chemicals and has a lifespan of 2,000 liters. This system is backed by a lifetime warranty. A collection cup and storage bag are included. 


One issue that customers have reported with the Survivor Filter PRO is its construction—it is made entirely from plastic and has a design flaw in its pump handle, which tends to snap or break. While this option is lighter and more compact than many alternatives, it also processes water at a slower rate.

Most Compact
Sawyer Products MINI Water Filtration System

This entire system weighs only 3.5 ounces and measures 4 x 3 x 8 inches. The filtration unit can be attached to the included drinking pouch, drinking straw, or a standard disposable water bottle. The filter removes 99.9 percent of bacteria, 99.9 percent of protozoa, and 100 percent of microplastics. Since these filters can clean 100,000 gallons of water, it’s unlikely you’ll ever need a replacement. A small plunger is included to generate backflow that flushes the filter clean. Every filter sold undergoes thorough testing before being packaged. Additional adapters, bladders, and drinking pouches are available to be purchased separately.


The Sawyer Products MINI Water Filtration System has been known to have issues with its O-ring, which creates a seal. The O-rings of this water filter can break or crack, so you may need to replace them over time.

Most Durable
LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

This filtration system doesn’t use any chemicals or moving parts, so it’s very durable and won’t let you down. Each filter can clean up to 1,000 gallons of water before it needs to be replaced. The 0.2-micron filter exceeds EPA standards and removes 99.9 percent of bacteria, protozoa, and microplastics. It also makes drinking water more clear by removing dirt and silt. This option will satisfy even the most weight-conscious hiker at just 1 inch in diameter, 9 inches long, and 2 ounces. Remember that, without a bladder or transfer hose, this filter must be submerged in water and used as a straw.


Some customers have reported that the straw of the LifeStraw Personal Water Filter is difficult to use. If you do not enjoy sucking your water through a straw, then another product with a pump or squeezable feature may be a better option to consider.

Honorable Mention
Katadyn Hiker Microfilter Water Filter

The Katadyn Hiker Microfilter Water Filter is an extremely durable product available at a great price point. This hiking water filter has reportedly lasted up to six or seven years for many customers before replacing the filter. Its 0.2-micron glass fiber filter is designed to filter bacteria, protozoa, microplastics, chemicals, and more. The activated carbon in the core of the filter improves your drinking water taste and reduces chemicals. Compared to other products, there is no need for constant backflushing. This ultra-light, compact water filter weighs just 11 ounces to fit within your backpack while hiking or camping.


One downside is that it needs to be manually pumped to operate correctly, which takes a lot of work. However, this water filter's flow rate is fast enough that you won't have to spend too much time waiting for your water to become drinkable.

Honorable Mention
GRAYL Geopress 24 oz Water Purifier

This product uses electro adsorption and activated carbon to purify your drinking water. To use, simply fill your bottle with water, press down, and drink. If you are consuming very dirty water or traveling to remote locations, this is probably the best option on the market. In addition to most bacteria and protozoan, this bottle filters heavy metals, chemicals, and viruses. The 24-ounce size makes a perfect travel option and can easily fit within your backpack or luggage. It is an excellent option for international travel and allows you to filter any tap water before drinking quickly.


One downside of the GRAYL Geopress Water Purifier is that its cartridges are relatively expensive and need to be replaced more often than other models. The company recommends replacing your cartridges about every 250 liters of water, or roughly 66 gallons.

Honorable Mention
CrazyCap 2.0 UV Water Purifier

This water filter has a high-quality stainless steel design available in four unique color options. It filters 99.9996 percent of mold, protozoan, bacteria, and viruses from your drinking water using UV light exposure. This light not only protects against viruses and bacteria but also sterilizes the bottle. The vacuum-insulated stainless steel will keep water cold for up to 24 hours at a time. A limited lifetime warranty is included with each purchase, which helps to protect you against manufacturing defects. The cap typically lasts about a week before it needs to be recharged.


One downside of the CrazyCap 2.0 UV Water Purifier is its high-end price point. This market does provide a trusted option from a reputable company, particularly if you are looking for a product that does not involve replaceable filters or a lot of cleaning and maintenance.

Tips

  • 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.

FAQs

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.

Final Thoughts

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.