backpacking water purifiers
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The Best Backpacking Water Purifiers

Drink What Nature Provides With The Best Backpacking Water Purifiers You Can Buy

We don’t want contaminated water to spoil our outdoor adventure, which is why we chose the MSR Trail Base 2L as our top pick for a Backpacking Water Purifiers It’s a versatile backpacking water purifiers that can be used at a campsite and then broken down into a pocket-sized purifier for use on the trail


backpacking water purifiers MSR Trailbase
MSR Trailbase backpacking water purifiers

One of our favorite features is the small attached hose that lets you purify water where a bottle can’t reach

We tested over 10 different purifiers on our weekly hikes and monthly backpacking trips

Our recommendations cover the gamut of what you would need for different backcountry situations including bottle purifiers for day hikers, pocket-sized purifiers for weight-conscious thru-hikers, and heavy-duty purifiers for those who go way off the grid If you need to purify your home water, we’ve got you covered over here.


MSR Trail Base 2L The best overall Backpacking Water Purifiers

Why you should buy this:

The MSR Trail Base is one of the most versatile filtration systems on the market You can use the entire kit as a gravity system or break it apart into a pocket-sized filter and a portable 2L reservoir

Who it’s for:

Campers and backpackers in a group who want to purify two liters of water or more at a time

Why we picked the MSR Trail Base:

This MSR Trail Base 2L filtration system uses two bags — one for dirty water and one for clean water The bags work as you would expect — you pour the unfiltered water into the “dirty” bag and use gravity to filter into the clean bag.

backpacking water purifiers Msr Trailbase
MSR TrailBase backpacking water purifiers

This dual-bag system minimizes any contamination and helps to keep your clean water clean It also filters exceptionally fast.

The Trail Base hollow fiber filters remove bacteria and protozoans, but not viruses It cleans easily as well — just shake or swish to remove any debris.

What sets the Trail Base apart from the competing gravity filters by Platypus and Katadyn is the modular design of the Trail Base. You can use the whole kit as a basecamp gravity filtration system or break it apart and use the filter and reservoirs individually.

The pocket-sized trail shot filter is outstanding It has a short hose that allows you to reach even the smallest puddle of water and filters water quickly using the integrated hand pump It’s fast — we were able to fill a 1-liter SmartWater bottle in under a minute.

The Trail Base is available now with both a 2L and 4L reservoir If those sizes aren’t big enough for you, then just wait a little longer — MSR is preparing to release a 10L AutoFlowXL Gravity Filter system in the near future.

MSR TrailShot

The best lightweight water filtration system

Why you should buy this:

The MSR TrailShot is surprisingly small and lightweight, yet still very effective.

backpacking water purifiers Msr Trailshot
MSR Trailshot backpacking water purifiers

Who it’s for:

Ultralight backpackers looking for a water filtration system that weighs next to nothing and doesn’t add bulk to their packs.

Why we picked the MSR TrailShot:

Weighing just 5 ounces and measuring 6 inches in length, you’re hard pressed to find a filtration system that is this light and compact, yet still highly effective MSR says that the TrailShot can remove 999999% effective at removing bacteria from water, while also 9999% effective with protozoa too Additionally, the TrailShot can remove particulates from water, making it even safer and healthier to drink

The TrailShot requires just one hand to use and can draw water directly from a lake, river, or stream.

It is fast enough to fill a 1 liter water bottle in under a minute, yet safe enough that hikers can drink straight from the spout It is even incredibly simple to keep clean and functioning in the field, which makes it a great choice for extended outings or long-distance hikes.

It’s size is so convenient however that mountain bikers, trail runners, and other outdoor enthusiasts will find it handy to carry with them as well.

MSR Guardian Purifier

The best for international travel

Why you should buy this:

The MSR Guardian is a powerhouse of a purifier that can remove particulates, bacteria, and viruses at a rate of 25 liters per minute.

backpacking water purifiers Msr guardian
MSR Guardian backpacking water purifiers

Who it’s for:

Backpackers and international travelers who want a foolproof water filtration system

Why we picked the MSR Guardian:

When you need clean water no matter what, the MSR Guardian is the purification system for you It is a military-certified pump that handles both bacteria and viruses with ease, pumping up to 2.5 liters per minute with a reliable water source at hand (and someone who won’t get tired of pumping)

The pump is self-cleaning and lasts for more than 10,000 liters before the filter cartridge needs replacing It also withstands freezing temperatures and other harsh conditions.

If you want to put the “base” in basecamp, this is the water purifier for you Of course, you’ll have to find a way to lug the thing around with you.

Aquamira Water Treatment Drops

The best chemical purification

Why you should buy this:

Aquamira water treatment drops are a great alternative when you don’t want to carry a filter or have a filter that fails.

Who it’s for:

Backpackers who want a cheap and easy way to sterilize water without having to carry a filter.

Why we picked the Aquamira water treatment drops:

The traditional water sterilizer used to consist of tablets or liquid you put into water to help kill bacteria and make it safe to drink.

These chemical treatments aren’t as convenient as filter-based water purifiers, which is why they’ve mostly been replaced on the market.

They are still a useful alternative for a couple reasons:

They’re cheap, very effective and they don’t take up much room in your pack Aquamira is our top pick because it uses chlorine dioxide, which kills everything (bacteria, protozoans, and viruses) in the water and doesn’t change the taste or the color of the water You can buy 1 ounce of Aquamira for $15 and store it for an emergency.

Because it uses two separate solutions that are inert, the treatment has an extraordinarily long shelf life of four years, even after you open it.

The liquid form also is fast-acting when compared to the tablets.You don’t have to deal with tablets that sometimes are difficult to dissolve and take up to four hours to work.

As soon as the Aquamira liquid is activated, the chemicals get right to work on the nasties in your water.

Using Aquamira is a two-step process.

You first mix solution A with solution B according to manufacturer’s directions and wait 8 minutes for the chemicals to react and form chlorine dioxide.

You then add the chemical mixture to your bottle or bladder and wait for 30 minutes while the dangerous microorganisms (bacteria, virus, protozoa) are killed off.

During this process, the chlorine dioxide is neutralized so they don’t leave a bad aftertaste like iodine does It takes some planning to get potable water when you are using with Aquamira, but you don’t have to deal with clogged filters or dead UV pens that fail when you need them the most.

Platypus GravityWorks 4L

The best gravity filtration system

backpacking water purifiers Playtypus gravityworks
Playtypus GravityWorks backpacking water purifiers

Why you should buy this:

The Platypus GravityWorks

Who it’s for:

People who don’t like pumping

Why we picked the Platypus GravityWorks 4L:

This 4L filtration system has an interesting dual-bag setup

Pour water into one bag and it empties into another as it filters, allowing you to control how much water is filtered at one time Unfortunately, it doesn’t filter water that’s potentially contaminated with viruses but it remains a very strong option for a basecamp that needs a reliable source of potable water.

The filtration speed is particularly fast, which is nice if you go through a lot of water while cooking or cleaning It filters bacteria and protozoans, but not viruses.

Lifesaver Liberty Bottle

The best bottle filtration system

backpacking water purifiers-lifesaver liberty bottle
Lifesaver Liberty Bottle

Why you should buy this:

The Lifesaver Liberty water bottle includes a powerful filtration system that provides clean drinking water anytime you need it .

Who it’s for:

Backpackers and trail runners who want a water bottle they can fill and then filter while on the go

Why we picked the Lifesaver Liberty:

Most of us carry a water bottle with us on our outdoor adventures anyway, so why not bring one that happens to filter water too?

The Lifesaver Liberty comes with an inline pump and a 5-foot hose that allows users to draw water directly from the source and remove harmful viruses, bacteria, and cysts all at the same time.

The bottle itself can hold up to 400 milliliters of liquid, and it can be used to fill hydration reservoirs or larger bottles as well.

The built-in filtration system can process as much 12 liters per minute without the use of chemicals or electricity and it is good for up to 2,000 liters of water before the filter needs to be replaced.

Steripen Ultra UV Water Purifier

The best ultraviolet light purification system

backpacking water purifiers steripen ultra
Steripen Ultra

Why you should buy this:

The Steripen Ultra UV Water Purifier kills bacteria, protozoans, and viruses in a literal minute using UV light.

Who it’s for:

Backpackers who want a purification system that is small, compact, and doesn’t require pumping or replacement filters

Why we picked the Steripen Ultra UV Water Purifier:

Most of the purification systems on this list require the users to pump water through a filter in order to remove harmful bacteria and viruses.

Not so with the Steripen, which uses UV light to make the water safe to drink instead.

To operate this device, simply place the probe into your water source, turn it on, and stir for approximately 90 seconds or until the unit tells you that the purification is complete

The UV light disrupts the DNA of viruses, bacteria, and protozoans during the purification process, rendering them inactive.

Each light is capable of up to 8,000 treatments over its lifetime

If you exceed this limit, Steripen will replace the light for free.

Because the Steripen uses batteries, you have to keep an eye on your battery level to make sure you have enough juice to purify your water.

The Ultra model we selected has a rechargeable battery that you can plug into any charging block or wall plug using the supplied USB cable.

Each full charge can purify up to 50 liters of water

The unit conveniently has an onboard battery meter so you know precisely how much charge you have left Steripen also sells units that are powered by AA batteries if you don’t carry a charger and prefer to use standard batteries.

Sawyer Squeeze

The best budget water filtration system

backpacking water purifiers
Sawyer Squeeze

Why you should buy this:

The Sawyer Squeeze strikes an excellent balance — it’s not too big, not too expensive and is effective at filtering disease-causing bacteria and protozoa.

Who it’s for:

Backpackers on a budget who want an effective water filter that is easy on the wallet.

Why we picked the Sawyer Squeeze:

The Squeeze gets its name from the included pouch: Fill the bag up at a nearby stream, attach the filter head, and squeeze the purified water into a container or bucket of your choice for fresh water It filters bacteria and protozoans, but not viruses.

The pouch collapses easily for great storage when you aren’t using it, making this option particularly backpack friendly However, the filter is an adaptable little guy — it has attachments that allow you to fit it over a faucet for purified water during emergencies (or doubtful water quality), or you can use the included bucket adapter to fill a bucket for showers and other more substantial needs.

According to Sawyer, the filter gets rid of 99 percent of bacteria and protozoa It’s a particularly versatile purifier for just $30, making it an excellent option if you’re operating on a limited budget Sawyer also makes the and the Micro Squeeze The both are smaller versions of the squeeze that are equally easy to use and as efficient as the standard-sized.

Squeeze Lifestraw

The best budget emergency filtration system.

Backpacking Water Purifiers lifestraw system
Backpacking Water Purifiers lifestraw system

Why you should buy this:

The Lifestraw retails for $20 and is often on sale, making it a no-brainer filter to always have in your pack for the SHTF moments.

Who it’s for:

Backpackers or travelers who want an easy-to-pack filter that you can use like a straw to sip from a lake or stream.

Why we picked the Lifestraw:

Just dip and sip That is how easy it is to use a Lifestraw

As its name implies, the Lifestraw is a straw with a filter built inside of it.

It filters bacteria and protozoans, but not viruses and can filter 4,000 liters (1,000 gallons) of water over its lifetime.

You place one end in the water source and use the mouthpiece end to suck up the water It takes a few minutes of sucking to get a good flow, but once it is working you can get a mouthful of water with each suck.

The Lifestraws are prone to clogging so be careful not to suck up too much sediment and take the time to backwash after each use.

This regular maintenance will ensure you get years of use out of the straw.

Things To Consider About Backpacking Water Purifiers

Do you need a filter or a purifier?

Keep in mind that when people talk about Backpacking Water Purifiers, they mean, “Make natural water drinkable,” and that’s the definition we used here.

There are actually two types of water treatment — water filters and water purifiers. The primary difference between the two is the size of the organisms that they remove from the water.

Filters are popular among hikers and backpackers because they are relatively cheap, packable and easy to use

They use a hollow fiber membrane or similar material with microscopic pores.

These pores are small enough that they will remove bacteria and protozoans (such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia lamblia) found in mountain rivers, lakes, and similar bodies of water.

Filters are convenient, but they require some maintenance.

They can get clogged with debris, especially if you don’t pre-filter the water to remove sediment and organic material.

To unclog a filter, you need to backwash it periodically according to the manufacturer’s directions.

True purifiers (which are also on our list) tend to use specialized filters, UV light or chemical options to kill viruses in addition to bacteria and protozoans.

Viruses often aren’t a significant concern when traveling to remote streams or lakes, but in undeveloped countries, or in rivers where people tend to congregate, virus-killing purification is necessary.

Don’t go unprepared or even underprepared when it comes to treating your water in any unsanitary locations.

Besides making water safe to drink, some filters and purifiers also include activated charcoal in the filtration system because it helps to remove unpleasant tastes from the water. It also is effective at removing heavy metals, pesticides, and other industrial/agricultural by-products.

Do I need a backup? Absolutely, yes!

You should carry a backup water treatment when you are going into the woods for more than a few hours.

No water treatment is foolproof.

We’ve had our filter clog unexpectedly on the trail, accidentally left it outside to freeze and even forgotten to pack it.

Having a backup in these circumstances allowed us to continue on our trip and not have to turn back because we couldn’t treat our water.

If you travel in a group, you can share the load, As long as two people have a water treatment option, you shouldn’t have any problems with water If you have no water filters or purifiers and you absolutely need water, you also can boil it for 10 minutes before using it to drink or eat.

Boiling is as effective as any of the filters or purifiers, it just takes time and patience.

Storage and care

Treat your water treatments systems with some TLC and they will last you for years. Abuse them and you may end up pooping your pants and puking your guts out from some nasty intestinal bug.

During your hike, you need to watch out for two things — any particulate matter that’ll clog your filter or below freezing temperatures that’ll freeze your filters.

Preventing particulate is simple — choose a cleaner water source if possible or use a cloth as a pre-filter to remove the sediments and silt.

Freezing your filter is a bigger issue during the winter season but it can easily be avoided by sleeping with the filter in your sleeping bag.

When you are done hiking or backpacking, you should backwash your filter to remove any debris if recommended by the manufacturer and then sanitize it. You can sanitize it using chlorine dioxide drops or diluted bleach and allow it thoroughly dry before storing Editors’ Recommendations

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