The 7 Greatest Backpacking Water Filters


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A dependable water filter is a should, no less than if you happen to like your drink with out a facet of giardia. There are innumerable units available on the market today, with microfiber filters coming in all sizes and shapes to squeeze, suck, press, or drain your soiled backcountry sources into safe-to-drink water. We’ve examined sufficient filters to fill a whole lot of Nalgenes with clear water, and realized a number of issues alongside the best way that can assist you store for the right one.

What to Look For in a Water Filter

msr guardian
The MSR Guardian makes for an excellent group water filter. (Photograph: courtesy)

Water Filter Designs

Via-hikers and ultralighters are likely to lean on gentle and compact straw and bottle filter techniques just like the Sawyer Squeeze, which weigh just some ounces and received’t break the financial institution. Some light-weight filters may be rigged as “in-line” filters, which connect to the tube between your hydration reservoir and mouthpiece, making water stops even speedier. Gravity and pump filters can require much less effort than squeeze and suck techniques when filtering massive quantities of water, however contribute to pack weight, measurement, and price. Notice: Chemical tablets, drops, and UV units aren’t included on this record.

Filter Cartridge Varieties

Each filter makes use of a central aspect to do the heavy-lifting: a cylindrical core with small holes to lure particles. The commonest varieties are ceramic filters and hole fiber filters, efficient at eradicating most dangerous contaminants.

Hole fiber microfilters are a bundle of tiny tubes, every sometimes lined in 0.2 micron pores. These weigh lower than ceramic and have a bigger floor space for sooner filtration, however the delicate fibers inside require common backflushing and are susceptible to freezing—a loss of life sentence for many cartridges. Ceramic filters, utilizing a stable core with pores, come at an identical value level as hole fiber and provide a comparable filter high quality. They are often simply cleaned with backflushing or brushing on the path (although they’re nonetheless inclined to freezing.) Some filters additionally embrace activated carbon for its capacity to soak up and take away tastes and odors from water.

Meant Use

Hole fiber and ceramic filters will preserve you secure for almost all of backcountry water sources in the USA, however in sure worldwide areas, viruses—sometimes too small for microfilters—are a priority. Excessive danger water sources embrace urban-adjacent our bodies of water, the place viruses can stay in human waste water, and stagnant or slow-flowing sources fashionable with animals (beaver ponds, for instance). Some specialised microfilters (just like the MSR Guardian  provide .02 micron ultrafiltration for precisely this function. Purification strategies, equivalent to UV or chemical therapy (which aren’t lined on this record), may also shield in opposition to viruses.

Like all backpacking gear, filter cartridges have a lifespan, sometimes measured in gallons or liters and starting from 300 to 100,000 gallons (the upper finish reached solely in sure unlikely situations). A pre-filter, generally constructed into water filtration techniques, will preserve the larger particles away from the delicate cartridge and lengthen the lifetime of your filter. Pre-filters are most useful when cleansing turbid (opaque) water, the place sediment, dust, and salts gather and discolor the water. (If you end up with out a built-in pre-filter, attempt operating your soiled water via a bandana a number of instances to catch sediment).

Greatest Water Filters on the Market

Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter
Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter (Photograph: courtesy)

Greatest Finances Water Filter: Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter

Worth: $39
Weight: 3 oz.
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When the Squeeze debuted in 2012 it represented a serious leap in water filter know-how, and we gave it an Editors’ Alternative Award. Nearly a decade later, it’s nonetheless top-of-the-line filters available on the market: It weighs simply 3 ounces, can filter as much as 1,000,000 gallons, and gives clear water shortly by way of its included 32-ounce squeeze pouch or a plastic water bottle. Sawyer has since launched smaller, lighter filters, however the simplicity and longevity of the unique Squeeze system nonetheless makes it a favourite of hikers in all places. —Chris Meehan

Platypus QuickDraw Microfilter System
Platypus QuickDraw Microfilter System (Photograph: courtesy)

Greatest for Light-weight Solo Hikes: Platypus QuickDraw Microfilter System

Worth: $45
Weight: 3.6 oz.
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I’ve constructed my complete climbing profession round shirking water responsibility, from emergency foot care to feigned issues with my tent. However after utilizing the Platypus QuickDraw, I’ve lastly modified my tune. A small deal with on the one-liter squeeze pouch (helpfully labeled “Soiled”) helps you to fill the reservoir with out dunking your arms. And two forms of locking threads plus a leak-proof gasket on the filter means it simply screws onto the reservoir or a Smartwater-size bottle with none seepage. On a 150-mile bikepacking journey in northern Montana this summer season, I used to be capable of filter two full-size bike bottles in a couple of minute. Not like different squeeze filters I’ve used, this one’s water pouch has but to develop pinholes, which each cut back squeeze strain—and thus filtration velocity. I additionally haven’t needed to clear it but on account of filter velocity slowdown, however doing so is simple with a fast backflush. —Corey Buhay

Grayl Geopress Water Purifier
Grayl Geopress Water Air purifier (Photograph: courtesy)

Greatest Constructed-In Bottle Filter: Grayl Geopress Water Air purifier

Worth: $100
Weight: 1 lbs.
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Right here at Backpacker, we’re well-documented followers of climbing gear that’s easy and environment friendly. The Geopress is each: This tremendous helpful water air purifier is extraordinarily simple to make use of and preserve, and it additionally doubles as an everyday ingesting vessel, negating the necessity to deliver a separate bottle on the path. Most impressively, the Geopress is probably the simplest and quickest filter we’ve ever used. That’s proper: no pumping, squeezing, or ready. You merely fill the empty vessel with soiled water, then insert the central cylinder and push down utilizing your physique weight. Utilizing vacuum strain, this forces the water up via the filter, which removes viruses, micro organism and protozoa. The method takes about 8 seconds, and also you’re left with 24 ounces of fresh water to drink. The Geopress is armored in thick, grippy TPE and silicone that preserve the filter protected and aids in getting a deal with on the vessel as you filter. It’s extra sturdy than most filters, making the Geopress a sensible decide for journey journey. And, in one other nod to its environment friendly design, you possibly can simply drink straight from the bottle. —Backpacker Contributors

MSR Guardian Gravity
MSR Guardian Gravity (Photograph: courtesy)

Greatest for Teams & Lengthy Haul Hikes: MSR Guardian Gravity

Worth: $270
Weight: 1 lbs. 3 oz.
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Filtering water typically begins with drawing straws. With the Guardian Gravity Air purifier, nonetheless, everybody wins. Fill its 10-liter reservoir (conveniently labeled “Soiled Water”), dangle it on a department, loosen the hose clamp, and let gravity do its factor. “I liked that I may fill the bag then have water at camp for the evening for our complete crew,” mentioned one tester who packed the filter on a nine-person rafting journey in Utah’s Cataract Canyon. A .02-micron hollow-fiber filter nixes viruses, micro organism, and protozoa, whereas an activated carbon stage reduces dangerous style, chemical compounds, and heavy metals. Primarily, this takes all the pieces we liked in regards to the unique Guardian, a 2016 Editors’ Alternative winner itself, and makes it effort-free. And, whereas nonetheless not low cost, it prices $100 lower than its predecessor. Whereas it shined in a bigger group setting, the Guardian Gravity is packable sufficient for long-haul backpacking journeys. MSR claims a stream fee of 1 liter each two minutes. We clocked it at 2:30, however what’s half a minute while you’re sitting round digging the view whereas the Guardian Gravity does all of the work? —Backpacker Editors

LifeStraw Go Stainless Steel
LifeStraw Go Stainless Metal (Photograph: courtesy)

Greatest for Retaining Your Water Chilly: LifeStraw Go Stainless Metal

Worth: $60
Weight: 17 oz.
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On dayhikes, simplicity is vital. That’s the place the multifunctional Go Stainless Metal shines: It’s a 24-ounce insulated bottle that incorporates a water filter, so you possibly can preserve your drink chilly and banish any worries about dehydration on lengthy single-day missions. “Throughout an all-day climbing outing in Colorado’s Clear Creek Canyon, I refilled the bottle a number of instances from the creek,” one editor says. “In late-summer warmth, it was refreshing to have one thing chilly to drink between routes.” (He says that the Go’s double-wall insulation helped the water stay icy chilly for no less than three hours, and different testers report even longer instances.) Chrome steel building allowed us to toss the bottle onto rocks and into our packs with out a concern about it breaking, as a bag-based or plastic filter may. Disadvantage: Drawing water up via the mouthpiece takes a bit extra effort than comparable filters we’ve examined. —Backpacker Contributors

Katadyn BeFree 3.0 Liter
(: Courtesy)

Greatest Light-weight Group Filter: Katadyn BeFree 3L

Worth: $65
Weight: 3.5 oz.
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We liked the unique Katadyn BeFree, a gentle flask that would pull double-duty as a water bottle and a squeeze filter, a lot that we gave it an Editors’ Alternative award. The 3L is a super-size model of that very same design that’s even simpler to make use of. It goes like this: Fill the reservoir from no matter supply is obtainable, then squeeze it or dangle it from the built-in deal with with a carabiner and let gravity do its factor. The .1 micron, hollow-fiber filter can course of 2 liters of water a minute, quick sufficient to supply for even a large group, and has a lifespan of 1,000 liters earlier than you must substitute it. Ding: The gentle reservoir can spring a leak with tough dealing with, however its simple sufficient to repair with a dab of seam grip. —Adam Roy

"Gear Guide Lifesaver Liberty"
‘Photograph by courtesy’

Greatest for Soiled Water: LifeSaver Liberty

Worth: $125
Weight: 1 lbs. 7.8 oz.
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When turbid, contaminated water is your solely possibility, you possibly can depend on the Liberty. It’s the one filter right here that removes viruses (because of its 0.015-micron pore measurement), and it’s the one air purifier right here that doesn’t require prefiltering if you need clear water. Although it’s cumbersome (in regards to the measurement of an insulated 20-ounce bottle), this hollow-fiber pump filter is lighter than comparable units at simply 15 ounces (and cheaper, too). An activated carbon disc neutralizes dangerous style whereas decreasing further contaminants, like lead. The small pore measurement means the Liberty is susceptible to clogging, however area cleansing solely requires filling the bottle half approach with clear water and giving it a superb shake. It treats 1 liter of water in 1 minute, 30 seconds. Bonus: The filter cartridge is replaceable ($40), so that you don’t have to purchase a complete new bottle when its life runs out. —Stasia Stockwell

What Backpacker Editors Appears For in a Water Filter

Gear editor Benjamin Tepler on the Colorado Path (Photograph: Benjamin Tepler)

Assistant Gear Editor, Benjamin Tepler

Within the fashionable period of backpacking, a water filter for solo climbing ought to barely make a dent when it comes to pack weight. I search for the lightest hollow-fiber filter doable that’s nonetheless sturdy sufficient to outlive being scraped in opposition to river rocks and repeatedly throttled.”

Skier smiling at the camera
Senior Digital Editor Adam Roy on a ski tenting journey in central Colorado. (Photograph: Adam Roy)

Senior Digital Editor, Adam Roy

“I’m a water bottle man, so if I’m climbing someplace with considerable water sources, I get one with a built-in filter. I favor hard-sided filter bottles over gentle flasks—I’ve simply popped too lots of the latter.”

The way to Keep Your Water Filter

Retaining your filter going takes care each on and off the path. Hole fiber filters are generally cleaned with a backflush, the place filtered water is run in reverse via a filter to push bigger sediment out of the cartridge and again to the supply. Backflushing is very vital when filtering sediment-filled water. Ceramic filters additionally profit from a backflush, however may be opened to hand-clean any apparent blockages with out the danger of injury. Much more vital than common flushing, keep away from exposing your filter to freezing situations—eradicating the cartridge and stowing it in your chest pocket or sleeping bag will stop any leftover water from freezing and destroying the filter. 

At residence, clear any further reservoirs and tubes with cleaning soap and water, and disinfect the cartridge with a flush of diluted chlorine resolution to kill any lingering micro organism: one cap-full of family bleach to 1 quart water. After flushing, rinse with clear water and let it dry fully.


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