Whether you’re travelling abroad or heading out on a multi-day backpacking trip, it’s vital to stay hydrated. The same applies if you’re planning a canoeing adventure, going for a day hike or even trail running. And if you’re unlikely to have access to clean drinking water, filtering or purifying your water makes a lot of sense. It certainly beats having to lug around litres of fresh water in bottles or hydration bladders. Using a filter is also a lot safer than drinking straight from water sources. After all, even if that gurgling mountain stream looks clean, it’s impossible to tell whether it is safe to drink simply by looking at it.
A wide range of treatment systems can be used to make water safe. These work in various different ways to get rid of some or all of the five types of contaminants that can affect water sources. The big five are:
Turbidity – muddy, thick or cloudy water, caused by sand, mud, silt or other particles floating in the water
Parasites – tapeworms and stuff, but also disease-causing protozoa such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia
Bacteria – microscopic organisms that can cause disease, including E coli
Viruses – tiny waterborne nasties that are usually the cause of ‘Delhi belly’, ‘Montezuma’s revenge’ and other similar conditions that can ruin any adventure. More serious diseases such as Hepatitis A and Polio can also be contracted from viruses in dirty water
Chemicals – streams and rivers can carry harmful pollutants, from agricultural pesticides to heavy metals associated with mining and industry.
Luckily, you probably won’t have to deal with all of these issues in the great outdoors, even if you’re travelling in a remote area. Different places carry different risks. A little research should help you figure out what kinds of contaminants you need to worry about. That will help you decide the right filter or water treatment system to carry with you.
Best Backpacking Water Filters On The Market
In most cases, a portable water filter is a good option. The best filters usually have a few different elements in order to safely get rid of the most common bugs and nasties. Usually, this includes a coarse filter, as well as microfiltration. Some also have a carbon filter to remove chemicals.
They work in different ways too. Some filters use a pump mechanism, others work by squeezing or sucking water through tiny tubes. But they’re generally portable and relatively cheap as well as being quick and easy to use. That’s why they are now the go-to option for most adventurers. You’ll find our top picks below.
- Katadyn BeFree – Best Backpacking Water Filter
- Platypus QuickDraw
- Lifestraw Flex Water Filter
- Lifesaver Liberty
- Sawyer Mini Filter
- MSR Trailshot
- Lifestraw Go
- MSR Autflow XL Gravity Filter
- Lifestraw Universal