Camping and Backpacking Water Filter Buying Guide

If there is ever a time to use a water filter system, camping and backpacking is it. Avoid getting sick from contaminants like e. Coli, giardia, and shigella by transforming lake, river, or stream water into a high quality beverage with a camping water filter system.


Hydration, hydration, hydration. It's key to staying healthy on a daily basis, but it's necessary for survival when outdoors, exposed to the elements. When drinking from natural bodies of water, it's critical to have an effective filtration system that will remove contaminants that can make you sick. So frequently do giardia and cryptosporidium cause infection in campers and backpackers, they are known as "backpackers disease." And since it's not practical to carry multiple jugs of filtered water on outdoor adventures, stay healthy and hydrated by purifying water found in lakes, rivers, and streams with a water filtration system.


Camping and backpacking filters are specifically designed to be effective and portable, making it easy to carry and use them. From handheld pump-style filter to gravity-fed, there is a system that will fit your needs - and backpack. Extra rugged stainless steel systems ensure longevity and performance even with heavy usage and tough terrain.

Portable water treatment options include:

WHAT'S REMOVED: Filtration vs. Purification

All water treatment systems designed for camping and backpacking remove harmful substances in water to prevent illness and infection, but filtration is different than purification.


Filtration systems use a microfiltration process to clean out harmful bacteria, particles and other contaminants to improve the taste and safety of water. The end product will be drinking water that is clean, safe and free of bad odors or flavors.


Water purification systems use chemical treatment (UV light is the most common) to eliminate viruses, protozoa, and other microorganisms. They are very effective at removing harmful contaminants but do not remove sediment or improve taste or odor. They also treat water very quickly, sometimes in as few as 90 seconds.

Water treatment systems can reduce these contaminants:

  • Algae
  • Bacteria
  • Bad taste and odor
  • Chemicals
  • Chlorine taste and odor
  • Cholera
  • Cryptosporidium
  • Cysts
  • E. Coli
  • Giardia
  • Klebsiella Terrigena
  • Parasites
  • Particulates
  • Protozoa
  • Salmonella
  • Sand
  • Sediment
  • Shigella
  • Spores
  • Turbidity
  • Typhoid
  • Viruses


From high-capacity water treatment to fast-and-easy to UV pen purifiers, the long list of filtration system options can seem overwhelming. To narrow the options, focus on what you need by answering these questions:

  • What contaminants do you want to filter out? If an area is known to be high risk for a specific contaminant, look for a system designed to remove it. If you're not sure, look for products that filter out bacteria, protozoa, and viruses. If you just want to remove bacteria and viruses, a UV pen light will be effective. But if lakes or streams will be your main water source, you might prefer a system that removes sediment for a cleaner-looking glass of water.
  • How do you want to power your filter? Some filtration systems are powered by gravity, others use hand pumps, and UV pen lights are battery powered. All are effective, it's a matter of preference and circumstance. Consider factors like needing to carry spare batteries or whether you have the space to carry a gravity-fed system.
  • How much do you want to carry? If you're going on a long-distance trek, a smaller, lighter filter system will be important. But if you're driving to a campsite and have a plenty of packing space, a larger or heavier option will do the job. There are filters small enough to fit into your pocket, as well as systems powerful enough to filter 50 gallons of water - and some simply attach to a standard water bottle. Considering the
  • How many people are you filtering water for? Filter capacities vary greatly, from one person - even individual water bottle - to a large group.
  • How quickly do you want the filter to produce safe water? Because the speed of filtration can vary, your need and level of patience are important factors. Some pumps can filter 2 liters of water per minute, while others have a flow rate of about a gallon per hour - or longer. It can be useful to have one system that filters a lot of water slowly and second one that can rapidly purify small amounts to accommodate your short- and long-term needs.





For answers to filter-related questions, recommendations on the best camping or backpacking filter, or general water filtration questions, contact us