The best water purifiers

Drink what nature provides with the best water purifiers

best water purifiers

If you’re planning a multi-day hiking trip or camping expedition, water is a huge concern. When space and weight are important, water is a liability and if a trip lasts more than a day, you probably won’t be able to carry enough with you. Thankfully, there are filtration systems designed to take nearby river or lake water and make it safe to drink — also known as water purifiers. Take a look at our picks of the best water purifiers for your next trip (home filters are over here), and see what matches your specific outdoor needs.

Keep in mind that when people talk about water filtration, they mean, “Make natural water drinkable,” and that’s the definition we used here. There are actually two types — water filters and water purifiers. Filters remove bacteria, dirt, and other nasties found in mountain rivers, lates, etc.

True purifiers (which are also on the list) tend to use iodine or other chemical options to kill viruses. Viruses aren’t often a great concern when traveling to little-used streams or lakes but in undeveloped countries, or in rivers where people tend to congregate, virus-killing purification is necessary. Don’t go unprepared.

LifeStraw Mission Purifier
$125

This quintessential purifier allows you to pump water up through a purification filter and into a durable bag (bags collapse easier than containers and are therefore better suited for hiking). You can choose between a 12-liter and 5-liter version of the bag — depending on how many people plan to use it. Just fill the bag, hang it from a nearby tree or pole, and your camp is supplied with a source of healthy water. The tube ends in a small tap to pour water on demand, with a hose function allowing for a quick wash when necessary.

LifeStraw’s Mission also removes viruses and bacteria, making it an excellent choice for mission work and international travel, as well as the average basecamp. In fact, the LifeStraw brand often pops up at global disaster sites because of its dependability. All told, it’s an easy recommendation.

Buy it now at:

Amazon

Katadyn Pocket Water Filter
$234

This pocket filter is designed to supply water to roughly four different people. It uses a silver-infused ceramic filter to take care of bacteria and protozoa, along with any micro-organisms larger than 0.2 microns — which proves very effective compared to the average water filter.

Katadyn’s model is an excellent example of the pouchless pump version. You simply take the pump down to a water source, stick one end in, put the other into a container, and pump water until the container fills. On one hand, this retrieves loads more water than gravity systems, especially if water is particularly far away. Additionally, it remains easy to use anywhere, it’s incredibly durable, and you can use it to fill any current water container instead of buying a new one. The price, however, means investment is required — and you’ll need to make sure the carbon filter is replaced when necessary.

Buy it now at:

Amazon

Katadyn Hiker Pro
$63

Was the previous Katadyn model way too expensive for your modest hiking and camping needs? Then this version, the Hiker Pro, may be more your style. It’s one of the lightest backpacking filters Katadyn makes, streams roughly 1 quart per minute, and uses both a 0.2 micron filter and activated carbon. It may not be big enough to produce drinkable water for everyone in a group but it’s ideal for the solo hiker who wants to stay properly hydrated — even when the only water at hand has a lot of fish poop in it.

Buy it now at:

Amazon

EcoVessel Filtration Water Bottle
$43

If you’re interested in a more eco-friendly, contained filter option, this BPA-free bottle is right up your alley. It features a built-in filter which removes heavy metals, chlorine, and bacteria from water. It also boasts a ton of insulation to keep water cold and prevent annoying condensation, which is especially nice in hot weather. The bottle’s compact nature is a plus, too — just fill it up and take a drink when you’re thirsty. The downside is this bottle is in no way collapsible and it’ll take up valuable space when you’re packing.

Buy it now at:

Amazon

Platypus Gravity Works
$120

This 4L filtration system has an interesting dual-bag set-up. 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.

Buy it now at:

Amazon

The Sawyer Squeeze
$50

The Squeeze gets its name from the included pouch: Fill the pouch up at a nearby stream, attach the filter head, and squeeze purified water into a container or bucket of your choice for fresh water. The pouch collapses easily for great storage when you aren’t used 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 larger needs. According to Sawyer, the filter gets rid of 99.99999 percent of bacteria and protozoa. It’s a particularly versatile purifier for just $50, making it an excellent option if you aren’t sure what to get.

Buy it now at:

Amazon

MSR Guardian Purifier Pump
$330

Maybe these filters look far too small and weak for your needs. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the MSR Guardian 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.

Buy it now at:

Amazon

Aquatabs Purification Tablets
$10

The traditional water purifier used to consist of tablets you put into water to help kill bacteria and make it safe to drink. These tablets aren’t as effective as filter-based water purifiers, which is why they’ve largely been replaced on the market but they are still a useful alternative for a couple reasons: They’re cheap and they don’t take up much room.

You can buy 200 tablets for around $10 from Aquatabs and store them for an emergency: It’s a nice option to have if you believe there will be potable water on your trip but you want to prepare just in case. Collect water from as clean a source as possible (like a flowing river), drop a tablet in, wait 30 minutes, and dangerous microorganisms will be killed off. Just pay attention to the shelf life!

Buy it now at:

Amazon

Updated on January 16, 2018, by Tyler Lacoma. Updated pricing. Replaced Katady Hiker with Katadyn Hiker Pro. Replaced Sawyer Mini Filter with Sawyer Squeeze. Added Aquatabs.