What Are The Best Backpacking Water Filters In 2022?

We help you find the best backpacking water filter or purifier to fit your needs.
Best Backpacking Water Filters

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Whether you’re on an extended backpacking trip, an ultralight trail run, or adventure traveling abroad, staying well hydrated is critically important.

Below we help you find the best backpacking water filters for your next adventure in a quick and easy format.

There are a number of great backpacking water filters on the market from hard core pump filters to simple gravity filters or handheld squeeze filters.

Some filter viruses, others do not. Some are portable, others are clunky workhorses.

Knowing which is right for your needs can be confusing.

Read on to see the best of the best; their pros and cons, important specs, and where to find them.

As always, skip ahead using the table of contents or go straight to the summary here.

Keep in mind, water filters for home use like a Brita Filter are NOT intended for backpacking or travel use. They do NOT filter out bacteria, viruses, or harmful protozoa like Giardia.

The Best Backpacking Water Filters

Water filters come in all shapes and sizes.

A hardcore pump filter like the MSR Guardian Purifier with medical grade hollow fiber technology and virus protection might be the right choice for your next Andean alpine expedition; while a simple handheld squeeze filter like the MSR TrailShot is perfect for trail running and ultra light backpacking.

Finding the right one for you might take some experimentation and research. Thankfully, we did all the leg work so you can spend your time focusing on your next big trip.

Regardless of what filter you choose, the best backpacking water filter should eliminate parasites, bacteria, viruses (only some filters), chemicals or particulates (some filters), be easy to maintain and operate, and be light and durable.

Keep reading below to find the best of the best and for more detailed specifications about each filter.

Learn more about the different between water filters and water purifiers here.

Best Pump Backpacking Water Filters

Top pick: MSR Guardian Purifier
Best for large groups: Katydyn KFT Expedition
Best for a budget: Katadyn Hiker Pro
Most compact: MSR MiniWorks EX
Katadyn Pocket
MSR HyperFlow Microfilter

MSR Guardian Purifier

If you need a water filter that is just as capable in a back country seep as it is in developing nations, then the MSR Guardian is the water treatment device for you. The Guardian is durable, fast and easy to use, and is relatively compact and lightweight. Unlike other pump water filters the MSR Guardian is self-cleaning and back-flushes automatically with every pump. Originally designed to meet military standards, the Guardian is drop proof and designed to withstand freezing temperatures. Ready for the nastiest water you can throw at it, the MSR Guardian Purifier removes bacteria, protozoa, sediment, and viruses.

Weight: 490 g / 17 oz.
Dimensions: 3 x 4.5 x 8.25″
Flow rate: 2.5 L/min
Filter type: Advanced hollow fiber
Filter life:
~10,000 L
Removes viruses:
Yes

Pros & Cons:
• Self-cleaning & auto back-flush
• Treats up to 10,000 L/filter cartridge
• Fast filter rate
• Drop tested to 6′
• Compact & lightweight

Best Backpacking Water Filter MSR Guardian

Pump filters have long been the standard in backpacking water filters and today they still offer the best balance of filtration, flow rate, and durability.

The main draw back of pump filters is two-fold: their size and required maintenance (i.e. back-flushing and cleaning).

Pump filters also require some sort of handle, making them bulkier (and sometimes heavier) than their squeeze, press, or gravity counterparts.

Regardless of which backpacking water filter you choose, pump filters offer the best protection with the highest flow rates and the greatest durability.

Best Gravity Water Filters

• Top pick: Platypus GravityWorks 4L
• Best for large groups: MSR Autoflow XL, LifeStraw Mission
• Best protection: MSR Guardian Gravity Purifier

• Best versatility: MSR Trail Base Water Filter Kit
Katadyn Gravity BeFree 3L
LifeStraw Flex Gravity

Platypus GravityWorks 4L

The Platypus GravityWorks filter’s simple design make it durable, easy to use, and easy to maintain. Unlike other gravity water filters, Platypus doesn’t add too many finicky moving parts. Hose fasteners are simple and strong and the filter itself is quick to back flush and detach from the system for storage. The GravityWorks filters water at a rate of 1.75L/min, making it perfect for large groups. It is available in 4L or 6L sizes. While the entire system weighs only 326 g/11.5 oz. The GravityWorks is a no-fuss, no-frills, high-quality water filter that you can expect to keep working well after your thirst is quenched.

Weight: 326 g / 11.5 oz.
Dimensions: 3.25 x 9.5″
Flow rate: 1.75 L/min
Filter type: Hollow Fiber
Filter life:
1500 L
Removes viruses:
No

Pros & Cons:
• Easy to back-flush
• Perfect for large groups
• Save time & energy
• Lightweight & packable
• Simple-durable design
• Affordable price tag

Platypus Gravity Works Filter

LifeStraw Mission

LifeStraw was one of the first names in portable personal water treatment. The company was started with and still operates on a humanitarian mission. For every product sold a portion goes to providing water filters to school children in need across the world. The company is also involved in a number of other humanitarian and philanthropic endeavors, and is a climate neutral certified brand. The LifeStraw Mission is a high volume (available in 5 L & 12 L) gravity filter that works with a single reservoir bag with its own integrated pre-filter. While the actual filter is slightly bulkier than other gravity filters, the LifeStraw filter is extremely easy to setup, use, and back-flush. LifeStraw builds a quality filter you can feel good about purchasing.

Weight: 530 g / 18.7 oz.
Dimensions: 18.7 x 10.6″ (12 L bag)
Flow rate: 12 L/hour
Filter type: Membrane Ultrafilter
Filter life:
Up to 18000 L
Removes viruses:
Yes

Pros & Cons:
• Slow flow rate
• Easy to back-flush
• Good for large groups
• Simple-durable design
• Affordable price tag
• Give back with each purchase

LifeStraw Mission Gravity Water Filter

Gravity water filters work by, well, gravity.

Hang it above the filter and collect your clean-drinkable water.

Some gravity filters come with two bags, one labeled “dirty water,” and another labeled “clean water.” Others are a single bag for dirty water with a filter below where you will need a water bottle to collect your potable water.

Gravity Water Filters for Backpacking
source: MSR Gear, Platypus

Gravity water filters are an easy way to quickly filter large amounts of water. They are best suited to base camps or large groups of people.

Keep in mind, gravity water filters rely on a large reservoir bag. If your water sources are limited to standing puddles or seeps it will be challenging to fill the reservoir bag.

A better choice for low water scenarios are pump or squeeze filters.

Best Press & Water Bottle Filters For Backpacking

• Top pick: GRAYL GeoPress
LifeStraw Go
LifeStraw Universal Bottle Adapter

GRAYL GeoPress

The GRAYL GeoPress and its slightly smaller sibling, the UltraPress, just might be the greatest water filters of all time. Self-contained, stylish, and fast, GRAYL filters are lightweight and compact. These filters offer one of the fastest flow rates on the market – 24 oz./710 ml in eight seconds! Simply fill the container, press the filter down, and clean drinking water percolates into the integrated watertight bottle. Stash the bottle in your pack, sip on the go straight from the bottle, or transfer it to a larger container with the wide RiverFlow spout. All GRAYL filters have some of the highest purification ratings on the market. As per GRAYL, their filters remove viruses, bacteria, protozoa, particulates, heavy metals, pesticides, chemicals, flavors, and odors.

Weight: 450 g / 15.9 oz.
Dimensions: 10.4 x 3.4″
Flow rate: 5 L/min
Filter type: Ion exchange-active carbon
Filter life:
250 L
Removes viruses:
Yes

Pros & Cons:
• Low filter life
• Easy to change filter
• No maintenance
• Super fast flow rate
• Compact & lightweight
• Self contained drinking bottle
• RiverFlow spout for easy drinking & filling on the go

GRAYL GeoPress Best Backpacking Water Filter

Press style and water bottle backpacking water filters provide ease of use in a self contained design.

Some of these filters attach to your existing bottle while others filter directly into their own integrated container.

The GRAYL GeoPress is a great example of a self contained press style backpacking water filter.

This water filter is also our pick for G.O.A.T of water filters. You can read our full review of the GRAYL filter here.

For UV water purifier bottles skip to the section below.

Best Squeeze Water Filters

• Top pick: Katadyn BeFree
• Best for a budget: Sawyer Squeeze
• Most compact: Sawyer Micro Squeeze
Platypus QuickDraw

Katadyn BeFree

The Katadyn BeFree is a simple and quick water filtration system for drinking water on the go. Placing their high-tech EZ-Clean Membrane hollow fiber filter into a low tech water bottle top, Katadyn created an extremely high performing water filter bottle that is easy to maintain, packs up small, and provides flow rates up to 2 liters per minute. The bottle itself is made of a durable-flexible plastic, that when not in used can be rolled up to the size of granola bar to fit in any fast pack or pocket. With the BeFree, there is no back-flushing required. Simply swish the filter cap in some fresh water and your filter is ready to go. If you want a capable water filter in a self-contained bottle style, the Katadyn BeFree will keep you moving without weighing you down.

Weight: 65 g / 2.3 oz.
Dimensions: 3 x 3 x 11″
Flow rate: 2 L/min
Filter type: Hollow fiber
Filter life:
1000 L
Removes viruses:
No

Pros & Cons:
• Can be difficult to squeeze water through the filter when bottle near empty
• Compact & ultralight
• Easy to maintain
• Does not filter viruses

Katadyn BeFree Squeeze Water Filter

Squeeze water filters offer a quick and easy way to filter water on the go.

Fill the reservoir, secure the filter, squeeze the water through and drink. That’s it!

While they don’t offer the same level of protection or flow rate as a pump or gravity backpacking water filters, squeeze filters are an effective choice for ultralight enthusiasts, for traveling, and as a backup water filter.

Best Ultralight & Running Water Filters

• Top pick: GRAYL UltraPress
• Most compact: MSR TrailShot

• Most versatile: GRAYL UltraPress
Katadyn BeFree
LifeStraw

GRAYL UltraPress

The UltraPress has the same sleek functionality as the GeoPress shown above but in lighter more compact version. Their ultra fast flow rate of 24 oz./710 ml in eight seconds make them perfect lightweight companions for trail running and fast packing. You won’t have to waste time fidgeting with your water filter, deploying it and filling your bottle – the UltraPress bottle is integrated into the filter. Once you hit a water source, simply fill the outer sleeve, press the filter, then drink and go. Filtered water is securely stored in the water-tight bottle with an easy drink spout for hydration on the move. If you don’t need the spout, check out the 9 oz. lighter Ultralight Compact Purifier. All GRAYL filters have some of the highest purification ratings on the market. As per GRAYL, their filters remove viruses, bacteria, protozoa, particulates, heavy metals, pesticides, chemicals, flavors, and odors. Weighing less than a pound and only three inches in diameter, the UltraPress is perfect for hydration on the go when every ounce counts.

Weight: 354 g / 12.5 oz.
Dimensions: 9.75 x 2.95″
Flow rate: 5 L/min
Filter type: Ion exchange-active carbon
Filter life:
150 L
Removes viruses:
Yes

Pros & Cons:
• Low filter life
• Easy to change filter
• No maintenance
• Super fast flow rate
• Compact & lightweight
• Self contained drinking bottle
• RiverFlow spout for easy drinking & filling on the go

Grayl UltraPress Ultralight Water Filter

MSR TrailShot

Weighing in at a minuscule 140 g/5 oz., it is impossible to find a lighter more capable backpacking water filter. Made with advanced hollow fiber technology, the TrailShot protects you from bacteria, protozoa, and particulates. With a flow rate of 1 L/min. the TrailShot fills running bottles in seconds or works great for quick hydration by pumping the water straight into your mouth like a drinking fountain. For ultra-light backpacking and trail running, the MSR TrailShot in lightweight and compact trail companion that fits perfectly in the pocket of your running vest or shorts.

Weight: 140 g / 5 oz.
Dimensions: 2.4 x 6 x 6″
Flow rate: 1 L/min
Filter type: Hollow fiber
Filter life:
2000 L
Removes viruses:
No

Pros & Cons:
• Hand squeezing can be tiresome
• Does not filter viruses
• Compact & ultralight
• Easy to maintain
• Fast flow rate
• Can drink straight from filter
• Connect directly to hydration pack tubing

MSR TrailShot Ultralight Backpacking Water Filter

Whether you’re fast packing, trail running, or traveling light; having a reliable water filter that is lightweight, compact, and simple to use will keep you hydrated and healthy without slowing you down.

Light and compact backpacking water filters come in a few distinct designs.

Namely, you can choose between a small hand pump, squeeze filters, or simple press and go water filters.

Out of the listed filters, only the GRAYL UltraPress is rated to remove viruses in addition to the standard bacteria and protozoa.

Best UV Water Purifiers

• Top Pick: SteriPen Adventure Opti
• Lightest: SteriPen Ultra

SteriPen Adventure Opti

The Adventure Opti from Katadyn is a reliable, compact, solution to purification in any situation. UV water purifiers do take slightly longer to purify your water than the filters presented above. However, they effectively eliminate the standard bacteria and protozoa, but also eliminate cysts and viruses. The Adventure Opti purifies at a rate of 1 L/90 seconds, and lasts up to 8,000 L. It is powered by two cold resistant CR 123 batteries that should lasts up to 50 treatments. This UV water purifier only weighs 103 g or 3.6 oz., making it one of the lightest backpacking water filters on the market.

Weight: 103 g / 3.6 oz.
Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 1.3″
Flow rate: 1 L/90 sec.
Filter type: UV
Filter life:
8000 L
Removes viruses:
Yes

Pros & Cons:
• Compact & ultralight
• Long treatment time
• Doesn’t remove sediment or flavor
• Doesn’t work in murky water
• Compact & ultralight
• Easy to maintain
• Effective against viruses

Steripen Adventure Opti UV Water Filter

UV water purifiers are a reliable light weight solution to purify water on the go and in the backcountry.

If you’ve never used a UV water filter, you might be wondering if these little lights really can make your drinking water safe.

The answer is yes.

When used correctly, UV water purifiers can work better than some of their manual counterparts.

For example, purifiers like the SteriPen Adventure Opti, state that when used as per manufacturer recommendations, the purifier eliminates bacteria, protozoa, and viruses – while some manual filters listed above do not remove viruses.

The main disadvantage of UV purifiers is the time it takes to purify large amounts of water.

Pen style UV purifiers usually treat a water bottle full of water at a time. Treatment time can take anywhere from 1-5 minutes.

Steripen Product Specifications
source: SteriPen

This is great for single person’s needs but for people who need lots of water purified quickly UV water purifiers might not be the perfect solution.

However, they are small, lightweight, and treat viruses, making them great as a back up water treatment systems or as emergency travel companions.

Best Inline Filters for Hydration Packs

• Top pick: MSR Thru-Link
• Best for a budget: Sawyer Mini

Anyone who has used a portable water bladder or hydration pack can attest to how awkward they are to refill.

Fortunately, some water filter manufacturers have created a streamlined solution to this common problem.

Inline water filters are adaptable solutions that fit “in-line” with your hydration pack hose to turn your reservoir into its own filtration system.

Thankfully, the MSR Thru-Link comes with a scoop and go hydration reservoir as well as a set of universal adapters allowing use with any hydration pack.

Remember, the TrailShot shown above, also works with a hydration pack. Simply disconnect the drinking spout, attach the TrailShot, and pump purified water directly into your water reservoir without having to remove it from your pack.

Best Straw Water Filters for Backpacking

• Top pick: LifeStraw Peak
• Best water bottle straw filter: LifeStraw Go

LifeStraw Peak Water Purifier Straw Purifier for Backpacking
source: LifeStraw

Originally started through humanitarian work in 1994 to filter worms from drinking water, LifeStraw as we know it today was created in 2005 as one of the first portable non-pump water filters on the market.

LifeStraw water filters offer a lightweight-compact solution to water filtration in any setting.

For backpackers and travelers looking for a compact solution to water purification that also gives back to the community and communities around the world, LifeStraw is the perfect choice.

Emergency Chemical Water Purification

Katadyn Micropur MP1
MSR Aquatabs

Aquamira Water Purification Tablets
Potable Aqua

No matter how prepared we think we are, there are always times that the adventure throws you a curveball.

For those unexpected emergencies it’s smart to have a few chemical water filtration tablets on hand.

They are lightweight and take up nearly zero space in your pack.

Don’t risk drinking dirty water because you lost or forgot your filter, get some water purification tablets and keep them in your pack as a back up.

Backpacking Water Filters Explained

Water Filter vs. Purifier
When to Use a Water Purifier

Types of Filters & Purifiers
Boiling Is Best

While backpacking water filters are a simple enough piece of gear, understanding the differences between different types of filters, how they work, and which is best for your needs can be challenging.

Below we take a look at some of the main considerations when it comes to choosing the best backpacking water filter for your next adventure.

Water Filter vs. Purifier

When you start your search for the best backpacking water filter, you’ll notice that some water treatment systems are labeled as water filters while others are labeled as water purifiers.

A water filter cleans your water by physically removing bacteria and debris.

Its like a Gore-Tex rain jacket in reverse. The tiny pores in the filter are large enough for water to get through but too small for harmful bacteria to pass.

Water purifiers filter out harmful debris, protozoa, and bacteria as well as destroying viruses.

Deactivating viruses is usually accomplished through chemically coated filters or UV purification.

When to Use a Water Purifier

For backcountry backpacking in North America and Western Europe, water filters are usually more than adequate.

The most common problem with those water sources being Giardia (filtered out by every filter shown above).

However, for added protection in backcountry areas of high human traffic (think Mt. Whitney or similar) you may want the peace of mind you get from a water purifier.

In these areas or when traveling abroad, viruses are more likely to be present in available water sources.

As a rule of thumb, use a water purifier over a water filter when traveling abroad or backpacking in areas with high human impact.

Types of Filters & Purifiers

As we listed above, there are a few main types of backpacking water filters and purifiers, namely: gravity, pump, straw, press or squeeze, bottle, and UV filters.

Gravity Filters and Purifiers

These filters work by, well, gravity.

You fill a water reservoir with dirty water, then hang it so that the reservoir is above the filter.

Water runs through a hose to the inline filter which then drains either to a clean reservoir or straight into your water bottle.

LifeStraw Gravity Water Filter
source: LifeStraw

Pump Backpacking Water Filters

The most common backpacking filters are pump filters.

These filters and purifiers use the force generated by working a small hand pump to pull up dirty water and flush it through a filter.

Pump filters usually offer the quickest flow rates in the most compact package.

Keep in mind, pump filters require a bit of regular maintenance such as backflushing and filter cleaning.

Some new filters, like the MSR Guardian have removed this hassle by automating the backflush with each crank of the pump.

Straw Backpacking Water Filters

LifeStraw is the main straw style water filter.

Basically these backpacking water filters work exactly the way it sounds.

You suck water up from one end to the other just like a drinking straw. The force of you drinking pulls the water through the filter and cleans it as you drink.

Press or Squeeze Water Filters

The most capable press filters on the market is the GRAYL GeoPress.

This filter is quick and simple to use, filters out the regular bacteria and protozoa as well as viruses and heavy metals, and is both lightweight and compact.

As an added bonus, the GRAYL is fully self contained; the water you filter goes into a water tight chamber with a drinking spout so that you can filter, drink, and store your water with a single container.

Squeez filters are usually small filters integrated into a cap that fastens on a collapsable bottle.

Fill the bottle with dirty water, screw on the cap, and squeeze the water out through the filter and integrated spout.

Bottle Water Filters & Purifiers

Bottle work similarly to squeeze filters.

There is a filter attached to the lid with an integrated straw – water is filtered as you drink through the straw.

UV Water Purifiers

UV water filters use ultraviolet light to destroy harmful bacteria and viruses.

These filters are small, light, and effective.

As noted above, one drawback to UV purifiers is that they can only treat small amounts of water at a time – usually 250-500 ml – and take a relatively long time to purify.

On average a handheld UV filter takes ~1-5 minutes to purify 500 ml of dirty water.

In addition, UV purifiers cannot be used in murky or heavily sedimented water.

Still, they are great to bring on a backpacking trip or traveling as a back up water treatment system.

Boiling is Best

Today’s backpacking water filters and purifiers are reliable and effective.

Still, nothing beats a good old fashioned boil.

Water filters don’t work in freezing conditions and cannot filter snow.

In addition, your filter can malfunction or break.

If all else fails, boiling water is still the most effective treatment against parasites and viruses.

Remember, water should be at a rolling boil for at least one minute (longer at higher elevations or with dirtier water).

Keep in mind, however, boiling does not remove heavy metals, foul taste, or debris the way that the GeoPress or Guardian filters do.

Summary

When it comes to backpacking, mountaineering, river tripping, or road tripping in another country; a quality water filter is a necessary piece of gear.

For ultralight trips or trail running check out something like the MSR TrailShot or the GRAYL UltraPress.

Long expeditions with a big group to parts unknown will be best served by a virus reducing gravity purifier like the Guradian Gravity or AutoFlow XL.

Single party backpacking trips can look to a hand pump filter like the Katadyn or MSR Guardian to keep them hydrated and healthy in the backcountry.

For emergencies keep some purifying tablets like Katadyn’s Micropur tablets.

UV water purifiers can be a great solution for quick trips with access to clear water or as a backup water purifier in case your main filter gets damaged or lost.

Regardless of which filter you choose, it is important to note the manufacturer recommendations and specifications regarding what the filter does and does not filter out as well as what types of water cannot be used with your filter.

An easy to use and reliable backpacking water filter can make or break your trip.

Read above to find the best filter or purifier in each category.

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