5 Best Backcountry Water Filters [UPDATED 2021]

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If you are spending a lot of time exploring the outdoors, you may want to get a water filter. These tools are helpful if you plan on enjoying the Canadian or American backcountry.

A water filter protects you from illness by straining contaminants out of a water source. You can find E. coli and Salmonella in lakes, streams, or rivers.

An increased presence of humans and wildlife in the area raises your prospective water source’s contamination risk. For this reason, you want to make sure you carry a filter with you when outdoors.

Learn what to look for and what to avoid when selecting a filter to use. Listed below are the five best backcountry water filters available.

Best Backcountry Water Filters

  1. LifeStraw Personal Water Filter
  2. Sawyer Squeeze Water Filtration System
  3. Platypus GravityWorks High-Capacity Water Filter
  4. Katadyn BeFree 1.0L Water Filter
  5. Survivor Filter Pro – Hand Pump

#1 LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

Introducing the number one water filter on the market, the LifeStraw personal water filter has a five-year life expectancy. Essentially, this means that the filter is capable of filtering 1,000 gallons of water.

You can use the LifeStraw to drink from the stream. You can also use the straw to filter water out of a bottle or container. With this simple device, you can filter bacteria and parasites out of your water.

This filtration device meets protocols implemented by the US Environment Protection Agency.

Specs

  • length: 9 inches
  • diameter: 1.5 inches
  • weighs 1.62 ounces

Features

  • hollow fiber membrane filters down to .2 micron and removes 99.9% of bacteria, parasites, and microplastics
  • 3 liters per minute flow rate
  • BPA free
  • each purchase provides a child with safe drinking water for one year

How much does the straw cost per unit?

Each straw retails for under $20.

Can you purchase more than one at a time?

LifeStraw products come in a single pack or a multipack. You can purchase multipacks with 2-5 straws inside.

If I use the product a few times each month, how long will it last?

Typically, it will last one year. The life span may be longer with proper maintenance.

Pros

  • filters water immediately
  • light-weight for transport
  • affordable

Cons

  • for personal use only
  • drinkable water only at a water source

#2 Sawyer Squeeze Water Filtration System

Sawyer offers a versatile water filtration system that makes obtaining drinking water a simple endeavor. To operate the device, fill with water, attach the filter, and squeeze. Clean drinking squeezes right out of this palm-sized pouch.

The device’s simple construction makes it a reliable device to take hiking with you. When not in use, you can roll up the container to store.

Sawyer tests each water filtration unit 3 times to ensure optimal product performance. These tests provide consumers with confidence in the brand.

The product comes complete with two 32 ounce pouches, a straw, a hydration pack filter adapter, and a storage bag.

Specs

  • size: 4″ x 2.5″ x 7.5″
  • color: blue and black
  • weight: 3.2 ounces

Features

  • .1 micron squeeze filter
  • reusable product
  • 100,000-gallon filter rated
  • hollow fiber membrane sealed and protected from damage.
  • 75% stronger fiber membrane to increase the flow rate.

Does the filter remove Giardia and Cryptosporidium?

The Sawyer squeeze filter removes up to 99.9% of all protozoa.

Where is this product manufactured?

Sawyer produces its product in Safety Habor, Florida. Hence, the company manufactures its products in the USA.

How much does each part of the unit weigh?

filter weight: 86 grams

32 oz bag with spout weight: 111 grams

32 oz bag weight: 25 grams

Measurements reflect the dry product.

Pros

  • easy to use
  • easy to transport
  • filter kills 99.9% of protozoa and bacteria
  • filters 100% microplastics
  • low-cost
  • no replacement of product necessary if maintained

Cons

  • amount of water filtered determined by container attached to filter.
  • needs to be cleaned

#3 Platypus GravityWorks High-Capacity Water Filter

The Platypus GravityWorks water filter turns precarious water sources into clean drinking water in less than 3 minutes. Product designed to provide water for multiple users.

Hang the filtration bag on a tree to clean up to 4 liters of water at a time. It works faster than most water filter pumps. Gravity does the heavy lifting for you. Just set up the reservoir to collect the clean water.

Specs

  • weight: 11 ounces
  • width: 3.25″ or 8 cm
  • length: 9.5″ or 24 cm

Features

  • flow rate is 1.7 liters per minute
  • 4 liter dirty and clean water reservoirs
  • hollow fiber technology
  • 99.9% of bacteria and protozoa removal from water.

Can you filter saltwater with this device?

If you filter saltwater through the device, the water produced will still not be drinkable.

What comes in the package?

The water filter comes with two filters and a hose.

If I purchase the carbon filter, will it slow down the filtration rate?

Splicing in a carbon filter will remove any undesired taste, but it will slow down the filtration rate.

Pros

  • produces a large amount of clean drinking water fast
  • light-weight when empty
  • reservoirs made of thick flexible plastic
  • no pumping required
  • option to add a carbon filter

Cons

  • field cleaning required
  • can be hard to find a place to hang the reservoir

#4 Katadyn BeFree 1.0L Water Filter

Fourth on the list is the BeFree water filter from Katadyn – a company with a 90-year reputation. This product provides clean drinking water while collapsing when not in use. This water flexible filter fits into small areas, making it a practical option to carry with you in the backcountry.

Your mouthpiece remains protected with the stay-clean drink cap. If you lose the protective cap, you can replace it with almost any regular water bottle lid.

Specs

  • size: 10″ x 4.25″ x 3.0″
  • weight: 2.3 ounces

Features

  • flow rate: 2 liters per minute
  • EZ-clean membrane
  • long-lasting flexible flask
  • .1 micron hollow fiber technology

Will this product leak?

It does not leak. It is necessary to replace the O ring when you substitute the filter. This substitution will keep the water filter working its best.

Can I use this water filter in freezing temperatures?

No, freezing will harm the product.

Can you purchase a 1-liter flask alone?

The company doesn’t sell the flasks separately. However, if yours was punctured, customer service may send a replacement.

Pros

  • folds up easy for storage
  • the filter is easy to clean
  • fills easily

Cons

  • water capacity depends on flask size

#5 Survivor Filter Pro – Hand Pump

The Survivor Filter Pro works quickly to clean your water from biological pathogens. It can produce enough clean drinking water for the whole family.

The pump can grab water from the source and filter it into any portable hydration unit. You do not have to use a specifically sized container with the device.

Specs

  • size: : 3.15″ x 1.97″ x 6.5″
  • weight: 8.16 ounces

Features

  • flow rate: 17 ounces per minute
  • three levels of filtration
  • 99.9% reduction of the following: Virus Phi-X174, bacteria, and parasites
  • .01 micron protection
  • heavy metal reduction

Does the filtration unit protect against viruses?

It does protect against the virus Phi-X174, but there is no evidence that it is effective on other viruses. A water purifier would be necessary to take care of more viruses.

Do the Ultra and Carbon filters do the same job?

The Ultra filters out particles larger than. .01 microns. The Carbon filters out strange tastes and smells.

Can I repair the pump if it breaks while out in the backcountry?

No, not really. The company designs the device to work well. You won’t have to worry about it breaking down on you.

Pros

  • can pump the exact volume of water needed
  • you can get water from both deep and shallow areas
  • no chemicals necessary to clean the device
  • comes with a bag to store parts

Cons

  • labor-intensive to pump water

What To Look For

Understand that there is a difference between a filter and a purifier. Filters remove biological pathogens. In contrast, water purifiers use chemicals or ultraviolet light to kill viruses and pathogens.

A water purifier may seem like a prudent investment over a water filter, but they are not necessary for a first-world environment. Generally, you would choose a water purifier when exploring underdeveloped areas. Hence, you want to select the product that meets your needs.

After choosing between a filter and a purifier, you will want to concentrate on the product’s overall performance. How does it compare to other brands?

You will want to focus on these four specific features: speed, cost, weight, and ease of use. Ideally, most people want a water filter that is easy to operate, light-weight, fast working, and low-cost.

Before selecting a water filter to purchase, you need to consider the amount of clean water you want to produce at a time. If traveling in a pack, you may need a filtration system with a larger capacity to clean more water. In comparison, a single user would require a less verbose straining unit.

What to Avoid

When choosing a water filter, you want to avoid choosing one with a challenging set-up. No one wants to struggle to get clean drinking water. Easy use is essential for a good water filter.

Another thing you want to avoid is selecting a product that you cannot easily transport. You want to enjoy your outdoor adventure and not succumb to fatigue.

Finally, you want to avoid drinking from a murky water source unless you have a pre-filter installed on your filtration unit. A pre-filter is necessary to protect the longevity of your device and reduce field maintenance. It aids in the water treatment process by eliminating large particles.

Conclusion

In conclusion, water filters are essential pieces of equipment. When heading out to the backcountry, you want to make sure you bring a filter with you.

To survive for an extended time in the wilderness, you need clean drinking water. Having a light-weight and easy-to-use water filter will keep you safe while exploring your outdoor surroundings.

I hope you liked this post on the best backcountry water filters. If you liked this post, you may also like our guides on the best backcountry skis and our guide on the best backcountry snowboards.

Additional Sources

Water Treatment in the backcountry