When camping out in the wilds, where the vestiges of civilization are miles away, the last thing you would want is to get sick. Not only would that endanger your camping trip, but with no access to timely access to medical aid, it could become potentially life-threatening. One of the surest ways to acquire an illness is through the use of unfiltered water, containing all sorts of nasty pathogens and bacteria which would love nothing more than make your body their home. Carrying gallons of freshwater containers with you while out in the woods, of course, is highly unfeasible. Water filters are a more practical option and allow you ready access to fresh, clean water as long as there is a water source nearby. Here in this guide, we review some of the best water filters for camping currently available on the market.
Our Top Pick – Katadyn Water Filter
The Katadyn Water Filter is one of the best water filters for camping out there. It is small enough to be carried in your backpack or can even fit inside the pockets of your outdoors jacket. Its built quality is extraordinary. In fact, its manufacturers are so confident of its durability that the product comes with a whopping 20-year extended warranty. It features a silver impregnated ceramic filter, which does an excellent job removing dirt, bacteria, algae, and other nasties from the water. The filter cartridge can filter a liter of water in under one minute, and has a life span of up to 13,000 gallons of filtrations before replacement. The only major drawback we found in this otherwise impressive water filter is that, in sub-zero conditions, its filter is susceptible to damage from freezing, rendering it ineffective.
- Heavy-duty filter cartridge
- Durable and long-lasting
- Highly portable – can fit in your pocket
- Needs protection from freezing
Best for Groups – Platypus GravityWorks Water Filter Kit
The Platypus GravityWorks Water Filter Kit is an ideal option if you are part of a large camping group. It has a rather impressive filtration capacity, being able to filter around 4 liters of water in 2.5 minutes. As the name implies, this water filter uses gravity to pull the dirty water through its filter, meaning that no pumping is required on your part. While the filter it features is impressive (it meets all EPA/NSF guidelines for filtration), it is also somewhat fragile and would need protection from temperature extremes. The weak buckles on the hanging straps are another source of criticism. They can give out and cause the straps to come loose.
- High filtration capacity – great for groups
- No pumping required
- Delicate filter
- Weak hanging strap buckles
Best Squeeze Filter – Sawyer PointOne Squeeze Water Filter
Sawyer is an easily recognizable brand in the market for outdoor water filters. Not surprisingly, one of the best squeeze filters also come from this very company. The Sawyer PointOne Squeeze Water Filter is a versatile camping companion to take along for easy access to freshwater wherever you may be. Its heavy-duty filter has a filtration rate of nearly 100, 000 gallons before it needs replacement. One minor complaint we have about this filtering kit is that the three different size drinking pouches it comes with are rather small, and made of cheap plastic. For some, another source of disapproval may be that it takes an effort to suck in the water through the filter and can be tiring.
- Heavy-duty filter
- The pouches it comes with is cheap
- Sucking water through it is a chore
Best on a Budget – Sawyer MINI Water Filtration System
For those campers who are looking for the best water filter on a budget, then the Sawyer MINI is a great option. With a small size and impressive filtration, the Sawyer MINI is both versatile and convenient. You can use it as a drinking straw directly at the water source, or strap it onto a bottle for later drinking. It is also highly durable. It has a filtration capacity of nearly astonishing 100,000 gallons before the filter needs replacement. Like the previous Sawyer squeeze water filter discussed above, the MINI suffers from the same drawbacks of being hard to drink through, and coming with a low-quality plastic pouch.
- Heavy-duty filter
- Lightweight (weighs just 2 ounces)
- The pouch it comes with is cheap
- Sucking water through it is a chore
Best Filtration Drops – Aquamira Water Treatment Liquid
For emergencies, such as when your water filtering gear breaks down or is unusable, the Aquamira Water Treatment Liquid is a capable backup option. It used chlorine dioxide to kill off harmful bacteria and viruses from the water. The treatment liquid package has a long shelf life – up to 4 years, and each can clean up to 30 gallons of water. As with any other chemicals, it is advised to keep it out of reach of children as mistakenly swallowing its concentrated content would be highly dangerous. However, some of its other aspects earn our disapproval. First, there are no conversion units available as a guide to using the amount in correct quantities – useful especially if you are treating small portions. Second, you are likely to use up ‘Bottle B’ before ‘Bottle A’, which is a waste of resources. Lastly, while it does a tremendous job treating the nasties out of the water, the taste it leaves behind is very bitter.
- Easy portability
- Long shelf life
- Each package treats up to 30 gallons of water
- Chlorine water tastes terrible
- No conversion units available
- Takes too long to purify water
Best Sterilizing light – SteriPen Ultra
In certain situations, a conventional outdoor water filter may not be the best option, such as in extremely cold environments where freezing water can damage the filtering unit. This is where a UV light filter can come in handy. The SteriPen Ultra is currently among the best in the market. To use the UV light pen, dip it in a container and stir it. Its OLED display will signal when the water is purified of bacteria and viruses. It can deliver 50 uses per charge and has a total lifespan of around 8000 uses. The device is USB chargeable. Our main criticism of the pen is that the switch button is annoying and hard to push and that the overall design is quite fragile, requiring you to be careful with how you carry it.
- Lightweight (weighs 4.94 ounces)
- USB Rechargeable
- Best for subzero conditions
- Switch button is hard to push
More than a lack of food or attack from animals, the biggest source of danger when out in the wilderness is a lack of easy access to fresh water. To keep thirst and diseases at bay, a portable water filter is essential when going out for camping. For the most demanding trips, such as in poorer countries, it is best to have backup filters as well. A conventional water filter can do a good job removing bacteria, dirt, and protozoa from the water. However, they are not sufficient enough to completely filter out viruses, which are small enough to pass through the micro-filters. For that, as well as in case the filter breaks down, it is best to take along treatment liquid or UV sterilizer along as backup.