The Best Backpacking Water Filter: Portable Filter Reviews for 2016

Top 5 Water Purifiers

Water purification in the outdoors is an important tool to be able to safely drink water found in nature. Water in nature is likely to have impurities that can cause the drinker serious illness if ingested. Some impurities such as giardiasis will cause crippling diarrhea and severe dehydration, which makes it absolutely essential that you bring a backpacking water filter with you whenever you’re hiking, packing, or planning your bug out bag. The effects of dehydration can lead to illness, injury, or even death. In Grand Canyon National Park, there are cases every year of people who need to be rescued because they have become severely dehydrated. In order to have an adequate amount of water available at all times, backcountry travelers need to have a method of purifying water that they find in the wilderness. Generally, this means bringing along a portable water purifier of some kind.


Here are our Top Picks

Company Katadyn Pocket Sawyer LifeStraw Potable Aqua
Rating: #1 #2 #3 #4
Type Pump Filter Straw Filter Straw Filter Chemical
Effective Against Bacteria and Protozoa Bacteria and Protozoa Bacteria and Protozoa Bacteria, Protozoa, and Viruses
Volume/Time 1 liter per minute Varies Varies 30 minutes
Dimensions 10 x 2.4 inches 3 x 1 inches 1 x 1 x 9 inches 1 x 0.5 inches
Weight 20 ounces 2 ounces 2 ounces 3 ounces
Price See Price on Amazon See Price on Amazon See Price on Amazon See Price on Amazon

The three main types of impurities in water that need to be neutralized are bacteria, protozoa, and viruses. Types of purification methods available include filters, chemicals, and many other types of water purification systems that will remove up to 99.99% of these impurities. Viruses are the smallest, making them difficult for most traditional filters to remove. When traveling in the United States, treating viruses is not as important because they are rarely found in natural water sources. Chemical treatment options, such as iodine, will kill all three types of impurities.

In this article, I will review five different options for water purification, all of which are portable water filters that can be carries along inside a backpack or knapsack. In order to compare them, I will highlight the following categories:

  1. Type – The methods that are used to purify the water.
  2. Weight
  3. Size
  4. Effective Against – The three main types of impurities are protozoa, bacteria, and viruses
  5. Time – How long it takes to purify the water.



Katadyn Pocket Water Filter Review

Katadyn Pocket Water Filter

The Katadyn Pocket Filter is a pump-action water filter that is effective in removing 99.99% of bacteria and protozoa. It is successful at filtering out common harmful bacteria and cysts larger than 0.2 microns as well as common impurities such as giardia and cryptosporidium cysts. It uses a silver impregnated and fully cleanable ceramic element to filter. It has a long usable life and can filter up to 50,000 liters of water before needing to be replaced.

With a decent flow rate of up to 1 liter per minute, this filter is good for use with small groups, making it a popular camping water filter. It is, however, the heaviest of the 5 and it is on the expensive side when compared to other camping water purifiers.

  • Type: Pump Filter
  • Weight: 20 ounces
  • Size: 10 x 2.4 inches
  • Effective Against: Bacteria and Protozoa
  • Time: 1 liter per minute




Sawyer Water Filter Review

Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration System

The Sawyer Mini is a filter that is extremely small and lightweight and is popular amongst ultra-light hikers and backpackers in the United States. It weighs only 2 ounces and can filter up to 100,000 gallons of water before needing to be replaced. This makes it one of the best hiking water filters on the market. With a 0.1-micron filter, it removes 99.99% of bacteria and protozoa. The filter works by attaching it to the top of the squeeze bag you use to get water from the source and then squeezing the contents into another clean container. Users can also use the filter as a straw and drink directly from the water source.

Since the filter is so small, the flow rate will be slower. It has a faster flow when new, but gets slower as particles begin to clog the filter. It can be back flushed to clean the filter, but over time it will slowly work less efficiently. However, at around $25, replacing the filter is cheaper than most repair kits for other more expensive hiking water purifiers.

  • Type: Straw Filter
  • Weight: 2 ounces
  • Size: 3 x 1 inches
  • Effective Against: Bacteria and Protozoa
  • Time: Varies




Potable Aqua Water Treatment Tablets Review

Potable Aqua Water Treatment Tablets

Potable Aqua Tablets are a type of chemical treatment that uses iodine to purify water. One bottle contains 50 tables and can treat 25 quarts of water. Chemical purification does not remove water impurities, but kills the active impurities that can harm you. Since this method does not rely on using a filter, it’s able to kill bacteria, protozoa, and viruses as well, the latter of which are usually too small to be screened out by a filter. After dropping 2 tablets in a quart of water, it takes 30 minutes for the water to be safe to drink.

Iodine tablets are known to change the color and taste of water. If this does not sound appealing, PA Plus Tablets can be purchased and used to remove taste and color. While iodine is an effective method of water purification, it is not recommended for long-term use. I usually carry a few in my backpack or bug out bag and an emergency water purifier in case one of my other systems goes out.

  • Type: Chemical
  • Weight: 3 ounces
  • Size: 1 x 0.5 inches
  • Effective Against: Bacteria, Protozoa, and Viruses
  • Time: 30 minutes


For a full review of these Potable Aqua Water Tablets Click Here



LifeStraw Personal Water Filter Review

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

The LifeStraw Personal Water Filter uses a 0.2-micron filter to remove 99.99% of bacteria and protozoa. At only 2 ounces, it is extremely lightweight and can filter up to 1,000 liters of water before needing to be replaced, making it an excellent survival water purifier. The straw design allows users to easily drink directly from any water source. As with the Sawyer Mini, the flow rate will vary depending on its use.

The LifeStraw does not have long life compared to our other filters, only offering 1,000 liters. Its design does not allow users to easily fill containers with clean water and would only be a good choice for one person as opposed to a group. Its low weight and ease of use make it one of the best survival water filters on the market, but not necessarily the best for a group of people to depend on.

  • Type: Straw Filter
  • Weight: 2 ounces
  • Size: 1 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Effective Against: Bacteria and Protozoa
  • Time: Varies



Personal Filter Straw Review

Personal Water Filter Straw with Emergency Camping Canteen

The Personal Filter Straw uses a filter as well as chemical elements to purify water. The filter size is not mentioned, which suggests that the chemical element, iodized resin, is what is used to kill protozoa, bacteria and viruses. It can filter up to 750 liters of water before needing to be replaced. As is the case with the other outdoor water purifiers, the flow rate will vary depending on use.

The manufacturer website was hard to find, but Blue Water Markets seems to be the company selling these. There is no mention of the filter size and it seems that it is relying on the iodized resin to kill the bacteria, protozoa and viruses. This has the shortest life span of our five outdoor water filters, only filtering 750 liters.

  • Type: Straw filter and Chemical
  • Weight: 1.6 ounces
  • Size: 6.5 x 1 inches
  • Effective Against: Bacteria, Protozoa and Viruses
  • Time: Varies




My Vote for Best Backpacking Water Filter Reviews

Before I go into my personal favorite, here is a look at my rating process and what I look for in water filters for camping.


The Potable Aqua Tablets are lightweight and easily storable, making them a great option for emergency preparation or as a backup water treatment method.

The Katadyn Pocket Filter is the best option for groups as it can easily pump water into many different containers.

While the LifeStraw only offers 1,000 liters of water purification, it has become popular with hikers and people who are preparing for an emergency because of its ease of use and reliability.

The Personal Filter Straw has the benefit of using filtration and chemical elements, but the manufacturer does not offer much information, so to me, this seems like an unreliable option.

My pick for the best water purification is the Sawyer Mini. This offers the longest lifespan with 100,000 liters of water. It is lightweight and easily replaceable at only $25. This filter has become one of the most preferred methods of water purification for hikers and backpackers in the United States.