7 Portable Water Filters for Safe Hiking

Water is heavy stuff and if you are planning on a long day hike in the heat, the less you carry means less strain on your back and body. If you are out on a backpacking trip, you need safe water for drinking and cooking so be prepared with a few different water filter systems.  

Obviously, the goal of the water filter is to remove bacteria so you don’t get sick. Most filters will successfully do this but there is confusion between water filters and purifiers.    

Filters are designed to remove waterborne protozoa and bacteria but not viruses. Water Purifiers will combat all three using chemicals or ultraviolet light.  Remember no filter or purifier is foolproof but having one or the other and using it correctly will definitely work in your favor.

There are basically four different types of filters.

Squeeze Water Filters: These are great for removing bacteria and protozoa (those nasty microscopic organisms that Giardia is known for.  These types of filters will not protect you from viruses. You can drink directly from them. Best used in clear water sources to avoid clogging.

Pump Water Filters: These filters use a pump to physically remove the viruses, bacteria, protozoa and dirty water.  Handheld ones might take some strength for it to be effective however they do the job quickly and very effectively. They are lightweight and easy to pack.     

Gravity and Inline Water Filters: If you need to hold larger quantities of water, say for cooking, or more than one person, this type of filter is recommended. Like the name implies, it uses gravity to flow from 1 bag into another “clean” bag. 

Straw Filters: These filters are versatile, small and can be used directly into a water source or a water bottle. You suck the water through the bottle or water source (stream)and the filter does the job. If you’re using the bottle filter straws, these are very handy for each person to refill empty bottles.

Other ways to get clean safe water are through chemical and ultraviolet Purification. 

Chemical Purification:  ingredients are less desirable for heathy individuals, but they are cheap, effective and come in drop or table forms. They do take longer to work so use with caution. These are a great to have for a backup to other water filter systems so it’s smart to always carry them. 

Ultraviolet Light:  systems are driven by batteries so that is a small downside. They are usually rechargeable with USB power however on a hike or backpacking trip, that’s not realistic.  Still, if you’re fully charged, these are small enough to carry and quick to purify the water, as quickly as 1 min. 

The following water filters are the best available for all water situations, but some will work better than others based on your particular need.


Sawyer Mini Water Filter

Sawyer Mini Water Filter

  • Amazon $19.00

    Super small – fits in your hand and weighs less than 2oz. Use the straw to drink from the water source. Includes a 16oz squeeze pouch. Removes 99.99999% of all bacteria (salmonella, cholera, and E. coli); removes 99.9999% of all protozoa (such as giardia and cryptosporidium); also removes 100% of microplastics

Katadyn Water Filter

Save the planet and leave the plastic supermarket water bottle at home. This bottle is collapsible and travels well in jackets and backpacks. Removes harmful organisms like bacteria 99.9999% and protozoa like Giardia & Cryptosporidium 99.9%.  Take it on the trail, the ball field or biking. Filters up to 1000 liters at 2 liters per minute.


 Platypus GravityWorks 4-L Water Filter System

Platypus GravityWorks 4 L Water Filter System

Gravity fed-fiber water filter system ideal for group and family camping, backpacking. No pumping is required. Simply hang from a tree and let gravity do the work for you. Filters in less than 3 minutes and holds 4 liters of water making this the right solution for cooking and washing. Be prepared and keep one in your survivalist kit for emergencies.


  Katadyn Pocket Water Filter

Katadyn Pocket Water Filter

  • Amazon $368.00

    Pocket small – Perfect for international travelers and through hikers. While this unit is pricey, if you are a serious hiker or traveler, the low maintenance and filtration performance outweighs the sticker shock. It filters all microorganisms larger than 0.2 microns to produce clear, drinkable water and the round pump handle makes for easy pumping.

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter


Keep this handy straw in your car, emergency kit or pack back. We love this product because it’s the ultimate survival tool and this product gives back profits to help school children around the world.  Removes bacteria, parasites and microplastics.  It has no expiration shelf life so it’s easy to clean and store. Make this an essential part of your hiking kit or pack backing trip.     


SteriPen Adventurer Opti UV Water Purifier


SteriPen Adventurer Opti UV Water Purifier

Extremely compact solution that is chemical free and destroys over 99.9% of harmful bacteria, viruses and protozoas. Uses ultraviolet light and doesn’t alter the taste or pH of the water. It is battery operated so that’s one drawback. The water sensor also doubles as an LED flashlight so getting clean water in the dark is solved.


Aquatabs Water Purification Tablets

Aquatabs Water Purification Tablets

This is a chemical water treatment so if you’re avoiding chemicals in your system, this water solution might not be for you however it’s ideal for day hiking trips or emergency use. Water is ready to drink in 30 minutes with no taste difference. Perfect for a survivalist kit as well with a shelf life up to 5 years. Kills microorganisms in water to prevent cholera, typhoid, dysentery and other water borne diseases. *Caution: This product contains Iodine.   

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