My family and I camp all summer. If we’re lucky, we often end up next to a river for the peaceful gurgling of melted mountain snow flowing down the valley. More importantly, though, easy access to water means we don’t need to find a random faucet or pump somewhere to fill up our water jugs — we can filter water ourselves if needed.
Established campgrounds almost always have potable water on site. But if you venture out from the campground for a long hike, you might want to avoid taking additional liters of water and instead bring a camping water filter to add water to your pack when you need it.
If you won’t be staying at an established campsite or you’ll be backpacking a long distance, a water filter is even more useful and sometimes 100% vital.
The 6 Best Camping Water Filters For the Trail and the Campground
Whether you’re headed to a primitive campground, boondocking, or taking a long hike, these are 6 trusted water filters to choose from:
The Platypus Gravity Works can filter four liters of water at a time, which makes it the most efficient on this list. This camping water filter works best in lakes where you can dunk the bag in deeper water to fill it up quickly. After it’s full of water, all you need is a tree to hang it from and let the water filter from one bag to the other. This is especially fun for the kiddos as they watch the brown water turn crystal clear.
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The Lifestraw is simple and easy to use. Find a water source, bend down and sip the water through the Lifestraw. The internal filter removes all parasites and bacteria from the water stream, making it safe for you to consume.
For international travelers, the Lifestraw serves a dual purpose. If there isn’t clean water on tap, you can fill up a glass and drink the water through the Lifestraw to prevent water-borne illness.
The trouble with the water straw is that you have to suck on the straw to filter the water—you can’t pour or pump it into a bottle. So you can really only drink directly from the water source or from a waterbottle with a wide opening that fits the straw. It’s great to have on hand in a pinch, but not so great for refilling your hydration bladder.
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The Sawyer Squeeze Bottle system works best in moving water. In order for the Sawyer to work correctly, enough water needs to enter the pouch — a more difficult task in standing water. Once the water is in the pouch, roll the pouch from the bottom to the top to create enough pressure for the water to go through the filter. Backpackers love the Sawyer Squeeze because it’s incredibly lightweight and easy to pack, but it does take more time to use and requires moving water to work best.
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Katadyn’s BeFree water bottle works best when you hike near a consistent water source. The bottle holds 20 ounces of dirty water and the integrated filter processes the water right before it leaves through the mouth of the bottle. It’s also perfect for filling up in campground bathrooms — you won’t need to use fresh water from your tank and you can still be sure that the water you drink is filtered and without parasites or bacteria.
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A popular choice among many backpackers, the lightweight, efficient MSR MiniWorks directly attaches to a Nalgene bottle to filter water from the stream into your water bottle. The long tube can reach down beyond steep riverbanks to pump water upwards into your container. Once the filter wears out, it’s easy to replace. As the bulkiest camping water filter on this list, the MSR MiniWorks is a solid option for RVers and travel trailers with additional space for storage.
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While the SteriPen won’t clear out objects in the water, it will blast away all bacteria and parasites using UV light. It’s quick and easy to use: Fill your water bottle from a moving stream or dip it in a lake, then stir the SteriPen in the water to kill anything harmful before drinking. It’s a great option for overseas travelers as well; you can throw it in your purse or backpack and use it at restaurants, hotels, trucks strops and, of course, campgrounds.
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