Water Filter Comparison Tables

 

To show off the best of the water filters for your backpacking adventures, we dove into reviews from Adventure Junkies, Backpacker, Gear Junkie, Clever Hiker, Outdoor Gear Lab, Section Hiker, and Switchback Travel. Where these professional reviews overlapped, we checked out Amazon, REI, and Backcountry customer reviews of those filters, and compared those reviews with our own experiences with them, where we could. While our personal experiences are mostly backpacking experiences, we’re confident that these filters will suit your needs whether you’re backpacking, day hiking, trail running, fishing, or taking in the sights in another country.

See the Comparison Tables

Water Filter notable reviews

The table below summarizes the notable reviews and pros/cons of our top backpacking water filter picks.

PHOTORECOMMENDED BY (SITES + RANKINGS)PROS & CONSFAKESPOT GRADE
Section Hiker (#1) Switchback Travel (#3) Outdoor Gear Lab (#9)Clever HikerCan simply attach to a bottle and drink. Not good for groups. Bags tend to wear out; important to carry extra if using them. Lifetime warranty on the filter itself.A
Outdoor Gear Lab (#1) Switchback Travel (#1) Section Hiker (#7) Clever HikerGravity filtration means you can easily hang and leave the system. Good for groups. Cleaning/backflushing more difficult than other systems. Relatively expensive compared to other options.A
Switchback Travel (#2) Adventure Junkies (#3) Outdoor Gear Lab (#5) Clever HikerSelf-cleaning, so no slowdowns. Drop rated for 6ft onto concrete; won't break if freezes. The heaviest of the systems reviewed. Hand-pumping more physically demanding than other systems.A
Outdoor Gear Lab (#7) Switchback Travel (#9) Backpacker Clever Hiker Gear JunkieHas one of the smallest packed sizes of those reviewed. Easy to clean. More versatile than the LifeStraw because don't have to have face to water. Hand-pumping more physically demanding than other systems, but with this system, your hand actually does the heavy lifting, rather than your forearm.A
Section Hiker (#6, 3L) Switchback Travel (#6) Outdoor Gear Lab (#11) Backpacker Gear JunkieLightest of all reviewed, one of the smallest when packed down as well. Prone to leaking; not as versatile as the Sawyer when it comes to using different bottles.A
Adventure Junkies (#4) Switchback Travel (#17) BackpackerOnly holds 16 oz of water. Cheaper substitute for MSR Guardian, but most expensive reviewed per liter. Refills are $25.A
Outdoor Gear Lab (#20) Clever Hiker Switchback Travel (mention)Rechargeable through microUSB. Important to pre-filter for silty water sources, as doesn't work in cloudy waterA
 

Water Filter price / weight / lifetime

Sort the table below if you’re looking for the best value for your water filter or purifier for backpacking or travel.

WATER FILTERPRICE (at time of publication)WEIGHTLIFETIME (liters)PRICE PER LITER
$50 2.7 oz (5.1 oz with bags)Almost indefinite + Lifetime Warranty< $0.01/L
$120 12 oz1500 L$0.08/L
$263 22 oz10,000 L$0.03/L
$50 5.6 oz2000 L$0.03/L
$45 2.3 oz1000 L$0.05/L
$60 10.9 oz150L$0.40/L
$110 6 oz w/ cable8000 L total; 50 L/charge$0.01/L
 

Water Filter performance Comparisons

Looking for the fastest time to drinkable water? Need a purifier that gets it all? Sort the table below if you’re looking for a specific setup.

WATER FILTERTYPE OF FILTER OR PURIFIERTIME TO 1L DRINKABLE WATERSIZE OF FILTER (microns)PROTECTS AGAINST
Pressure (Suction or Squeeze)Instant0.1 micronsProtozoa; Bacteria; Crypto; Cysts
Gravity60 seconds0.2 micronsProtozoa; Bacteria; Crypto; Cysts
Hand pump42 seconds0.02 micronsProtozoa; Bacteria; Viruses; Crypto; Cysts
Ultralight hand pump60 seconds0.2 micronsProtozoa; Bacteria; Crypto; Cysts
Pressure (Suction or Squeeze)Instant0.1 micronsProtozoa; Bacteria; Crypto; Cysts
Pressure (Filter)60 seconds (fill, press x2)n/a; works by charging the water particlesProtozoa; Bacteria; Crypto; Cysts; Viruses
UV light90 seconds(n/a)Protozoa; Bacteria; Crypto; Cysts; Viruses
 

water filters We Excluded

While researching, three water filters and purifiers came to our attention that looked promising. However, after digging in further, we decided to not do a full write-up on these filters.

WATER TREATMENTREASON FOR EXCLUSION
Katadyn Hiker ProA lot of varied opinions on this one; ultimately, we're not big on hand pumps unless it has something unique to offer, like the MSR Guardian.
Potable Aqua with PA+Chemical treatment (will cover in a separate review)
AquamiraChemical treatment (will cover in a separate review)