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Purify Water While Hiking

Camping & Hiking Expert Kate Wilson breaks down the difference between water purifiers and water filters and shares the best ones to bring on your next adventure.

When I first started hiking +20 years ago, it was in the desert near Las Vegas, of all places. I would fill the Camelbak to the brim and limit myself to small sips of water along the trail to ensure there was enough to last the entire hike. As the trails grew longer I almost certainly ran out of clean water every time, especially in the summer months.

Those hot, dry adventures were a good lesson in planning for hydration needs but after a few trips outside of the desert, I learned that carrying a water filtration system nearly eliminates the need to limit my intake. Today, I own three that are used regularly depending on the circumstance, and the question I love to answer most as a Curated Expert is: “Are water filters necessary?” Yes. Pretty much.

Not only do they allow you to refill a bottle or hydration bladder from natural springs, creeks, or lakes, many solve the problem of water tasting dirty or having sediment. They also lighten your load overall since you won’t be carrying large quantities of water on the trail. Most importantly though, filters are effective in providing safety from viruses, contaminants, or any natural water source where bacteria is a concern.

Interested in learning more from Kate Wilson? Head here.


May 7, 2022

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My only complaint is that eventually, backflushing won’t be enough. These can clog up after some time and no amount of back flushing will fix its low flow. I went through 2 on the AT. However, it will attach to Smart Water Bottles and most bladders!

Anna Hamrick


Built for backcountry reliability and portability, the Sawyer Squeeze filter is our pick for the best portable water purifier.

Pete Ortiz


The Sawyer Squeeze was (by far) the most common Pacific Crest Trail water filter this year – for the fifth year in a row. It’s a $39, 3 oz / 85 g hollow fiber filter that rids your drinking water of protozoa and bacteria (and floaties). It can be used with Sawyer bags (included with the filter) or with compatible water bottles (Smartwater is the bottle of choice for many hikers).

Halfway Anywhere
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