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The 7 best backpacking water filters

Access to clean drinking water is never a guarantee in the wilderness, which is why a good filter is essential on your outdoor adventure. To remove bacteria, parasites, and other contaminants, the best backpacking water filters have a micron size of 0.4 or less, and they come in a range of styles, from gravity filters to straws.

The effectiveness of a portable water filter depends on the size of the pores in the filter itself, which is measured in microns. One micron is equivalent to 1/1,000 of a millimeter, and filters with smaller micron measurements will be able to filter out smaller particulates. Pores with a micron size of 1 or less can filter parasitic larvae, eggs, and protozoa, while a micron size of 0.4 or less will remove bacteria.

While water-borne viruses aren't typically a concern in North America, they're an important consideration when backpacking in developing countries. In those cases, it's best to opt for a water purifier (or use purifying tablets in addition to a filter) that eradicates viruses in addition to bacteria and protozoa.

With that said, the best lightweight hiking water filters come in a variety of styles —here's what to know, written by Vanessa Spilios.

LAST UPDATED

May 5, 2022

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MIC

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The power of perspective.

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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

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

Pete Ortiz
Writer

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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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