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Best Water Treatment for Backpacking

Water is one of the essentials. Bad water makes for a bad day, bad week, or even the end of a thru-hike. The major concern on the Pacific Crest Trail is giardia. But, diligently treating water can easily mitigate this risk and ease any anxiety from water-borne parasites. Much like resupplying food, continually replenishing water is a natural part of a thru-hike, so we compiled some of the most popular water treatment methods for PCT hikers.

There are many different methods of water purification – boiling, filtration, ultraviolet light, and chemical treatment with iodine and chlorine. All these methods are effective and proven to work for many successful backpackers. The key is finding the method and product you are most comfortable with. I have seen people hike the entire trail using iodine or other chemicals for purification despite filters being the most popular method. I have used a steripen for entire thru-hikes and never had issues. The trick is finding what method you will diligently use throughout the trip.

Besides simply boiling water — which uses too much fuel for backpacking — here are our recommended products and the most commonly seen on the Pacific Crest Trail.

  • Our Pick: Sawyer Squeeze
  • Best Chemical Treatment: Aquamira
  • Day Hiking Choice: Katadyn BeFree
  • Smaller filter Option: Sawyer Micro
  • Smallest Sawyer Filter: Sawyer Squeeze Mini
  • Alternative Chemical Treatment: Iodine Tablets
  • For Large Groups: Platypus Gravity Filter
  • Treatment with UV rays: Katadyn Steripen

Read more details on all of the best backpacking water treatment options here.

LAST UPDATED

October 20, 2023

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PCT Thru Hiking

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"Compact, easy to use lifesaver. There's really not anything to dislike about this water filter. It's small enough and light enough to just be thrown in my pack before heading out, whether I'll be hiking, fishing, camping, or just swimming at a lake.

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