Best Backpacking Water Filters of 2024
From ultralight chemical purifiers to gravity filters for large groups, we break down the top outdoor water treatment options
Everyone exploring the backcountry needs water, but staying hydrated is not as simple as drinking straight from streams and lakes. To protect against protozoa, bacteria, and even viruses, there is a wide range of water filtration and purification systems built specifically for backpacking (many options on this list are great for day hiking, trail running, and travel too). Our top picks for 2021 below include everything from ultralight bottle filters and chemical drops to pumps and large-quantity gravity filters. For more background information, see our backpacking water filter comparison table and buying advice below the picks.
Best Ultralight Filter for Solo Backpackers
2. Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter ($41)
Type: Bottle/inline filter
Weight: 3 oz.
Filter life: Lifetime
What we like: Super lightweight, fast flow rate, long-lasting.
What we don’t: You’ll have to buy extra gear to optimize your setup.
The Sawyer Squeeze epitomizes ultralight water treatment and has been a mainstay on the thru-hiking scene for years. It has a number of things going for it, including a streamlined 3-ounce build, lifetime warranty (Sawyer doesn’t even make replacement cartridges), and very reasonable price tag. It’s also extremely versatile: In its simplest application, you fill one of the two included 32-ounce pouches with dirty water and squeeze into a clean bottle or reservoir, a pot for cooking, or straight into your mouth. Sawyer also includes adapters so you can use the Squeeze as an inline filter on your hydration bladder or in a gravity setup (great for groups and basecamping) with additional bottles or reservoirs.
The Sawyer Squeeze has seen no shortage of competition in recent years, particularly from offerings like the LifeStraw Peak Squeeze, Katadyn BeFree, and Platypus Quickdraw below. These designs address our main concern with the Sawyer: the pouches. Not only do the Sawyer’s included pouches feature flat and handle-less designs that make water collection challenging, but they also suffer from serious durability issues (we recommend using a Smartwater bottle or longer-lasting Evernew or CNOC reservoir instead). But despite our gripes, no other filter comes close to matching the Squeeze’s versatility and longevity, which are undeniable draws for those who want to get a lot out of their gear. And if you prefer to go even lighter, Sawyer also offers “Mini” and “Micro” versions, although both have painfully slow flow rates that aren’t worth the 1-ounce (or less) weight savings.
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From the Squad
Campfire conversations with our community, from Squad Members and Ambassadors to Brand Partners and the Sawyer team.