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Stoves, Diet and Water Filtration on the Appalachian Trail: 2021 Thru-Hiker Survey

Each year here at The Trek, we ask long-distance hikers on the Appalachian Trail (AT) about the stoves and water filters they used on their 2021 Thru hike. This post will cover the cooking systems, resupply strategies and water filters used by this year’s survey respondents.

Written by Joal and Jenny

The Hiker Sample

Three hundred and ten hikers participated in the survey, all of whom section or thru-hiked the AT in 2021. Almost three-quarters were thru-hikers, and the rest were section hikers. For more details on the hiker demographics, check out our post with general information from the survey.

Water Treatment

We asked hikers how often they filtered water they took from natural sources.

The overwhelming majority (83%) of hikers always filtered their water. This is the highest number recorded through our AT survey, up from 78% in 2019. A further 13% did so for all sources except for springs, or most of the time. Only four hikers never filtered, while eight did so on occasion.

Water Treatment Type

Water treatment is commonly done via five methods:

  • A filter that water is pushed through manually, making it ready to drink instantly (e.g. the Sawyer Squeeze). This is usually attached to a dirty water bottle or pouch.
  • A pump that filters the water (e.g. the MSR MiniWorks). This requires no wait time.
  • Liquid chemical treatments that take a few minutes to react before the water is safe to drink (e.g. Aquamira).
  • Tablets that operate the same way (e.g. Aquatabs). Tablet treatments have been around longer than liquid treatments and, while small, are bulkier than liquid options.
  • Devices inserted into the water bottle or bag that use UV rays to treat the water (e.g. the Steripen).

Sixty-six percent of hikers used a mid-size filter, down from 77% in 2019. Mid-size pumps made up the second most popular option at 22% of the responses, which is over-represented versus previous years. This could have been due to the way the questions in the survey were asked, so for future iterations of the survey, we will make sure this is clarified along with capturing the models of water treatment used.

READ NEXT – Katadyn BeFree vs. Platypus Quickdraw vs. Sawyer Squeeze

Tablets, liquid or UV filtration were used by a small minority of less than 6% of hikers which is about the same as 2019.

Continue learning about the water filtration, diet, and stoves recommended by Appalachian Trail thru hikers here.


May 8, 2022

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The Trek

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While DEET products may be more familiar by name and their chemical smell, sprays with 20 percent picaridin, like Sawyer Products, offer comparable protection without the harsh odor and oily feeling on your skin.

Kevin Brouillard
Travel & Leisure


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
Media Mentions from Halfway Anywhere


SAWYER MINI WATER FILTER, $22 This has been my water filter of choice for years now. The bags can be iffy — I have had a few break – so carry a couple. However, the filter itself is reliable, light and inexpensive. -Logan

Bikepacking Team