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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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Fresh drinking water is essential. This water filtration system ensures you will never run out as long as there is a nearby natural water source. It can filter out bacteria, protozoa and microplastics.

Allen Foster


Faster and more efficient than pumping or waiting for chemical treatments, the Sawyer Squeeze System offers on-the-go hydration at a good flow. This product is long-lasting, affordable, reliable, cleanable, and very user-friendly.

Alan Dixon


But Sawyer was way ahead of me — 15 years ahead, to be precise. In 2008, the brand started its Clean Water for All initiative, which provides Sawyer filters to developing countries around the world. And the company spends 90% of its profits funding it.

Shauna Farnell