How to Select a Backpacking Water Purifier

How to Select a Backpacking Water PurifierWhen backpacking on multiday trips, hikers find it more practical to carry a backpacking water purifier than carrying extra water. With a water filter, the hiker makes potable water out of any water source. This allows him to carry just enough water to make it to the next water source. Many water purifiers are on the market and selecting one is a matter of narrowing down the choices.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy


Narrowing the Choices

Step 1
Decide between a filter that you pump and a gravity filter. Filters that you pump require more upfront work, but they supply water instantly and can be pumped into any water container. Gravity-style filters produce more water with less work, but you must wait for the water.
Step 2
Look at different brands. The main two brands are Katadyn and MSR.
Step 3
Consider electronic purifiers. If pump or gravity filters don't interest you, SteriPEN makes a filter that uses UV light to purify the water.


Step 1
Select a ceramic or paper filter. A paper filter pumps faster, which means you get your water in less time. You can easily clean a ceramic filter, which means your filter lasts longer. Both are reliable as long as you replace or clean the filter when it gets dirty.
Step 2
Decide if you need a filter that is completely field maintainable. You can fix anything that goes wrong with filters that are completely field maintainable, but they are heavier than those that aren't.
Step 3
Choose a pump filter based on number of people in your party. Smaller filters are lighter, but bigger filters pump water faster and their elements last longer---you'll want the latter if you have many people in your party and the former if your hiking group consists of only a few.

Gravity Filters

Step 1
Select a gravity filter that you hang or one that splices into a hydration system. One you hang filters the water using only gravity---large quantities can be filtered at the same time. One that you splice into a hydration system only filters the water when you drink from the hose.
Step 2
Decide how big of bags you need. For one person, a two-quart system filters water quickly and is lighter to carry. For large groups, consider bigger gallon-sized systems to filter more water before you must refill the filter.
Step 3
Consider a water bottle that works on the gravity system. Each hiker carries his own and the bottle filters the water while the hiker drinks.

Tips & Warnings

Buy your filter from a retail store that operates a testing tank---that way you test the filters before buying to see which works best for you.

Article Written By Bryan Hansel

Bryan Hansel is a freelance photographer and kayaking guide who began writing in 1993. His outdoors articles appear on various websites. Hansel holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and religion from the University of Iowa.

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