The Best Lightweight Backpacking Water Purifiers

Katadyn Pocket MicrofilterWhen it comes to spending significant time in the backcountry, obtaining clean water is essential for your survival. Long trips demand that you purify water while on the trail rather than carry all the water you will need on your back. Remember that water weighs about 8 pounds per gallon, so you will be severely limited on the amount that you can carry on your back, especially when you have all the other gear packed in your bag. So what are the lightest and best water purifiers out there to pack along for your trip (besides boiling your water)? Below, we will go over some of the best options out there.

Ultralight Water Purification Options – $10

[amazon_link id=”B0009I3T3S” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Potable Aqua Water Purification Tablets with PA Plus[/amazon_link]Iodine tablets and chlorine drops are the ultimate ultralight options available. [amazon_link id=”B0009I3T3S” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Potable Aqua water purification iodine tablets[/amazon_link] are not only lightweight, but they are also very inexpensive. Amazon regularly sells them for under $10 for a bottle of 50 tablets. If you aren’t too fond of the taste that these tablets add to the water, get the combo with PA Plus, which neutralizes the bad iodine flavor.

[amazon_link id=”B000RELM6U” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Aquamira Water Treatment, 2 Oz, Part A and B, Chlorine Dioxide[/amazon_link][amazon_link id=”B000RELM6U” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Aquamira water treatment drops[/amazon_link] are made up of chlorine dioxide. Part B neutralizes the chlorine taste, similar to the iodine tablet PA Plus. These drops are similarly priced and take up about the same amount of space. Super light and affordable! It does take up to 30 minutes to purify your water, so you will have to wait similarly to if you are boiling your water.

Straw-Like Filters – $15-$20

[amazon_link id=”B006QF3TW4″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]LifeStraw Personal Water Filter[/amazon_link]When it comes to filtering out dangerous microorganisms without lugging around a huge filtering apparatus, small trail filters are lightweight, easy to use, and quick to deliver clean water to your body. The first option is the [amazon_link id=”B006QF3TW4″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]LifeStraw personal water filter[/amazon_link] by Vestergaard-Frandsen. The LifeStraw cleans your water, has a filter life up to 1000 Liters, and weighs only 2 ounces! There are no moving parts to wear out, and no batteries to replace. The LifeStraw can be used to suck water right out of a puddle or creek, but the easiest way to use it is to scoop up dirty water with a cup or bottle and suck it out of that instead of getting down on the ground. Costing only $20 on Amazon, this is a great option for any outdoorsman.

[amazon_link id=”B000WG40ZS” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]McNett Aquamira Frontier Pro Ultralight Water Filter[/amazon_link]Another option is the [amazon_link id=”B000WG40ZS” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Aquamira Frontier Pro[/amazon_link]. This straw-like filter can clean up to 50 gallons of water from the trail, and only costs ~$15 on Amazon. The downside of these straw-like trail filters is that they don’t have the capability to fill a reservoir of clean water (you could always fill a reservoir with dirty water to drink out of with the straw filter). That means you will have to stay close to the water source while in the backcountry. But they are lightweight and very affordable!

Trail Filters – $20-$325

[amazon_link id=”B007EG2XHG” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Aquamira Capsule Water Bottle and Filter[/amazon_link]The [amazon_link id=”B007EG2XHG” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Aquamira H20 Capsule water bottle filter[/amazon_link] is a perfect trail filter that fits inside its own water bottle. This allows you to store water and as you drink it, the water is filtered and cleaned. Filtering is instantaneous, has a 100 gallon filter life, and the bottle holds 25 ounces of water. This particular bottle costs around $20, and there are several others from different companies like [amazon_link id=”B004DZMD08″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Seychelle’s 28 ounce flip top filter and bottle[/amazon_link] (~$25), the [amazon_link id=”B00BWIWX9K” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Berkey Sport portable water purifier[/amazon_link](~$20), and [amazon_link id=”B002RRYB4U” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Katadyn’s MyBottle purifier[/amazon_link] (~$45).

[amazon_link id=”B0007U00YE” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Katadyn Pocket Water Microfilter[/amazon_link]If you are looking for a pocket filter that has the capacity to clean several thousand gallons of water and the ability to fill up large reservoirs with clean water, a more conventional filter is needed. If this is the case, the [amazon_link id=”B0007U00YE” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Katadyn Pocket water microfilter[/amazon_link]is what you need. Weighing only 20 ounces and measuring only 10”x2.4”, the Pocket microfilter packs quite a punch in its small package. It also comes with a 20 year warranty, which is outrageously long in the water filter market. The price is pretty high (~$325), but you won’t need any other water filtration device with this bad boy on board.

SteriPen Battery Operated UV Germ Destroyers – $50-$150

[amazon_link id=”B003A1MURC” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]SteriPEN Adventurer Opti Handheld UV Water Purifier[/amazon_link]There are several different SteriPen options on the market, ranging from the most affordable [amazon_link id=”B000PH013E” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Classic[/amazon_link] and Traveler to the crank operated Sidewinder or the solar panel charging Adventurer Opti. What sets the SteriPen apart from the other options is the fact that you are not filtering out any of the organic or inorganic components of the water, which takes away some of the ‘flavor’ or ‘taste.’ Instead, you zap the water with a blast of UV rays to kill any harmful microorganisms, and then drink away. Depending on the model you purchase, the UV element will be able to treat several thousand half Liter portions of water. They are very lightweight (the Adventurer Opti, for example, weighs only 3.6 ounces), compact, and easy to use (cleans water in seconds). The only downside is they are reliant on batteries, unless you opt for the Sidewinder or solar charging models, which are heavier.

Backpacking Samurai Thoughts

When considering lightweight options for water purification on a backpacking trip, this list sums up the best options on the market today. Obviously your budget will dictate which option is most appealing to fit your needs. All of these options are lightweight and take up little room. The different SteriPens available are my favorite water purification methods while on the trail, but I also like to take a backup water purifier, such as the water tablets or one of the emergency straws (since they aren’t really adding any extra weight and might end up keeping me from getting dysentery in the backcountry). Remember that it is always a good idea to plan backpacking trips close to water sources, and unless you plan on boiling your drinking and cooking water you will need to bring along a water purification device. Use this list to get started on discovering your preferred method.

What is your preferred water purification method while backpacking? Did we leave your favorite water purification method or device off our list? Let us know in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!

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New To Backpacking? Get Started For Under $300

Are you interested in backpacking, but not willing to commit a large amount of money upfront until you know you are going to like it? Are you on strict budget? If you answered yes to either of these questions, this article will hopefully help you to see that you don’t need to spend a small fortune to get into this great hobby. Below, I will go over some of my favorite low cost (but still high quality) gear to consider.

For the sake of this article, we will assume you have no backpacking gear. That means you will need to buy a backpack, tent, sleeping bag, and other items to keep you going, less the consumables (food, fuel, etc). Let’s say you have a strict budget of $300 to get all the gear you need to go on a summer weekend (3 day, 2 night) backpacking trip that is more or less on a flat trail.

Here is a breakdown of the items, and below will be more details of the gear choices:

  • Backpack$115 [amazon_link id=”B009R4CV3E” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Kelty Coyote 80 Backpack[/amazon_link]
  • Tent$110 [amazon_link id=”B0043HH5CW” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Eureka! Apex 2XT 2 Person Backpacking Tent[/amazon_link]
  • Sleeping Bag$40 [amazon_link id=”B006WPZBBA” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Ledge Sports Scorpion 45 Degree Ultralight Sleeping Bag[/amazon_link]
  • Water Prep – $25 [amazon_link id=”B004DZMD08″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Seychelle 28 Ounce Flip Top Water Filter Bottle[/amazon_link]
  • Food Prep$10 – [amazon_link id=”B000P9IR8I” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Stainless Steel Mess Kit[/amazon_link]
  • Total Cost = $300

Backpack – $115

[amazon_link id=”B009R4CV3E” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Kelty Coyote 80 Internal frame Backpack, Forest Night, Medium/Large[/amazon_link]For the backpack, the Kelty Coyote 80 [amazon_link id=”B009R4CV3E” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]can be picked up off of Amazon currently for $115[/amazon_link]. That is a great deal for a backpack that boasts 78 Liters (4750 cubic inches) of interior space. This is more than large enough for a 3 day excursion. It is more suited for a longer trip, but at that price point, it’s hard to pass this deal up. Additional features in this pack include:

Bag Features:

  • Top loading
  • 420-denier polyester Ball Shadow body fabric
  • 420-denier polyester Oxford reinforcement fabric
  • Hydration compatible
  • Reservoir sleeve
  • Front-panel access
  • Zippered side pockets
  • Mesh water bottle pockets
  • Side compression straps
  • Load stabilizer straps
  • Spindrift collar
  • Ice-axe loops
  • Daisy chain
  • Key fob
  • Zippered waist belt pockets
  • Lid converts into lumbar pack
  • Carry handle

Suspension Features:

  • CloudLock II adjustable suspension
  • LightBeam II dual aluminum stays
  • HDPE frame sheet
  • Removable HDPE reinforced dual density waist belt
  • Padded shoulder straps
  • Ventilating back panel
  • Load-lifter/stabilizer straps
  • Sternum strap
  • Patented Scherer Cinch

Specifications:

  • Capacity: 4,750 cubic inches (78-liters)
  • Weight: 5 lb. 9 oz.
  • Measures 16 x 34 x 16.5 inches (W x H x D)

Highlights of the Kelty Coyote 80 backpack are the price point, the capacity, removable waist belt and lid (converts into hip pack), and construction. The pack is on the heavy side at 5 pounds 9 ounces empty, but as long as it isn’t over packed for a 3 day trip, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Tent – $110

[amazon_link id=”B0043HH5CW” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Eureka! Apex 2 - Tent (sleeps 2)[/amazon_link]The tent of choice is the Eureka! Apex 2XT tent. This is a lightweight 2 person backpacking tent that is also a very palatable price right around a hundred bucks. We chose the Apex 2XT tent because of the price, as well as a few features, such as: the 2 door design with 2 vestibules totaling 27 additional square feet, solid construction, and light weight (6 pounds 5 ounces). Here are some additional features and specifications:

  • Seasons: 3
  • Sleeps: 2
  • Floor dimensions: 7′ 6″ by 4′ 11″
  • Center height: 3′ 10″
  • Minimum weight: 6 pounds, 5 ounces
  • Frame: Freestanding, shock-corded fiberglass
  • Vestibule: 2, with 13.8 square feet of storage each
  • Storage pockets: 2 mesh
  • Clothes line loops: 4
  • Flashlight loop: Yes
  • Warranty: Lifetime

This is great tent, and for the price, you won’t be disappointed. [amazon_link id=”B0043HH5CW” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Pick yours up today[/amazon_link].

Sleeping Bag – $40

[amazon_link id=”B006WPZBA6″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Ledge Sports FeatherLite +20 F Degree Ultra Light Design, Ultra Compact Sleeping Bag (84 X 32 X 20, Red)[/amazon_link]Since this is a summer trip, we can get away with suggesting a summer sleeping bag. And that is completely fair, because if you are new to backpacking, you probably don’t want to get into a cold weather trip right off the bat because you might ruin your outlook on the hobby. Start with a mild, warm weather trip to see if you like it first, then as you get more experience and become more adventurous, expand. Back to the sleeping bag of choice – [amazon_link id=”B006WPZBBA” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Ledge Sports Featherlite 20 degree ultra light sleeping bag[/amazon_link].

The price is right at $40, and the weight is also a bonus coming in at 3.4 pounds. This sleeping bag is nice because is compresses well and takes up minimal room. It is a synthetic fill sleeping bag, so even if it gets wet, it should keep you warm down to 30 degrees or so. It also comes with a stuff sack. Pick up one of these affordable 3 season sleeping bags today!

Food and Water Prep – $35

For cooking your food, this [amazon_link id=”B000P9IR8I” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]stainless steel mess kit[/amazon_link] is just right. It offers a frying pan, pot, two lids (plates) and a plastic 8 ounce cup. At just over $10, all you need to have is a bed of hot coals and you can cook food or heat water.

[amazon_link id=”B004DZMD08″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Seychelle 28oz Flip Top Advanced Filter Water Purification / Filtration Bottle[/amazon_link]As for purifying your water, the [amazon_link id=”B004DZMD08″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Seychelle 28 ounce flip top water filter bottle[/amazon_link] is a high quality option that is affordable ($25). It removes 99.99% of bacteria, virus, contaminants, and pollutants from water. It can filter up to 100 gallons of water, depending on the quality of the water (dirtier water = less filtering capacity). It weighs just 11 ounces and you can fill it up from any body of water along the trail.

The Bottom Line

If you are just getting into backpacking, and you are worried that you won’t like it, it doesn’t make sense to spend a ton of money on gear. I can tell you that if you like nature, exercise, the outdoors, and camping in general, you are going to absolutely love backpacking. But keeping your start-up costs low just in case you don’t is a good idea. The nice thing about all of these items is that they could all be sold used to recoup most of your money if you decide you don’t like backpacking. Another nice thing about all of these items is that if you do like backpacking, they are high quality products that you will be able to enjoy for a long time.

Use this list to find the right gear for your needs. This is just a list of the most essential gear items. I didn’t include hiking boots because they require such a specialized fit and vary greatly in price. For a flat 3 day hiking trip, sturdy tennis shoes should be alright. Other items might include a good flashlight, first aid kit, survival kit, GPS, fitted hiking boots, multi-tool or pocket knife, and a sleeping pad. They will greatly increase your comfort and safety in the backcountry. As always, happy trails!

Do you agree with this list? What would be your $300 starting setup? Leave a comment below. Thanks!

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What Food To Bring On An Extended Backpacking Trip

Any time you spend more than a weekend in the backcountry, carrying enough food is an important consideration. You can always supplement your packed meals by catching native fish or picking wild berries, but you definitely shouldn’t count on these sources of food to survive. What should you pack for a week-long or longer trek? Below, we will go over the basics of planning your backcountry meals for an extended stay backpacking trip.

The Building Blocks Of Life

Food and water are essential for human survival. Most humans can’t live longer than three days without water. Hiking rough terrain with a heavy backpack requires constant water consumption. Depending on activity and body mass, humans can live as long as two weeks without food. But surviving more than a day or two without food limits your ability to find more or get to safety. Since you won’t be able to carry a weeks worth of water on your back, you will need to purify water along the way. This is easy enough to do with a filter (MSR Sweetwater, Katadyn Vario) or by boiling the water, as long as you are hiking near a water source.

Food is a different story. Unless you are Bear Grylls, foraging for food on the trail won’t be an option. You will need to plan on bringing all the food you will need along, and that means packing it all in your bag.

What You Need

The typical caloric intake for an average adult per day is 2000. This will more or less result in no net gain or loss of weight, under regular day to day activity. Backpacking on even flat terrain can be a strenuous physical exercise, let alone on rugged mountain terrain. You should plan on consuming somewhere between 2500 and 3000 calories per day or more, including at least 30-50 grams of protein. This will sustain your frame during the trip and will keep you fueled for the oncoming miles.

Portability Vs Palatability

The argument of portability versus palatability has raged on for decades among the backpacking community. A hot meal after a long hike can seem very refreshing for many hikers, yet a hot meal means you will probably need to pack a camp stove, pot, and hot meal ingredients, which will add extra ounces to your pack. Ultralight minimalist backpackers go to the other extreme of eating trail mix for three meals a day. A healthy balance is necessary here, because some hikers lose their appetite during hot days or at higher altitudes. A hot meal might not seem appealing on those days, and a more light meal might suffice. On the other hand, a hot meal on a cold or wet day might be the morale boost that you need, where cheese and crackers might come up short.

A food item might also be super portable and palatable, yet it just doesn’t work on the trail. For example, peanut butter is a high protein, high energy food that is light and easy to transport. But try to find a good way to get the peanut butter out of whatever you have transported it in. It just makes a mess. If you’re a peanut butter lover, it might be worth the hassle. If not, the dispensability is a nightmare.

Hot Meal Options

MREs

[amazon_link id=”B007HOB4FC” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]MRE (Meals, Ready to Eat) Premium case of 12 Fresh MRE with Heaters. 5 Year Shelf Life.[/amazon_link]Most of us are familiar with MREs. These military rations are packed with calories, and can be supplemented with small snacks throughout the day. Most MREs can be coupled with a one-time-use MRE heater, so you won’t need a stove or other cooking supplies. There are many different entre options available, and plenty of sides to go along. A full MRE meal can have as much as 1500 calories by itself. These are easy to prepare, and loaded with nutrients to keep you going.

MREs are bulky and heavy. You don’t need any water to cook them, which is a plus. However, that means you are carrying extra water weight within these packs. If you have tried an MRE, you might not have been impressed with the flavor. A lot of hikers are particular about what they eat, and MREs usually don’t make the cut based on flavor alone. But if you are looking for an easy hot meal, these are great options.

Freeze-Dried Meals

[amazon_link id=”B000G2TOMM” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Mountain House 72-Hour Emergency Meal Kit[/amazon_link]Mountain House used to own the freeze dried meal market. Now there are a lot of companies offering these type of backpacking rations. Freeze dried meals come in sealed mylar pouches (for a decent shelf life), and there is probably a wider variety of meal options than MREs. The nice thing about these hot meals is that they are dried – meaning there is no extra water weight inside the pouch. They are easy to prepare, and taste much better than MREs.

You will need to boil water to add to the pouch (so what you gain in not having to carry the water weight, you lose in the extra weight of a stove, fuel, and a pot), and the food takes time to reconstitute. These are also great options for hot meals on the trail.

Other Hot Meal Options

MREs and freeze dried meals might be the most convenient hot meals available, but can be a little pricey. If you get creative, you can easily create your own trail meals out of ingredients from your pantry. Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Cup of Noodles
  • Pasta And meat Sauce
  • Instant Oatmeal
  • Instant Soups
  • Instant mashed potatoes
  • Tuna Helper
  • Spam, Tuna, Salami, Salmon

These meal ideas are easy to prepare, and you can create your own portions with ziplock bags.

Cold Meal Options

A lot of backpackers will plan at least one hot meal per day, and this is usually dinner (extra prep time). Breakfast could also easily incorporate a small hot meal (oatmeal with hot chocolate or coffee/tea), but is a good time to go with a quick and easy cold meal. This is where some creativity comes in.

  • Cliff bars
  • Granola bars
  • Trail mix (home made or store bought)
  • Cheese and Crackers
  • Chocolate
  • Nuts
  • Dried Fruit
  • Crackers (animal crackers, Ritz, Triscuit, etc)

The key here is to have a variety of snacks to eat. If you only plan on having one hot meal per day, the rest of the day will be cold foods. The better the variety, the more likely you will keep up with your caloric needs. Taste fatigue can occur if all you eat throughout the day is trail mix. Candy bars are a nice break, but melt easily.

Drinks

Many backpackers get tired of the taste of water on long trips. Having some flavoring powder to liven up your water will do wonders for your morale. GatorAide and PowerAid both make electrolyte replenishing, water flavoring powders. Crystal Light pouches are a sugar free option. The small single serving packets are very light, and easy to add to bottles and hydration bladders.

Pack some instant hot chocolate, cider, tea or coffee for morning/evening sipping pleasure. These packets weigh next to nothing as well, and will help warm you up when it’s cold outside.

Packing It All Up

Backpacking Ziploc MealsBecause your food will take up a good portion of your backpack’s internal space on an extended backpacking trip, it is important to save as much space as possible. Remove unnecessary packaging from foods. For example, take crackers out of their boxes and pack them in single serving Ziploc bags. Remove MREs from their bulky packaging.

Organize your large meals together inside their own Ziploc bag. Label them accordingly. If you are planning group meals, besides organizing your pack, this will also make it easy to pull all the necessary ingredients together for the meal.

Remember to keep snacks within reaching distance. You don’t want to have to take your pack off to dig out some trail mix. Most backpacks have waste belt pockets, which work out perfectly for holding hiking snacks. Another reminder: if you are hiking in bear country, follow all the essential bear country food packing and hanging tips. This will prevent a potentially dangerous encounter. Below, you can click on the image to purchase the Backpacker’s Cache.[amazon_link id=”B0002ZB5Y8″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Backpackers' Cache - Bear Proof Container[/amazon_link]

Just In Case

Preparing backpacking meals can be one of the most time-consuming planning steps of trip planning. Make sure that you go over the daily menu to see that you are getting enough calories and nutrients to keep you going. It is also a good idea to pack a few days extra meals or food, just in case you get stuck in the backcountry longer than expected. Here are some menu ideas, calorie counts, and pictures to help you get started. Happy camping!

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