When 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
Iodine tablets and chlorine drops are the ultimate ultralight options available. Potable Aqua water purification iodine tablets 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.
Aquamira water treatment drops 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
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 LifeStraw personal water filter 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.
Another option is the Aquamira Frontier Pro. 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
The Aquamira H20 Capsule water bottle filter 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 Seychelle’s 28 ounce flip top filter and bottle (~$25), the Berkey Sport portable water purifier(~$20), and Katadyn’s MyBottle purifier (~$45).
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 Katadyn Pocket water microfilteris 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
There are several different SteriPen options on the market, ranging from the most affordable Classic 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!