6 Best Backpacking Water Filters

What’s the best backpacking water filter?  That’s a question many of us ask when looking to venture into the backcountry for multiple days.  There’s no clear-cut answer to that question as the type of filter you might need differs depending on your situation. To help you decide, we tested the performance of a bunch of them and bring you the results so you can see what fits your needs the best.  Each type of filter has specific situations where it will excel as well as situations its not as well suited for.

Don’t forget to check out our Backpacking Food Review and and our Backpacking Coffee review and get some great discounts on backcountry meals. Love breakfast in the backountry? We tested those too! Check out the results or our blind taste test here.

Types of Backpacking Water Filters

We tried to cover the primary types of backpacking water filters available on the market today to help you find the best backpacking water filter.  The types we tested are:

  • Pump style water filters
  • Gravity feed water filters
  • Squeeze style water filters
  • Sterilizing (Steripen) water purifiers
  • Individual filters (Katadyn BeFree style)

Test Parameters

To test the filter rates of each of these backpacking water filters, we let gravity do the work. While some of these are designed to be “squeezed” and/or gravity filtered, we tested to see what the filter rate would be simply letting gravity take its course to make it equitable for all. The water filtered was tap water, so this would obviously be best case scenario.

Katadyn Gravity Camp / Katadyn Base Camp

Katadyn Gravity Camp Katadyn Base Camp Pro water filter - Best backpacking water filter.

The Katadyn Gravity Camp water filter series is among the best backpacking water filters for larger groups and those situations where a lot of water needs to be filtered. These certainly aren’t the lightest filters we tested, but are absolutely a game changer when you are with a larger group or when water is a long ways away and you want to bring large quantities back to base camp.

The Katadyn Gravity Camp and Katady Base Camp also offer a shower adapter attachment. If you plan to spend a number of nights in the backcountry and possibly want a shower, the Katadyn Gravity Camp 6L and Katadyn Base Camp Pro 10L offer you the ability to turn this water filter into a shower. In the event that you need to replace your filter, the Katadyn Ultra Flow Replacement Cartridge is readily available as well for these setups for $39.95

Katadyn Gravity Camp 6L Specs

The Katadyn Gravity Camp 6L water filter is a great filter option that performed very well in our testing. This series gives you the largest capacity of the filters we tested.

  • Weight: 10oz
  • Filter Rate: 2 min 2 Sec per 2L
  • Filter: .2 Micron
  • Filter Life: Up to 1,500 Liters
  • Capacity: 6L
  • Price: $89.95
  • Replacement Cartridge: $39.95

Katadyn Base Camp 10L Specs

The Katadyn Base Camp Pro 10L water filter is basically the same water filter as the Gravity Camp 6L, but gives you more capacity.

  • Weight: 12oz
  • Filter Rate: 2 min 2 sec per 2L
  • Filter: .2 Micron
  • Filter Life: Up to 1500 Liters
  • Capacity: 10L
  • Price: $99.95
  • Replacement Cartridge: $39.95

Katadyn Base Camp / Gravity Camp Pros and Cons

I’ve found the Katadyn Base Camp and Gravity Camp filters to be ideal for those times when water it a long ways away and you want to make as few trips as possible. Yeah, it’s no fun hauling 6 or 10 liters of water up the mountain to base camp, but in some cases that’s much better than the alternative of make daily trips to your water source. These filters are also great for large group trips, long backcountry trips where you might want to take advantage of the shower attachment, or even when “car camping” when you need to filter water for your group at the camp site.

A couple downsides to the Katadyn Base Camp and Katadyn Gravity Camp water filters is that they aren’t that light or compact compared to other options out there. Additionally, the roll top doesn’t completely seal, so you have to be careful how you put it in your pack if you are carrying it very far. it’s not really designed to be filled and stuck in your backpack, but you can make it work if you need to. It’s also a bit bulky when stored(empty), so if you are looking for something compact, this may not the best option.

Some folks have complained that the filter rate slows down quickly, however, like any filter, you want to clean in out regularly or if you notice it slowing down. I personally have not yet noticed it slowing down though.

Buy the Gravity Camp 6L

Buy the Base Camp 10L

HydroBlu Versa Water Filter Review

Hydroblu Versa backpacking water filter

The HydroBlu Versa Flow ultralight backpacking water filter system can be purchased as just the filter, or for just a few bucks more you can get a full setup that comes with two 64oz water storage bags, a gravity feed tube with an on/off pinch clip, and a bucket adapter for those times when you need to use it for a large group. The HydoBlu Vera Flow water filter is an extremely versatile and ultralight option, coming in at just 2oz. If weight is one of your biggest concerns, the HydroBlu Versa is one of the best backpacking water filter options we tested.

This filter operates similarly to the Sawyer Mini and Sawer Squeeze, but gives you even more flexibility if you purchase the full kit. With a filter rate that is faster than the Sawyer Mini, the Versa Flow out-performed the Sawyer Mini, and the price tag was right in line with it. I found the larger 64oz bags that come with the HydroBlu Versa Flow to be much more usable than the smaller bags that come with the Sawyer Mini and Sawyer Squeeze.

HydroBlu Versa Specs

  • Weight: 2oz
  • Filter Rate Per 2L: 2min 45 Sec
  • .1 Micron Filter
  • Filter Life: Up to 100,000 Gallons
  • Price: $19.95 / $23.95

HydroBlu Verso Pros and Cons

  • Small and light weight
  • Long lasting filter
  • Many configurations
  • Large included bags work well

HydroBlu Versa Water Filter Pros and Cons

The HydroBlu Versa water filter was completely unfamiliar to me prior to testing it, but I was thoroughly impressed! The performance and value of the HydroBlu Versa made me a believer. It’s super light weight, comes with everything you need for a wide variety of situations, and out performed its more expensive counterparts. It’s also quick release adaptable, but the the quick release adapter has to be purchased separately

My only real complaint with the HydroBlu Versa was that the rubber end caps that protect the inlet and outlet come off way too easily. Subsequently, I’ve already lost one of them. Not a big deal, so it would be nice if they stayed put better.

Buy the HydroBlu Versa

Sawyer Mini / Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter Review

Sawer Mini Water  backpacking water filter

The Sawyer Mini and Sawyer Squeeze water filters are ultralight, dependable, and have long been considered some of the best backpacking water filter options out there. They have been proven in the backcountry. These Sawyer filters are very similar in functionality so the HydroBlu Versa Flow, but neither come with the bucket adapter or the gravity flow hose and clamp that the Versa Flow does.

These are great filters and I’ve personally used the Sawyer Mini for several years without issue. They are light weight, easy to use, quick release adaptable, and super small. You do have to purchase the quick release adapter kit separately though. It’s tough to go wrong with the Sawyer Mini or Sawyer Squeeze.

I found that the Platypus Platy 2L storage bag worked much better than the smaller bags included with both the Sawyer Mini and Sawyer Squeeze. Of course, this brings the total cost of your filter system up by another $12.95.

Sawyer Mini Specs

  • Weight: 2 oz
  • Filter Rate Per 2L: 2 min 56 sec
  • Filter: .1 Micron
  • Filter Life: Up to 100,000 gallons
  • Price: $19.95

Sawyer Squeeze Specs

  • Weight: 3 oz
  • Filter Rate Per Only tested the Mini
  • Filter: .1 Micron
  • Filter Life: Up to 100,000 gallons
  • Price: $39.96

Sawyer Mini / Sawyer Squeeze Pros and Cons

The Sawyer Mini and Sawyer Squeeze are small, light weight, long lasting filters the can be used in many configurations, including inline/direct filtering using your bladder or other dirty water bags. The Sawyer Mini tends to slow down faster than the Squeeze, but if you make sure to back flush and clean it regularly, you’ll get good long lasting performance from both of them.

The bags that come with both of these aren’t that great and I found them more of a pain than anything. I ended up purchasing a Platypus Platy for my dirty water bag, which worked much better and is much better quality. Another potential issue with this type of water filter is if you find yourself in a situation where filling a dirty water bag is impossible, you could be looking for another water source. In those situations, the Katadyn Hiker Pro might be a better option.

Buy the Sawyer Mini

Buy the Sawyer Squeeze

Ketadyn Be Free Water Filter Review

Katadyn Be Free - Best backpacking water filter

The Kadadyn BeFree water filter is a different style ultralight backpacking water filter system than the rest we tested. The Katadyn BeFree comes in a BeFree 0.6, BeFree 1L as well as a BeFree 3L option. The filter is built into the cap, making the 1L model an individual filter, and the 3L option great for filling at your water source, and hauling up to base camp for use to make dinner etc. Katadyn BeFree replacement filters can be purchased for $24.95 to keep your system flowing fast.

Katadyn BeFree 1L Specs

Katadyn BeFree - Best backpacking water filter
  • Weight: 2oz
  • Filter Rate Per 2L : 2 min 20 sec
  • Filter: .1 Micron
  • Filter Life: Up to 1,000 liters
  • Price: $39.95
  • Replacement filter: $24.95

Katadyn BeFree 3L Specs

  • Weight: 4oz
  • Filter Rate Per 2L : 2 min 20 sec
  • Filter: .1 Micron
  • Filter Life: Up to 1,000 liters
  • Price: $54.95
  • Replacement filter: $24.95

Katadyn BeFree Pros and Cons

The Katadyn BeFree 1L filter is great for an individual to fill on the go when passing a stream, but far from what you’d want for a primary use filter. The BeFree 3L filter is an awesome backpacking water filter option for that primary base camp filter or one you use to fill the bladder in your pack, or, even as you every day carry water filter. Being only 4oz and its ability to be stuffed in a pocket, you’ll hardly notice it in your pack.

Buy the Katadyn BeFree 1L

Buy the Katadyn BeFree 3L

Katadyn Hiker Pro Water Filter Review

Katadyn Hiker Pro backpacking water filter -  Best backpacking water filter

The Katadyn Hike Pro water filter is a classic pump style backpacking water filter that allows you to get clean water from even the smallest source. This style filter is one of the heaviest that we tested, but could be a life saver if you need to retrieve water from a very small source where filling a bag just isn’t possible.

The Hiker Pro had the fastest filter rate of the bunch. A downside is of course the weight as well as the filter life of only 300 gallons (compared to the filter life of 100,000 gallons of the Sawyer Mini, Sawyer Squeeze, and HydroBlu Versa Flow).

You can find the Hike Pro water filter replacement cartridge easily though rather than having to throw the filter away. Whether this style of filter is the best backpacking water filter for your needs will depend on the water sources you tend to find and whether the weight penalty and faster filter rate and shorter filter life is worth it to you. The Katadyn Hiker Pro uses an activated carbon filter to give you clean water.

Katadyn Hiker Pro Specs

  • Weight: 8oz
  • Filter Rate Per 2L: 1 min 16 sec
  • Filter: .2 Micron Filter with Activated Carbon
  • Filter Life: Up to 300 gallons (1,150L)
  • Price: $71.95
  • Replacement Cartridge: $49.95

Katadyn Hiker Pro: Pros and Cons

The Katadyn Hike Pro is on the heavy and bulky side, but offers the fastest filter rate. Unfortunately the Hiker Pro filter has the shortest filter life of all of the filters we testes, as well as the most expensive replacement filter cost. But, you get a Activated Carbon filter that filters out bad taste, so the extra cost and weight might be worth it to you.

Buy the Katadyn Hiker Pro

SteriPen Ultra Water Purifier Review

Steripen Water Purifier

The Steripen Ultra is a different way to purify water than the rest that we tested in that it doesn’t filter water, but uses a UV light to purify the water you collect. While you wont want to use the Steripen Ultra in situations where the water is very dirty, it’s a great lightweight option if you are in the high country and have clearer water sources available to you. Of course you’ll need to bring a water bottle or something to collect the water for sterilizing. The Steripen Ultra will purify up to 1 liter at a time ( one click = .5 liters, 2 clicks = 1 liter) and will purify up to 50 liters of water per charge.

You’ll want to make sure the unit is charged before you head out. The Steripen Ultra is USB rechargeable, so if you bring a solar charger or power block with you, you’ll be able to purify plenty of water for even the longest backcountry trips.

Steripen ultra Specs

  • Weight: 5oz
  • Lamp Life: 8,000 Activations
  • Battery: USB Rechargeable
  • 50 L per charge
  • 48-90 Second treatment (.5L or 1L)
  • Best Use: Clean water sources
  • Price: $99.95

Steripen Ulra Pros and Cons

It’s probably fairly obvious that the Steripen Ultra is going to require that you have another container to capture the water you are going to purify. Given that it will purify up to 1L at a time, you’ll need to plan for that and have a 1L bottle available.

Beyond that, the Steripen Ultra does not filter the water in any way, so it is best used in a clean water source where there is no need to filter any debris or other foreign objects out of the water before drinking. It’s one of the most expensive options we tested, and must be charged to be used, so plan accordingly. It’s also a good idea to have some source of power(solar power bank or pre-charged power bank) in the event that for some reason the unit isn’t charged when you need it.

Buy the Steripen Ultra

Best Backpacking Water Filter Conclusion

Which style of water filter is going to be the best backpacking water filter for your needs? That depends on the situation you are in and the water sources available to you. Most of the above styles will do the trick for you in most situations, but some certainly work better for those ultralight trips, while others are better for group trips. Decide what’s most important to you and pick up the style that best fits your need.

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5 thoughts on “6 Best Backpacking Water Filters”

  1. This review missed some extremely valuable things in my opinion. I moved from the Sawyer squeeze to the Katadyn BeFree because the Sawyer was infuriatingly slow. The BeFree will filter 2L in about 20 seconds when squeezed, and it’s free flowing enough to drink directly from the filter top. I did a 54 mile run with a friend using a Sawyer, and we wasted about 7 hours filtering enough water for 2 people. The next year we did the loop again with a BeFree and spent less than an hour filtering water. That’s a hands down no comparison victory in my eyes for the BeFree.

    • Thanks for the feedback Brad! We’d definitely agree that the BeFree is much faster and a better filter. The comparison in the review was meant to be an equal test when each was tested using only gravity, but as you stated, the BeFree will hands down out perform when squeezed. Thanks for sharing your experience!


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