Best Camping Water Purifier (Buying Guide)
It’s essential to treat your water, to maintain your health in the great outdoors. Even if the water looks crystal clear, who knows which wild animals, livestock, humans or other sources of pollution can have entered the water source. And as more of us go to wilder and wilder locations, the contamination of the water increases. Boiling water is the classic solution, but if you don’t want the trouble, there are many options available. Purifiers are even more thorough than water filters, so if you want to guarantee a healthy stomach on your camping trip, take a look through our suggestions for the best camping water purifier.
What’s the difference between a water filter and a water purifier?
It’s necessary to know the difference between a water filter and a water purifier, to ascertain which product is necessary for your camping trip. The difference between the two is in the size of the microorganism that each one combats. If you’re going on a simple camping trip, in the US or Canada, then you might find that a water filter fills all your needs.
The way that water filters work is by physically straining out protozoan cysts (such as Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium) and bacteria (such as E. coli, Campylobacter, Salmonella, and Shigella). If you’re going camping in the US then these biological pathogens are the main ones you want to protect yourself from.
However, if you want to protect yourself from viruses, then water filters aren’t going to cut the mustard. Viruses are too mini for most filters to catch, so if you’re wanting to protect yourself from viruses in the water, you need to look into getting yourself a purifier. They are especially necessary if you’re going camping in less developed parts of the world, or if you just want to be extra sure that the water you’re drinking is fully safe.
What’s different about the water purifiers is that they use chemicals, like iodine for example. Filters, and many purifying systems, use an internal cartridge or element. The function of elements or cartridges is to catch debris, protozoa, and bacteria. The debris and bacteria become attached to the microscopic pores, and over time this builds up on the element, where you can then clean it off, or replace it entirely. Through this system, water filters get rid of the largest things which are dirtying our water.
Some purifiers have an element or cartridge to filter out the larger biological pathogens. The extra precaution which you get with a water purifier is that chemicals like iodine to kill the viruses which are too small for most filter elements. Other water purification methods rely on other ways, like ultraviolet light, to kill the pathogens that are too small to be caught by a filter. If you are camping with your family, you’re particularly prone to catching viruses, or you just want to be particularly careful when drinking water in the wild, a water purifier will give you peace of mind.
Sometimes both water purifiers and water filters use activated carbon in their elements. The reason for this is that activated carbon effectively removes the unpleasant tastes of water, which originate from things like leaf tannins. Activated carbon also reduces contaminants like pesticides and other industrial chemicals, so even if you’re sourcing your water near to livestock or farmland, you know your water will be safe to drink.
There are many different types of camping water purifier, so to help you work out what the best option is for you, we’re going to review one product from every type of water purifier: gravity purifiers, pump purifiers, ultraviolet light purifiers, chemicals, bottle purifiers, and straw purifiers.
Best Camping Water Purifier – Overview
LifeStraw Mission Water Purification System, High-Volume Gravity-Fed Purifier for Camping and Emergency Preparedness
- Gravity-fed, high-capacity, hollow membrane water purifier; ideal for group and family camping, outdoor activities, and emergency preparedness
Gravity purifiers are a great, easy way to supply clean water to your campsite. All you need to do is find a suitable place to hang the gravity purifier from, and gravity will do the hard work for you. This means you can go away for a long hike, and know you’ll have perfectly clear water waiting for you back at base. This option is especially good for big groups, where time isn’t of the essence, as the treatment process for gravity filters is much slower than with hand pump systems. But, with gravity purifiers, you can easily process large quantities of water, enough for you and your group.
This gravity purifier by LifeStraw is our favorite on the market. This gravity-fed, high-capacity, hollow membrane water purifier comes in two sizes, either 12 or 5 liters, so with this product, you can produce gallons of water. To convince you even more of the capacity of this purifier, it boasts a lifetime filtration capacity of 18,000 liters of water: and produces an impressive flow-rate of 9-12 liters of purified water per hour. Because this is a water purifier, rather than just a water filter, it removes virtually all bacteria (99.9999%), protozoa (99.99%), and viruses (99.999%) that can contaminate water.
It’s also really easy to fill this purifier in natural water sources, such as lakes and streams. This is because of the unique rolled design of the purifier. It opens up fully at the top, where you can place it below the water line to fill the bag almost instantly. Then you can roll the product closed, and hang it easily from a tree or other structure, and let gravity do the hard work for you! At nearly $130, this certainly isn’t the cheapest option, but if you’re going traveling as a large group, and you want reliably clean filter water for years to come, this product might be worth the investment for you.
- Lifetime filtration capacity of 18,000 liters
- Gravity does all the hard work for you
- It gives you the cleanest possible water
- Fills up easily in lakes and streams
- The element is replaceable
- The treatment process of the water is much slower than with pump purifiers
- You might need to clean the element on site
2. MoKo Portable Water Filter, Emergency Personal Camping Water Purifier, with Internal Carbon and Ultra Filter Assembly
- Lightweight, portable water filter purifier for hiking camping or other outdoor situations, turns rainwater, lake, river water into clean and drinkable water WITHOUT iodine, chlorine immediately.
With pump purifiers, all you need to do is put the intake hose in your water source, and the outlet hose into your water bottle or another container, and pump away! One of the benefits of this method is that you can pump the exact amount of water you require. With gravity purifiers, it’s pretty difficult to set them up by the water source, and it takes a lot longer to get the water. They’re a much better option to have at your campsite. But if you’re looking to purify your water on the go, quickly and directly from the water source, then pump purifiers are a much better option for you.
This is our favorite pump water purifier, for a few reasons. The first is its weight. One of the drawbacks of pump purifiers over other variants is that they are often much heavier and bulkier. This pump, however, only weighs just under 8 ounces, so it won’t add much extra weight to your backpack at all. It also only measures 2.75 x 1.37 x 5.7 inches, so it is a portable, light option of pump purifier.
Another benefit of this pump purifier is that it produces exceptionally clean water. This is because it goes through a three-stage process: a sediment pre-filter, an activated carbon micro filter, and a hollow membrane ultrafilter. The pre-filter of this model is a really useful feature and makes it stand out against some less heavy-duty options. Pre-filters get rid of all the larger sediment, silt, debris or mud that can be in water sources. Having a pre-filter means your element will last longer, and will be easier to clean.
- You can process the exact liter of water water you need
- You can get fresh clean water directly from the water source
- You can replace the element
- This model is much lighter and more compact than some other pumps
- You have to pump yourself, can get tiring
- The element must be cleaned regularly
- It’s still heavier than some other purifier options
3. Potable Aqua Germicidal Water Purification Tablets – 50 count Bottle
- One bottle of 50 Potable Aqua Germicidal Water Purification Tablets
Chemicals are the easiest way to purify your water. Effective against protozoa, bacteria, and viruses, all you need to do is add them to gathered water and wait. However, the wait might put you off. It can take from 30 minutes to 4 hours for your water to be ready to drink, and even longer if you’re purifying in really cold temperatures.
These portable chemical water treatment tablets, produced by Potable Aqua, are used by military and emergency organizations worldwide. Because of this, you can guarantee that these tablets, when used properly, will protect you from any dangerous bacteria, and keep you and your group safe. In just 35 minutes, these tablets can make questionable water bacteriologically suitable to drink. They are effective against Giardia lamblia and reduce or eliminate bacteria such as E. coli, cholera, and salmonella.
Some people would rather not use these tablets, especially if they are made with iodine, as they can produce a slightly chemically taste. However, you can also purchase taste-neutralizer tablets, to solve this issue. Chemical treatments are a really cheap and simple option for purifying your water in the outdoors. They’re the perfect option if you’re hiking or backpacking, due to their portability.
Or, if you prefer the other models of purifier, we’d recommend taking a back up box of these tablets, just in case your other purifier or the element breaks. They never expire, so you can keep them in your trusty backpack as a backup for years to come.
- The easiest solution to purify your water
- Used by military and emergency organizations worldwide
- Super cheap
- Very light and portable
- Produce a slightly chemically taste
- Iodine products can be a concern to pregnant women and people with a thyroid condition
- Can take longer than 30 minutes for the water to be ready
4. GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier [+ Filter] Bottle
- COMPACT: 16 oz. purifier bottle makes safe, clean drinking water from virtually any freshwater source
The beauty of a bottle purifier is that the whole process is as simple as fill and sip. Some operate by using the suction from the straw to purify the water, whereas others use a filter a little like a french press. With the built-in purification element, this is the easiest option for on-the-go water storage and purification. However, obviously, the quantity of water is limited by the size of the filter bottle. This is a great option for just one person, but not for a group, unless everyone carries their own purifying bottle.
Whereas the chemical purifier can bring a chemically taste to your water, this option actually makes it taste better! This model filters particulates (like sediment and silt), many chemicals (like chlorine dioxide and benzene) and heavy metals (like lead and arsenic), and bacteria which can cause viruses.
But how does it work? In the filter, a positively charged mesh of ions acts like little magnets, latching onto impurities as they flow by, using a scientific property known as ‘ion exchange’. The positive ions in the filter bind to negative charges on pathogens and chemicals. The impurities stay inside the cartridge and clean water flows through!
With this water purifier from Grayl, you’ll get zero aftertaste as it eliminates bad odors, and improves the clarity and flavor of the water. The activated carbon in the filter absorbs flavor and odor, keeping your water safe and making it taste superior. This product is a great option for the eco-minded solo camper.
With this product you can make 500 ml of clear, drinkable water in just 15 seconds, from any lake or stream you come by. It’s a super light and portable option, which may find you never need to buy a plastic water bottle again. The purifier cartridge also has two layers, to make it really durable, and ready to withstand the elements of any outdoor adventure.
- Effortless drinking: 500ml of clean water is ready in 15 seconds
- Tastes excellent due to the carbon element in the filter
- Cheap and light compared to pump filters
- Durable purifier cartridge
- Quantity of water is limited by the 500ml bottle
- Must clean the element on site
Ultraviolet (UV) Light purifiers
5. SteriPen Ultra USB Rechargeable UV Personal Water Purifier for Camping, Backpacking, Emergency Preparedness, and Travel
- UV light destroys germs' ability to reproduce and make you sick; The SteriPEN destroys over 99.9% of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa
A UV light purifier is a great option for those of you who don’t want to be using any chemicals in your water. With a UV light purifier, all you need to do is push the button and stir your water with the stick-shaped device. One of the benefits of using a UV light purifier is that you never have to clean or replace an element! However, it does require batteries, so we would recommend carrying around a few spares with you.
But the benefit of this model of UV light purifier is that it’s rechargeable, and from one charge you get up to 50 water treatments: that should be more than enough to last you for a short camping trip, even with a couple! You can charge it from your laptop, or even a solar panel for the eco-conscious among you! This product is also just as effective at making the water safe for you to drink. The UV light works by destroying germs’ ability to reproduce and make you sick. The SteriPEN destroys over 99.9% of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa
This product also has a long life, you can take it with you on camping trips for years to come. This UV water purifier by SteriPen has about 300 charge and discharge cycles, which is equivalent to about 15,000 liters of water! Another useful feature of this product is the simple OLED display which shows everything you need to know about the performance of the pen: treatment, lamp, and battery status. However, UV purifiers are less all-purpose than some other options. They work most effectively in really clean water: silty or cloudy water impairs their effectiveness, requiring you to use a prefilter.
- Very quick and easy to treat water
- No chemicals required
- USB rechargeable, from one charge you get 50 water treatments
- Need to recharge
- Silty or cloudy water impairs effectiveness, requiring you to use a prefilter.
- Multiple treatments are required to produce large quantities.
6. Etekcity Water Filter Straw with 1500L 3-Stage Filtration
- SAFETY TESTED: Etekcity water purifier has been tested by German TüV SüD Examination Institute and meet EPA Water Quality Standards. The pouch is FDA Compliant in accordance with 21 CFR 180. 22 to...
Straw purifiers are a simple and cheap way of getting clean water while you’re camping. With a straw purifier, you can go directly to the water source, and all you need to do is suck! However, there are some drawbacks to this. Obviously, you’ll also way need to be at a water source to be able to use your straw purifier directly. You could alternately carry the water in a bottle, and use the straw in there too.
We would recommend this as a great option for those backpacking, backcountry and primitive camping alone, who need a light, easy option for a water filtration system. This model is superior to other straw filters, as it comes with a foldable water pouch for closeting water, that you can carry with you and drink directly out of.
This straw purifier by Etekcity is one of the cheapest options we’ve reviewed. It’s also one of the lightest and portable. However, it doesn’t sacrifice the quality of the filtration. With a 3-stage filtration process, which includes a pre-filter, activated carbon filter and 0. 01 Microns hollow fiber UF membrane inline filter, you know that the water you’re drinking will be really clean. Etekcity boast that their straw removes a whopping 99. 99999% of waterborne bacteria, such as salmonella, cholera, and E. coli.
Sometimes a drawback of using a straw purifier as a water filter system is that you cannot remove the filter to clean it. However, with this model, they’ve made it easy for you to clean on the go. This straw comes with a syringe for easy cleaning. It also comes with a useful foldable water pouch for collecting water, and a longer straw to attach to the filter, to extend the reach of the straw if it’s not easy to reach the water source. This is a perfect option to take with you in your backpack as a backup for emergencies, even if you don’t want to use it as your main way of filtering water.
- Water is instantly drinkable from the water source, even dirty water
- Expendable straw so you can reach more difficult to access water
- Super lightweight and portable
- Water collection bag
- Comes with a syringe for easy cleaning
- Ease of use
- Have to be at the water source to use straw directly
- Usually only suitable for 1 person
- Must clean the filter on site
We have presented our winner for the 6 categories of best camping water purifier. However, for the best backpacking water filter, we would recommend the Etekcity Water Filter Straw. This is the lightest and cheapest option of water filtration and purifying system, making it perfect for backpackers. It’s also ideal for hikers, as you can crouch down on your hike, next to a stream, and instantly have access to clean water! This model of straw purifier also has all the features, including water storage bag and extra lengths of straw, which mean it doesn’t have some of the drawbacks which often come with straw purifiers.
The best camping water purifier is the one which suits your unique needs, and your unique style of camping. If you want to save the most space and weight, then a chemical purifier or a straw purifier is perfect for you. However, if you’re with a large group, and want a store of clean water on your campsite, then a gravity purifier might be your best bet. As more and more of us go to remote areas, the water becomes more dirty in streams and lakes. Invest in a camping water purifier, so you can always have access to clean water, no matter how remote your location.
Bonus tip: Watch this informative video on water purification in a wilderness situation, so you’ll never get caught out in an emergency situation!