Best Water Filters for Wild Camping
Water filters are a lifesaving item to bring wild camping. They are cheap, lightweight, and easy to use. When you’re on a long-distance hike or a wild camping trip, you can’t possibly carry all the water you need for the duration of your adventure.
Each litre of water you carry will add a kilogram of weight to your backpack. This is a huge issue when you need to consume a minimum of 2-3 litres of fluids per day (excluding all the water reserved for cooking). When you’re out wild camping, it’s unlikely you’ll be near any plumbed water sources or shops either.
The solution to this problem is to use a water filter. Water filters come in different shapes and sizes, but they have one fundamental purpose, to remove impurities from water to make it safe to drink. That means you don’t have to carry ridiculous quantities of water for your wild camping trip. Instead, just bring your water filter and drink from natural water sources as you go!
There are plenty of water filters available on the market. Some are made for domestic or industrial use; others are designed for aid packages in drought-stricken countries with poor water quality. To ensure you make the right purchase, here are the best water filters for wild camping.
How to Use Water Filters?
Water filters come with many different adaptors, hoses, and attachments but ultimately, they all do the same thing. They are a closed container which holds filter membranes inside. Dirty water is drawn in through one side, across the membranes, and filtered out of the other side as purified water.
The pressure to draw the water through is often applied via a hand pump or by sucking on the end of a tube. In theory, water filters can be used on almost all natural water sources although most manufacturers still recommend finding relatively clean bodies of water. That means lakes, ponds, and rivers.
It’s up to the user to decide what their appetite for risk is. In a desperate situation, you could try using the filter on standing water in a bog or muddy puddle. However, the general advice is still to aim for clear, fast-flowing water sources. The filter merely provides you with extra assurance.
The great thing about using water filters is that you don’t have to apply any other treatments to the dirty water beforehand. If the water source is particularly putrid, you could filter it through a t-shirt to remove some of the worst sediment. You can then boil the water before applying a water filter to the solution. This is more steps than necessary, but some wild campers may feel confident being extra safe and there’s nothing wrong with that!
1 . LifeStraw
LifeStraw is a leading brand of water filters. Their filters cleanse 99.9% of all harmful bacteria, microplastics, and protozoa out of the water. Their filters are so efficient that the water will be clean, clear, and odourless by the end of the process.
LifeStraw has many different products including domestic items and filters for campervan use. Their main product is the personal LifeStraw which was originally designed to provide water relief in areas following natural disasters.
The LifeStraw is shockingly light and weighs a mere 57 grams. The LifeStraw can filter through 4,000 litres of water before the membrane is no longer usable. That is the equivalent of one average adult’s water consumption for 5 years.
A LifeStraw is a very simple device and does exactly what it says on the tin. It is a long tube which is used by placing the bottom end in a body of water. Water is then drawn manually through the straw and sucked up the nozzle into the mouth where it is drunk immediately. A LifeStraw will cost anywhere between £23-30. It can be purchased online or from most camping stores.
2 . Sawyer
Sawyer is another leading brand of water filters used for wild camping. They make the same statement as LifeStraw by claiming that their products filter out 99.9% of all bacteria (such as salmonella, cholera, and e.coli) and 99.9% of all protozoa (such as giardia and cryptosporidium).
The Sawyer water filter also weighs 57 grams however it can filter even more water than the LifeStraw. The Sawyer filter can purify a whopping 454,609 litres of water before it ceases to function.
The Sawyer water filter also has a few extra features that are lacking from the LifeStraw. The main filter can be used in the same way as the LifeStraw with water consumed directly from the source. However, there is an added 7-inch straw to make this process easier.
The Sawyer filter can also be screwed onto a bottle of water or integrated into a hydration pack. This allows wild campers to fill up bottles of unfiltered water and take them away to be purified at a later occasion. This is a massive advantage over the personal LifeStraw which can only be used while at a water source.
The Sawyer water filter set comes with a 0.5-litre pouch to store fluids in and an extra cleaning syringe to draw water through the system and clear it out. The Sawyer filter is more expensive than the LifeStraw costing £35-37. However, for all the added benefits, this may be a cost worth absorbing.
For a more stylish but perhaps less portable water filter, there’s the Moko filter. This product uses a triple carbon filter system (pre-filter, AC filter, and MU filter) to optimise water purification. It also removes 99.9% of large particles, sediment, heavy metals, and bacteria.
The Moko water filter is heavier than the other water filters on this list and weighs in at 225 grams. However, this is for good reason. The other water filters require suction power to draw the water upwards whereas the Moko filter comes with a handpump.
This creates a much faster flow rate than the other water filters and is perfect if you’re wild camping with a bigger group and need to fill up multiple water bottles/jugs. At an average pump speed, this water filter can purify 600 ml of water per minute.
Unfortunately, due to the high pressure on the filter, the Moko isn’t as durable as the other products on this list. It can only purify a maximum of 3,000 litres before no longer being fit for use. However, in the context of wild camping trips, this is still an enormous amount of water! The Moko filter costs £54-56 depending on the chosen colour.
With all this talk of manual pumping and suction to purify water, why not let gravity do the work? That is exactly how the Waterdrop water filter works. The product comes with three components – a water collector, a straw/tube, and a gravity bag. It works by filling up the gravity bag with dirty water. This is then hung from a branch or a peg which allows the natural water pressure to force its way down the tube, through the water filter, and into the collection bag.
The full set is rather hefty and weighs a total of 493 grams. However, if you add up all the components of the Sawyer set and not just the water filter, for example, the two products would weigh a similar amount.
The Waterdrop filter has multiple membranes (pre-filter fabric, hollow fibre membrane, activated carbon fibre, and a polyester membrane) to remove 99.9% of impurities. As with the other filters, this includes large contaminants, sediment, bacteria, and heavy metals. The final product is clear and scentless.
The Waterdrop is handy as the straw component can be removed from the full kit and screwed onto a water bottle or used directly to drink from a body of water. This multi-functionality is a good bonus and adds to the appeal of this product. The Waterdrop has a total filter capacity of 378,541 litres. This set costs between £31-33 depending on the colour of the water filter you select.
The Survive Filter Pro is another pump-action water filter well-suited to purifying greater quantities of water. It is a complete set containing a pre-filter, ultra-filter, carbon filter, collection cup, inlet hose, outlet hose, pump, back-wash cleaning syringe, and a carrying case. With all these components, the set weighs in at 231 grams.
The treble filter system also purifies water from 99.9% of all viruses, bacteria, and protozoa. It has a 0.01-micron filter and blocks any particles or substrate larger than that. This is effectively the industry standard, and you don’t want to purchase a water filter than cleanses a lower percentage than this.
The Survive Filter Pro can purify 500 ml of water per minute with a lifetime filtration maximum of 100,000 litres. The filter has a sleek design and an aesthetic dark-green colouring. However, it’s hard to justify the £70 price tag given the other products on this list share many of the features that the Survive Filter Pro has. Overall, if looks are a big draw for you, then this is the filter to choose!
If you don’t have a water filter, you can always use Iodine or chlorine tablets. These tablets are cheap to buy and easy to pack in a medical kit when hiking. However, they don’t remove sediment from water, and they make the water have a strange chemical taste. They are not instantaneous and may require a waiting period of an hour or longer before purifying the water. Overall, they are much less efficient than water filters. For these reasons, they should only be used as a last resort and it’s best to use a water filter instead!
As you can see, there are plenty of different water filters on the market. But it’s important to remember that most of them do the same thing. Their primary focus is to purify water, everything else comes second to that. However, think about what sort of wild camping trip you will use this filter for and let that guide your decision.
If you’re hiking long distances, you will want a lightweight filter. If you must filter large amounts of water for big groups, you may need a gravity bag to save you the effort or a hand pump to increase the filtration speed.
Overall, a water filter is a valuable item to add to your hiking gear. Even if you don’t think you’re going to need it, it’s worth bringing along as a survival item. Having the assurance that you can drink water anytime anywhere is a huge bonus. Your safety is paramount and bringing a water filter on a wild camping trip is just the peace of mind you need to ensure you have the best trip possible.