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Best Portable Water Filter

No matter what adventure you plan on undertaking, you will certainly require water to fuel your efforts as you undertake it. Although sparkling mountain streams and rushing creeks typically appear crystal-clear and pure, be aware that they can often harbor dangerous organisms and particles that can quickly turn your adventure into a nightmare. The best way to avoid this microscopic slew of unwelcome hitchhikers is to arm yourself with a water filter or purifier. Both have the ability to fight against bacteria and protozoa, but only a purifier can fight against viral threats. It is a good idea to do your homework regarding the water quality in the area you intend to explore so you can prepare accordingly. Below are some of the best choices for a portable water filter based on filter quality, efficiency, and reliability. Top performing purification tablets were also included in this list to assist those who desire the added protection against viruses.

Sawyer 3-Way Inline Water Filter

The 3-Way Inline Water Filter is a solid top choice due to its rapid flow rate, incredible ease of use, and ability to produce insanely filtered water. Sawyer is notorious for top-notch filters. This one, if used correctly, offers exceptional protection from bacteria and protozoa since these organisms can't physically pass through the filter pores. Sawyer also makes a purifier that can remove viruses if that is a possible issue on your trip. When the filter is in place, you can simply fill up your bladder and immediately start drinking. If your water source contains large particles or sediments, it's a good idea to pre-filter your water through a cloth, microbag, or even a coffee filter before running it through the filter to avoid damage. The system also comes with a faucet attachment so you can filter tap water while traveling. To top it all off, you get a one million gallon guarantee, which means if you properly clean and care for your filter, it can last a lifetime.

Katadyn Pocket Water Filter

The Katadyn Pocket Water Filter is an enduring favorite due to its reliability, durability, and versatility. This brick house of a filter is rock-solid, and can handle some hard core use and abuse. The ceramic filter is a breeze to clean with the scrub pad, and as long as you keep that filter clean, pumping is a breeze and the flow rate is stellar. A pre-filter on the intake tube helps keep larger particles away from the filter. The 20-year warranty isn't too shabby either. One potential downside is the weight of this filter (20 oz), but many individuals feel that its performance is worth the extra weight.

Platypus Gravityworks Filter

This filter is an excellent option if you want a lot of filtered water fast, and with very little effort. GravityWorks, as the name implies, relies on gravity filtration, and comes with two 4-liter reservoirs. Both have attached loops so you can easily hang them from whatever happens to be nearby. One reservoir is dedicated exclusively to clean, filtered water (for obvious reasons). In fact, the only way the "clean" bladder can be filled with water is through the filter itself: a design which prevents you from accidentally putting dirty water into both bags and contaminating your entire apparatus. A quick backflush at the start of each filtering session takes seconds, and will extend the lifetime of your filter. Just hang the bags, and in about two and a half minutes, you'll have 4 liters of filtered water.

Katadyn Micropur Water Purifier Tablets

These chlorine dioxide tablets are great for packing light, and involve no effort aside from dropping them into your water container. Adding one tablet per quart of water will kill viruses, bacteria, and protozoan parasites such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium. A potential disadvantage is the wait time for the tablets to work. Four hours is ideal for maximal purification, but you may not have to wait that long depending on water quality and the organisms present in the water. Planning your purification sessions ahead of time, such as right before bed, will make the wait time a non-issue. The tablets are individually wrapped, easily packable, and have a very long shelf life. Most users have found there to be little, if any, aftertaste. These tablets are a great addition to an emergency kit, and can be used in conjunction with a filtration system if you are extra-concerned over the quality of water that will be available during your trip.

CamelBak All Clear UV Microbiological Water Purifier

The CamelBak All Clear is an extremely popular water purification system for domestic and international travelers as well as day hikers who prefer not to carry anything more than a water bottle. The system is extremely easy to use – simply fill the water bottle from your chosen water source (such as a tap, spout or stream), screw the lid back on, press the button on the cap to initiate the UV light, and gently agitate the bottle for one minute while the UV light works its magic. A 60-second counter will let you know when your water has been decontaminated of potentially dangerous microbes. You will eventually need access to a power source for a recharge, but plan on getting around 80 purification cycles with each full charge. If you plan on using this system during backcountry excursions or more rugged adventures, consider the separately sold All Clear Pre Filter to prevent any larger sediment or debris from getting into your water bottle prior to initiating the UV process.

Cindy J.
Eat. Sleep. Backpack. This creed may as well hang over every window and doorway in our home. The coffee table is laden with the latest editions of Backpacker magazine. My email is overflowing with daily updates on the latest and greatest gear. Having a room or space large enough to fit all of our backpacking equipment is a requirement when deciding on a place to live. If you're ready to talk backpacking, let's talk backpacking.

My husband and I have backpacked through diverse terrains ranging from the rugged wilderness areas of Yosemite and King's Canyon to the more beginner friendly paths of Lake Tahoe. Next year we are even planning to undertake the glorious 200+ miles of the John Muir Trail. We have hiked 12,000 foot passes, traversed rushing rivers, set up impromptu camps on everything from solid snow to granite outcroppings, and seen the wonders of hidden pristine lakes and patches of snow that remain year-round. Our experiences with wildlife including bears, deer, rattlesnakes, and bugs that we didn't even know existed have helped us refine our gear list to be as prepared as possible in the most light-weight, compact way. We have near perfected the art of campsite setup and teardown and can literally create a home away from home in mere minutes and pack it back up in the same amount of time. My husband's insatiable need to be in possession of the latest technological backpacking advancements has allowed us to experiment with many different types of equipment and even varying editions of the same piece of equipment. Even our honeymoon was a 55-mile backpacking adventure. Let's just say it's an obsession.

I look forward to helping you sift through the many options in the backpacking world to find the gear that will help make your trip (and many more to come!) unforgettable. Happy trails!
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