How to Purify Water when Hiking and Camping – Water Filtration Systems

A water filtration system is essential for a wild adventure, as you will need to replenish your drinking supplies.

If there is one thing that spoils a great camping trip, or a multi-day hike, is having to carry your water supplies with you. A heavy backpack is no fun, but thankfully there is a way you can reduce the weight and stay hydrated.

purify water while hiking

Why do I need to Purify Water from Rivers, Streams or Lakes?

Purifying water from rivers and streams is essential before drinking. Parasites and bacteria can live in the water, and if you drink it you could end up with a bad belly or worse.

The only exception is if you drink water from an underground spring, where it has been flowing and there is no chance of livestock or other animal faeces or contaminants.

How can I Purify Water in the Wild?

One of the best ways to purify water in the wild is to boil it. But, setting up your stove or building a fire is not always possible or convenient. That is when having a personal water filtration system as part of your hiking gear makes a big difference!

You can also use iodine or chlorine tablets to get rid of nasties in water, however they don’t taste great and you are just adding to the toxic load in your body. But, they will save your life in a drinking water emergency.

By far, the best way of purifying water fast in the wild is to use a filtration system.

water filtration for hiking

What is a Personal Water Filtration System?

It sounds rather fancy, doesn’t it? But it is actually surprisingly simple.

A personal water filtration system is a small filter that you carry with you to purify your drinking water on the move.

They can often be used to drink water straight from the source, or can be attached to water bottles or hydration bladders.

Here is a quick guide to some of the best water filtration systems for hiking:


LifeStraw is a simple way to purify water when hiking or out in the wild. All you have to do is put one end of the straw into a water source and drink from the other.

As the water is drawn up through the straw, it passes through an effective filtration system that removes harmful bacteria.

The LifeStraw filters up to 4,000 litres of contaminated water without using iodine, chlorine, or other chemicals. LifeStraw does not require batteries, so you can rely on it to work when you need it too.

Ultra-lightweight, small and portable, you can forget about carrying heavy and bulky water supplies with you as you explore the wild. Just collect from source and purify as you drink.

LifeStraw also comes with a water bottle as an additional option.

Even better, when you buy a LifeStraw, you are helping communities in Africa to get access to clean and safe drinking water.

Sawyer Filtration System

This is a well-known brand of personal water filtration for the great outdoors.

The Sawyer Mini Water Filter weighs 2 ounces and fits in the palm of your hand. The Sawyer Mini filter is ideal to purify water from source, when you are camping, hiking or in places where tap water is not safe to drink.

The filter removes 99.99999% of all bacteria as well as all protozoa such as giardia and cryptosporidium.

The filter attaches to the drinking pouch, can be used as a straw to drink from source, connect it to hydration pack tubing or screw it onto standard recyclable bottles (28 mm thread).

The Sawyer Mini Water Filter is rated up to 100,000 gallons. It comes with 16-ounce reusable squeeze pouch, 7-inch drinking straw, and cleaning plunger.

Blade and Stone Filtration System

Another great water filtration system for the trail, Blade and Stone filters use medical grade hollow fibre membrane, coconut shell, activated carbon beads and medical grade PP cotton, to remove smallest micro-plastics and 99.999% harmful pathogens.

Use this filter as part of your emergency kit whilst travelling, camping and hiking. Filter up to 1500 litres of water or approximately 6 months of continuous use before replacing.

This water filter comes with its own BPA-free drinking bottle, as well as a squeezable pouch so you can easily pour filtered water into a drinking bottle.

Another benefit of the drinking bottle is that you can swap the filter for a specially designed straw, turning it into a handy sports bottle. Or, filter your water first and use the straw for drinking.

If you are looking for an effective, safe way to slurp up some hydration from dubious sources, you have peace of mind with Blade and Stone. A cup of river water never tasted so good!

Survivor Filter Pro

If you want to filter water quickly, using a pump is beneficial. The Survivor Filter Pro filters 500 ml per minute!

Hand pump water from source, through the filtration system and into drinking bottles or bladders.

This water filter is independently tested at Intertek labs in the USA. Tests showed it removed 99.9% of bacteria and reduced heavy metals in water, 99.5% of mercury and 93% lead, surpassing EPA standards for water filters.

This product has two replaceable filters. The Ultra-filter can clean 100,000 litres of dirty water before needing to be replaced, while the carbon filter cleans 2000 litres. Filters are sold individually too, so you don’t need to buy a complete new system when the filter runs out.

While the Survivor Filter Pro may take up slightly more room in your backpack, it is very lightweight. You can also refill your drinking bottles quickly and get on the move.

What are other Benefits of using a Water Filtration System?

You know how heavy your backpack can be when you have enough bottles of water to last you for the entire day? Well with a filtration system, you don’t need to carry excess water on the trail. Simply gather it when you need to, or when it is convenient, and drink it straight away!

Best Places to Get Drinking Water the Wild

When you need water while hiking or camping, some sources are better than others.

  • The best wild water is that which is fast flowing, preferable over mossy rocks. This means that it will have already have some natural filtration.

  • Still water such as lakes and pools can be good sources of water, as long as it looks clear.

  • Avoid water that is stagnant and bad smelling, unless in a life or death situation.

  • Unless you are getting water directly from a spring that is naturally filtered, water must be purified before drinking. If you don’t you may end up with a bad belly, or worse, a serious illness.

Thankfully, with a personal water filtration system, you can safely drink from most water sources.

Do you use water filtration while out in the wild? What is your favourite method or brand?

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