If you’re looking for the best filtered water bottles for hiking, camping or travel, you’ve come to the right place. Unfortunately, finding safe drinking water while exploring the outdoors isn’t always an easy task. It also depends on the country and the type of activity you’re about to undertake. I’ve found many trails with relatively clean streams.
However, how can you be sure that the water is safe? Sometimes, there might be animal feces or even dead animals in streams, and you don’t even know about it. I always like to play it safe and take some extra precautions. If you’re planning to go backpacking or hiking, I recommend that you filter or purify the water, even when it looks safe.
If you’re backpacking around the world, you can’t trust some countries’ tap water. Sometimes you drink tap water from a place where a filter is installed, but you don’t really know whether the filter has been well-maintained.
When was the last time it was changed or inspected? It’s possible to get parasites, giardia, bacteria and other undesirable organisms, even from drinking tap water. Believe me, I’ve gotten parasites and several bacteria throughout my years of travel.
In addition, dirty water might contain heavy metals, excess minerals and chemicals you want to avoid. That’s why I now use a filtered bottle or drink only bottled water. I don’t want to spend any more time in a hospital.
There are many options out there: portable filtered water bottles, UV purifiers, special filters, chemical treatments, etc. Some models are bulkier, more compact, more expensive, more versatile, safer, etc.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to spend hours comparing models and reviews. I’ve done it for you! In this article, I’m going to explain the main differences between water treatments and review the best filters and purifiers so you can find the one that best fits your needs.
THE BEST FILTERED WATER BOTTLES – OUR LIST:
- Grayl Ultralight
- Camelbak UV
- Mountop UV
- MSR Miniworks
- Sawyer Filter
- Camelbak Groove Tritan
- Brita Water Bottle
- Aqua Tablets
REVIEW OF THE BEST WATER BOTTLES FOR HIKING. THE MOST EFFECTIVE.
“For questionable sources”
The Lifesaver is a high-quality filtered bottle for those looking for the best performance. You can filter up to 2000 liters before you need to replace the filter. That’s a lot of water! It will last more than five years if you drink two liters of water per day. The water filter uses a special technology that filters out bacteria, cysts, parasites, protozoa and viruses from questionable water sources.
It’s one of the most effective filters on the list, and, thus, it’s quite expensive. The Lifesaver might be the best option for backpackers and campers – those who will be in the outdoors for days or weeks. It’s meant to remove the smallest bacteria and viruses, and it’s one of the best options to filter water from questionable sources.
You have to pump up the water through the filter, purifying 750 milliliters of pressurized water in less than a minute. You can drink the clean water straight from the bottle or you can pour it into separate bottles. It’s ideal for hiking groups because it filters water pretty quickly, so you can get filtered water for everybody in just a few minutes.
If you’re traveling to a place where you’ll need to filter contaminated water, you can count on the Lifesaver!
Recommend for: Backpackers, military, adventurers
Filters up to 4000 liters
GRAYL ULTRALIGHT WATER PURIFIER
I love the Grayl Ultralight because it removes 99.999% of bacteria, protozoa and viruses, and it doesn’t break your bank. It also filters several chemicals like chlorine and benzene, and heavy metals like lead and arsenic. The manufacturer says that you can get clean drinking water from pretty much any fresh water source in the world. It’s also very easy to use.
You don’t need to pump the water through the filter, or use batteries or UV systems. Just fill the bottle and press. That’s all. If you compare it with the Lifestraw, you don’t need to suck the water; you get a bottle of clean water to use as you please. That’s a big advantage if you need fresh water to wash your face or brush your teeth.
It eliminates bad taste and odor and improves flavor. It’s the best value for the money for those who need to purify water coming from suspicious sources. I keep thinking that the Lifesaver has a better performance but it’s also bulkier and way more expensive. This is definitely one of the best filtered water bottles for hiking.
Recommend for: Hikers, adventurers
Replacements filters are expensive
CAMELBAK ALL CLEAR UV
“Great UV system”
The Camelback uses a UV treatment to purify water. Thanks to its energy-efficient design, the UV filter can last for 10,000 cycles, which is a lot of purified water! UV purification filters don’t remove bad taste and odor, but they are very effective at killing the worst pathogens, including small viruses.
It uses one of the best technologies to neutralize microbiological contaminants. Every time you replace your rechargeable lithium ion batteries, they will last for more than 80 cycles on a single charge. Just double check your batteries before you go outdoors!
Overall, it’s a good system and you can be sure it will kill all microorganisms, even from questionable water sources. However, there are a few things I don’t like: You depend on batteries, the electronic cap is a bit heavy and it’s an electronic item, so you must be very careful to not drop it. Personally, I’d rather go with the Grayl ultralight.
Recommend for: Backpackers, outdoor explorers
Easy and quick to use
It doesn’t remove chemicals
You need batteries
“Includes a flashlight”
The Mountop UV is another great option if you’re looking for UV purification systems. It works in a similar way, killing 99.99% of the DNA in bacteria, viruses and protozoa.
The price is also similar, and it has the same drawbacks: You must be careful not to run out of batteries and it’s more fragile than regular bottles because of the electronic parts. The main advantage of the Mountop UV is that it features an SOS emergency flashlight, which can be helpful in some situations.
Personally, I don’t like to bring much electronic gear when I plan a long hike. Even if you have everything all charged, you never know what might happen, and running out of batteries when you need them is frustrating! I guess it could be a good option for those going on a short camping or backpacking trip.
Recommend for: Campers, backpackers
You need batteries
It doesn’t filter chemicals
LIFESTRAW 2 STAGE FILTER
The Lifestraw is one of the most popular water bottles among hikers and backpackers. Why? Because it removes 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria, including E. coli, and 99.99% of protozoa, including giardia and cryptosporidium. It has a great price and will last for a long time because it can purify up to 1000 liters of water before you need to replace the filter. It’s not the cheapest on the list, but you’re getting a great product for an affordable price. It’s definitely a good value for the money.
The filter uses an advanced and efficient hollow fiber membrane system to remove pathogens. There are two stages. The first stage removes the microorganisms and chemicals and the second stage reduces the chlorine and the bad taste.
The bottle is made of BPA-free tritan to avoid contaminating plastic components. If you want to travel lighter or don’t have much space in your backpack, you can leave the bottle at the hostel and bring only the straw. That way, you can drink straight from a stream using the straw.
It’s lightweight, fast and easy to use, and you can get replacement filters separately. It’s a good option for outdoor lovers and travelers.
Recommended for: Travelers and hikers drinking from clean streams
Versatile – you can use only the straw
It doesn’t remove viruses
Effort is required to suck water through the straw
MSR MINIWORKS EX
“Get safe water into a hydration bag”
The MSR Miniworks Ex is popular among hikers because you can get safe water in the outdoors very quickly. It removes bacteria and protozoa and will work fine filtering water from streams.
It doesn’t remove viruses, so this might be a deal-breaker depending on where you’re going, though it’s hard to find viruses in most North American streams.
This model is designed to pump one liter of water per minute and then store it in a bottle or water bladder. MSR has many compatible hydration bags available.
I think it’s a good option for camping or hiking in groups. You get safe water in a matter of minutes and can store it as you like.
Recommend for: Hikers, campers
Compatible with hydration bags
Doesn’t filter viruses
I like the Sawyer filter because it’s ultralight, compact and versatile. The filter itself won’t take up much space in your backpack, and you can use it with one of your water bottles or with the included drinking pouch.
It comes with a straw, too, in case you want to drink directly from your water source. It removes 99.9999% of all bacteria and protozoa. Although it doesn’t get rid of viruses, it’s a very popular filter used by many satisfied hikers all over the world. It will work just fine as long as you drink from clean streams.
The filter will work for up to 100,000 gallons, which is a lot of water. It includes a reusable squeeze bag, a drinking straw and a cleaning plunger. It’s one of the best options for the minimal hiker.
Recommend for: All outdoor lovers
Lightweight and compact
Doesn’t filter viruses
FOR TAP WATER
Important: The next filtered water bottles are designed to purify water from, let’s say,
“safe” sources, mainly tap water. If you think you might need to filter water coming from a questionable source, don’t get any of the next models.
CAMELBAK GROOVE TITAN
The Camelbak Groove Titan will turn tap water into safe, clean water. It helps reduce odor and bad taste, and it significantly reduces chlorine levels.
The cap is made of BPA-free polypropylene and the bottle is made of BPA-free coplyester. It’s lightweight, affordable and durable. You can wash the bottle – but not the filter – in the dishwasher. If you accidentally wash your filter in the dishwasher, the manufacturer recommends that you discard it and get a new one.
I would recommend this for general backpacking or as a regular water bottle. You can bring it to the office, gym, park, etc. Just keep in mind that the water source must be reliable. Don’t use it with wild water.
Recommend for: Filtering tap water
Doesn’t remove pathogens
BRITA FILTERED WATER BOTTLE
The Brita water bottle is another good option for filtering tap water. The main difference from the Camelbak is the filter durability.
The Camelbak will filter up to 48 gallons while the Brita filters only 40 gallons. Brita recommends that you change the filter every two months with regular use.
Its main function is to reduce chlorine, bad taste and odor.
Overall, you get a nice water bottle for an affordable price. Just keep in mind that you shouldn’t use it in the outdoors!
Recommend for: Filtering tap water
Doesn’t remove microorganisms
CHEMICAL PURIFYING SYSTEM
POTABLE AQUA TABLETS
You don’t want to carry a water bottle all the time but want to be prepared? Potable Aqua Tablets might be your best option.
They make questionable water suitable to drink. They are used worldwide by hikers, backpackers and military personnel.
You must drop the tablets as indicated by the manufacturer and wait for 35 minutes. After that, you can drink safe water.
Personally, I don’t like the taste they give the water but I’ve used these tablets a few times and they do the job. The source I was taking the water from was questionable, as there were animals around the stream. However, I was fine after drinking the water.
Recommend for: Emergencies, backpacking, hiking
You use chemicals
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE BUYING A FILTERED WATER BOTTLE FOR HIKING
There are many materials out there. Some people like stainless steel water bottles because they have no plastic components, preserving a neutral taste. If you prefer a synthetic bottle, which tends to be lighter and cheaper, you must choose BPA-free material. BPA means Bisphenol-A, an estrogen-imitating chemical used to produce many plastic products. These chemicals have been reported to have adverse health effects in humans.
TYPES OF HIKING WATER BOTTLES
The carbon filter is simple and effective. These are the most common filters found in commercial filtered water bottles. They work well because they contain a large surface area of activated carbon through which the water passes, removing chemicals and contaminants.
The amount of waste accumulated depends on the fineness of the filter. At a certain point, after regular use, these filters accumulate a lot of waste and can lose their effectiveness. That’s why it’s so important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and replace them periodically.
They are very effective at removing many chemicals, such as copper, cadmium, nickel, selenium, etc., as well as bacteria, giardia and other dangerous microorganisms. By removing many chemicals, they usually alter the taste of the water, making it better. Keep in mind that they can’t filter certain viruses if the viruses are too small.
These are not so common among backpackers and are usually more expensive. UV filters use UV rays to penetrate microorganisms and destroy them by attacking their genetic core. They don’t remove chemical compounds from the water but they are more effective at killing bacteria, viruses and other undesirable pathogens. They don’t alter the taste of the water.
You can also purify your water by using chemicals. The biggest advantage is that you don’t need any filter, just a bottle of water. The most common chemicals you can find are drops and tablets, and they are usually cheap. There are two downsides: They tend to give some taste to the water and, more important, you’re adding chemicals to the water instead of eliminating them. It’s alright if you use them from time to time, but I don’t recommend this option for someone who needs purified water pretty often.
WHAT DO THEY FILTER?
Our goal when using a purifying system is to eliminate the maximum amount of undesirable contaminants and pathogens. The main groups are:
It’s very common to find hundreds of chemicals in water. Some of them, like certain minerals, are good in the right percentage, while others can be very harmful to our health. Sometimes there are high concentrations of fluoride, copper, salts of arsenic, radium, aluminum, mercury, cadmium, barium and others. If you’re not sure about the quality of the water, use a filter.
Bacteria, Giardia and Parasites
You can find bacteria and other microorganisms in water, especially if you’re drinking from a river, lake or other source. Not all bacteria are harmful and our bodies can tolerate many of them. Unfortunately, there are some dangerous pathogens like legionella, enterococci, amoeba, giardia, shigella, etc. that can produce diarrhea, vomiting, dysentery and other diseases.
When you’re traveling, you also must be very careful about what you eat, as many of these pathogens can be found in food as well.
Many viruses can be found in water, and they are much smaller than bacteria. This sometimes makes them difficult to avoid, depending on the purifying method we are using. UV filters get the best results when it comes to killing viruses.
WHY DO WE NEED TO CHANGE THE FILTER?
Carbon filters trap contaminants in water and they wear out at a certain point. The surface area of the filter becomes filled and no more impurities can be absorbed. You must change the filter before it gets to that point.
HOW OFTEN DO YOU NEED TO CHANGE THE FILTER?
The recommended frequency of filter changing might vary depending on the size and type of filter being used. To ensure the filter keeps reducing contaminants and pathogens, replace it according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
You won’t need to worry about batteries as long as you’re not using a UV filter. If you decide to get a UV-filtered water bottle, always keep a set of backup batteries, especially if you’re going outdoors. You don’t want to run out of batteries in the middle of nowhere and realize that you can’t purify your water.
THE SOURCE OF WATER
Considering the source of water is very important before you chose the right filter. To explain, if you take tap water and use a filter, most of the time you’ll get safe water. On the other hand, if you take water from a stream or river, it’ll depend on the quality of the water and the type of filter you’re using. Basic $10 models are designed mainly to purify tap water. If you think you’re going to be taking water from any unsafe source, you’re going to need something more heavy duty. That’s why some models on the list can cost up to $200 or $300. They use the most advanced systems to guarantee that you’re filtering out all the pathogens.
Think about the places you’re going to visit and the possible sources of water in those places. You won’t get the same water quality in Brazil as you will in Ethiopia. Check out the manufacturer’s indications to make sure your filtered water bottle can purify water from “questionable” sources.
If you’re an adventure traveler or backpacker, I recommend that you spend a bit more and get a high-quality filtered water bottle.
ADVANTAGES OF FILTERED WATER BOTTLES
You can save a lot of money using filtered water bottles. I know some of them might be pretty expensive, but you’ll eventually come out ahead because you can reuse your filtered water bottle as much as you want. If you’re in a touristy destination, paying $2-$3 every time you get a water bottle, you’ll end up spending much more.
Stay healthy and hydrated
By using a filtered bottle, you can get safe water everywhere and avoid getting sick. That’s the point, right? Plus, you’ll always have water at hand. This is very important when you’re hiking or practicing outdoor sports because of the water you’ll lose. You must drink regularly to prevent dehydration.
If you’re not hiking, but just backpacking, you’ll be sweating a lot, depending on the destination. Traveling in tropical destinations or the Middle East with a backpack can be pretty hard. Drink plenty of water and keep yourself healthy!
Avoid altitude sickness
When you’re hiking in high areas, your body must acclimatize progressively. There are a few steps you must follow to acclimatize correctly, and drinking plenty of water is one of them. By using a filtered water bottle, you’ll be able to get water almost anywhere in the mountains and get your body hydrated.
In the world we live in today, we must have a responsible and respectful attitude towards Mother Earth. There are some things we can’t change, but let’s focus on those we can. When you buy a regular water bottle, you’re helping produce more and more plastic that, unfortunately, often ends up in the streets, rivers and oceans. You can help protect our planet by reusing the same bottle.
They will definitely take up some space in your backpack. For the minimal backpacker, there are a few alternatives, like filters (without the bottle) and chemical purifiers.
WHICH ARE THE BEST FILTERED HIKING WATER BOTTLES?
As you’ve seen, there are many models and systems for getting purified water. If you still have doubts, let me give you a few suggestions. For those looking for something affordable and suitable for general backpacking and hiking, I’d go with the Lifestraw. If you’re an outdoor person and want to get the most effective filter for questionable sources, I’d go with the Grayl Ultralight because it removes all pathogens and is way cheaper than the Lifesaver. Moreover, you don’t need to worry about batteries.
For the minimal hiker, the Sawyer filter might be the best option. It’s effective, cheap and ultralight.
TIPS FOR FINDING A “SAFE” WATER SOURCE
When you’re hiking, you need to be hydrated! Everyone’s needs will vary based on their bodies, but generally speaking, you should drink about one liter for every two hours of hiking. The problem is, finding water might be difficult, and even if you find it, the source might be questionable. Let me give you a few tips for finding and keeping safe water:
1- Carry your own water. Yes, I know it’s nothing to do with finding it but sometimes you’ll need to carry your own water, like when you’re hiking in deserted areas. If you do so, drink regularly but moderately. You don’t want to run out of water in the middle of nowhere. If you need to carry your own water, I recommend that you get a hydration bag or bladder. They’re practical and you can usually keep more water than you could in water bottles. Another advantage: You don’t need to stop and take off your backpack.
2- Avoid rivers and lakes. There are different opinions with respect to this. It really depends on the river and the lake. However, small lakes can host many bacteria and viruses. Sometimes, there are houses whose sewers go straight into nearby lakes. In relation to rivers, they cover huge areas, so it’s pretty easy for them to get contaminated in a certain spot. It might be a dead animal, nearby towns, etc.
3- Try to find streams. Streams are usually the safest options when hiking. That said, you must be careful because they can be contaminated, too. Take a look at the stream and analyze the source. Is it coming from a glacier? Straight from the mountain? If you can easily find the source of the stream, that’s a good thing. If it’s coming from a hill where you can find cows, goats and other animals, it’s probably contaminated.
FILTERED WATER vs BOTTLED WATER
Most people drink tap water every day, especially when they’re home. But when you go outdoors or travel, you’re going to drink mainly filtered water or bottled water. What are the differences?
Drinking mineral bottled water while traveling is a popular option. Mineral water contains several salts and minerals that are beneficial for your body and that hydrate you at the same time. The main drawbacks are the price and the environmental impact. These bottles can be expensive in tourist destinations and are usually made of plastic, leading to more plastic waste. You shouldn’t refill them because there are some chemicals in the plastic bottle that can be harmful.
I’ve found distilled drinking water in many countries (commonly in India). By distilling the water, you get a different type of water. While distilled water might be safe to drink, it has a flat taste and doesn’t provide as many minerals as filtered tap water or bottled mineral water. According to some experts, drinking distilled water from time to time might be beneficial for your health, but you shouldn’t drink it daily for a long time, as you can experience a harmful loss of potassium, chloride and magnesium. To be quite honest, I’m not a big fan of distilled drinking water myself; I don’t like the taste at all.
I find filtered water to be the best option. By using a filter, you get rid of 99.99% of undesirable pathogens and harmful minerals. As mentioned before, it’s important to consider the source of the water. If water is contaminated, it won’t become safe through use of a regular filter. There are specific water processes for that.
HOW TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR FILTERED WATER BOTTLE
Check out the manufacturer’s instructions for disassembling and taking care of your filtered water bottle and its components. Most instructions will show you how to clean your bottle, too. There are a few considerations that apply to most water bottles:
– Don’t use bleach or other cleaners with chlorine on any part of the product.
– Don’t wash the filter in the dishwasher. If you accidentally do so, replace it with a new filter.
– Wash your bottle with soap and your filter with fresh water. Keep them in a dry place, protected from the sun.
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Hi, I’m Miguel; Adventure traveler, scuba diver and hiking lover. I have been traveling the world for the last 10 years and I hope my experiences, photos and hiking routes inspire you to travel the world too.