Some backwoods hardasses might tell you to just sip straight from the stream, but that’s a good way to swallow illness-causing parasites or bacteria. Whether you’re camping, paddling, or backpacking for days without a potable water source, taking the time to treat your H20 with water filtration devices will ensure you stay hydrated and healthy.
Boiling water is the most basic way to make it safe to drink, but it can waste a lot of time and fuel. Alternative methods include filtering, which removes bacteria and protozoa as well as any dirt or sediment, and purifying, which does all the above and also gets rid of viruses. UV lights do it all too, but they require a battery or solar charge. Finally, chemical treatments like iodine tablets are super compact, but they can sometimes leave a funky aftertaste.
To help you choose between all the different options, we’ve rounded up some of the best devices for each method of cleaning drinking water. Grab one of these products to get a drink when you’re miles from a spigot.
The Best Water Filtration Devices
1. Water Purifier: Grayl Geopress
The Geopress deserves to be at the top of this list simply because it’s so satisfying to use. There’s also nothing else like it on the market. Just dip the outer container into a lake or stream, place the smaller capsule inside, and apply pressure to the lid. In about 15 seconds, you’ll have 24 ounces of clean, potable water.
The Geopress removes global waterborne pathogens, pesticides, chemicals, heavy metals, and microplastics, and it also improves the water’s taste, smell, and clarity. Although it weighs in at 15.9 ounces, our testers were happy to have it on a recent 30-mile trek on the Four Pass Loop in Colorado. One note: After about 350 presses, Grayl recommends replacing the purifier cartridge ($30).
2. Chemical Treatment: Katadyn Micropur Purification Tablets
Some backcountry travelers bring these tablets as backup because they’re practically weightless and have long shelf lives, but they’re perfectly fine to use as a first line of defense. One tablet will clean one quart of water, so you don’t have to do any complicated math on the trail. It does take some time to work, however: 15 minutes to dissolve and destroy most viruses and bacteria, 30 minutes for Giardia, and four hours for Cryptosporidium—which most other water disinfectants don’t clean. Users say the tablets only create a mild chemical taste, but unlike purifiers or filters, they won’t remove silt, smells, or foul flavors.
3. UV Light: CrazyCap2
With the CrazyCap2, you won’t have to worry about the quality of your water again, whether you’re traveling across a foreign country or just refilling your bottle at the gym. The cap of this fairly standard-looking water bottle is super high tech. It contains a UV light source (the same tech used to disinfect hospital rooms and clean water in water treatment plants) that activates every four hours to kill 99.9996 percent of microbes and pathogens in the insulated vessel (it’ll keep your beverage hot or cold for hours, too). That means your drink will be free of germs as well as the nasty mildew smell water bottles accumulate over time. Your purchase also includes a charger and a lifetime warranty.
4. Water Filter: LifeStraw
If you want to drink straight from a water source, this is the tool for you. This nifty tube is about the size of a small summer sausage and has the power to filter up to 1,000 gallons of water—enough water to last one person five years. It doesn’t remove viruses or reduce chemicals or lead contamination, but it does filter out bacteria, parasites, microplastics, dirt, and silt. It weighs less than two ounces and comes with a lanyard so you can wear it around your neck on runs, paddles, hikes, bike rides, and more. Plus, LifeStraw is a certified B Corp, and your dollars help support the brand’s humanitarian projects.
5. Water Filter: Platypus QuickDraw Microfilter System
The QuickDraw’s fiber filter cartridge features 0.2-micron hollow fibers that filter out bacteria and protozoa, and it offers a flow rate of up to three liters per minute. It’s an ideal system for backpacking: Combined with the included one-liter reservoir, the QuickDraw weighs just 3.3 ounces and takes up less room than a rolled-up T-shirt. You can drink directly from the filter or use it to refill your water bottles; the filter is compatible with other Platy bottles and even some screw-top plastic bottles, too.
6. Water Purifier: LifeSaver Jerrycan
If you’re car camping, this jumbo water purifier will make keeping clean water on hand much easier. With a built-in purifying filter and pump, the canister can quickly produce a whopping 4.9 gallons of safe drinking water. It removes protozoa, bacteria, and viruses, and an activated carbon disc helps mitigate any nasty tastes or smells. You can pump out 5,280 gallons before replacing the filter, and its thick, BPA-free molded plastic construction can stand up to the inevitable bumps and scrapes of life off the pavement.
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