Water Filters For Hikers, Backpackers & Campers

by The Bald Scrambler

Published By: Daniel Woodley. Published: 10th December 2023. Filed at: Reviews. Disclosure: I may earn a commission from purchases made via links.

I’ve used several different water filters over the last 10 years, mostly on hikes and wild camps in Wales and England.

My first ever water filter was the Lifestraw and while it meant I could carry less weight on long treks, it was far from perfect.

I’ve since tested the Sawyer Squeeze, the WaterWell and a few unbranded products as well.

This is what I think of the well-known products and which ones I currently use.

Lifestraw: The Good and Bad

I used the Lifestraw for an entire summer season in the Lake District and as it was my first ever water filter, I was delighted to be carrying less bottled water, especially on multi-day hikes and wild camps.

Lifestraw
lifestraw nozzle

Here’s the pros and cons:

Pros

  • Cheap
  • Lightweight
  • Small
  • Effective
  • Treats 4000 litres of water

Cons

  • Difficult to suck water through
  • Doesn’t come with a bottle or water tank, you’ll need to buy one separately
  • The straw is so wide that it won’t fit into regular plastic bottles
  • Filters to 0.2 microns while other filters go to 0.1 microns

My biggest issue with the Lifestraw is that it doesn’t come with a bottle for storing water, making it great for when you have access to a stream or river but not so good when up high in the mountains – which is where I spend most of my time.

Also, the straw is so wide that it doesn’t fit into regular plastic drink bottles. That meant I had to buy a separate bottle with a wide neck.

Finally, I found it difficult to suck the water through. All the other filters I’ve used over the years were easier to use. The filter also needed more frequent cleaning to keep the flow going.

I wouldn’t buy the Lifestraw again and don’t recommend it. It was great for its time but there are now better products to choose from.

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter, Blue, 1pc
LifeStraw Personal Water Filter, Blue, 1pc
LifeStraw Personal Water Filter, Blue, 1pc
LifeStraw Personal Water Filter, Blue, 1pc

Sawyer Squeeze Filter: Great For Camping

(Update: See my full review and video review of the Sawyer Squeeze here)

The Sawyer Squeeze Filter is very popular as it’s versatile and can be used to filter water on the go and decant from water bags or bottles.

Pros

  • Versatile – can be used to decant camping water or drink directly from a bottle or bag
  • Gravity is all you need – while one can squeeze the bag to force the water through, it’s not necessary. It will drip into a container/bottle slowly
  • Filters to 0.1 microns

Cons

  • Lots of parts, some of them small (the washers fall out of the caps often)
  • After a while it started dripping when I screwed it onto plastic soda bottles filled with water

The Sawyer Squeeze Filter set is my go-to water filter for wild camping and I’ve used it dozens of times in 2021-23.

The system has several parts and I’ve used it to clean water for drinking and cooking.

It comes with:

  • The filter itself.
  • Squeezable bags.
  • Hoses and caps.
  • Mesh bag.
  • Backflush device.

My favourite feature of the Sawyer Squeeze is its ability to filter water by using gravity.

I just hang the bag on a tent, tree or other surface and gravity pulls the water through the filter into the container:

sawyer filter on a squeezabel bag

Attached to a bag

Using gravity to filter water

Using gravity to filter water for cooking

This filter can also be screwed onto regular plastic drink bottles.

I’ve taken the filter out on several hikes (without the bags and hoses) and used it in emergency backup, just in case I ran out of stored water.

The filter is small, light and easy to use:

Sawyer Squeeze filter in my hand

Small enough to fit in my hand

The Sawyer Squeeze on a soda bottle

On a regular soda bottle

The filter comes with a backflush device which is a syringe that pushes water into the device backwards.

I always do this when I get home from each trip and find it easy and quick, it also helps to clear the filter of debris and improves the flow rate.

Issues With The Sawyer Filter

The only issue I’ve experienced with the Sawyer Squeeze Filter is it sometimes leaks (drips) when screwed onto plastic drinks bottles (soda bottles).

I’ve used it several times and the plastic is now slightly worn but the device is still usable.

I’ve heard reports of the squeezable bags splitting and leaking but I’ve never squeezed mine, I’ve only ever let gravity pull the water through the filter, so my bags are still intact.

Also, the set has several small parts including 2 x caps, 2 x washers (that keep falling out of the caps), 1 x hose, 2 x bags, 1 x filter, 1 x backflush syringe and 1 x mesh bag – it’s not an ultra-quick system to setup and if any of the small parts are lost, the system can’t be used.

For the average hiker, a simple bottle with a built-in filter would be so much easier and less hassle.

I recommend this filter set for campers who need water for drinking and cooking but it’s not the best system for day hikers who just want to grab a litre of water from a stream on the go; there are too many parts.

SAWYER PRODUCTS Squeeze SP129 Waterfilter for Outdoor & Camping
SAWYER PRODUCTS Squeeze SP129 Waterfilter for Outdoor & Camping
SAWYER PRODUCTS Squeeze SP129 Waterfilter for Outdoor & Camping
SAWYER PRODUCTS Squeeze SP129 Waterfilter for Outdoor & Camping

WaterWell

Me filling up the WaterWell

(Update: See the full WaterWell review here)

I chose the WaterWell because I wanted a simple water bottle with a built-in filter that reliably cleans water without lots of small parts that I might lose when I’m hiking in the mountains.

The WaterWell holds 700ml and has a removable filter that can be cleaned with the backflush syringe.

The bottle comes with a carabiner clip for securely holding the bottle to a belt or backpack and the nozzle is drip-free.

WaterWell bottle and filter

WaterWell bottle

Closeup of the cap

Closeup of the cap

Pros

  • All-in-one bottle, no small parts to lose.
  • Easy to suck water through (good flow rate).
  • Sturdy bottle.
  • Doesn’t leak.
  • Effective filtration to 0.1 microns.

Cons

  • Can’t be used to decant water into a separate bottle.
  • 700ml isn’t enough for me. I drink 1.5 – 3 litres on a typical day hike so I have to carry a separate bottle.

The WaterWell removes 99.9% of bacteria and filters to 0.1 microns.

The manufacturer claims that it will filter 1000 litres of water before it needs to be replaced and the filter can be purchased separately, meaning you don’t need to buy a new drinking bottle when the time comes to replace the filter.

The replaceable filter

The filter is replaceable

Cleaning the filter

Cleaning the filter by backflushing

WaterWell Water Filter Bottle, BPA-Free Tritan, 2-Stage Filter with 1,000L Lifespan, Removes Chlorine, Organic Impurities, Microplastics for Travel, Hiking, Leak-Proof Bottle Flip Lid, Blue-700ml
WaterWell Water Filter Bottle, BPA-Free Tritan, 2-Stage Filter with 1,000L Lifespan, Removes Chlorine, Organic Impurities, Microplastics for Travel, Hiking, Leak-Proof Bottle Flip Lid, Blue-700ml
WaterWell Water Filter Bottle, BPA-Free Tritan, 2-Stage Filter with 1,000L Lifespan, Removes Chlorine, Organic Impurities, Microplastics for Travel, Hiking, Leak-Proof Bottle Flip Lid, Blue-700ml
WaterWell Water Filter Bottle, BPA-Free Tritan, 2-Stage Filter with 1,000L Lifespan, Removes Chlorine, Organic Impurities, Microplastics for Travel, Hiking, Leak-Proof Bottle Flip Lid, Blue-700ml

My Current Setup

I’m currently using the WaterWell for day hikes, as I can fill it with water from streams on the go. I take an extra empty plastic bottle if my route has long stretches between water sources or if it’s a really hot day.

I use the Sawyer filter set when I’m wild camping as it’s great for decanting drinking and cooking water and I can let gravity do all the work.

I’m not currently using the Lifestraw.

About Daniel Woodley

This review of the water filters for hikers, campers and scramblers was created by Daniel Woodley, aka The Bald Scrambler.

From walking along beaches and kayaking down rivers to making his way up mountains and even jumping out of planes, Daniel has a love of the outdoors but scrambling is his real passion.

.

Daniel Woodley

Daniel Woodley aka The Bald Scrambler

Have fun, keep safe. Hopefully I’ll see you on the mountains one day

By The Bald Scrambler

Ads Blocker Image Powered by Code Help Pro

Ads Blocker Detected!

We have detected that you are using an Ad Blocker. Videos & other content may not load properly or at all. Please deactivate the blocker & refresh the page.