We love the outdoor camping and backpacking adventures. We know how to start a fire, pitch a tent, fish or hunt. But do you know how to survive on raw untreated water we find around us: the lakes or ponds. What happens if we are facing an emergency situation and have run out of our clean water supply. The knowledge and ability to purify and treat water is an important survival skill. Well, there are many products in the market that can do just that. But where do you start? Choosing a proper water purifier for your needs is a rather confusing yet extremely important experience. We have selected the best backpacking and camping water filters and purifiers we can find currently in the market and tested them here. Learn also the various types of purifiers and educate yourself so that you can make the best choice the next time you head out.
First things first, the water purification products featured here must be light and portable. They must be geared towards outdoor adventure use, stuff like backpacking, camping, hiking and general travel. The main consideration here is weight and the ability to remove contaminents effectively plus other secondary aspects like how easy is it to use and ruggedness. Let’s start.
At a glance
|Product||Type||Treats||Removes Chemicals?||Removes Giardia & Cryptosporidium|
|LifeStraw||Microfilter||Protozoa and Bacteria||No||Yes||$$|
|SteriPen Ultra UV Water Purifier||UV Light||Protozoa, Bacteria and Virus||No||Yes||$$$|
|Potable Aqua Drinking Water Germicidal Tablets||Chemical||Protozoa, Bacteria and Virus||No||Only Giardia||$|
|Sawyer Mini Water Filter||Microfilter||Protozoa and Bacteria||No||Yes||$$|
|Survivor Filter Pro||Micro and Carbon filters||Protozoa, Bacteria and Virus||Yes, Mercury/Lead||Yes||$$$|
Facts about water filtration systems and purifiers
We all know there are harmful substances in the water in the outdoors. These are mainly waterborne protozoa, bacteria and viruses. Microfilters are present in these water purifiers to not only remove particles and debris but also the protozoa and bacteria but not viruses. These are too small and pass through the filters easily. Most microfilters should remove contaminants down to 0.2 microns and should meet the U.S. EPA’s Guide Standard and Protocol for Testing Microbiological Purifiers. In addition, some microfilters also remove unpleasant tastes from the water, making it easiler to drink.
Viruses present in the water are too small to be filtered out by microfilters. In order to get rid of viruses is to add chemical treatment to the water in the form of tablets. There are 3 main types of water tablets: Iodine based, Chlorine based and Chlorine Dioxide based.
- Iodine: Treament time is affected by water temperature. No less than 30 mins for about 75F and no less than 1 hour for 40F.
- Chlorine: Fast treatment compared to Iodine. But Chlorine can evaporate over time and will become inevitably contaminated again if kept too long.
- Chlorine Dioxide: Most effective as it exterminates an extensive collection of microorganisms. But it takes longer to purify about a 4-hour treatment is ideal. It has minimal taste as compared to the others.
Prolong use of chemical tablets to treat water is not recommended as it can affect your health especially if you have thyroid complications and you are using Iodine based tablets.
3. Ultra-Violet (UV)
UV light is one of the most effective method of treating and purifying water. It works by blasting UV rays that penetrate the walls of virus and other harmful pathogens by destroying and scrambling their genetic core (DNA), rendering them harmless. However, to make it effective, the water has to be clear. Cloudy or murky water reduces the UV light from penetrating and reduces the effectiveness. It has to be paired with a filtering system to remove the particles and sediments in the water.
During boiling, heat from the fire destroys viruses easily. Starting a fire is easy in the outdoors with biomass all around. Make use of a proper grilling stand and ensure the water boils to a bubbling state to completely eradicate any viruses and bacteria in the water. This article is targeted towards convienence and portability in in the outdoors, we are not focusing too much on boiling as a water purifying method.
5. Saltwater and Other Harmful Chemicals
The above methods do not remove salt or harmful chemicals in the water. Do not use these methods if you suspect water tainted with toxins or with seawater.
The LifeStraw is packaged in a neat-looking tube, 9″ (22.5cm) length by 1″ (2.5cm) diameter and weighing only 2oz (57g). It is ultralight and perfect for the outdoors, just slip it into your pocket or backpack. Inside the body of the Lifestraw contains multiple layers of hollow fibres microfilters. One end of the tube is to be placed in the water while the other end is attached to a narrowed mouthpiece, very similar to a thick drinking straw. Simply dip the end in the water and let it soak up the fibres for a couple of minutes. And suck up the water from the other end. It might require some effort because the water needs to penetrate through the microfilter to finally arrive at the mouthend.
The LifeStraw does not require any chemicals or batteries to operate. Since the only treatment if through microfiltering, it can remove 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria, including E. coli and salmonella and 99.9% waterborne protozoa, including Giardia and Cryptosporidium. It however does not remove viruses or other chemicals or salt from the water. This is most suitable for backcountry outdoor use where the water comes mainly from snow and is cleaner. It is BPA free and contains no chemicals and its raw materials meet US Food and Drug Administration regulations and standards. It has a lifespan of 1000 litres or 264 gallons of water.
It is advised not to use the LifeStraw in cold freezing water beacause the ice crystals can rupture the microfilter fibres in the tube during drinking.
SteriPen Ultra UV Water Purifier
As its name suggests, the Steripen Ultra UV Water Purifier treats water by Ultra-Violet light or UV. The entire packge is no bigger than the size of an adult hand. Simply hold the handle area and dip the UV lamp into a container of water. On the handle area is a OLED display showing everything you need to know – treatment, lamp, and battery status.
Using UV light, it is capable of eliminating Protozoa parasites Cryptosporidium and Giardia, as well as Bacteria and the Hepatitis Virus. The SteriPen is installed with a sensor that detects the presence of minerals, this turns on the UV lamp only when it is submerged. Once the lamp is on, stir slowly in the water for about 60 seconds for 1 litre of water. It is advisable to use water that is as clear as possible because murky water reduces the effect of UV light penetration. A single charge of the battery permits up to 50 treatments and the battery is rated at 300 charge and discharge cycles. Simply recharge from the provided USB port from a battery or a solar panel.
The SteriPen is small and light and simple to use and is tested and certified by WQA against US EPA Microbiological Water Purifier Standard.
Potable Aqua Drinking Water Germicidal Tablets
If you are looking for a chemical treatment of water, Potable Aqua has a popular Iodine based tablet product that can make water bacteriologically suitable for drinking. Each tablet contains a proprietary compound called TGHP that incorporates 8 milligrams of germicidal iodine into each tablet of Potable Aqua.
To treat 1 litre (1 quart) of water, 2 tables are needed. There must be a minimum of 30 minutes for the tablets to take action before drinking. There is a technique recommended by Potable Aqua to disinfect the lid of the container. The cap of you container should be capped loosely. After 5 minutes has passed after adding the tablets, shake the container briskly so that a small amount of solution seeps out to rinse the screw threads. This will help to disinfect the container lid as well as the lip of the container to prevent any possible recontamination of the water being treated. Tighten and wait 30 minutes before drinking.
Potable Aqua is one of the best tablets available in the market today. Having said that, these Iodine based tablets do not neutralize or remove chemical contaminants, nor does it eliminate particulates from water. It is effective against bacteria, viruses, and many cysts such as giardia lamblia but not effective against cryptosporidium cysts.
Sawyer Mini Water Filter
The versatile and light Sawyer Mini comes in a small tube and weighs only 2oz. Similar looking to the LifeStraw but shorter, it is a microfilter type of water purfication. Sawyer claims the filter can remove particles down to 0.1 micron yet have the fastest flow rates in the world using their micro-tubes technology. This technology has allowed the Sawyer Mini Water Filter to prevent most harmful bacteria including protozoa, or cysts like E. coli, Giardia, Vibrio cholerae, and Salmonella typhi (which cause Cholera and Typhoid) and Cryptosporidium to pass through through. However, the Mini filter does not remove iron, sulfur and other chemicals.
The Mini is good for 100,000 gallons of usage and the filter membranes are sturdy enough to withstand backwashing using the included syringe. To be able to treat that much water, cleaning is a must. Simply inject the water backwards from the mouthpiece to flush the dirt back out from the opening.
It can be attached to any 28mm threaded bottle or pouch which makes drinking hassle-free. Sucking from the straw is easier than most filters. Not too different from a thick milk shake.
Survivor Filter Pro
For those of you who prefer not to suck up your water, Survivor Filter has the right product for you. The Survivor Filter Pro incorporates a hand pump to take up the water and inject it through filters to obtain drinkable water. The pump is almost the size of an adult hand (6.5″) and light (8oz), so it is small enough to bring along camping or hiking trips. The outer shell is made from military grade BPA Free ABS Material so it can withstand the ruggedness of outdoor use.
There are 3 filters integrated into this pump. A pre-filter, a microfilter and a carbon filter. The pre-filter filters larger debris while the microfilter removes substances down to 0.01 micron which effectively removes 99.9% Virus, Staph and Bacteria. Thats the highest level available on the market today. It can be reused up to 100,000 litres or over 26,000 gallons before filter replacement. The carbon filter reduces heavy metals contamination (99.5% of Mercury and 93% Lead), surpassing EPA standards for water filters. The carbon filter is good up to 2,000 litres or 528 gallons before replacement.
It takes about 50 strokes to pump into a pint-sized bottle full of water. The water was absolutely crystal clear and amazingly no taste and pure especially when it was coming from a stagnant pond. Comparing it to other filter products, it is more suited for camping where you can pump water for storage.
Depending on your needs, you will need to decide on which water purification system best suits your needs. Personally, I would grab a combination of the above. For hiking in the back country, I would probably go for the LifeStraw or the Sawyer Mini. They are extremely light and small and slips easily into your pocket or backpack. If I am going to camp over for a considerable length of time near a lake or river, I would take the Survivor Filter Pro and either the SteriPen or the Potable Aqua Tablets. With these, I can purify water and store it over the course of my camp stay.
For more information, I would advise to click through to the product details on Amazon and read through the specifications and reviews. I hope that this article has helped you in the survival water purification and has provided an informed decision for yourself to decide what’s best for your next adventure.