Want to know how to choose a water filter or purifier? You’ve come to the right place. When you’re out in the wilds, you have to be prepared for anything. And when it comes to your health and safety, your water is a big part of that. Water can make or break your trip—it’s not just about hydration, but also about staying healthy and safe. So if you’re wondering what types of filters and purifiers exist out there, how they work, and which one is best for you… this post is for you!

Water Filters vs. Water Purifiers

Water filters and purifiers are two ways to get clean water but they both have different advantages and disadvantages.

A water filter: works by removing contaminants from the water source so it is safe for drinking. They remove bacteria, viruses, and parasites as well as chemicals such as pesticides and heavy metals. The only downside to using a filter is that they don’t remove chemicals such as chlorine or fluoride so if these are present in your water source then they will still remain after filtration has occurred.

A water purifier: works by killing off any bacteria present in the water source so it’s safe for consumption without any further treatment being required at all! This means that no matter what type of contamination there might be in your current supply of drinking water (whether it be natural or man-made), this device will kill off all harmful microorganisms which could make someone sick if ingested by mouth – even if there isn’t much left behind once everything else has been filtered out too!

How Water Filters and Purifiers Work

Filters and many purifiers include a cartridge with microscopic pores that catch debris, protozoa and bacteria. Over time, strained matter gums up the cartridge, requiring it to be cleaned and eventually replaced.

Some purifiers are designed to kill viruses, which are too small for most filter elements. A more adventurous method relies instead on ultraviolet light to treat the pathogens.

Filters and purifiers often include activated carbon because its effectiveness at removing unpleasant tastes makes it ideal for removing leaf tannins. Also, activated carbon reduces contaminants like pesticides and other industrial chemicals.

The Role of a Prefilter

When you’re considering how water filters and purifiers work, it’s important to understand the role of a pre-filter.

The pre-filter is the first step in any filtration process, and it’s designed to screen out large particles like dirt and rust from your water supply. The pre-filter traps these larger particles and prevents them from entering the main filter itself.

If you have a water filter or purifier that doesn’t have a pre-filter, your system may need to be cleaned more often than normal. If you find yourself having to clean your filter or purifier more often than you’d like, consider replacing it with one that has a pre-filter.

Types of Water Filters and Water Purifiers

Innovation and new technologies have resulted in hybrid products, many of which are innovative and unique. Use this assessment as a starting point for research, but delve deeply into product descriptions, specs, and reviews to find the best product for your needs.

Pump Filters and Purifiers

If you have a water source and a portable water bottle, you can filter water by putting an intake hose in the water source and an output hose in your water bottle. Some pumps thread directly to a bottle or reservoir, while other models require an adaptor to fit different bottles. Be sure to compare flow rates before purchasing any pump model.


  • You can get exactly the amount of water you want.
  • Water can be obtained from shallow sources, such as seeps.
  • The internal element or cartridge, if it is damaged, can be replaced.


  • Pumps can be a chore to maintain, especially at the end of their lifespans.
  • Field cleaning of the element is a must.
  • Weight and bulk are two of the most common problems associated with other treatment methods.

Gravity Filters and Purifiers

Fill a reservoir with water, find a suitable place to hang everything up, and wait for something to happen. Models of the dispenser come with one or two reservoirs, but the contents and setup of the reservoirs vary.


  • Gravity does the work for you.
  • You can easily process large quantities of water for a big group.
  • The element or cartridge is replaceable.


  • It can be hard to find a place to hang reservoirs.
  • The treatment process is slower than pumping.
  • Seeps and shallow water sources can make it challenging to fill a reservoir.
  • Field cleaning of the element is required.

Ultraviolet (UV) Light Purifiers

These pen-like devices have been used to purify water in Third World countries. Using one is simple: just push a button and stir for 60 seconds, then remove the device and let the water sit until you see that it is no longer cloudy.


  • Treatment is easy and water is quickly drinkable.
  • No element cleaning and replacement are ever needed.


  • Requires batteries.
  • Silty or cloudy water impairs effectiveness, requiring you to prefilter.
  • Multiple treatments are required to produce large quantities.

Bottle Filters and Purifiers

These bottles offer fill-and-sip simplicity with built-in filtration or purification elements. Some use the suction provided when you sip from a bite valve, while others work like a coffee press.


  • Treatment is easy and water is quickly drinkable.
  • The element or cartridge is replaceable.
  • On average, lighter and cost less than pump and gravity filters.


  • Water quantity is limited by bottle size.
  • Field cleaning of the element is required.

Squeeze Filters

Unlike regular water filters, which are attached to the faucet, this one is placed on the countertop and filled with water. When you’re ready to drink, you simply push the button and fresh water comes out of the spout.


  • Treatment is easy and water is quickly drinkable.
  • The element or cartridge is replaceable.
  • Some double as a gravity filter or straw-style filter.
  • On average, lighter, smaller and cost less than pump and gravity filters.


  • Water quantity is limited by reservoir, flask or bottle size.
  • Field cleaning of the element is required.

Straw-Style Filters

These cylinders have a built-in element that lets you slurp directly from the source, delivering water where it’s needed most.


  • Treatment is easy and water is quickly drinkable.
  • On average, lighter and cost less than pump and gravity filters.


  • Water is only available when you’re at a water source.
  • Generally only a 1-person treatment option.
  • Field cleaning of the element is required.
  • Not all models have replaceable elements.


Once added to gathered water, this chemical concoction attacks protozoa, bacteria, and viruses. Products typically use iodine and chlorine as their base ingredients; some are available in the form of drops or pills, while others come in gadgets that combine the base ingredients.


  • Easy to use.
  • Ultra-inexpensive, ultra-small, and ultralight.
  • An excellent backup method to pack in case your main filter breaks.


  • Wait time before drinking is 30 minutes to 4 hours, longer for icy cold water.
  • Iodine products impart a chemical taste that can be countered by taste-neutralizer tablets.
  • Iodine products aren’t effective against Cryptosporidium, though they work fine against other types of protozoa.
  • Iodine products can be a concern to pregnant women and people with thyroid conditions.


An effective treatment system for dealing with pathogens is your stove, fuel, and pot. Bring water to a rolling boil for 1 minute at sea level; if you are above 6,500 feet, boil it for 3 minutes.


  • The only additional supply you need to pack along is extra fuel.
  • Murky water doesn’t impair effectiveness.
  • Serves as a readily available backup method in case your main filter breaks.


  • Time and effort are required to bring water to a boil.
  • Wait time for the water to cool.
  • If it’s your primary treatment method, you need to pack an extra fuel container.

Hiking Water Treatment Tips and Best Practices

If you’re ever in a situation where you have to hike out of the wilderness, it’s important to know how to treat your water. Here are some tips on how to do it right:

Separate and clearly designate dirty and clean water containers. Make sure you know which is which at all times. The easiest way to do this is by using two separate containers for each type of water. If you don’t have two separate containers, use tape or labels on one container that clearly states “clean water” or something similar so that you can tell them apart from a distance (and not confuse them with each other).

Pay close attention to directions! If there are any specific instructions for treating the water before drinking it, make sure you follow them carefully. Don’t assume anything—if there are no instructions, ask someone who knows what they’re doing (like a wilderness expert).

Seek out clean water! Whenever possible, try to find clean running water instead of stagnant pools or ponds because those could be contaminated by animals or other things that live in them. You don’t want that stuff getting into your body!

Keep your hands clean by packing hand sanitizer and using it often. This will help prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria between people in your group, as well as keep you safe from contamination when you’re collecting water for treatment.

Keep camp, toilet, and dishwashing areas at least 200 feet from any water source. This will reduce the likelihood of contamination from animal feces or human waste.

Freezing conditions require special consideration. If freezing temperatures are expected where you plan on hiking, consider bringing along an extra bottle of water that can be frozen overnight so that it will stay cold and ready to drink during the day.

In conclusion

We hope this guide has been helpful to you in choosing the right water filter for your needs. If you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts on this topic, please leave a comment below!

If you’re looking for more information, we recommend checking out our [link] section. There, you can learn about other things that are important for choosing a water filter—like how to maintain your filters and what kind of filters are best suited for your needs.