From ultralight chemical purifiers to pumps and gravity filters for large groups, we break down the top water treatment options for the outdoors
Everyone exploring the backcountry needs water, but staying hydrated is not as simple as drinking straight from streams and lakes. To protect against protozoa, bacteria, and even viruses, there is a wide range of water filtration and purification systems built specifically for backpacking (many options on this list are great for day hiking, trail running, and travel too). Our top picks for 2018 below include everything from ultralight straw filters and chemical drops to pumps and large-quantity gravity filters.
1. Platypus GravityWorks 4L ($120)
Type: Gravity filter
Weight: 11.5 oz.
Filter life: 1,500 liters
What we like: Filters and stores a high quantity of water effortlessly and quickly; great for groups.
What we don’t like: Bulky and you need a decent water source to fill the bag.
Without a doubt, the Platypus GravityWorks is one of the most convenient water filters on the market, and it’s become a backpacking staple. Instead of pumping, this system requires minimal effort, can filter up to four liters of water at once, and boasts a speedy flow rate of 1.75 liters per minute. Gravity does all the work: simply fill up the 4-liter “dirty” reservoir, hang it from a tree branch or boulder, and in just a few minutes you’ll have four liters of clean water to drink. This filter is great for large groups, but we’ve enjoyed it on smaller outings too when we could quickly retrieve our day’s water and escape back to our camp to fill individual bottles (the clean bag also functions as water storage).
Compared to some of the more minimalist options below, the Platypus GravityWorks is not a small apparatus, with two bags, a filter, and a bundle of tubing. More, water retrieval can be a pain if you don’t have a reasonably deep or moving water source (similar to any system that relies on a bag to collect water). And at $120, the GravityWorks is at the more expensive end of the water filtration spectrum. But we love the convenience, especially for groups of backpackers or basecamp-type situations, and feel it’s worth the cost and bulk…