Best water purifier for camping in 2023: 7 water purification systems for safe drinking

Our roundup of the best water purifiers for camping and backpacking

best water purifier for camping

Water purifiers and filters are a must have when you go camping. Whether you’re going to a campground or camping in the wild, you can never be sure that the water is clean.

In comparison to water purifying tablets, a dedicated water purifier is much more economical and way more efficient.

For instance, most water filters can be purchased for between $40 and $200, with a lifespan of between 100L and 10,0000L before the filter or cartridge needs replacing.

To put that into perspective, 100L equates to 3 months worth of drinking water for 1-person.

Larger water purifiers such as gravity bags also make it super easy to supply filtered water for not only drinking, but washing up, cooking and cleaning.

In a hurry? Here’s our top 3 picks for the best water purifier for camping.

Lifestraw Flex

Best for groups and families

  • two-stage filtration to 0.2 microns
  • filter lasts up to 2000L
  • removes heavy metals, bacteria and protazoa
  • does not remove viruses

Survivor Filter Pro

Best for water quality and taste

  • triple filtration to 0.01 microns
  • filter lasts up to 100,000L
  • removes heavy metals, viruses, bacteria and protazoa

Epic Nalgene OG Ultimate Outdoor

Best water purifier bottle

  • bottle and filter made in the USA
  • filters over 200 water contaminants
  • filter: lasts up to 450L
  • removes heavy metals, viruses, bacteria and protazoa

Can you drink campground water?

It’s best never to presume that water at a campground is safe to drink. Whether that be from a provided spigot, lakes, rivers or springs.

The water may look clean, but often contains various bacteria, viruses and cysts.

How do you purify water when camping?

The most natural way to purify water while camping is to boil it. Boiling water kills bacteria, viruses and protozoa.

While it seems like an economical way to get clean drinking water, it actually isn’t.

Firstly, purifying water via heat will take a long time. Particularly if you are trying to purify a large amount of water.

Secondly, to boil water requires fuel which again, if you are planning to purify a large amount of water, will cost much more in the long run than a dedicated water filter.

Similarly, another option is to use water purification tablets, and while they are cheap upfront, they are actually less economical in the long run than a dedicated water purifier.

The most efficient and economical way to purify water when camping is with a water filter such as a gravity bag, pump action filter or water bottle purifier.

Best water purifier for camping

Lifestraw Flex

Best water purification system for groups and families

  • two-stage filtration to 0.2 microns
  • hollow fiber membrane: lasts up to 2,000L
  • carbon capsule filter: lasts up to 100L
  • removes heavy metals as well as bacteria and protazoa etc

The Lifestraw Flex with gravity bag is the perfect option for couples, groups and families.

The gravity bag has a capacity of 4L, and can filter the whole 4L in less than 10 minutes.

For the price, its filtering capacity is excellent and can remove bacteria, parasites, chemicals, heavy metals including lead, chlorine, pesticides, herbicides and voc’s.

The only thing the Flex cannot filter is viruses due to only filtering to 0.2 microns, which is larger than most virus particles.

The Flex can be used in 4 different ways: as a personal straw filter, with the included gravity bag, as an in-line filter with most hydration packs or attached to most disposable water bottles.

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Platypus GravityWorks

Best for fast filtration

  • filtration to 0.2 microns
  • GravityWorks filter cartridge: lasts up to 1,500L
  • optional carbon filter: lasts up to 300L

The Platypus GravityWorks is the perfection option for large groups and families looking for fast water filtration.

The GravityWorks 4L has a total capacity of 8L with its separate clean and dirty water reservoirs.

With a flow rate of 1.75L per minute, it can filter the whole 4L in just over 2 minutes. Perfect for groups and families where plenty of people need access to water frequently.

The microfilter can be backflushed to maintain performance while out camping or backpacking.

The GravityWorks comes supplied with a filter that removes bacteria and protozoa, while you can purchase an optional carbon filter to improve taste and reduce odors.

The GravityWorks cannot remove viruses or heavy metals with or without the carbon filter.

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Survivor Filter PRO

Best for water quality and taste

  • triple filtration to 0.01 microns
  • ultra filters: last up to 100,000L
  • carbon filter: lasts up to 2,000L
  • removes heavy metals and virus’ as well as bacteria and protazoa etc

The Survivor Filter PRO is the best independently tested filtration level on the market at 0.01 microns.

The triple filtration system removes viruses, bacteria and parasites, while reducing most heavy metals including lead, bad taste and foul odors.

The triple stage filtration is actually 20 times more efficient than the industry standard of 0.2 microns.

The Survivor Filter PRO uses a pump mechanism as opposed to gravity. This obviously requires more physical exertion than a gravity system and thus the flow rate of filtered water is much slower at 500ml per minute.

It comes supplied with an attached cup that can store 500ml of fresh water, or you can pump directly into any sized portable hydration pack or storage container.

Its pump mechanism and small container means it’s perfect for backpacking or solo campers. Though if you are happy to spend a while pumping a couple of liters into a separate storage container, there is no reason it can’t be used for larger groups.

The lifetime of the micro-filters and carbon filter together are far superior to any other water purification system on the market, saving you plenty of money in the long run and ensuring you don’t get caught out while in the wilderness.

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Sawyer Water Filter

A great option for stress-free water with no need to replace filters

  • filtration to 0.1 microns
  • fiber membrane mini-filter: lasts indefinitely (rated to over 300,000L)

The Sawyer gravity water filter is a great choice if you plan to use it extensively and don’t want to worry about replacing the filter.

The Sawyer MINI filter can last indefinitely, with its backwashing system being able to restore the flow rate to up to 98.5% capacity. The Sawyer MINI filter has been tested and rated to over 300,000L.

The Sawyer water filter removes bacteria, protozoa and microplastics, but cannot remove viruses.

Similar to the Platypus GravityWorks, the Sawyer dual bladder water purifier features 2 x 4L capacity reservoirs. One for dirty water and one for purified water. Allowing you to store up to 8L at any one time.

The Sawyer filter can filter 4 liters of water in around 7-minutes, so it is much slower than the Platypus GravityWorks, which can filter 4L in just over 2 minutes.

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Lifestraw Family

Best for large families and extended use

  • filtration to 0.02 microns
  • pre-filter and purification cartridge: lasts up to 18,000L
  • removes viruses as well as bacteria and parasites etc

The Lifestraw Family water purification system is the perfect option for large families, particularly if you go camping often.

With the pre-filter and purification cartridge lasting up to roughly 18,000 liters, you wont need to replace any parts or buy a new water filter for many, many years.

In fact, it provides clean drinking water for a family of five for 3 years. And that’s with daily use.

It protects against viruses, bacteria, parasites, microplastics while removing dirt, sand and cloudiness.

While it’s not the fastest filter on the market, it can produce 9-12 liters of clean water in one hour.

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Epic Nalgene OG Ultimate Outdoor Water Purifier

Best water purification bottle

  • filters over 200 water contaminants
  • filter: lasts up to 450L
  • removes heavy metals and virus’ as well as bacteria and protazoa etc
  • bottle and filter made in the USA

Nalgene, whilst less widely known for their water purifying products, are hugely popular with campers, backpackers, kayakers and fishermen. And for good reason.

The Nalgene Ultimate Outdoor water purifier bottle features a superior filter that removes viruses, bacteria, cysts, lead, chlorine, odors, heavy metals, herbicides, pesticides and much, much more.

Its use of sub-micron filtration allows impurities to be removed while maintaining the healthy minerals found in water.

The sub-micron filter also lasts roughly twice as long as most other comparative water filtration bottles, and unbelievably, costs the same or less.

Another neat feature of the Nalgene Ultimate Outdoor bottle is the ability to instantly the drink the water. It requires no waiting, squeezing, pumping or batteries.

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MSR Guardian

Best portable water filter for durability and longevity

  • filtration to 0.02 microns
  • filter: lasts up to 10,000L
  • removes heavy metals and virus’ as well as bacteria and protazoa etc

The MSR Guardian is one of the most top notch water filters out there, and is particularly useful if you go backcountry camping or backpacking.

It has a super durable construction that can withstand freezing, frequent use and even drops and hard knocks.

Made with advanced hollow fiber filter cartridges it removes viruses, protozoans and bacteria. It also filters sediments, but does not filter heavy metals such as lead.

One of the neatest features of the Guardian is its self-cleaning system. Most other water filters require manual backwashing to clean out the filters, but the Guardian cleans itself with every pump you do.

Despite its small size, you can filter water at a ridiculously quick rate. It can clean 2.5 liters per minute, one of the fastest currently available on the market.

The filter is also capable of purifying 10,000 liters of water before it needs replacing.

The Guardian comes supplied not only with a hose to fill any container, but also an adapter that screws onto wide-mouthed water bottles such as the Nalgene.

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Recommended accessories

While gravity fed and pump water purifiers are the most economical and efficient for purifying large quantities of water, if you are going camping somewhere where clean water is not easily accessible, it’s always wise to take emergency backup purifiers.

With pump action purifiers, components may break and with gravity systems parts may get blocked. While unlikely to happen with a good water purification device, it’s always best to be cautious.

Products such as purifying tablets, drops and Steripen’s are all fantastic options. They are small, lightweight and perfect for purifying water in a pinch.

At the very least we would recommend you have a water bottle, Steripen and purifying tablets/drops in your emergency setup. The water bottle pre-filter can be used to make the water taste nicer and remove odor, but is not essential.

Steripen Ultra

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Steripen Water Bottle Pre-Filter

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Nalgene Water Bottle

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Purinize Chemical-Free Water Purifier Drops

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Potable Aqua Tablets

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