Filtration essentially strains unwanted particles out of the water.
The two most common water filtration systems are sediment filters and activated carbon filters and often the two methods are combined. Sediment filters remove contaminants according to size, including most microscopic contaminants, but some, such as viruses, dissolved pharmaceuticals, and some natural but harmful minerals are too small to be trapped, and these pass through instead.
Most filtration systems use activated carbon to filter out contaminants. Carbon filters trap carbon-based particles that attempt to pass through them. Carbon-based particles account for the majority of the harmful contaminants present in most water sources.
Essentially filters will block bacteria and protozoa from getting through into the treated drinkable water, but NOT viruses.
The following are some of the filters that I have used liked (or not) on the trail:
Weight: 102 grams / 3.5 oz
- Lightweight, easily portable 0.1 absolute micron hollow fiber membrane inline water filter
- Highest level of filtration on market — removes greater than 99.99999% of all bacteria and 99.9999% of all protozoa
- Built-in and removable push/pull cap; spray water straight into mouth or bottle
- Comes with one 32-ounce, BPA-free collapsible pouch that rolls up tightly for easy packing; can be resued hundreds of times
- Backed by manufacturer’s lifetime limited warranty (Independent Testing Laboratory Hydreion, LLC.; Microbiological Report S05-03)
- Not the lightest option
- Not extremely durable
- Not a purification device. Does not remove viruses
The Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter System is the filtration device that I see used most on the trail. In recent years, it has easily surpassed Sawyer’s prior best seller, the Sawyer Mini . The Sawyer Squeeze is a few ounces heavier (42 grams), but has a vastly better flow rate, which translates to less time squeezing and filtering and more time drinking! Most ultralight hikers agree that the sacrifice in weight is a fair trade off for the increased flow/drink-ability.
I have experienced failure with the Squeeze in the field. I was in the habit of leaving the Squeeze screwed onto my Smartwater bottle on the outside of my pack as I hiked. Unbeknownst to me, at some point, I banged or hard rubbed the filter against a rock or tree, causing an internal crack in the housing, which caused unfiltered water to leak from the body of the filter and drip down into the clean water being dispensed into my clean bottle. Lesson learned; now I keep the filter tucked away when not in use. No big deal; adds a couple of seconds to the process.
Weight (on my scale): 49.74 g / 1.75 oz
- High performance filter fits in the palm of your hand; claimed weight of 2 ounces
- 0.1 Micron absolute hollow fiber membrane inline filter
- Attaches to included drinking pouch, standard disposable water bottles, hydration packs, or use the straw to drink directly from your water source
- Removes 99.99999% of all bacteria, such as salmonella, cholera, and E.coli; removes 99.9999% of all protozoa, such as giardia and cryptosporidium
- Filter rated up to 100,000 gallons;
- includes 16-ounce reusable squeeze pouch, 7-inch drinking straw, and cleaning plunger
- One of the most lightweight filters available
- Flow restriction
- Regular back flushing is necessary
- Not a purification device. Does not remove viruses
Although it is 1.5 ounces lighter than the Sawyer Squeeze, the smaller size and more compact design does tend to get congested more quickly. More back flushing is required more frequently and even with diligent upkeep, the initial flow rate is less than that of the Sawyer Squeeze, and can more easily and quickly become restricted. Because of those failures, most hikers will take the 42 gram hit and opt for the Squeeze. However, if every gram counts, this is definitely one of, if not the most, lightweight filters available today.
Weight: 50.82 g / 1.79 oz
- Award-winning LifeStraw has been used by millions around the globe since 2005
- Removes minimum 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria (>LOG 6 reduction) and surpasses EPA standards for water filters
- Removes minimum 99.9% of waterborne protozoan parasites (>LOG 3 reduction) and filters to an amazing 0.2 microns
- Filters up to 1000 liters of contaminated water without chemicals
- Extremely lightweight: 2 ounces
- very slow flow rate
- Direct from source to mouth filtration, not easy to store and save the filtered water, though there are gravity fed Lifestraw systems with very high flow rates like this one: LifeStraw Mission Water Purification System, High-Volume Gravity-Fed Purifier for Camping and Emergency Preparedness, 12 Liter
- Many consumers complain of the Lifestraw clogging after long term storage; Lifestraw must be completely dry before storing.
- Not a purification device! Does not remove viruses
Not great for multi day backpacking but awesome for day hikes, bugout bags, or, if you don’t mind looking like a douche, drinking suspect tap water out of a glass in a foreign country. Or you could try this one for a little more subtlety…
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