Best Types Of Water Purification Systems For Camping & Hiking

Good water treatment is the key to a good outdoor experience. Dirty water can taste bad and more importantly make you sick. 

If you’re planning on doing some backcountry camping, a long backpacking trip, or even a full day hike you need to be sure you have access to plenty of clean safe drinking water. 

Six Types Of Water Purification Systems For Camping

There are hundreds of water purification systems on the market targeted at backpackers and hikers. We have broken these down into six primary categories. 

Before you try to find the perfect purification system, let’s find the right category for your activities.

Choosing The Right Water Purification System For Camping

Pros & Cons

How do you choose the right system? Let’s look at the pros and cons of each purification system.

Squeeze Purification Systems

Pro: Squeeze filtration systems are very lightweight and fast. This makes them great for long backpacking trips where weight is an issue.

Con: Most squeeze purification systems have small volumes. If you’re purifying water for multiple hikers, you’ll need to either fill it multiple times or stop more often

Gravity Purification Systems

Pro: Also quite lightweight this type of system purifies more water in one go, making it better if you’re backpacking with multiple hikers.

Con: Gravity systems do take a bit longer to filter so if you expect to be in a hurry this may not be the choice for you. 

Pump Purification Systems

Pro: Pump filters have a near unlimited supply, as long as you keep pumping you’ll keep getting clean water. 

Con: Pumping may be the last thing you want to do at the end of the day. As your filter gets older the pumping gets even harder. Proper maintenance also requires regular cleaning of the filter after use. 

Chemical Purification Systems

Pro: Chemical water purification is the easiest option. Just chuck the chemicals in and wait. Chemicals are also very, very lightweight and pack small. Ideal for weight-conscious hikers.

Con: There is a wait time of 30 minutes to over 4 hours before you can safely drink chemically purified water. Many chemicals leave an aftertaste that is offputting to some users. 

UV Purification Systems

Pro: UV purification is quick, your water will be drinkable in about 60 seconds.

Con: You’ll need to carry extra batteries or a portable charger to keep your UV purifier running. Also, UV purification systems struggle with large volumes of water and murky or cloudy water. 

Boiling Water To Purify

Pro: With no fancy equipment needed, the only thing needed to purify water by boiling is the extra fuel you burn during the process.

Con: Boiling water to purify it takes some time. Water is purified after staying at a rolling boil for 1-3 minutes depending on altitude. Also, consider the time needed for the water to cool. 

The Best Water Purification System For Camping?

Obviously, this depends greatly on your specific circumstance, but for our money, we like to carry a pump filtration system backed up by the two-part chemical Aquamira.

Pump filtration systems last a long time and can pull water from shallow murky sources with no problem and as a backup it’s hard to beat Aquamira for simplicity and the tiny space it takes up in a pack.

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We’re Anne & Matt, the outdoor adventurers behind DCS Outdoor. We love backpacking, camper van travels, long hikes, and all things nature. 

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