Good water filters for backpacking trips?
July 28, 2009 9:50 PM   Subscribe

What are your recommendations for a good water filter for backpacking trips?

I go on several 3-4 day backpacking trips per year in the Sierra Nevada's and I need a new water filter. Do you have any recommendations? Any advice on what I should look for? Ideally, I'd like a filter that is small and uncomplicated. Not incredibly expensive would be nice too.
posted by fdhidalgo to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a big fan of the Pur/Katadyn Hiker.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 10:26 PM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've used the following for many, many multiple-day backwoods trips, along with several friends:

Works like a charm.
posted by iftheaccidentwill at 11:09 PM on July 28, 2009

Though a little pricey, I really like the Steripen, which uses ultraviolet light to purify water, right in your waterbottle or what have you. Batteries, too are pricey, but you can get the solar powered version. Worth adding to your list of water purification ideas to check out.
posted by thebrokedown at 11:49 PM on July 28, 2009

Seconding the Katadyn brand. I've used mine on many trips. It's cheap, it's light, it comes with attachments that fit most water bottles, and it works.
posted by one_bean at 1:13 AM on July 29, 2009

Katadyn bought Pur, so I just found out about two weeks ago looking for filters for my Pur Hiker.

I'm a big fan. It's teensy (as far as I'm concerned) and of good build quality. It's not entirely fast, but it does use a plunger style pump instead of the awful lever style.

If you're going ultralight, you detritus filter through a sock then use iodine tablents and boiling. Works a treat, but doesn't taste super awesome. Total weight is in the grams, though.
posted by TomMelee at 4:43 AM on July 29, 2009

I have an MSR (similar to the one that iftheaccidentwill mentions), and it works great. Mine's a bit older, but the design hasn't changed much.

The things I like about it best:
1. Fully field-serviceable! (I consider this crucial for a water filter)
2. Good integration with nalgene bottles or bladders
3. Easy to use.
4. Relatively inexpensive.

That having been said, if there's readily available clear water, I'd consider a good 2-part chlorine dioxide drop, like Aqua Mira, which REI no longer sells but many other retailers do. That's what I used when I started to cut the weight of the filter.
posted by JMOZ at 5:29 AM on July 29, 2009

I have a unit from MSR very similar to the one iftheaccidentwill linked and it does work well; as you can see they have a number of purification options for you to choose from and seem to be pretty widely available.
posted by TedW at 5:36 AM on July 29, 2009

I would first suggest you determine your needs (e.g., are you sure you don't want water purification rather than just filtration). REI has a pretty good write-up on water treatment here. I agree with others on the MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter if you only want a filter. For a purifier I suggest the First Need XL (I personally avoid the Steripen because if you have any source of turbidity that you may or may not notice, the UV may not be able to do its job and you will never know until it is too late).
posted by masher at 7:39 AM on July 29, 2009

The top choices are the PUR/Katadyn and MSR ceramic (or were the last time I checked, which was some years back) I've been on group hikes and had the opportunity to try both.

The PUR uses a replacable cartridge filter kind of like an automotive oil filter. It pumps faster, but if the filter clogs, you're out of luck. The MSR uses a field-serviceable filter, so if it clogs you can clean it out, but it's going to take more work to get a full bottle. If you're going to be somewhere where the water looks clear enough to drink but you're worried about parasitical contamination, get the PUR. If you may need to filter skunky/algae laden water, go for the MSR.

I've used the PUR for many years and been happy with it. Some tips: rubber-band a paper coffee filter over the inlet to make a crude pre-filter, and be sure to flush it out after every trip per the instructions.
posted by zombiedance at 7:41 AM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have an MSR Sweetwater and highly recommend it. The selling point for me was the fact that the filter is field-serviceable and never has to be replaced. Also, as JMOZ mentions, the integration with a variety of sizes of Nalgene bottles is a nice feature.
posted by jtfowl0 at 8:49 AM on July 29, 2009

Depending on where you go in the Sierras, you may not need one. If you are in popular areas with lots of people and drinking from lakes and ponds, I would use a filter. In the high country near the snow line, I drink directly from the rivets from the snow fields without filtering. Giardia is probably the biggest risk, but studies have shown the the risk is minimal at high elevations. Anywhere dogs go I would filter. Dogs are one of the worst vectors for contaminating water.
posted by JackFlash at 10:41 AM on July 29, 2009

Another vote for the Ketadyn Hiker. I've had mine for a few years and I really like it. Lightweight, and pumps easily.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 2:31 PM on July 29, 2009

Has anyone had experience with the Sport Berkey? It's available for $25 USD shipped.
posted by jayne at 2:22 PM on July 31, 2009

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