Best Camping Water Purifier in 2020 and a Buyer’s Guide

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camping water purifier to purify water

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What’s the key to a successful, enjoyable, and safe camping trip? Food, shelter, comfortably hiking gear, solid footwear, and of course clean water. In fact, it’s essential that you have the best camping water purifier tucked away somewhere in your backpack at all times so you’re never without clean water during your travels.

Remember that after air, water is something that we can’t live without. In fact, you can’t live more than three days without water. You need clean drinking water, free from viruses, bacteria, protozoa, and dirt.

This is all possible when you have a water purifier with you. It’ll give you confidence and peace of mind no matter where you end up because you’ll know that you’ll always have access to clean drinkable water at any time.

Camping Water Purifier Reviews

If you’ve been camping for any length of time, then you know all about the value of having a good quality purifier as part of your outdoorsman kit.

The last thing you want or need is to get tummy cramps from drinking dirty water. So we did some legwork for you to help you find the best camping water purifier.

1. MSR Guardian Military-Grade Water Purifier

The MSR Guardian is the best water purifier for camping as it’s made to purify all types of water, no matter where you’ve sourced it from.

This self-cleaning water purifier has a sophisticated design. It gives it a high flow rate to produce the most delicious water possible.

It’s actually so effective that it’s been found to be suitable for international travel as it is for backcountry use and at-home emergency preparedness. That’s because it can remove all manner of protozoa, viruses, and bacteria. It includes common ones like E. coli and hepatitis, as well as tiny ones like cryptosporidium and giardia.

The best part is that it’s pretty lightweight, weighing only 17.3 ounces. It comes with a self-cleaning filter so you don’t have to clean it. With a flow rate of 2.5 liters per minute, this water purifier is great for individual use and it can come in handy for group trips as well.

Pros
  • Suitable for at-home emergency preparedness, international travel and expeditions
  • Features automatic self-cleaning pump
  • It has a pumping speed of 2.5 liters per minute
  • Meets NSF protocol P248 testing standard of the U.S. military
  • Military-grade construction
Cons
  • Quality control should be better

2. Etekcity Water Filter

This Etekcity water filter is one of the best camping water purifiers on this list and also one of the most unique. It’s effectively a straw purifier that’s both affordable and easy to use.

It works really well when directed straight at the water source. So, it’s perfect if you plan on camping next to a lake or a river so you can have access to water at all times.

This is an ideal option when primitive camping, backcountry, and backpacking. The Etekcity is better than most other straw filters. It features a handy water pouch that’s foldable and allows you to store and carry water that you can drink clean on the go.

Your water goes through a 3-stage filtration process, and there’s a pre-filter in there, a 0.01 microns hollow fiber, activated carbon filter, and a UF membrane inline filter. In addition to cleaning your water in the best way possible, this straw water filter is also very affordable, lightweight, and portable.

Pros
  • Features a syringe for easy cleaning
  • Affordable
  • Comes with a water collection bag
  • Lightweight and compact
  • The straw is expendable, allowing you to access even the most difficult to reach water
  • Provides instantly drinkable water straight from the source
Cons
  • It’s only suitable for one individual
  • You have to be at the water source to use this straw effectively

3. LifeStraw Mission Water Purification System

Gravity purifiers are probably the easiest way to clean large amounts of water, granted you have an ideal spot on which to place the purifier so it can do its job via gravity.

The great thing about this type of purifier is that it works independently to supply you with clean water and it’s convenient to use while outdoors.

If you don’t mind waiting for the water to get purified while you go out hiking with your crew, then this gravity-fed water purification system from LifeStraw Mission is just what you need. That’s because it works slowly but it’s very effective at purifying large quantities of water.

This water purifier is available in two sizes, namely 5 and 12 liters depending on how much water you want to produce per day. Not only that, but it has the capacity to purify or filter up to 18, 000 liters of water in total, at a flow rate of 9 to 12 liters of water per hour. That means you can purify a whole lot in a single day.

Pros
  • It comes with a replaceable element to extend its lifespan
  • Easy to full up in streams and lakes
  • Purifies water really well
  • It’s gravity-fed so there’s little effort required from you
  • It has a total filtration capacity of up to 18,000 liters over its lifespan
Cons
  • It works very slowly compared to pump purifiers
  • It’s quite pricey

4. GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier

Looking through camping water purifier reviews, one of the models you’ll come across is this GRAYL ultralight purifier. This is a bottle purifier that works through a suction straw to take water from the source straight to your bottle while purifying it in-between.

It has a built-in purification element which makes it easy to maintain. Because it’s bottle-sized, this purifier is perfect for use on the go by an individual.

The great thing about this option is that unlike chemical-based purifiers, it won’t leave a bad taste in your mouth. It’s very effective at filtering out all manner of chemicals, like benzene and chlorine dioxide. Or particulates like silt and sediment, as well as heavy metals like arsenic and lead. This is in addition to getting rid of virus-causing bacteria so it’s got you covered on all fronts.

Keep in mind that this filter has positively charged ions that act like magnets for impurities, pulling them away from the water through a process known as “ion exchange.”

Pros
  • It comes with a purifier cartridge
  • Lightweight and cheap compared to pump filters
  • Produces delicious tasting water thanks to the filter’s carbon element
  • It can purify 500ml of clean water in 15 seconds
Cons
  • You have to clean the element on site
  • It can only clean and produce 500ml of water at a time

5. Sawyer Products Squeeze Water Filtration System

There’s usually a step-by-step filtration process that needs to be followed when using a portable water filter. They either work through gravity, sucking, squeezing or through pumps.

Either, the method usually dictates the amount of water that the filter can produce. The Sawyer PointOne filter is a versatile machine that can be utilized on an individual basis. This way, you can drink directly from the source, or you can use it as a pump to fill up several containers.

This two-in-one design is backed by an efficient filtration process that gets rid of 99.99% of protozoa and bacteria. It also kills 100% of micro-plastic contaminants which are a huge water pollutant.

The best part is that it’s easy on the wallet too. When we say the “whole kit” this includes a cleaning syringe, a faucet adapter/bucket adapter, and a squeeze bag.

Pros
  • Comes with a BPA-free collapsible pouch
  • Backed by manufacturer’s lifetime limited warranty
  • Comes with adapters for faucet and buckets
  • High performance 0.1-micron absolute inline filter
  • This kit is a total water filtration system
Cons
  • Poor design

6. MoKo Portable Water Filter

Pump purifiers like this MoKo portable water filter have a lot going for them.

For one thing, you can simply get water straight from the source through an outlet hose and straight into your container of choice, which for most people will be a water bottle.

This pump water filter works quickly and efficiently and it’s easy to carry and store thanks to its lightweight design. It only weighs 8 ounces so you can pack it into your backpack and it won’t take up much space.

With dimensions of 2.75 x 1.37 x 5.7 inches, this is a highly portable model for your needs.

Pros
  • Lightweight and portable
  • The element is replaceable
  • Enables you to get clean water from the source
  • Allows you to process the amount of water you need
Cons
  • You have to clean the element frequently
  • It can get tiring to pump it yourself

7. Survivor Filter PRO

A list of the best camping water purifiers wouldn’t be complete without this Survivor Filter Pro, which is designed for use in a group setting.

You can use it to clean water to fill multiple containers at once, and you don’t even need to be at the source for it to work effectively.

You’ll never be at a need for clean water with this water purifier because it works quickly and it’s fully portable.

How does it work? Simply dunk the filter hose onto the water source and get to pumping! It’s that easy!

Pros
  • Made from high-quality materials
  • Backed by a lifetime warranty
  • Proven to be 20x more efficient than its closest competitor
  • Tested at Multiple USA labs to show Log 5 Removal 99.999% of Protozoa
Cons
  • Fragile handle

8. SteriPen Ultra Purifier

Next, we have the SteriPen Ultra water purifier which has the ability to get rid of viruses, protozoa, and bacteria in water.

Not only is it fantastic at cleaning water from any source. But it’s designed to fit into wide and narrow bottlenecks. It’s also powered by a USB rechargeable battery and is equipped to purify even the coldest water which is often a challenge for most water filters, which tend to get destroyed via tiny holes that are created by the water.

This water filter is also incredibly easy to use. All you have to do is dip it into a water container and stir ‘till it tells you that your water is safe to drink.

This process doesn’t take longer than 90 seconds. The indicator UV lamp shows the results as clear as daylight and it has a lifespan of 8000 uses. You’ll be glad to know that this is a rather lightweight device coming in at just 4.94 ounces.

Pros
  • It neutralizes viruses and bacteria
  • USB rechargeable
  • Lightweight and easy to carry
  • Equipped with its own batteries
  • Comes with handy indicator lamps
Cons
  • The lamp can be problematic

How to Get the Best Camping Water Purifier

There’s no shortage of water purifiers and filters on the market today. That much is clear.

But, even with the myriad of available options, they differ when it comes to holding capacity, the types of impurities that they’re designed to handle, and the amount of time they take to purify water. All of these factors contribute to their effectiveness for you specifically so you can stay cool while camping outdoors.

To help you in your search for the best camping water purifier for your needs, we’ve put together a short summary of the different purifiers you have at your disposal as well as their pros and cons.

Gravity Filters

This type of water filter uses the power of gravity to work and it has the capacity to handle large quantities of water.

All you have to do is hang the “dirty bag” which is another name for a water reservoir from a tree and channel the included hose to the water filter. The water that comes out of the water filter goes into another hose which channels it to the “clean bag.”

This process typically works through a single-stage filter. Needless to say, gravity filters are great for small groups and couples because of their large processing capacity. They work similarly to inline water filters.

Squeeze Filters

This is a single-stage filter that’s typically designed to get rid of protozoa and bacteria. But not viruses.

For best results, it’s recommended to only use this type of filter in clear water sources with not as much suspended organic matter or particulates that would prove too much for it.

The amount of time it takes for this type of filter to work will depend on the amount of water it has to work with.

The thing with squeeze filters though, is that they work slower the more often they’re used and you have to back-flush them with a cleaning syringe on a frequent basis. This way, there’s a fair amount of maintenance required to keep them working optimally.

Bottle Filters

Bottle and straw filters work through a single-stage process which is common in inline, gravity, and squeeze water filter systems.

First, you suck water from a bottle or the water source itself so that it can go through the filter before it goes into your drinking receptacle.

This type of water filter is perfect for when you’re camping next to an abundant water source and is mainly designed for individual use.

Pump Water Filters

Pump water filters are designed to get rid of protozoa and bacteria, while pump water purifiers take it a step further by also removing viruses.

Both models work with hand pumps that help you to filter out water from the source to a storage source.

It’s not easy using pump filters but they are quick and efficient and are suitable for individuals as well as couples. Most of them even come with pre-filters to help get rid of organic matter and particles coming from the water source.

Replacement filters are available to purchase separately and have on hand if you don’t feel like cleaning the one you currently have.

Ultraviolet Light Purification

Ultraviolet light is very effective at purifying water because it naturally kills viruses, protozoa, and bacteria.

Since it can’t remove organic matter and particulates, it’s best used on clear water.

Otherwise, it works fast and efficiently to purify large amounts of water. But, you have to make sure to pack extra batteries so it doesn’t run out of power.

Chemical Purification

You may have seen the purifying tablets or liquid purifiers at your drug store on the way to check out.

These are chemical water purifiers that typically feature chlorine dioxide to kill viruses, protozoa, and bacteria. The great thing about this ingredient is that it has no color or taste.

Depending on the product, it could take 15 minutes to 4 hours to purify enough water for one or two people.

Although compact and portable, these purifiers can be expensive. But, they’re definitely worth having even if as a backup for your main, larger water purifying system.

Water Purifiers vs. Water Filters

While the words water purifier and water filter are often used interchangeably, they have different meanings.

Water filters are often recommended for the average camping trip because it has the ability to get rid of bacteria like shigella, salmonella, campylobacter and E.coli, and protozoan cysts such as cryptosporidium and giardia lamblia.

These biological pathogens are dangerous and can cause some nasty side-effects that you don’t want to be dealing with while traveling.

But, the problem is that water filters can only protect you from these bacteria and protozoa, but are powerless against viruses. That’s because viruses are so tiny that most filters can’t even perceive them. So, if you want full-spectrum protection from everything then it’s worth investing in a water purifier instead.

In fact, a water purifier is essential if you want to go traveling around underdeveloped parts of the world. This is because you never know what to expect when it comes to water quality in some places.

What makes water purifiers so effective is the fact that they use chemicals like iodine to get rid of all of these undesirable and harmful elements in the water. They typically feature an internal cartridge or element to draw away bacteria, protozoa, and debris from the water.

The microscopic spores on the element are what draws away these bacteria from the water. As a result, you have to periodically clean it up to get rid of the build-up that happens naturally.

Final Thoughts

Well, there you have it! That’s how you find the right model, whether you’re going camping locally or internationally. Or you just want to add it to your emergency preparedness kit at home.

In our opinion, the MSR Guardian Military-Grade Purifier Pump is the best camping water purifier of all the options we reviewed.

With its military-grade construction and quick pumping speed, this self-cleaning pump is perfect for use on the go and it won’t let you down when it comes to getting clean water. It has the ability to get rid of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa with the same efficiency.

It’s suitable for a wide range of applications and it’s fully portable.

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