Ultralight Backpacking Water Filters of 2020

In the wilderness, not all water sources are clean and you have to watch what kind of water you’re putting into your body. It could be filled with bacteria, protozoa, viruses, etc. These are things you just don’t want to ingest for obvious reasons.

There are plenty of ways to treat water like water purification and water filtration. Water purifiers use a combination of microfiltration along with chemical treatment (typically UV light) to eliminate bacteria, protozoa, viruses, and other contaminants. While water filters use a microfiltration system to rid the water of harmful bacteria, particles, and other contaminants.

Below is the list of best ultralight backpacking water filters that will give you some reassurance that your water is safe to drink.

1. Sawyer Mini

  • Weight: 2 oz
  • Filter pore size: 0.1 microns
  • Filter Material: Hollow Fiber
  • Effective against: Bacteria, protozoa,
  • Longevity: Up to 100,000 gallons

Sawyer Mini is a trail-tested, lightest and versatile filtration system available for backcountry adventures. This filter weighs just 2 ounces and can fit easily in your palm. This filter provides absolute filtration meaning that it will remove 99.99% of all bacteria, such as salmonella, cholera and E.coli, and 99.99% of all protozoa such as giardia and cryptosporidium.

There is an easy-to-use drinking pouch included. You can also drink directly from the water source with the help of an included straw. The filter can also be connected to hydration pack tubing, or you can screw it onto standard disposable water and soda bottles.

The filter has a high number of tiny ‘U’ shaped hollow fiber micro-tubes. These micro-tubes trap contaminants effectively while allowing decontaminated water to freely pass through at a high flow rate. Sawyer Mini offers a 0.1 microns pore size. This makes it impossible for harmful bacteria and other contaminants to pass through the filter.

The filter membrane life is up to 100,000 gallons and it can be cleaned and reused almost indefinitely with no expensive cartridges to replace. The backwashing is easy and it restores up to 98.5% of the filter’s flow rate.

Sawyer Mini is great for outdoor adventures like hiking and camping. It has no moving parts, batteries and does not require pumping. There’s nothing to fail. It’s a solid piece. As long as you keep it from freezing and damaging the internal filter pores.

Pros: Very compact, very light, high flow rate, the taste is good (depending on the water source)

Cons: Drinking from a water source with a 4 inches straw can be challenging.

See the Sawyer Mini

2. LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

  • Weight: 1.62 oz
  • Long-lasting: Filters 264 gallons (1,000 liters)
  • Ultimate survival tool, no shelf life, easy to clean and store
  • Durable and ultralight
  • Removes bacteria, parasites, and microplastics

LifeStraw uses advanced hollow fiber membrane technology which contains no chemicals such as iodine and uses no batteries or moving parts. It filters to 0.2 microns removing 99.99% of bacteria and protozoa. LifeStraw filters a minimum of a thousand liters which is 264 gallons. This is equivalent to a year of clean drinking water. LifeStraw works especially well in silty and muddy water as the membrane filter out particulate matter. The flow rate is quite high, it’s like drinking through a thick straw. LifeStraw removes bacteria and protozoa but will not remove chemicals, heavy metals, and viruses. But these contaminants are extremely rare in the backcountry of North America.

To use LifeStraw you can simply insert it into your water, wait a few moments for the water to soak up the membrane and then suck the water through. When you’re done simply backwash the membrane by blowing the water out.

Pros: Very lightweight, doesn’t leave a terrible aftertaste, affordable

Cons: The neck string is poorly secured to the straw by tiny plastic clips. We recommend not wearing it around your neck. As if you travel this way, it can fall off.

See the LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

3. Sawyer PointONE Squeeze

  • Weight: 3 oz
  • Effective Against: Protozoa and Bacteria
  • Cartridge/Cycle Life: 3,780,000 liters
  • Filter Type: Squeeze
  • Filter Rate: 1.7 liters/minute

PointONE Squeeze Water Filter by Sawyer is one of the lightest and most packable water filters available on the market. It weighs just 3 ounces! And this filter ensures you have access to clean water in the backcountry or anywhere in the world. The filter is extremely easy to use just fill up the pouch, screw the filter directly onto the pouch, and then squeeze the bag to filter water into a bottle.

The filer has a pore size of 0.1 microns for absolute filtration. It can remove bacteria such as salmonella, leptospirosis, cholera, and E.coli, up to 99.99%. It is also effective against protozoa like giardia and cryptosporidium. The filter has a high number of ‘U’ shaped hollow fiber micro-tubes. These micro-tubes trap contaminants and allow the decontaminated water to freely pass through at a high flow rate, thus eliminating the need to store water and reducing the possibility of water contamination after the filtration process.

The Squeeze Filter can be used in many ways. You can either drink directly from the filter or you can fill up your bottle. The Squeeze Filer fills up most bottles less than 20 seconds. Whether you’re hiking, camping, hunting or fishing, this filter is perfect for all your adventures.

Pros: Ultralight, easy to use and compact, lifetime guarantee

Cons: The filer does not remove viruses, however, viruses are rarely found in the water in North America.

See the Sawyer PointONE Squeeze

4. SteriPen Adventurer Opti

SteriPen Adventurer Opti

  • Filter Type: Ultraviolet
  • Removes/Destroys: Protozoa, Bacteria and Viruses, Cysts
  • Batteries: 2 CR123
  • Weight: 3.8 ounces (with batteries)

This is a lightweight water purifier that uses high-energy ultraviolet light to blast viruses, bacteria, and cysts from your water. These little units are perfect for backcountry hiking, camping trips even international travel.

To purify water, it’s fairly simple. It takes about 48 seconds to purify 16 ounces of water and 90 seconds for a full liter. The UV light breaks down the DNA of viruses, bacteria, and cysts to render them harmless. It works with CR123 batteries which are included in the package. It’s got some advanced electronics that are designed to activate only in there’s enough juice in those batteries to produce the power required to purify your water. If there isn’t enough battery power to run a full cycle, it won’t function and you’ll have to replace the batteries. This is intentional so you don’t end up with partially decontaminated water.

The UV light is undetectable by the human eye but there’s a visible LED light that indicates when the unit is working and shuts off as soon as the full dose of UV has been delivered. Keep in mind that this thing is designed to work with clear unfrozen water. Discoloration and debris can limit the penetration of that UV so you should use pre-filter water if you’re going to use this in any water that’s cloudy or murky.

Pros: Doubles as a flashlight, compact and lightweight, effective against viruses, quick treatment time

Cons: Need to monitor batteries closely, does not filter particulate, limited to use with certain containers, does not treat water on threads of the bottle

See the SteriPen Adventurer Opti

5. Katadyn BeFree Microfilter

  • Weight: 2 oz
  • Compact and ultralight hollow fiber filter
  • Effective against microorganisms
  • Removes bacteria, cysts, and sediment
  • Suitable for cloudy water
  • Lightweight and portable for on-the-go adventures

Katadyn BeFree Microfilter is a durable and easy-to-use filter that will keep you safely hydrated regardless of your adventure. A flexible and durable HydraPak build 1L bottle carries just enough water to quench your thirst. 0.1-micron hollow fiber filter removes sediment and microorganisms like giardia and cryptosporidium. It can maintain quick and easy hydration for up to 1000 liters depending on the water quality. The filter has an easy clean membrane. Simply fill the bottle and shake or swish it around in a stream or river to clean the sediment out of the hollow fiber filter.

The filter packs down super small and can stow away in a pocket or a pack. The cap back on the cap is an easy clean membrane. It is a 0.1-micron hollow fiber filter. It offers almost instant filtration for the water.

Pros: Ultralight, high flow rate, easy to clean, works great on the trail

Cons: The only con is the inside smells/tastes of plastic. We’d recommend using lemon juice and soap to help eliminate the smell/taste.

See the Katadyn BeFree Microfilter

6. MSR TrailShot MicroFilter

  • Weight: 5 oz
  • Instant Hydration: Drink directly from the source
  • Quick-Deploy: Zero set-up and simple one-handed operation
  • Simple to Clean: A few shakes will help restore flow rates in the field; no tools required
  • Tested: Meets U.S. EPA drinking water standards and NSF Protocol P231

MSR TrailShot MicroFilter is a great option for ounce-counting backpackers. It weighs just about 5 ounces and has a flow rate of 1 liter per minute. This filer even lets you drink directly from creeks or other water sources with confidence that the water has been safely treated.

This filter utilizes a hollow fiber construction. The filter meets both EPA and NSF Standards for the removal of bacteria and protozoa. Note that it is not effective against viruses that are too small to be filtered out. TrailShot also removes send and other particulars which enhances the experience of drinking in the backcountry. The filter not only provides a high flow rate but it is also easily clean without any need for tools or chemicals. Depending on water quality the filter can treat up to 2000 water before needing to be replaced.

To filter water, you dip the integrated hose into the water source and use the simple one-handed pump to draw water through the hollow fiber filter through the nozzle. You can transfer water into a bottle or a reservoir or you can drink directly from the TrailShot. You can easily film a one-liter bottle in just 1 minute.

Pros: Drink directly from water sources, ultralight, able to quickly pump liters of water

Cons: Need hand pumping

See the MSR TrailShot MicroFilter

7. GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier + Filter Bottle

  • Weight: 10.9 ounces
  • One-Press purification + filtration: No pumping, sucking, squeezing, batteries, UV bulbs, chemicals, and prolonged waiting.
  • Removes pathogens: Removes 99.9% of bacteria, protozoa, and viruses
  • Improves health, flavor, odor & clarity: Filters particulates, many chemicals, and heavy metals
  • Fast & easy: Purifies drinking water in only 15 seconds (2 liters/minute)
  • Purifier lifespan: Replaceable cartridge effective for 300 uses (40 gal/150L)

GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier is extremely easy to use. You just need to fill it up with unclean water and press the button named Drink. Hence, you will not have to go through the hassle of sucking water, pumping water or squeezing water. You will not have to wait for a long period to get this water filter to produce clean water for you as well. The one press design offered by GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier has received a lot of attention. It can eliminate 99.99% protozoan cysts and 99.99% bacteria that can lead you towards diseases. Besides, you are provided with the ability to eliminate heavy metals, chemicals, particulates and bad odors from the water with the press of a button.

Overall, this is a great water purifier plus a filter solution. We’d highly recommend carrying at least one extra filter for longer trips.

Pros: Lightweight, easy to use, produces clean and great tasting water

Cons: It is time-consuming. It takes much longer than 15 seconds to filter the whole bottle.

See the GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier + Filter Bottle

8. Platypus GravityWorks 4.0L

  • Weight: 11.5 oz
  • Flow rate: 1.75 liters per minute
  • Group-ready: 8 liters (4.0L filtered + 4.0L unfiltered)
  • Field-cleanable: Easily backflush in 4 seconds
  • Hollow Fiber Advantage
  • Easy collecting & dispensing

GravityWorks filtration system is created for backpackers and campers who need to filter and transport large volumes of water. The system comes with two 4L reservoirs so you can bring up to eight liters of water back to camp. Although it has a huge capacity, the 4L system still weighs less than most of the conventional water filters on the market today. These features make it a great option for day trips as well as base camping.

This filter is effective against particles, bacteria, and protozoa but not against viruses. If you’re in an area where that is a problem, then you should be looking for an additional filtration system.

The filter is really easy to use. It filters out a lot of water in a very short period. The reservoirs are durable and finishing on the inside is treated with an antimicrobial slime guard. So you have got some protection here.

Depending on the quality of water, it can filter up to 1500 liters of water before it needs to be changed. You are also able to backflush this filter to clean it and to remove any air bubbles.

The last thing is to make sure you store the contaminated dirty water components separately from the clean water to avoid any cross-contamination.

Pros: Works very fast. It takes about a minute and a half to filter out 4 liters of water.

Cons: The clean water reservoir doesn’t have an accessible interior. Dirt that gets in there is tough to get out, and then drying the inside of the bag takes a long time.

See the Platypus GravityWorks 4.0L

9. MSR AutoFlow Gravity Filter

  • Weight: 10.5 ounces
  • Lightweight
  • Field-Maintainable
  • Adaptable
  • No Pumping
  • Remove 99.99% of bacteria, protozoa
  • Filters more than 1.75 liters per minute

The supreme ease of the AutoFlow Gravity Filter has converted many backcountry travelers to the ultimate convenience of pump-free water filtration. The newly redesigned out of flow filter offers that same reliable filtration and ease of use in a more compact streamline system. The new AutoFlow system features a reservoir made of a lightweight yet durable film that rolls up tightly and an update closure design that reduces bulk.

The best thing about MSR AutoFlow is that it is not associated with any pumping. You will be using the power of gravity to filter out water. Hence, this water filter comes along with a unique and a one of a kind mechanism, which can deliver impressive results to you. This unique mechanism has also the ability to filter up to 175 liters of water per minute. With the traditional filtering methods, it would never be possible to end up with such highly effective results. A food-grade lining has been used for the construction of this water filter. Therefore, you will be provided with better tasting water by the MSR AutoFlow Gravity Filter.

Pros: Very easy to use, lightweight, great treatment capacity

Cons: Bottle adapter is unhygienic, the material is not very durable

See the MSR AutoFlow Gravity Filter

10. Katadyn Hiker Water Microfilter

  • Weight: 11 oz
  • Filter Material: Glass-fiber media
  • Field-Cleanable: Yes
  • Purifying Element: Activated carbon
  • Output: 1 L/min
  • Removes: Particles, sediments, giardia, cryptosporidia, protozoa

This is a lightweight backpacking water filtration option. It is a microfilter so it will remove bacteria and protozoa from your water. It is not a purifier and will not remove viruses. The capacity for the hiker is going to be about 200 gallons. This system does use a synthetic cartridge and that is the piece that you will be replacing when this filter cartridge is completely clogged and finished. Katadyn does include some other items to work with the filter to make it more convenient.

Any person who is looking forward to getting their hands on the compact and best water filter will be able to take a look at Katadyn Hiker Water Microfilter. When you are using Katadyn Hiker Water Microfilter, you will not come across the need to carry a gallon of water along with you. It can provide effective results to you by eliminating chemicals and particles from drinking water. Another great feature about Katadyn Hiker Water Microfilter is that it is compatible with the hydration bladders. Therefore, you will not have to go through a lot of hassle when you are using this water filter to fill up your hydration bladder. It comes along with a comprehensive one-year warranty as well.

Pros: Affordable and lightweight, good for hard to reach water sources

Cons: Pump is heavy and difficult to use compared to other filters

See the Katadyn Hiker Water Microfilter

11. MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter

  • Weight: 14.6 ounces
  • Very effective against chemicals/toxins and protozoa
  • 2 µm filter pore size
  • 85 Strokes per liter (flow)
  • Filed cleanable
  • Water bottle adopter

MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter can be considered as a product that is exclusively designed for the people who spend their time camping, backpacking and hiking. On the other hand, it can also be used during emergencies for survival. The pump is well-known for its efficiency. In other words, the pump in MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter Water Filter can filter out one liter of water per minute. Therefore, it can help people with group travel as well.

On the other hand, this water filter is compatible with most of the water bottles that come along with a wide mouth. Hence, you will find it an easy task to fill in the water bottles with the help of MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter. But it doesn’t mean that you will not be able to use this filter with the hydration bladders.

You can also fill them up without going through any hassle. The ability of MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter to filter out organic compounds, protozoa, and bacteria from water is effective. It delivers clean and odor-free water to you at the end of the day. It overall weighs about 14.6 ounces so it is a little more on the hefty side in the filtration world. But with that easy filtration and purification aspect of the filter, it’s definitely worth the size and weight. We would recommend this to anyone who needs a lot of water quickly and doesn’t have time to fill a bag and wait for gravity to treat your water.

Pros: Awesome construction and extremely well made.

Cons: The pumping takes efforts.

See the MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter

Tips to Purchase the Best Ultralight Backpacking Water Filter

Sawyer Mini Water Filter

Following are a few tips that you can keep in mind before purchasing a water filter:

  1. A large capacity: As the first thing, you need to pay attention to the capacity of the water filter. If you are planning to filter water for cooking purposes, you will come across the need to have a bigger capacity. Therefore, you need to make sure that the water filter is in a position to provide an uninterrupted supply of water to you at the end of the day.
  2. Filtering mechanisms: The water filters available out there in the world have different filtering mechanisms. Most of them are using carbon, where all the odor and impurities are being absorbed via a porous material. But if you can go for a water filter that has multistage filters, you will be able to eliminate contaminants efficiently.
  3. Flow rate: Next, you need to focus on the flow rate. If you want to purify water quickly, you must go ahead with a water filter that has an excellent flow rate.
  4. Certifications for contaminant removal: If you are not willing to take any risks, you need to go for the water filters that have received certifications for contaminant removal. Then you will be able to keep a peace of mind while using the product as well.
  5. Compatible attachments: If your water filter comes along with compatible attachments, you will be able to enhance the overall functionality offered by the filter. Therefore, you should pay special attention to the compatibility of the water filter with attachments s well.
  6. Warranty: Last but not least, you need to take a look at the warranty period. It is better if you can go for a longer warranty period as it can help you to overcome frustrations in the long run.