Water filter

vftt.org

Help Support vftt.org:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.

sierra

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 13, 2004
Messages
3,356
Reaction score
431
Location
New hampshire
I have never filtered water in my hiking career. But, I have found that on hot summer days on long routes, carrying 125 ozs of water is getting old. I haven't done extensive research, but I like the Katadyn Hiker Pro for it's volume and basic operation. I do carry Nalgenes bottles so it's a good fit. Feel free to share and filter wisdom you may have.
 
Most of the places I hike have plenty of water, so I carry 2 empty 1l bottles in my pack and a 1l Katadyn BeFree in my pocket. When I’m thirsty I fill it and drink. At the last water source before my campsite I fill and drink, fill my other bottles with it, and then fill the BeFree. That gives me 3l for dinner, drinking overnight, and breakfast in the morning.
 
I have a fairly old Katadyn Hiker (I think it's old enough to be the "PUR" brand). Still works fine. I put a coffee filter over the intake for cloudy water. Only use it a couple times a year, for longer hikes. I clean it with a clorox water solution before putting it away, so nothing grows in it while being stored.
 
I use a water bladder, and carry a sawyer mini (or similar) set up in gravity mode. Light, compact, and connects directly to my bladder hose, so I can refill without removing the bladder from my pack, and grab some snacks or adjust gear/clothing while it fills.
 
I have never filtered water in my hiking career. But, I have found that on hot summer days on long routes, carrying 125 ozs of water is getting old. I haven't done extensive research, but I like the Katadyn Hiker Pro for it's volume and basic operation. I do carry Nalgenes bottles so it's a good fit. Feel free to share and filter wisdom you may have.
I have the old version, and two pieces of advice based on my experience. When I first started using the pump, the pressure inside the Nalgene would build up and blow the stopper off. The vent on the side of the stopper was too small, so I drilled a small hole at the top of the vent slot. Second, it takes two hands to use the pump and there is not always a convenient place to set the Nalgene while pumping. I tie a cord around the Nalgene and over my head so the Nalgene hangs near my waist as I'm pumping.
 
I've used every type and style of water filter over the years and I think the "best" one depends on the types of water sources you expect to have on your planned route. While there is overlap among all the types of filters there are definitely scenarios that severely limit or rule out certain styles.

When I know that there will be many rivers and streams for easy fill up I carry a gravity filter (the Katadyn BeFree 6L). They are really easy to use - you just scoop up a bunch of water, hang it on something (which can sometimes be an issue) and just let the filtered water drain into your bottles/bladders. When you camp near a water source you have water ready on demand hanging right in camp. I find this to be far and away the best type of filter for most of my hikes. They type of fibers they use in the filters apparently do not get damaged from being frozen like others filters do but I've never personally tested that claim but liked that feature. If I recall as well the filter does not do the hardcore viruses and other stuff that others do but in the Northeast I'm not sure that really matters. Giardia I think is the big one to worry about for our area. (I'm pretty sure you can buy such a filter to go in the BeFree but it is not the included filter and it would no doubt have a lower flow rate. I feel comfortable with the included filter). If you hike with other people this filter is even more valuable because of the high output. You can quickly tank up many liters of water without doing any real work.

When water sources will be small, limited or of questionable quality (small springs, tiny ponds, swamps, etc) I go with a Katadyn Hiker Pro. I find this to also be an excellent and reliable pump and it allows for a lot of versatility with sources. I've pumped water out of small puddles and springs, dropped it down in the rocks above tree line to access running water below the surface as well as the usual streams. It works fairly quickly even for filtering multiple liters.

Sawyer squeeze and similar products in my view are for weight conscious hikers. I started out using the squeeze because "that's what everyone used" and I personally find them super annoying. It feels like a lot of work and time to get water and filling their stupid bags can be tedious (there are various hacks to mitigate this). And their performance degrades relatively quickly without consistent backwashing (which requires a big syringe they provide). I'm sure I'm in the minority with my opinion here but I just don't like it. They get excellent ratings for filter quality but the added aggravation is not worth the weight savings for me.

This year I am experimenting with good old fashioned Aqua Mira. Andrew Skurka had a detailed write up on his blog about how he uses it exclusively for all his guided trips. Sounded like a solid plan and this is about as light as light gets. They only thing I haven't worked out yet is how to screen/filter particles and debris out of the source when I transfer it into my bladders. Here is the article if you're interested: https://andrewskurka.com/aquamira-why-we-like-it-and-how-we-use-it/

As far as my set up, I do like most people do with a combination of bottles and bladders. I usually carry a 1L Nalgene attached to my shoulder strap for drinking and carry two 2L HydroPak soft bladders in my pack's side pockets to scale up or down how much water I need to carry and/or have in camp for cooking, etc. I know Nalgene's are "old school" and heavy but I like them for the durability and ability to safely handle hot water (for drinks, putting in a sleeping bag, etc). It often doubles as my coffee cup in the morning so I can get on trail and hike with a coffee instead of sitting around waiting for it to cool off.
 
I have an older First Need filter but I can't remember the last time I used it. On long trips at high elevation where I can be reasonably confident there's no human or beaver activity upstream I don't worry about filtering; on shorter trips in more traveled areas I can usually carry enough water to last through the trip or boil it if I run out. Somewhere in between is where the required stove fuel outweighs the filter.
 
My go to is Aqua Mira. Takes up almost no room and with a spare mixing cap (saved from a prior set of bottles) I can make up couple of bottles at a time The trade off which is unacceptable to many is the wait. Its takes 5 minutes to mix the two components and then 30 plus minutes for the treatment to be complete. A prior version of the Aquamira technology premixed the components in the AM and could be applied without the 5 minute wait. The premix lost its potency in 12 hours and needed to be discarded after that if not used. I always stay one bottle ahead so the wait is not an issue for me.

For quick and easy its hard to beat the Steripen. Turn it on, swish it around the bottle for a minute and then drink. It is rated for some of the natier hard to get at contaminants like viruses and cryptosporidium https://www.katadyngroup.com/int/en/brands/Steripen~b4908/overview.

The Steripen is technology and the earlier versions tended to be a bit fragile but for dayhiking its a great option, instant clean water in seconds. For a backpack, I would definitely add in backup like Aquamira.
 
I use the Katadyn BeFree for a couple years and have been happy with it. Packs down small and I can use it as an additional water bladder if need be. Some people have had issues with the soft flask leaking but it's worked well for me thus far.
 
I regularly start out with 3 liters of water in a hydration bladder on day hikes, but on long hot summer days, I worry a little about running out, so for backup, I carry a LifeStraw, and from time to time, I've used that long before draining the hydration bladder, in order to ensure that I'll have enough. (Before this, I carried a full filter, and before that, I did, on a couple of occasions, run out of water, but only just before reaching my car.) The main drawback is that you have to lie on your belly to get the far end of the straw into the water, but it's compact and lightweight. I've used it to suck water from large puddles and running streams. A minor drawback, which can be remedied, is that I found that when I put my straw away for the winter and then tried to use it the next summer, it was totally useless: There was no way I could draw air, let alone water, through it. Fortunately, it's also very inexpensive, so tossing it was not a serious concern. It now comes with instructions for long-term storage after use; you have to keep the filter wet with a mild saline solution.

Obviously, this is not a recommendation for multi-day hikes.
 
My go to is Aqua Mira. Takes up almost no room and with a spare mixing cap (saved from a prior set of bottles) I can make up couple of bottles at a time The trade off which is unacceptable to many is the wait. Its takes 5 minutes to mix the two components and then 30 plus minutes for the treatment to be complete. A prior version of the Aquamira technology premixed the components in the AM and could be applied without the 5 minute wait. The premix lost its potency in 12 hours and needed to be discarded after that if not used. I always stay one bottle ahead so the wait is not an issue for me.

For quick and easy its hard to beat the Steripen. Turn it on, swish it around the bottle for a minute and then drink. It is rated for some of the natier hard to get at contaminants like viruses and cryptosporidium https://www.katadyngroup.com/int/en/brands/Steripen~b4908/overview.

The Steripen is technology and the earlier versions tended to be a bit fragile but for dayhiking its a great option, instant clean water in seconds. For a backpack, I would definitely add in backup like Aquamira.
I've dabbled with the SteriPen (they now have a "heavy duty" backcountry model which is actually sufficiently durable). It is super easy and supposed to be quite effective as long as there aren't too many particles floating around in the water. Just the issue of remembering to charge, which is USB on this particular so it can be done in field with a battery bank.
 
I've used every type and style of water filter over the years and I think the "best" one depends on the types of water sources you expect to have on your planned route. While there is overlap among all the types of filters there are definitely scenarios that severely limit or rule out certain styles.

When I know that there will be many rivers and streams for easy fill up I carry a gravity filter (the Katadyn BeFree 6L). They are really easy to use - you just scoop up a bunch of water, hang it on something (which can sometimes be an issue) and just let the filtered water drain into your bottles/bladders. When you camp near a water source you have water ready on demand hanging right in camp. I find this to be far and away the best type of filter for most of my hikes. They type of fibers they use in the filters apparently do not get damaged from being frozen like others filters do but I've never personally tested that claim but liked that feature. If I recall as well the filter does not do the hardcore viruses and other stuff that others do but in the Northeast I'm not sure that really matters. Giardia I think is the big one to worry about for our area. (I'm pretty sure you can buy such a filter to go in the BeFree but it is not the included filter and it would no doubt have a lower flow rate. I feel comfortable with the included filter). If you hike with other people this filter is even more valuable because of the high output. You can quickly tank up many liters of water without doing any real work.

When water sources will be small, limited or of questionable quality (small springs, tiny ponds, swamps, etc) I go with a Katadyn Hiker Pro. I find this to also be an excellent and reliable pump and it allows for a lot of versatility with sources. I've pumped water out of small puddles and springs, dropped it down in the rocks above tree line to access running water below the surface as well as the usual streams. It works fairly quickly even for filtering multiple liters.

Sawyer squeeze and similar products in my view are for weight conscious hikers. I started out using the squeeze because "that's what everyone used" and I personally find them super annoying. It feels like a lot of work and time to get water and filling their stupid bags can be tedious (there are various hacks to mitigate this). And their performance degrades relatively quickly without consistent backwashing (which requires a big syringe they provide). I'm sure I'm in the minority with my opinion here but I just don't like it. They get excellent ratings for filter quality but the added aggravation is not worth the weight savings for me.

This year I am experimenting with good old fashioned Aqua Mira. Andrew Skurka had a detailed write up on his blog about how he uses it exclusively for all his guided trips. Sounded like a solid plan and this is about as light as light gets. They only thing I haven't worked out yet is how to screen/filter particles and debris out of the source when I transfer it into my bladders. Here is the article if you're interested: https://andrewskurka.com/aquamira-why-we-like-it-and-how-we-use-it/

As far as my set up, I do like most people do with a combination of bottles and bladders. I usually carry a 1L Nalgene attached to my shoulder strap for drinking and carry two 2L HydroPak soft bladders in my pack's side pockets to scale up or down how much water I need to carry and/or have in camp for cooking, etc. I know Nalgene's are "old school" and heavy but I like them for the durability and ability to safely handle hot water (for drinks, putting in a sleeping bag, etc). It often doubles as my coffee cup in the morning so I can get on trail and hike with a coffee instead of sitting around waiting for it to cool off.
Thanks a lot Daytrip, very helpful information.
 
Top