The Pack Report

How To Choose The Best Water Filter For You

When traveling in the wilderness we see nature at its most pristine. The water in these spaces can look so clear that it is difficult to understand why you need to filter your water in the wilderness. With that being said, it is extremely important to filter your water in these places, as even the cleanest looking water can carry contaminants, bacteria, and microorganisms. These are all things that could make you extremely ill and are sure to ruin your adventure in a hurry. There are a variety of water filters that you can choose to add to your outdoor pack for your trips to prevent or reduce your chances of becoming ill due to your drinking water.  Each water filter or water purification method has its own set of advantages and disadvantages which is why Duluth Pack has listed some of the favorites that are carried in their retail store or online at

Water Purification Tablets

If you are looking for a quick and reliable way to treat your drinking water and do not want to pump water or worry about hanging a gravity filter, then water purification tablets are a great option. These tablets are typically designed to treat water against protozoa, bacteria, and viruses. Many microfilters do not treat against viruses, so this is a huge asset if you know this is something you need to protect yourself from where you are traveling. Another advantage to tablets is they are so small that you can easily bring them as a backup to any adventure in case you have a malfunction with your primary filtration method. As far as some disadvantages go for this purification method, one is that you do not have a physical filter to prevent sediment or contaminants from getting into your water. With this method, you must also wait for it to finish purifying, and if you do not wait the designated amount of time, you can risk getting ill. Lastly, the active ingredients in these tablets are typically chlorine, chlorine dioxide, or iodine. These can leave a specific taste that some do not enjoy, and some people are allergic to iodine.

Duluth Pack’s recommendation
Duluth Pack carries Aquatabs in their retail store for a great purification option that is compact and reliable. If you are nervous about viruses in your water these work well alone or in addition to other filtration methods that only filter out microorganisms like protozoa and bacteria. Aquatabs and other tablet methods require a waiting period to work so you need to wait at least the duration time listed before drinking the purified water. For Aquatabs you can treat 2 quarts per tab and they are individually sealed so they work great for ultralight backpacking, international travel, or as an emergency backup for your primary filtration method.

Gravity Filter or Hanging Bag Filter

Gravity filters are designed to scoop large amounts of water that is potentially contaminated and then have a filter section below them that allows gravity to force water through this filtration system to purify water. This is a great option if you are setting up a basecamp and want to have constant access to clean water or if you have a large group that you are supplying with water. These systems generally filter out sediment, bacteria, and protozoa and have the advantage of not needing to work for your filtration because you are relying on gravity. Some of the drawbacks of this system are that you are relying on gravity to do the work, so you need a spot to hang the bag or must hold it in the air for it to filter the water and it is a passive form of filtration so you cannot expedite the filtration the same way that you can with a pump filter.

Duluth Pack’s recommendation
When it comes to hanging filters, one that Duluth Pack recommends is the AutoFlow  XL Gravity Filter. This filter can hold up to 10 liters at a time, can filter up to 1.75 liters per minute, and filters out both protozoa and bacteria. This filter also has a sediment trap at the bottom of the bag to reduce clogs in your filtration system. If you are looking for a great pump-free option for basecamp this is a wonderful option that is extremely packable and lightweight.

Pump Water Filter

There are a variety of pump water filters that you can use and they will have some variations depending on the make and model you choose. These filters are designed to be effective against protozoa, bacteria, and sediment/particles in your drinking water. With all pump filters, you will have a clean side and a side that will be placed in your potentially contaminated water. To ensure your safety it is important that the clean side of your filter does not go into the contaminated water. Many pump filters can easily attach to a Nalgene water bottle while pumping. The benefit of pump filters is you can use them in many places even if the water level is low and you can pump as much or little as you need. This is an active form of filtration, so you must pump to filter the water and that can be a drawback for some depending on your group size and needs. 

Duluth Pack’s recommendation
One of the pump filters that Duluth Pack Carries and recommends is the MiniWorks EX Microfilter Water Filter. This is a pump filter that is engineered by MSR and designed for frequent and heavy use for all your outdoor adventures. This pump filter has a carbon/ceramic element that provides clean, reliable, and taste-free water. This pump filter can also deliver up to a liter of filtered water per minute while pumping so you can quickly filter your water. Designed to remove protozoa and bacteria and this is a great option if you are looking its carbon/ceramic element reduces the taste of the water as well.

Regardless of what water purification system you choose to pack with the rest of your outdoor essentials you should walk through your system before taking it into the field so that you know how to use your specific setup correctly. After you return from your adventure and are getting ready to put away your gear until the next trip you should look at your system and store it correctly. Storing your equipment correctly will ensure that when you take your gear out for your next trip, whether that is in a week or a year your water filtration system is still ready to go and function properly.

Happy camping, friends!

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