Portable Water Filtration: Best camping purification devices and options

Ian Bellert — 18 July 2023
A reliable water filtration or purification device is important while camping, especially in areas with limited access to clean water.

H2O to go, go, go!

Let’s look at the best options for times when you’re out and about.

The most basic way to purify water is by boiling it. A rolling boil for a minute will eliminate disease causing viruses, parasites and bacteria. A problem for us campers is that sometimes setting a fire, boiling water and then waiting for it to cool can take a bit too long. 

There’s alternatives to look at, so let's dive in!


These are very portable and take as much room as a box of panadol. Generally, one tablet will purify one litre of water. A very popular brand is Katadyn Micropur Forte Water Purification Tablets. They preserve drinking water due to advanced silver ions and chlorine technology. It takes approximately 30 minutes to purify water. They are not suitable for dirty water. You drop them in your water container and wait for the purification to happen. It takes one tablet per one litre of water. Sold in 100 tablet packs and with a usage ratio (one litre per tablet) means a 100-pack can treat 100 litres of water. They sell for around $55 a pack. They’re available online and from major camping stores


Lifestraw filters are able to filter water with the following claims by the manufacturer. The “membrane microfilter protects against 99.999% of bacteria, 99.999% of parasites, 99.999% of microplastics, silt, sand and cloudiness”. The straw-like filter can be used on its own or incorporated into common water bottles. The Lifestraw has a good review rating and can be used to fill other bottles or drink directly from the source. The Lifestraw is priced at $44.95 from BCF and is good for 4000L of water purification. It is claimed to be able to treat dirty water and is adaptable with other products in the Lifestraw range

Portable UV purifiers

The Steripen Classic 3 is a great option. It retails for $215 but there are plenty online at reduced pricing. The UV light of the Steripen Classic 3 kills bacteria and waterborne microorganisms and is very simple to use. Simply fill your water bottle, give it a stir for ninety seconds for a litre of water and the UV light zaps away all the nasties giving you 99.9% purified safe drinking water. The LED lights on the handle and the UV light on the stem indicate when purification has finished. The 40 × 40-micron screen pre-filter fits perfectly on wide-mouth one litre water bottles. The Steripen runs on four AA batteries. With one set of alkaline batteries, the Steripen Classic 3 purifies up to 50 litres. Lithium batteries can purify up to 150 litres (rechargeable batteries can be used too). A very handy and lightweight (800 grams) product with an ergonomic design that makes it a very easy product to use. It comes with a neat neoprene cover and is ideal to throw in your camp kit or your backpack if you do some back country hiking. 

Inline filtration devices 

An inline micro water filter simply attaches to your water source, be it a Camelback or similar bladder for water storage options. It allows you to collect water and keep on moving as the filter works as you consume your water. The MSR Thru-link inline micro water filter is compatible with any reservoir system. If your product needs an adapter, then MSR provides all you require to install it into your water bladder. The MSR Thru-link water filter uses both hollow fibre technology and activated carbon to provide reliable, safe and taste-free water.

The two-stage filtration system hollow fibre removes pathogens, particulates and microplastics. The activated carbon reduces chemicals, tastes and odours. The filter pore size is 200 microns, and the flow is rated at 1.5 litres per minute. At camp, you can use your reservoir as a gravity system for pump-free filtration. The Thru-link weighs 700 grams so you’d hardly notice it in your pack. Used by the US Military and made in the USA, the Thru-link is a very useful product if you don’t want to carry any battery powered products and want to avoid any chemical tastes from using tablets. They cost around $100. It doesn't remove viruses as it's not a purifier and filters will last for 1000 litres. 

Final thoughts

Like with any camping RV related products, think about your usage to decide which water filtration product will work best for you. The cost of your solution will come down to how much you will use it or how poor quality you’re sourcing your water from. We have looked at a selection of water filtration and purifying options. If water borne viruses are a concern, then make sure you go for a purifier, such as the Steripen. Filtration options are less expensive and if you use a backpack a lot then the MSR Thru-link may be the best option for you. The LifeStraw, with its connectors available for wide mouth water bottles, is the pick if a backpack bladder arrangement isn't suitable for your needs. 


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