What are the best portable water filtration systems for UK backpacking and camping?

When planning a backpacking or camping adventure, reliable access to clean water is a key concern. The human body can only survive for about three days without water, which makes the need for a portable water filtration system paramount. In the UK, despite the apparent abundance of fresh water sources, waterborne pathogens like bacteria and viruses still lurk in unsuspecting streams and rivers. The right water filter can be a lifesaver, removing these harmful contaminants and ensuring you have safe, clean water to drink. In this article, we'll delve into some of the best portable water filtration systems available for UK backpacking and camping.

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

The LifeStraw Personal Water Filter is an essential tool in any backpacker's kit. This ingenious water filter has won numerous awards for its simple-to-use, lightweight design, and powerful purifying capabilities.

The LifeStraw is a small, straw-like device that filters water as you sip. It is equipped with a microfiltration membrane that filters out 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria and 99.9% of waterborne protozoan parasites. This filter can handle up to 4,000 liters of water without the need for iodine, chlorine, or other potentially harmful chemicals.

While it doesn't have a built-in storage system, the LifeStraw's modest size and weight make it an ideal companion for solo backpackers or those who prefer to travel light. It may not be the most comfortable solution for filtering large volumes of water, but for quick hydration on the go, the LifeStraw is hard to beat.

Katadyn BeFree Water Filtration System

Next on our list is the Katadyn BeFree Water Filtration System. This Swiss-made water filter is renowned for its quick flow rate and collapsible design.

The BeFree system consists of a soft, 0.6-liter flask and a hollow fiber filter. The filter fits snugly into the mouth of the flask and removes harmful contaminants as you squeeze the flask. It's capable of filtering up to 2 liters of water per minute, which is impressive for a portable filter.

As for its effectiveness, the BeFree filter eliminates 99.9999% of bacteria and 99.9% of protozoa, offering you clean, safe water. The collapsible flask can be rolled up when not in use, saving valuable space in your backpack.

Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System

The Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System is a versatile and effective water purifier. It's compact, lightweight, and suitable for both solo and group backpacking trips.

The Sawyer Mini functions as a squeeze filter, meaning you squeeze water through the filter into a clean container. It's capable of removing 99.99999% of all bacteria, such as salmonella, cholera, and E.coli, and 99.9999% of all protozoa, like giardia and cryptosporidium.

One unique feature of the Sawyer Mini is its versatility. You can use it as a straw to drink directly from a water source, attach it to disposable water bottles, or even integrate it with a hydration pack. Plus, the filter is rated up to 100,000 gallons, making it a robust choice for regular hikers and campers.

MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter

The MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter is a pump-action filter, known for its durability and reliable performance.

The MiniWorks EX uses a ceramic and carbon filter to remove bacteria, protozoa, and particulates from water, along with improving taste and removing odors. The pump action design allows you to filter up to 1 liter of water per minute, and the filter is good for up to 2,000 liters before it needs replacing.

Although it is heavier and larger than other filters on this list, the MiniWorks EX's robust build and reliable filtration make it a favorite among serious backpackers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Platypus GravityWorks Filter System

Our final recommendation is the Platypus GravityWorks Filter System. As the name suggests, this system uses the power of gravity to filter water, making it a great option for group camping trips.

The GravityWorks system consists of two pouches, one for dirty water and the other for clean water. You fill the dirty water pouch, hang it higher than the clean water pouch, and let gravity do the rest. The system filters up to 1.75 liters of water per minute, and it's capable of eliminating 99.9999% of bacteria and 99.9% of protozoa.

This system shines when serving groups, as you can filter large quantities of water with minimal effort, leaving you more time to enjoy your camping experience.

Remember, no matter which filtration system you choose, it's crucial to always have a reliable backup method available. This could be in the form of purification tablets or a simple boiling pot. Staying hydrated is crucial for a safe and enjoyable backpacking or camping adventure, and these filtration systems will go a long way in ensuring that you have access to clean, safe drinking water.

Grayl Geopress Purifier

An innovative addition to the portable water filtration market is the Grayl Geopress Purifier. This compact, bottle-like device offers a unique and highly effective method of water purification that's ideal for on-the-go adventurers.

The Geopress operates on a simple, one-press design. Simply fill the outer shell with contaminated water, insert the inner press fitted with a purifier cartridge, and press down. The pressure forces the raw water through the purifier, effectively removing 99.9999% of viruses, bacteria, and protozoa, along with filters particulates, chemicals, and heavy metals.

The Geopress boasts one of the fastest flow rates among portable filters, purifying 24 ounces of water in just eight seconds. It also stands out for its high capacity, capable of purifying 65 gallons of water with each cartridge. With its easy operation and impressive purification capabilities, the Grayl Geopress is an excellent choice for backpackers, hikers, and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

MSR Guardian Purifier

The MSR Guardian Purifier is the ultimate water treatment solution, designed to meet the demands of international travelers, military personnel, and emergency responders.

Unlike standard water filters, the Guardian purifier not only removes bacteria and protozoa but also eliminates viruses, making it one of the most comprehensive portable water treatment solutions on the market. It uses advanced hollow fiber technology to filter out pathogens, with a flow rate of 2.5 liters per minute.

The MSR Guardian is robust and durable, designed to withstand freezing temperatures and harsh outdoor conditions. It's also self-cleaning, with every pump action flushing water back through the filter, maintaining optimal performance.

While it's on the heavier side compared to other options, the Guardian's unmatched purification capabilities and rugged design make it a top choice for serious outdoor adventurers, particularly those venturing into remote or high-risk areas.


Hydration is crucial for any outdoor adventure, and having a reliable water filtration system can make all the difference. From the simplicity of the LifeStraw and the convenience of the Katadyn BeFree to the versatility of the Sawyer Squeeze and the high-capacity Platypus GravityWorks, there's a water filter to suit every backpacker's needs. The Grayl Geopress and MSR Guardian offer advanced purification capabilities, providing extra reassurance in challenging environments.

Remember, while these water purifiers offer high levels of protection, they should always be used as part of a broader water treatment strategy that includes a backup purification method, like boiling or chemical tablets. Choose the best backpacking water filter for your needs, and you'll be well-equipped to maintain hydration and health, no matter where your adventures take you.

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