Water Purification For Hiking and Camping

LifeStraw-personal_water filtration used by young boy half in a pond at Kauai - picture by Adam Barker

Hiking or camping requires clean water for optimal outdoor fun. Without it, bacteria and other pathogens can build up in your water supply, putting you at risk.

Fortunately, there are various methods for purifying water while hiking or camping. Boiling, chemical treatment (iodine and chlorine), filtration, and ultraviolet light are all effective and user-friendly options that can be utilized.

Personal Water Filter

One of the most convenient methods for hikers and backpackers is a portable "straw" device that is both lightweight (weighs less than 2 ounces - 46 g), efficient and effective at protecting against bacteria, parasites, microplastics, dirt, sand and cloudiness. One product, LifeStraw, has been independently lab tested, is durable and BPA Free. It features a long-lasting membrane microfilter that can purify up to 1,000 gallons (4,000 L) of water - enough drinking water to last an individual for over 5 years.

LifeStraw is the ultimate survival tool, no shelf life, easy to clean and store.


Boiling water is an efficient way to kill pathogens in water, and can be used outdoors while hiking or camping. All that needs is for the pot of water to come to a rolling boil, let it cool, then you're good to go!

When camping or hiking in the backcountry, it can be challenging to know how to obtain clean drinking water when needed. But with some planning and some basic supplies, you can ensure your water remains pure and safe for consumption.

Access to a reliable and plentiful source of drinking water can make or break a hiking trip. It also protects you from dehydration, cramps, and nausea caused by parasites like giardia.

Bring a water filtration system or pump with you on your backpacking trip to ensure clean drinking water. However, these options require energy and modem facilities; for those on a budget or without access to these amenities, boiling is an ideal alternative.

Pump-Style Filters

No matter where you go hiking and camping in America, Canada, or abroad, water purification is an integral part of your backcountry experience. A backpacking water filter can filter out protozoa, bacteria and sediment to protect you from diseases like giardia or cryptosporidium which may cause stomach cramping, diarrhea and vomiting.

Pump-style filters are a popular choice for backpackers and easy to use outdoors. They consist of a "dirty" hose that connects to your water source, along with an attached pump that forces the water through the filter.

Nalgene bottles are great for quickly bringing safe drinking water on-the-go, and they make an excellent backup filtration system in case your primary filter breaks down. Be sure to clean them regularly according to manufacturer's instructions, however.

Squeeze-style filters are less bulky than pump or gravity models, but require manual effort to squeeze water through them. Furthermore, these filters filter multiple liters more slowly and may become clogged more easily over time.

Chemical Treatment

No matter where you're hiking or camping in the backcountry, clean water is vital for survival. Without it, dehydration and stomach discomfort are likely to set in.

To avoid this, you can purify water before drinking it. There are various options, such as chemical treatment (iodine or chlorine), filtration, ultraviolet light and boiling.

Chemical treatment of water can remove suspended solids, viruses, fungi, bacteria, algae and minerals. It also reduces the toxicity of heavy metals like iron and chromium.

Chemical treatments while hiking and camping can be a straightforward, yet effective way to ensure your drinking water is safe to consume. Unfortunately, they may take longer to act than other methods and some chemicals may leave your water with an off-putting taste.

UV Sterilization

UV Sterilization (also referred to as UV disinfection or ultraviolet germicidal irradiation) is an effective method for eliminating bacteria, viruses and protozoa. It does this by breaking down specific chemical bonds within microorganisms' molecular structures, making them unable to reproduce and ultimately killing them.

When hiking and camping, UV sterilization can be beneficial. UV water purifiers are small pen-like devices that work by neutralizing pathogens in water with powerful UV rays transmitted through a quartz sleeve.

The best UV water purifiers are small enough to fit into a backpack or first-aid kit and easy to use. Fill a 32 ounce Nalgene bottle with water, insert the UV purifier, and stir for 90 seconds - that's it! Your water has now been purified!

UV sterilization stands out among other water treatment methods because it's non-chemical and won't alter the taste or odor of water. Furthermore, it has a lower cost than other methods while still being effective at eliminating pathogens.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *