Best Water Filters For Camping & Prepping

hiking clean drinking water filtersby Kirk S 

Everyone agrees that you should have an emergency supply of water. Most experts advise that you should have a minimum water supply for 72 hours and the CDC recommends that you have 1 gallon of water for each person in your family for each day.

If you have a family of 4 you will need 12 gallons of water for those 72 hours. This is pretty easy to do with bottled water. Bottled water is pre-packaged and has clear expiration dates so you know that the water is still safe to drink.

Acquiring safe drinking water becomes a little more difficult if you need to abandon your home or if the emergency lasts longer than 72 hours. Each case requires an understanding of water safety, contamination, and treatment.

Choose the right water source

Water from flowing streams and rivers is always preferable to the stagnant water in ponds or lakes. Always try to choose water as close to the water source as possible. In many cases, spring water coming out of the ground will be the safest for drinking.

As much as possible, try to avoid water that is down river from towns and industry. Waste and pollutants often find their way into the water systems. Likewise, water near to agricultural land can be a problem. Fertilisers and pesticides soak into the land, and through rainfall and runoff, will get into the streams and rivers.

Avoid water in marshes and swamps or where algae is growing. Trying to find the cleanest water will make your life much easier. With the being said, there are times when you do not have any choice about the water that is available to you.

This is where it is best that you understand the potential contaminants in the water and the technology needed to remove them.

Water Pollutants

To make water completely safe to drink, five types of contaminants need to be eliminated:

  • Turbidity: visible dirt – sand, silt or mud
  • Chemical pollutants: from heavy metals to pesticides – often associated with mining, agriculture, and forestry
  • Viruses: a biological agent that reproduces in the cells that they infect
  • Bacteria: single-cell organisms found everywhere. Some of them cause infectious diseases. These include E. Coli, cholera, typhoid, etc.)
  • Parasites: waterborne parasites are single-cell organisms (such as protozoa, Cryptosporidium and Giardia) or multi-cell organisms (such as worms) that live in or on other living organisms.

How Do We Make Water Safe To Drink?

Depending on the level of contamination that you are dealing with, there are a variety of methods you can choose. Water purification technology has advanced quite a bit over the last few years and there are numerous methods for getting rid of the nastiness in contaminated water.

Unfortunately, getting clean, safe, good tasting drinking water requires more than one filtration medium. Below are different filtration methods and what they remove.

Boiling Water

Boiling water for at least one minute will kill or deactivate all viruses, pathogens, bacteria, and protozoa. This is an easy way to filter water with no special equipment and you can treat a lot of water at one time so it is good for large groups or families. Boiling does not remove chemical pollutants or clarify turbidity in the water. Boiling also requires a fuel source to burn which is sometimes difficult to come by.

Water Filtration

A water filter is generally a device that blocks impurities or particles from passing through it. This works through size exclusion where the holes in the filter are so small that the bacteria cannot fit. Most filtration of this kind is called Hollow Fiber.


Adsorption normally refers to a product like activated carbon. There are a few forms of activated carbon (granular, powder, and fiber). The small pores in the carbon increases the surface area of adsorption. Activated carbon is ideal for removing chemicals, metals, and turbidity of water.

It also improves the taste of your water and has faster flow rates. Activated Carbon Fiber is a fibrous adsorbent that has 10x higher adsorption than traditional activated carbon and gives you faster flow rates.

UV light purifiers

This method uses UV rays to blast microbes and organisms in the water. This neutralizes them and renders them harmless to humans. UV purifiers require a power source (generally batteries) and are potentially fragile, leaving you without filtration.

Water Filtration Products


One of the most popular filtration straws on the market. Originally designed as an emergency water treatment method, straws are also well suited for time in the backcountry and are cheap to throw in an emergency pack.

The LifeStraw has a hollow fiber membrane filter that cleanses the water as you sip it straight from the source. LifeStraw does not remove viruses and it can only be used directly from the water source.

Hand Pumps

Hand pump filters are common for backpackers and have the ability to filter large amounts of water. Hand pumps are generally reliable and easy to use. Hand pumps have small filter pore sizes so they can remove more particulate, but this reduces the flow rate of water.

Most hand pumps are heavy and have multiple pieces that can get lost. Also, very few hand pumps can remove viruses. There are a few lately that have been released on the market that gives you complete viruses protection.

Gravity Filters

Gravity filters are a three-step process that are great for groups of people at a campsite or have time to set up a semi-permanent installation. Most gravity filters have a large water reservoir that is filled with dirty water.

It will have a tube that is connected to the filter medium and another tube attached to the clean water receptacle. Most gravity filters are made of hollow-fiber which allows for fast flow rates. Gravity filters are hassle-free, light-weight and can collapse down to save space.

These systems do not protect against viruses and you need quite a bit of water to make the system work.

In-Line Filters

Another very common filter is an in-line filter and most people are aware of the Sawyer Mini. It is one of the lightest filters on the market. It is economical to use and can be used with a water reservoir, a collapsible canteen, as a straw and can be threaded onto a water bottle.

This type of filter will filter up to 100,000 gallons if you continue to backflush it and take care of the filter. The filter is great for a single user, but not very good for larger groups. This type of filter also does not remove viruses and does nothing to remove chemicals and metals.

Chemical Treatment

Chemical water treatment methods, most commonly contain iodine or chlorine dioxide. This is a lightweight option, is good for treating large amounts of water and kills viruses found in the water. The downside is it takes a few hours to treat the water and leaves a negative taste in the water. This treatment does not remove the turbidity of water.

safe drinking water
This Photo was taken by M.D. Creekmore…

MUV Water Filter

A small company out of Utah recently released an adaptable water filter that they believe fixes many of the problems with single-use water filters. The MUV Adaptable Water Filter is a multi-stage water filter that can be modified and used based on the water contamination that you are dealing with.

Not only does it remove all of the water pollutants covered above, including viruses, but it is also versatile in the way it can be used. You can easily modify the filter to work in a water bottle, as an in-line filter, as a gravity system, as a straw, threaded onto a 28mm soda bottle, and as a pump.

With the different MUV filter modules, you are able to completely control how your water filter works and what it removes. Using the chart above you are able to determine which module is right for you given your current water situation. You can easily combine one or more of the modules to get superior filtration.

MUV can adapt to your lifestyle or your needs. With a few simple adapters, you can go from using MUV in a water bottle to a hydration system to a pump. No longer do you need to buy a variety of separate water filters that are incompatible with each other. Now you can easily buy one system that covers 99.9% of all your water filtration needs.

Check out the MUV Adaptable Water Filter and get in on one of the most innovative products to hit the water filter industry in years.

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  1. We keep Life Straws, Life Straw water bottles, and mini-Sawyer filters with us, in quantity, when we are out. I also have a Katadyn Vario pump filter, that can travel. Our travel trailer has a counter top water filter on the sink and we use a Camco filter system to filter stream water to refill our tank.

    At home we have a e-Spring filter system and a Berkey as a back-up.

    And I still want to add a Berkey travel filter system to our equipment stash.

    Yep, I think water is important.

  2. Thanks for a good article. Clean water is super critical, an absolute necessity. Berkey makes a good system. In a bugout situation, I will use mostly boiling for purification.

  3. Thank you for pointing out the truth. Most all water filters sold for camping and emergency are a huge SCAM and not worth what you pay for them. My belief is that folks “get away” with using these products because they begin with relatively safe sources of water and have to deal with few serious viruses which are the hardest to filter out. Because I live in the Philippines and understand we have some nasty things in water sources here, that I never had to cope with back home (USA), I did a deeper study on these products. The fact is, most folks DO NOT understand the testing results (if provided) with the products. We read that the XYZ filter removes less than or equal to a certain size when in fact the target virus easily slips through the filters pore size. Removing “up to” a certain size virus will NOT remove the actual virus you wanted to treat for. Over the past few months, I have gravitated to using one of three methods to kill all harmful organisms and then only worry about a filter that will remove heavy metals/ chemicals and hopefully improve taste. It is easy to say these words “SHUT UP-DRINK” and surely thirsty kids will do so. We strive to NOT get ourselves into that position in the first place by providing water that is both safe and tastes good. The truth is, I no longer trust even the Berkfield filters unless used with boiling or chemical pretreatment. Here is what we have gravitated to:

    1. If we have time and are hunkered down, we boil water collected from the wild. When cool, we filter to remove heavy metals, chemicals/ petroleum. Aeration further helps with taste improvement

    2. if the water is clear but we have no means to boil the water we chemically treat. In the Phils, I can purchase tablets at many pharmacies for P6 (about 12 cents USD) which will treat 2 1/2 gallons of water in about 30 minutes. Many folks have to treat their contaminated well water with this product on a daily basis or risk illness. We then will filter as above. Plain bleach of other products will work also.

    3. If no other water source were available, we do have the means to treat really cloudy water. You can construct a filter to clarify muddy, nasty looking water. Not a practical thing to do on the go, only at a base camp. Our solution, a chemical treatment with a flocculent additive that will coagulate the particles in the water. After waiting for the flocculent to work, you can filter the water through bandanas, face cloths and even coffee filters as a final step. Again, we filter the water to remove petroleum products, ag chemicals (pesticides) and heavy metals. Products to look for :
    a. Chlor floc powder
    b. P&G (Procter &Gamble) sachets. Developed around 2004. This product was essentially given away at cost. It works the same as chlor floc but on a larger scale. After development, it was manufactured overseas to keep cost low. Relief agencies health organizations etc may purchase the product in bulk for around 6 cents USD per packet. Online line stores (Amazon) sell 12 sachets for around $20 bucks USD, a VERY hefty markup. You can get a case of 240 packets on Amazon for $99.00USD. We order a box of 240 sachets from Indonesia.
    Here is a PDF on how to use the product:

  4. What does “MUV” stand for?

      • JP, Again, I am VERY suspicious of any product until I may review the independent lab test results. The vast majority do little or nothing at reducing virus contamination in the water regardless of the claims they make. Actual virus removal versus some quoted number of “up to XYZ amounts” can make all the difference in the world. It is deceptive of a manufacturer to make claims of greater than
        the specified amount of virus to know we have a product that actually will perform in the real world. Filter manufacturers have played the game for years. For sure, I will be looking for the independent lab tests on this new product and I certainly do hope it works.

        • Jack:

          I have no information on the product nor experience with it. Just the ones I listed as using.

          I was providing the link because I was curious too.

  5. VG info on an important topic. TYVM!
    I’m a Berkey guy, live on well & septic.
    I don’t store water, as I’m moving out of state soon. I do filter my water through a Berkey & have Berkey sport bottles in my BOB’s & GHB’s. In addition to gatorade powder & instant coffee…
    I do have a well hand pump, not yet installed-again I’m moving soon.
    Having a water supply is IMPERATIVE. Most SHTF scenarios will be of a hunker down type, as I see it. Hence I’ve planned accordingly.
    A second source, such as a stream or a pond will get primary consideration in choosing my new diggs. Well & septic may have drawbacks, but the system is far better than being dependent on local government for my survival.
    Prep on folks!