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Best water treatment for hiking, travel and camping

When traveling, hiking, backpacking, camping one of the most important things is to stay hydrated! (Check how much water you should bring for a day hike)

Finding the best water treatment for your adventures can become essential for a safe trip and a low-plastic-trash travel.

Drinking water

I grew up in a country where we can safely drink tap water everywhere. But this is not the case all around the world. In a lot of countries they don’t have safe drinking water from tap. Chemicals, viruses, bacteria can make humans sick when drinking this water. 

And while hiking through the back country it sounds easy to drink ice cold water from wild streams, rivers and waterfalls, but be careful about parasites, protozoa, bacteria that you can’t see.

So what I hear when I talk to zero wasters, or plastic free enthusiasts is this: “When I travel I need to buy plastic bottled water. There is no way around it! I need to, because there is no safe drinking water from tap.” 

But this is NOT true! 

When you research a little, you will find out that there are many options out there, and every outdoor enthusiast and hiking expert will know this already. 

So before you buy loads of plastic bottled water while traveling.
Before you spend a lot of money, and produce heaps of plastic trash (that most likely won’t get recycled and might end up in the ocean).
And before you risk getting sick while drinking from wild streams you can do something else.
You can find your favorite water treatment system, your favorite water filter bottle

Water treatment systems

When talking about water treatment systems for drinking water you will find 4 different methods: 

  • boiling water
  • UV treatment
  • different kind of filter 
  • chemical treatment (liquid or tabs)

Boiling water

This is a great way to make water safe to drink. Boiling water kills bacterias and most viruses.
You will hear different times when you research for boiling time. I always stick to 4-5 minutes of boiling when I have a kitchen. When you are out backpacking and need to save gas, 1 minute seems to be enough and 3 minutes when above one mile of elevation. 
We boiled tap water in Mexico city. I used my filter bottle too because I wanted to make sure, my boyfriend didn’t and neither of us got sick. 

Pro: awesome easy and free way to make water safe to drink.
Con: You need a kitchen or camping stove and this will not be a solution in cities where you have chemicals in the water.

UV treatment

UV treatment is one of the most effective methods of water treatment. It is very easy to use and does not leave any unpleasant taste in the water, like some of the chemical treatments.
It kills bacteria, viruses and protozoa and is over 99% effective. 

Batteries are needed and you need to order them online before you travel as they are not a standard size. The batteries are enough for 25-50 liters of water. 

I personally haven’t tried it yet, but friends of mine travelled with the Steripen* through India, drinking tap water in Bangladesh without getting sick.

Pro: easy to use, lightweight and very effective. Great for travel and hiking.
Con: not effective against chemicals.

This is the Steripen UV filter my friends recommend. 

  • Compact UV water purifier, specifically for outdoor/expedition use; Reusable for up to 8,000 liters of water
  • Destroys more than 99.9% of harmful microorganisms, including Giardia, bacteria, viruses and protozoa
  • Safe and effective without altering taste. Chemical-free
  • Water sensor doubles as an LED flashlight

Different kind of water filter systems

When it comes to water filter/purification you can find many different systems.

  • From small and lightweight to big and heavy.
  • From filtering small amounts and slow dripping, to big amounts and quick.
  • From dripping, to sucking, from pumping to squeezing.
  • Some does only filter bacteria, and no viruses, no chemicals. Some filter viruses, bacterias and chemicals. So make sure to know where you are going, what might be in the water and what you might need. 

Lightweight and small is perfect for backpacking and travel, while when you are camping or have a base somewhere for a longer time, big, bulky and heavy is not a problem and makes sure to get a bigger amount of drinking water quicker.

If you travel to a developing country, where viruses could be in the water, you might want to get a filter that purifies and filters 99.99% of all contaminants (bacteria and virus and maybe even chemicals). 

I like to introduce you to a few of the most common and favorite filtration systems and brands.

  • Effective against: bacteria and protozoa, including giardia, cryptosporidium, E. coli, salmonella, cholera. (Doesn’t filter chemicals and viruses)
  • No pumping; fill the reservoir and hang on a tree. Gravity will deliver four liters of filtered water for cooking and washing in 2.5 minutes
  • Includes 4-liter dirty water reservoir, 4-liter clean water reservoir, hollow-fiber micro-filter, hoses, shutoff clamp, and a storage sack
  • Replaceable cartridge filters up to 1,500 gallons; produces flow rate of 1.75 liters/minutes.

Pro: Ideal for group camping, outdoor and travel adventures, and emergency preparedness. lightweight (kit weights 11.5 ounces) no pumping involved. Fast treatment time. Requires little maintenance.

Con: A little more expensive. It does not filter any viruses (or chemicals) so if you go to a developing country make sure to get some extra chemical treatment like tabs against viruses.

  • Removes 99. 99999% of all bacteria, such as salmonella, cholera, and E. coli; removes 99. 9999% of all protozoa, such as giardia and cryptosporidium (Doesn’t remove viruses or chemicals)
  • Ideal for outdoor activities, hiking, camping, domestic and international travel and emergency preparedness
  • High performance filter weighs just 2 ounces
  • Can get attached to included drinking pouch, to standard disposable water bottles, hydration packs, or you can use the straw to drink directly from a water source
  • One filter can treat up to 100, 000 gallons. The kit includes 16-ounce reusable squeeze pouch, 7-inch drinking straw, and cleaning plunger

Pro: small and lightweight.  Easy to use and drink. Perfect for backpacking through the backcountry. Very inexpensive.

Con: Only great for small amounts. Needs regular back flushing, or it get’s hard to use. Doesn’t filter viruses and chemicals.

Best Water Filter Bottles:

There are many different filter bottles on the market. Make sure to know what you want to have filtered out. 

Most of the filters do only filter bacterias (99.9999% of bacterias and 99.9% protozoa), so if you are concerned about chemicals and viruses, make sure to get a purifier that filters 99.9% of all contaminants (chemicals, bacterias, viruses, chlorine, fluoride….) 

Read more about best water filter bottles in my Article here.
I listed some of the most known filter bottles to make the choice easier for you: Best Water Filter Bottles

Water To Go
Life Straw
Sagan Life

Chemical treatment:

If you don’t like to suck on bottles or like to get an extra safety feeling or just to have something in back hand if the filter might get broke, there are chemical treatments too.
They mostly taste not too nice though, because based on chlorine and the tabs need a bit time (from 30 minutes) until you can drink the water.
You can choose between liquid treatment (drops)* and tabs*.

Con: they taste not too good, and shouldn’t be used on a regular basis.

drinking from a river with my water to go bottle
Drinking from a waterfall in Canada
drinking from a Cenote in Mexico with my filter bottle
From a Cenote in Mexico
refilling my filter bottle from a river while kayaking
and from a river while kayaking

So what is the best water filter bottle?

I can highly recommend the water to go filter bottle. I like that they filter bacterias, viruses and chemicals.
But for camping with groups and longer hiking trips I would definitely recommend a Gravity drip filter system so I don’t need to suck on a sports cap bottle all the time and easily can use filtered water for cooking.

Make sure to know what you need. A filter for bacterias, parasites when hiking? A filter for bacterias, parasites, viruses and chemicals when traveling? And always double check for those informations before you buy a filter bottle.
A lot of filter bottle are called purifier or filter bottles but don’t filter all of these, so please double check what you need, want and what the filter bottles actually filter!

Find more tips and hacks how to avoid single use plastic bottles while traveling in my blog post here-> Refuse single-use plastic bottles while traveling.


Do you have a filter bottle already? Please tell me which one and if you are happy with that system. And if you don’t have one I highly recommend getting one for your next trip! Saving money and plastic trash because you don’t need to buy plastic bottled water is a win win situation for you and the environment 😀

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