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The Best Lightweight Water Purifiers on the Market

Updated on August 26, 2013
SteriPen in action
SteriPen in action

Backpacking without the means to purify water would be cumbersome and time consuming. Essentially, you would either have to carry all the fresh water you would need on your back (not possible even for short trips since water weighs 8 pounds per gallon), or boil water every time you need fresh water. Enter modern water filters and purification methods. With the simple addition of a few drops or tablets of water purifiers, or with the simple pumping of a filter, you have almost instantaneous potable water in the backcountry. Let’s look at some of the best lightweight water purifiers on the market today below.

No Filter Required

When it comes to ultra-portability and ultra-lightweight water purifiers, Potable Aqua iodine tablets are the ultimate option. While they may take a little time to work their magic, these tablets weigh next to nothing and take up virtually no space. They do have a drawback in that they leave an unsavory aftertaste, but that can be mitigated by utilizing the flavor neutralizing tablet afterwards. Chlorine dioxide drops are just as effective, and just as lightweight and portable. If you are looking for the minimalist approach, besides boiling, this is it.

Chlorine Dioxide drops
Chlorine Dioxide drops | Source

Stream-side Straw Filter

Coming in a little heavier than the tablets (but not much) is the Lifestraw (an incredible 2 ounces!). This is a pretty cool little device, in that you basically can put the straw directly into the water source and suck the water through. It is a little easier to fill a cup or bottle and use the straw from there. There are other straw filters on the market as well, like the Aquamira Frontier Pro. These are fantastic filters for the price and weight.


Water Bottle Filters

There are several different brands of water bottle filters. These combine the portability of the straw filter with a convenient water bottle. Basically, you fill the bottle up from any water source, and drink through a filter. This allows you to carry water away from a source in case your trail diverges from the water source at any time. There are several varieties available, from Katadyn, Seychelle, and Berkey. These water purifiers are great options, and are very portable.

Katadyn Water Bottle Purifier
Katadyn Water Bottle Purifier

UV Powered Germ Zapper

The geniuses behind the SteriPen need multiple high-fives for coming up with this little gem of a water purifier. The one thing that I have always noticed about filtered water is the fact that the flavor is stripped from the water with the contaminants. There is no filter incorporated with the SteriPen. Instead, the device utilizes UV light to kill all microscopic organisms (something about disrupting DNA and the like). There are many different SteriPen adaptations, ranging from solar charging to hand cranking to battery operated. They are all quite portable, but not quite as light as the options above.

SteriPen Adventurer
SteriPen Adventurer | Source

Traditional Water Filters

When it comes to cranking out clean water, pump operated filters are the best in the biz. While tablets are lightweight, they take time. Straw filters deliver clean water on demand, but not a stock supply of clean water. The SteriPen is fast acting (60-90 seconds, depending on the serving size), but only operates in small quantities at a time. This is where pump filters can blow the rest away. MSR and Katadyn are the big players in this area, and produce several different pump filters that can capably pump out large quantities of clean water. The smallest and lightest of the bunch is the Katadyn pocket microfilter, which weighs only 20 ounces and comes with a 20 year warranty.

Katadyn Pocket Microfilter
Katadyn Pocket Microfilter | Source


In closing, there are several water purification options on the market today. Minimalist or ultralight backpackers who are really counting ounces would probably find the Lifestraw or the tablets appealing for their low weight. Backpackers who have a little more leeway when it comes to weight could easily adopt any of these options into their backpacking arsenal.

Below is a table that covers the weight of the water purification options listed above. Also, for more information on what water purifier to choose, as well as other backpacking gear reviews and helpful tips, visit the link below to Hopefully this article will help you to pick the water purification method that fits your needs the best. Thanks for reading and happy trails!

Weight Comparison of Purifiers

Potable Aqua Tablets
1 ounce
Aquamira Chlorine Dioxide drops
1 ounce
2 ounces
Aquamira Frontier Pro
2 ounces
SteriPen Adventurer Opti
6 ounces (w/ batteries)
Berkey Water Bottle Filter
6 ounces
Seychelle Water Bottle Filter
8 ounces
Katadyn Water Bottle Filter
9 ounces
SteriPen Sidewinder
16 ounces
Katadyn Pocket Microfilter
20 ounces

What is your favorite ultralight backcountry water purifier? Vote here and let us know details in the comments section below. Thanks!

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