Pack one of these water purification systems

These water-purification systems will ban nasty bacteria from your bottle.


They swim and float in water, undetectable and unseen. They breed and multiply and search for a host. With sinister names, microbes like giardia and cryptosporidium can wreck a wilderness trip quicker than you can shout, “Where’s the latrine?”

But fear not. Outdoors types can combat bacteria, viruses, and protozoa via a litany of purification products available at any outdoors shop.

Water-purification tablets, pumps, filters, and UV-light mechanisms kill the tiny creatures that can make you ill. A few minutes of pumping—or the zap of light from a UV pen—might make the difference between getting sick and staying healthy.

Muddy creeks and reedy shores are immediately suspect for water that could be bad. But to be safest, experts recommend treating any water taken outdoors before you fill your cup. “Even the most pristine areas are subject to a host of environmental conditions or pollutants that cannot be detected by sight, smell, or taste,” says Frank Reigelman, the Boy Scouts’ Outdoor Programs team leader.

The five products below filter and purify water by various means. For wilderness trips, where protozoa and bacteria are main concerns, pumps and filters will work fine. For maximum protection, especially when near human development, look to one that neutralizes all biological contaminants, including viruses.

Final point: The old-fashioned trick of boiling water on a campfire is a foolproof—and effective—purification plan. Plus, it’s essentially free.

Outdoors writer Stephen Regenold is founder of


Pump it! The HyperFlow microfilter provides a fast way to purify water in the backcountry, including a filtration rate of three liters per minute. At 7.4 ounces, the unit is lightweight enough for backpacking. It connects via a bottle adapter to a variety of containers, and it’s designed to be cleaned in the field. MSR markets the HyperFlow as effective against all protozoa and bacteria but not viruses.

Zap the bugs! SteriPEN Ultra employs a unique ultraviolet-light mechanism to expunge more than 99.9 percent of waterborne biological contaminants — bacteria, protozoa and viruses included. Dip the light in your water and let it shine for 90 seconds. Now the water is clean. It weighs just 4.94 ounces, making it light enough for any pursuit. The Ultra features an internal battery that can be recharged at home before your trip or by using a (separately purchased) solar device. The fully charged battery will treat about 50 full liters of water. One warning: The SteriPEN does not work with cloudy water. Pre-filter murky water before zapping it with the UV light.


$12.95 per 20-tablet pack,
Potable Aqua Chlorine Dioxide Tablets
 provide a simple solution for purifying water scooped from a lake or stream. The chemical tabs dissolve in water and neutralize the common viruses, bacteria and cysts that can make you sick. The only downside? The tablets require a four-hour treatment time — but this can be easily managed with overnight water treatment.


Don’t like carrying that bulky water purification system? If access to a stream or a water source isn’t a challenge, carry LifeStraw instead. This tube lets you drink straight from a running stream, zapping bacteria and protozoa as you sip. Plus, you can also purchase the LifeStraw Go ($35) to add the device to a water bottle.


Touting “no moving parts, no assembly, and near-zero effort,” the GravityWorks (available in 2 Liter or 4 Liter capacities) is a unique filter for in-camp use. Hang it up and let gravity do the work. Water trickles from one reservoir to the other, passing through a filter for purification along the way. The system purifies up to 1.5 Liters per minute. Like the MSR pump, the CleanStream handles all protozoa and bacteria, but not viruses, making it suitable for wilderness use.


1 Comment

  1. Why is the top picture featuring a First Need water filtration/purifier, but it isn’t mentioned as one of the units to use?

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