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First Time Backpacking- Looking for Water Solution Recs!

I've been camping and hiking separately before, and besides SERE training for my job, I haven't actually done a whole lot of backpacking. I finally have what I think is a good set-up to start with (We're doing day hikes and camping in the St. Francis NF in the Ozarks, nothing too crazy,) but can't decide on what the best water solution will be. I have emergency iodine tablets, but would prefer a filter of some kind. I want something light and portable, but something that can filter into my own water bottle, or other peoples' if they have a problem with their water sources. I looked at some of the collapsible water bottle, and life straw bottle caps, and I'm not sure if those are what I'm looking for. 

The Katydyn Pocket Water filter would be my ideal, but I can't really afford a 350$ filter after my couple of months of stocking up on other backpacking supplies... Are the cheaper Katydyn models good? Should I just get a lifestraw water bottle even though they're very ugly?

Please advise!

28 Replies

Thanks; because of the long life and utility of the Sawyer, I think I might actually get the squeeze instead of the mini. 

I'm glad this thread continued the discussion on the problems of the Sawyer Squeeze. I have had three bags break. I am often on long trips, so it's necessary to carry extra bags. They come in handy. I also recommend back flushing, and I do this every third or fourth time I filter. I see this unit as somewhat disposable compared to other systems I have used.

All filters have problems, annoyances, or durability issues. Choose your poison.

You will be much more comfortable if you can reduce you pack weight.     Figure out you idea body weight.  With luck that is where you are right now.  Then try not to cary more then 20% of you ideal weight.   Yes in winter you need to cary more and if the trip is long you need more.   But for a couple nights when there is no snow 20% is a good upper limit.   Then if you can get lower you will be more happy.

The 20% guideline hits women harder than men and means you have to do without.  Filters are heavy and I concider them a luxtery item.  If there is a group, then just cary one filter

Another solution is the "seri-pen".  It is a UV light source that you place in a container of water and the UV rays kill patogens.   It does nother to the taste and clarity.  I've on trips with people who use these and they also cary a micro-fibe cloth and stain the watr first toget the big and visible particle out then use the pen. The micro fiber cloth can be washed and used forever

One thing about aqua-tabs is that on the instructions it says you can use a half as much if the water is heated.   This take less fuel than boiling.  Then to cover the tast of the chemicals I place a teabag in the water bottle.  After an hour it is patogen-free ice tea.  I use one teabag all day

If I am going to be out for a week the pack is heavy with food and because I can't predict weather over such a long time, more clothing so I hate to take also a filter.  But on a weekend trip, The filter even fits inside the bear canister.  As said, I treat it as a luxury item.  

My filter is the MSR pump. Theone with the level handle.  I like it bcause it is not that heavy and the #1 importent feature isthat is conpletely disasembles with no tools and I can clean it in the field.  Filters plug-up and need to be cleaned.  Whatever you buy, made sure it comes apart for cleaning easy

You've given a lot of practical advice here, but... what I'm taking away is how good of an idea it is to put a teabag in my water bottle. Hahaha. Thanks for the recommendations. 


One minor problem with putting anything in the water bottle other than plain water is that it makes the bottle smell like food and then you need to keep it out of your tent at night least a bear decides to go after it.   I only ever place non-water in one of my bottles.  A simple rising does not remove the smell.


Once we made lemonade on a water bottle and then left it out overnight and a bear bit through the plastic.   We were able to repair it with duct tape will enough for the rest of the trip.

I've never had a bear go after a bottle that held unsweetened tea, only the lemonade bottle but you never know.

@cavalier I would also investigate using the Aqua Mira drops for chemical treatment.  It's not a filter, but I use chem treatment on particularly questionable water sources, I do filter and then I hit it with the Aqua Mira afterwards.  Plus it's always good to have a backup in making your water safe, just in case your filter fails.  You can always filter thru a bandanna and use the treatment afterwards.  Aqua Mira is easy to use, not expensive, and lightweight.  Check it out.

I will try it! I grabbed iodine for my first aid/emergency kit, since it's familiar from my time doing SERE training, but I've had you and @OldGuyot both recommend something besides iodine! 


@cavalier These, Aqua Mira, Micropur and PotableAqua are all basically Chlorine Dioxide. They work well against viruses bacteria and giardia in about 15 mins. They will also kill cryptosporidium but that takes up to 4 hrs.

Aquamira is also available in solid form but REI don't currently stock it. The AquaMira drops may be the most effective of these because the solid tabs don't necessary dissolve completely or uniformly. I don't have any solid evidence that confirms that. However the drops are more involved to use than the tabs. It used to be the case that the solid tabs were not allowed for air travel. I think the drops were but I am not sure of that and things may have changed since I don't see the warnings any more..

This one, Aquatabs, is Sodium Dichlorisocyanurate which is less expensive but it doesn't work against crytpo...

Potable Aqua Iodine is the traditional chemical treatment and it also works against bacteria, viruses and giardia but it doesn't work against crypto and has the worst flavor and the worst side effects if you actually have to rely on it...or so I understand. Since you have it already I would maybe try it once to see what to expect and if you are ok with it keep it as a backup for now. You need to refresh these chemical methods periodically so you can replace it with an alternative next year.

Unscented household bleach that some use and can be used in a emergency is also not effective against crypto. Also not very good for you if you get the mix wrong.

These chemical methods ( and boiling ) all work better with filtered water (ie free of particulates).

Filtering with a 0.1-0.2 micron filter is the easiest way to remove, bacteria, and protozoa like crytpo and giardia but such filters not generally effective against viruses. Generally this is not an issue since water born viruses are not common in the US backcountry. Giardia is the most common problem in the US.

Using a chemical method with a filter is a good idea if you have to use a water source where viruses could be be issue... eg. heavily used by stock, close to a heavily or irresponsibly used campsite or heavily used by wildlife where water is scarce. ...or you suspect your filter has been you suspect you may have let it freeze.

I like the Sawyer (Not mini) placed on the top of the water bottle.  Less to carry and last much longer than other filters...Just dont like there bags...hence the bottle 🙂 

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