If you are shopping for a new water filter in preparation for your next hiking or camping trip, or if you’ve never shopped for one before, you may be surprised by the variety of models available today. Just a few years ago, most camping supply stores carried one – or possibly two – types of water filters … if you were lucky!
Today, however, there are dozens of different models to choose from. And each model has its own combinations of features and extras that try to outdo all the others. Plus, water filters prices vary wildly – from affordable basic models to space age filters and purifiers that cost hundreds of dollars.
So how can you tell which is the best water filter for you?
To understand which type is best, we have to take a step back and look at the different types of water filters currently available.
The most popular type of water filter uses microfiltration to eliminate harmful bacteria and protozoa from water pulled from a water supply in the wild, such as a river, stream or puddle. This level of protection is generally sufficient for most hikers, bikers or trekker’s uses.
Water filters come in two basic varieties: Gravity filters and sip or squeeze bottles that include water filters.
- Speed of Water Purification
The first thing to consider is how quickly a particular water filter can give you what you want at the end of a long day on the trail: A glassful of clean, refreshing water.
Gravity filters have a flow rate that is dictate by the type of filter being used. Generally, they can produce between 0.5 liters and 1.0 liters of water per minute.
Sip or squeeze bottle filters are a little slower. They use filtration or purification straws to scrub the water, but they deliver the clean drinking water in dribbles and streams. So if you may have to wait a while before you get the water you need.
Water purifiers work a little bit differently than water filters. While both microfiltration, purifiers also utilize chemical treatments or ultraviolet light in order the achieve quality standards established by the US Environmental Protection Agency for drinkable water. Purifiers are not only handy in the back country, but they also can be used by international travelers who aren’t certain about the safety of the local water supply.
Water purifiers that use ultraviolet light are fast. They usually can give you a quart of clean water in 90 seconds or less. In contrast, water purifiers that depend on chemical compounds – such as iodine or chlorine dioxide – are among the slowest ways to get clean drinking water, taking between 15 minutes and four hours before you get clean drinking water, depending on how dirty the water is in the first place and the temperature.
- Size and Weight
A major consideration when choosing a water filter is how big and heavy it is. Remember, you are going to have to pack it in with you during your excursion into the bush then haul it out with you when you go home. So you generally want a water filter that gives you optimal performance but takes up the least amount of space and adds the least amount of weight to your pack.
Gravity and sip/squeeze filters tend to be just the right size and weight. Most weigh about a pound or maybe a little less. UV water purifiers are about the same size and weight.
But chemicals win this round. They generally come in powdered or capsule forms that add little weight and can be easily carried in a pocket or backpack.
- Pore Size
The size of the pores of a water purifier can determine its speed and effectiveness. But it also can affect its price. Water filters with smaller pores can cost a lot more than those with larger ones.
Your best bet here is to get the filter with the highest number of pores that still fits your budget. They all filter out most of the bacteria, viruses, dirt and other unwanted substances in your drinking water.
Another thing to consider is how convenient a particular water filter or purification system is to use. Ask the salesperson at your camping supply store if they can demonstrate it for you. Even better, ask if you can try it out for a day or two before making a buying decision.
The best water filters and purifiers are the ones that you can easily clean while in the field. Generally, you are going to need to clean out the filter or purifier just about every time you use it.
Some water filters come with filters that can be replaced after every use. But that means you are going to have to pack multiple filters in with you – and carry them out – on every trip.
You want a water filter that will give you the most use for your money. Most manufacturers rate their products to be able to handle between 200 and 1,000 gallons of water during their useful life. That’s a pretty big swing.
In the end, your choice will depend on your budget and your specific needs. But it’s good to know that there are so many options out there today.
Image courtesy of John Kasawa/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Author Bio – This article is written by Phillip Manson on behalf of BerkeyWaterFilterinfo.com.