Stay Hydrated on the Trails: Discover the Best Portable Water Filter for Hiking

Have you ever run out of water during a hike? Did you panic as your thirst grew and grew? Yeah, me too! 

I found a solution to being on the trails and running out of water. A portable water filter can be a lifesaver, even on a day hike. This post will explain why you need a personal water filter, which ones are on the market, and how the top three stack up. 

I’ve been hiking for over 20 years – from lush and humid forests to high-elevation dry mountains. While I always bring reusable bottles with clean water, I’ve run out multiple times. I didn’t have a solution for many years until now.

Clear2O sponsored this article. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. 

Jessica Meinhofer, owner of Walk and Paddle facing away from the camera and looking at Sweetwater Creek in Georgia back in 2008.
Me in 2008, taking a hiking break at Sweetwater Creek State Park in Lithia Springs, Georgia.

Table of Contents

Why Do I Need a Water Filter for Hiking?

Every hiker brings water with them, and nearly every hiker has run out of it at one time or another. Most of the time, running out of water means turning around and heading back to camp. 

But what if you find yourself lost and out of water? This situation can quickly turn into an emergency. You can’t find clean, safe water to drink in the woods. Having a portable personal water filter can save your life. 

Types of Water Filters for Hiking

There are five types of water filters on the market. Some of the filters combine one or more of the types listed below. In this article, we will focus on straw and squeeze filters.

Straw Filters

To use a straw filter, place it directly into a water source and then drink through the straw. It provides an immediate and convenient method to convert unsafe water into potable water.

Squeeze Filters

To utilize squeeze filters, first, fill the reservoir with water. Then, attach the filter and squeeze. The water passes through the filter and directly into a person’s mouth or a receptacle (like an attachable water bottle). 

Gravity Filters

Gravity filters operate by filling a designated reservoir and suspending it. The waiting period allows gravity to draw water through the filter, ensuring a gradual and efficient filtration process. Once it is filtered, users can fill a secondary container with the treated water, providing a reliable and hands-free purification method.

Bottle Filters

A fillable bottle is equipped with an integrated filter. Users simply fill the bottle, attach the filter, and sip. This user-friendly approach combines convenience with portability, making it a straightforward solution for on-the-go water purification.

Pump Filters

This filtration method involves a hose mechanism that directly pumps water from the water source into a designated container. The pump filter offers a controlled purification process.

Collage of various water filters for hiking including: squeeze filter, gravity filter, bottle filter, pump filter, and straw filter.

Environmental Impact of Portable Water Filters

Reduces the Use of Plastic Water Bottles

While most of us bring our own reusable bottles on the trail, we have all brought a plastic one-time-use bottle at one time or another. 

A portable water filter ensures we never have to bring that extra plastic water bottle. Unless, of course, you are hiking in the desert, where a water filter will not help. You can’t filter something that isn’t there. 

Accessibility of Portable Water Filters

Shout out to my friend Mary K.D. D’Rozario, author of The Airstream that Ran Away with the Spoon. Her own mobility needs led to her RV life exploring state and national parks nationwide. We discussed portable water filters for people with disabilities.

According to Mary, what would suit someone and meet their preferences in a portable water filter is not apparent. Disabilities vary widely, and those with disabilities are the experts in determining what works best for them. 

She also shared that adapted tools designed for different purposes can prove helpful in handling and using portable water filters. The growing use of 3D printers enables people to craft customized tools suited to their specific needs and equipment.

We encourage everyone to discover what suits them best so they can enjoy outdoor adventures. 

If you are looking for additional information on adaptive trails and accessibility, check out:

Jessica Meinhofer, owner of Walk and Paddle, sitting on the shore of Green Spring run in Deltona Florida while testing out the Clear2O straw filter and accessories.
Testing out the Clear2O straw filter and collapsible water at Green Springs Park in Deltona, Florida.

How Do the Top Three Straw-Style Filters Stack Up?

Three leading straw-style filters are the Clear2O Personal Water Filter, Sawyer MINI Water Filter, and LifeStraw Personal

I compared the three, and their specifications are in the table below. 

Clear2O Personal Water FilterSawyer MINI Water FilterLifeStraw Personal
Filtration0.1 Micron0.1 Micron0.2 Micron
Bacteria Reduction99.9%99.99999%Protects Against
Microplastic Reduction99.9%100%Protects Against
Protozoa Reduction99.9%99.99999%Not specifically listed
Parasite Reduction99.9%Not specifically listed99.999%
Sand, Dirt, Cloudiness ReductionYesNoYes
Removes Bad Taste and OdorsYesNoNo
Can See When Backwash is NeededYesNoNo
Collapsible Bottle1-liter, 3-ply16-ozNo
Carry AccessoryCarabiner (hook)NoLanyard
Weight3.4 oz2 oz1.62 oz
Some of the information in this table was provided by Clear2O. Additional information is based on my research.

Which Portable Straw Filter is the Most Versatile?

The Clear2O Personal Water Filter beats out the competition with its versatility. You can use it as a straw-style filter at the source or a squeeze filter with a collapsible water bottle. 

Which Portable Straw Filter Is the Easiest Filter to Keep Clean?

Keeping the Clear2O straw clean is easy because it has silicone caps on both ends.

Additionally, the filter reduces bacteria and microplastics, blocks sand and dirt, and makes the water smell and taste better. Lastly, the Clear2O Personal Water Filter can be backwashed (reversing the normal flow of water), extending the filter’s life. You can see inside the filter and see when backwashing is needed.

Which Portable Straw Filter Has the Best Collapsible Water Bottle?

The most significant advantages Clear2O has over the competition are: 

  • the large collapsible water bottle (3-ply durable material)
  • a carbon filter that removes odor and smell
  • the carabiner (hook) for easy carrying 
Photo collage of Jessica Meinhofer, owner of Walk and Paddle, carrying the Clear2O collapsible bottle using the carabiner and holding the carbon filter for the Clear2O straw filter.
Left – collapsible bottle attached with carabiner. Right – carbon filter.

Potential Cons of the Clear2O Personal Water Filter

The Clear2O Personal Water Filter is more expensive than the Sawyer MINI Water Filter and the LifeStraw Personal.

It is also heavier than the other two straw filters. If you are looking for ultralight gear, this may or may not be a factor. 

However, the other pros of the Clear2O Personal Water Filter outweigh these cons.

What About Viruses and Heavy Metals?

None of the filters I compared remove viruses or heavy metals. 

Viruses are rare in the North American backcountry, so this might not concern you. If it does, I recommend using purifying tablets. I’ll address these later on in the article. 

As for heavy metals, this is beyond the scope of my knowledge, and I recommend conducting your own research. 

The Clear2O Out in Nature

Best Practice for Using Your Personal Water Filter

Seek Flowing Water

If possible, find flowing water from a spring or stream—the closer to the water source, the better. Collecting water upstream is recommended.

Wash Your Hands

Keeping your hands clean will help ensure your water stays clean. Dirty hands can contaminate the water you are drinking and the food you are eating.

Don’t Let Your Filter Freeze

Frozen water could damage the filter and allow contaminants to flow through. You won’t know if your water is safe to drink.

If your filter freezes, discard it and replace it with a new one.

Backwashing is Important

Backwashing (reversing the normal flow of water) will keep the filter from clogging, making your filter easier to use and extending its life. 

Only use tap water when backwashing. 

You should backflush whenever: 

  • the flow rate slows down 
  • you plan to store your filter for a long time
  • you take your filter out of storage
Jessica Meinhofer, owner of Walk and Paddle, facing away and standing on her paddleboard at King's Landing in Apopka, Florida.
Although this article is about hiking, it can apply to those of you that paddle too. This is me at King’s Landing.

A Note about Carbon Inserts

Remove your carbon insert before storing it and seal it in an airtight container or bag. Doing so will protect the filter and extend its life.

Research whether your filter should stay wet or dry. Some work best when wet, and storing them dry can cause problems or completely destroy the filter. I recommend contacting the manufacturer to determine what’s best for your filter. 

Purification Tablets – Alternative to Potable Water

If you’ve read everything about water filters and prefer another solution, consider using purification tablets.


Purification tablets neutralize viruses in your water. They also kill bacteria and parasites. A tablet added to the water you collect should do the trick. 

They are super lightweight. A pack of tablets won’t take up much space and might even fit in your pocket. You only need one table to treat a liter or two of collected water.

Purification tablets are relatively inexpensive. 


Unlike the straw filters, purification tablets take time to work, usually more than 30 minutes. Make sure you understand the usage instructions before you use them out in the field. 

The tablets do not remove sediment or chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides. They also don’t remove odors and bad taste from water and might even make good-tasting water taste terrible. 

Purification tablets may cause side effects in some individuals. Improper use can be harmful, and dropping them into a water source may put aquatic life at risk.

Should You Buy a Water Filter for Hiking?


A personal water filter is a must-have for any hiker, and after comparing the top straw-type filters, the Clear2O Personal Water Filter emerged as our top choice.

You can buy yours here.

Additional Reading

Do you want to know more about filtering and purifying your water on the go? 

Ready to hike in Florida? Check out this post: Discover the Wild Side: A Guide to Hiking in Florida

Collage of Jessica Meinhofer, owner of Walk and Paddle, using squeeze, straw, and gravity filters while out hiking at Green Springs Park in Deltona, Florida.
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