When you are backpacking you need to be able to treat or filter your water. Even clear clean looking water can contain nasty Parasites that will make you sick. To stay safe you should always treat water or filter water. Thankfully there are a lot of differ ways to do so. Below is a list ranging from least to most expensive.
If you don’t have any other way to treat water you can always boil it to kill bacteria and paricites. The CDC recommends bringing contaminated water to a boil and maintaining a rolling boil for 1 min. Be sure to let it cool before drinking.
This isn’t my recommended way but I have done it before. Simply drop 4 drops of household bleach (5%-8.25% uncented bleach) to 1 liter of water. Shake it up really good and wait 20 min before you drink it. This doesn’t remove the contaminates but it does kill them making them harmless to consume.
Straw filters are similar to squeeze filters except instead of squeezing the water through the filter you suck on the filter like a straw. At first these filters required you to lay on you belly near a water source but then companies started to build them into water bottles so you could simply scoop up the water and then use the starwfilter on the go. The major downside to straw type filters is they can be difficult to get enough suction to get water to actually pass through the filter.
Squeeze filters are probably the most popular filter used by backpackers. And there are plenty different brands to choose from. I prefer the $30 Platapus QuickDraw filter. But Sawyer makes the slightly cheaper ($20) Sawyer mini. Squeeze filters work exactly like they sound. Simply fill a bag or bottle with dirty water and squeeze it through the filter.
If you are using a water bladder like a Camelbak then I think a pump filter is the best way to go as you can connect them directly to your drinking tube. Once again there are a lot of brands and models to choose from, I prefer the $60 Katadyn Hiker.
There is only one push filter on the market that I know of and that is the Grayl. It works a lot like a french press coffee filter. The major bonus of the Grayl filter is it will filter more than bacteria snd paricites. It will also filter chemicals, heavy metals, and even viruses. Grayl cost about $90.
You can also kill bacteria and parasites by exposing them to UV light with a device like the Steripen. This does not remove the contaminates but it doesn’t kill them.
Last on this list are gravity filters. Gravity filters consist of two water bags with a filter in-between. Hang the dirty bag with the filter and clean bag low while at camp and let gravity filter your water for you. There are a lot of different brands you can choose from and you can even set up some squeeze filters to work like a gravity filter.
There you have it. Almost all the ways to treat or filter water in the backcountry with a wide range of price options. So no matter what your budget you know you will be able to drink safe clean water on the trail.