This is arguably the most important part of any outdoor survival kit—the water filtration system. Fail to drink enough clean water, and you’ll weaken, suffer cramps, dizziness, and even death. In the backcountry, staying hydrated is the first step to staying alive. How much water you need depends on you. The average person needs a gallon of water a day—much more for bigger people, or in a dry, hot climate.

Many people plan to carry all of their water with them when they head out into the backcountry, but this strategy quickly falls apart the farther you get from civilization, and for one simple reason: water is heavy. A gallon of it weighs more than 8 pounds. That’s 24 pounds to survive a three-day journey and nearly 60 pounds over the course of a week. It’s just impractical for all but the very strongest to carry that much water. Most of us will need to get water from natural sources—springs, rivers, and lakes. But with backcountry water sources come risks: Cryptosporidium. Giardia. E. coli.

To protect yourself and your family, you’ll need to treat backcountry water sources before drinking. For years, treating backcountry water meant dealing with the strange taste and the smell of iodine, or juggling the unwieldy tubes and balls of a pump filter. But today’s water filtration systems offer more flexibility, reliability, and performance.

Which one is right for you will depend on your particular situation: where you live, whether your family is with you, how fast you need to travel. Choosing the right one is a big step to a successful outdoors experience.

In the gallery above are five of today’s top water filtration systems, carefully crafted to meet a range of needs in different environments.

For more information about the water filtration systems featured here, check out the following sites.




MSR Gear


This article originally appeared in ‘Survivor’s Edge’ Summer 2017. To pick up a copy, visit

  • vocalpatriot

    “The average person needs a gallon of water a day—much more for bigger people, or in a dry, hot climate.”
    Firstly: how much is “much more for bigger people”?
    Secondly: I believe the amount of water required is somewhat over stated. Even when I was on maneuvers in the jungles of central America I don’t recall consuming a full gallon on any day. I had a full gallon on me at all times but always, but don’t recall ever really needing more than half a gallon/ day.
    But I realize this depends greatly on many variable factors.
    That said, I always calculate based on the need for a gallon per person. The weight and volume add up very quickly, though. So, for a short hike, (3-4 hours), I usually carry two quart sized bottles of fresh water and a sawyer water filtration system. Plus, I leave a couple of full gallon jugs of water in my vehicle in case of a break down.