Water Purification: Particle Filters

The modern camper has a wealth of resources for staying healthy while anywhere in the world. Water is an essential part of camping, and if you do not want to lug heavy bottles of water around, you must invest in some type of  water filtration or sanitation system while camping. According to the Center for Disease Control, boiling is the best option. However, a combination of filtration and sanitization is the second best form of water purification.

When choosing water to use for drinking, the source is important. Look for running water, such as from a stream or river. Avoid water with algae or in stagnant ponds and lakes. Stay away from water found near roads or agricultural fields. This water can have harmful pesticides or chemicals and contaminants like tar.

The modern camper has many choices when it comes to water purification.

  • Boiling
  • Filtration
  • Sanitization


Done correctly, boiling kills off Protozoa and viruses and will always be the safest method of purifying your water. To properly boil water bring it to a rolling boil for one minute. Remember, at altitudes greater than 6,562 feet (greater than 2,000 meters), you should boil water for 3 minutes. I usually play it safe and boil for three minutes no mater where I’m located.

But, boiling isn’t always convenient. That’s why human kind has invented the portable water filter.

Camping with Filters

MSR MiniWorks EXFilters are mechanical purifiers, removing particles and contaminants from water by forcing the liquid through a porous material, physically blocking the contaminates. Filter material can be glass, ceramic and charcoal; many filter units use a combination.

Which type of filter you choose depends on the type of bug you want to remove. Bacteria can be filtered with a particle size of 0.4 microns or less. While a filter with a one micron rating will remove protozoa, like Cryptosporidium or Giardia, eggs, and larvae as well.  So rule of thumb, purchase a filter with the smallest micron rating you can afford. Check out the MiniWorks® EX from MSR®, it’s one of our favorites.

Viruses on the other had can’t be filtered and must be handled with a chemical disinfectant. More on those in our second post in this series.

Look for a model that weighs less than 20 ounces, is easy to use, and simple to clean. Units that offer a warning sign when the filter is at capacity can also help keep you safe while camping. A filter that is at full capacity can leech unwanted bacteria and contaminants into the water, risking your health. Depending on how many people are camping, the flow rate of the filter is also important. An average flow rate of one liter per minute is enough for a few campers, but if you have a larger group, you will want a greater flow-rate. Large gravity filters are ideal for larger groups.

Filtration pros: Effective at removing common water contaminants, lightweight,
inexpensive, and easy to use.

Filtration cons: Can be hard to locate new filters, may not eliminate all bacteria and
viruses, can clog and fail.

Look for part two in the water purification series soon!

What filter is currently in your pack?

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Brenda Priddy

Brenda loves everything to do with camping- except the pesky bug part. One day, she hopes to build a cabin in the middle of nowhere with her own two hands. Brenda blogs at Daily Mayo and Schooling a Monkey.
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