What Is the Best Way to Purify Water When Backpacking?

By Robert Palmer

When backpacking, having access to clean and safe drinking water is essential. In many areas, the water sources may be contaminated or unsafe to drink without proper treatment. Fortunately, there are several methods available for purifying water when backpacking that can make it safe for consumption.

Boiling is one of the easiest ways to purify water when backpacking. Boiling water for at least one minute will kill most bacteria and other contaminants. It is important to let the water cool before drinking it, as boiling does not remove chemical contaminants such as metals or pesticides.

Chemical Treatment is another common method of purifying water when backpacking.

Chemical treatments are usually in the form of tablets or powders that contain iodine or chlorine dioxide, which kill bacteria and other organisms in the water. The tablets or powder need to be mixed with the water and allowed to sit for a certain amount of time before it is safe to drink.

Ultraviolet Light Treatment is a newer way of treating water when backpacking. This method uses special UV light pens that emit a specific wavelength of light that disrupts the DNA of any living organisms in the water, making them unable to reproduce and rendering them harmless. This method is convenient and easy to use but requires batteries.

Filtering, using a filter designed specifically for this purpose, can also be used to purify water when backpacking. Filters come in a variety of sizes and types and vary in their ability to remove different contaminants from the water. Some filters are designed just to remove large particles, while others are able to filter out bacteria, protozoa, chemicals, metals, pesticides, etc.


The best way to purify water when backpacking will depend on your specific needs and situation. Boiling is an easy solution that kills most bacteria but doesn’t remove chemical contaminants; chemical treatment with iodine or chlorine dioxide tablets can be effective but takes time; ultraviolet light treatment is convenient but requires batteries; while filtering with a special filter can remove a wide range of contaminants but requires more effort.