Best Backpacking Water Filter: Platypus vs Katadyn vs Sawyer

Best Backpacking Water Filter: Platypus vs Katadyn vs Sawyer

When you’re out backpacking, camping or hiking, access to pure water is essential. If something goes wrong, then you need to know that you have a filtration system ready to support you. There are four great backpacking water filters. They include the Platypus, two filters from Katadyn, and the Sawyer filter. Here’s how they all compare to one another to ensure you choose the one that best fits your needs.

*Disclosure: I only recommend products that I would use myself. This post may contain affiliate links that may earn me a small commission at no additional cost to you. Read the full advertising policy here.*

Table of Contents

  1. Specs
  2. The Setup
  3. Filtration Process
  4. Treatment Time
  5. Durability and Maintenance
  6. Weight and Size
  7. Pricing
  8. The Sum Up
  9. The Verdict

Specs

Backpacking Water Filter-Platypus GravityWorks
Platypus GravityWorks

Hiking means you always have to be mindful of how much weight you’re carrying and how much you can fit inside of your backpack. The best backpacking water filters, you may find, are those that are smaller and easily packable. How do the four filters compare in terms of their specs? Find out below.

The Platypus GravityWorks

This water filter comes in at a light 11.5 ounces. The filter part of it has a size of 2 x 8.5 inches. The reservoir has a size of 17.7 x 9.1 inches.

It comes with two 4-liter or 6-liter reservoirs. One is supposed to be used for clean water while the other is for unfiltered water. This is a gravity-based filter which means the act of gravity pushes the water through the filter. Muck and bacteria are left behind and pure water remains.

The Katadyn BeFree

This water filter is even lighter at 2.3 ounces. Its dimensions consist of 11.3 x 3.5 x 2.8 inches.

There are two ways to filter your water with this filter. It can be squeezed to get the contaminants out of the water. It can also be turned upside down to use gravity to do the work for you.

The Katadyn Gravity Camp

Another Katadyn product is the Gravity Camp. This has a similar weight to the Platypus at 11.7 ounces. Its dimensions are 10 x 6 x 2.4 inches.

This water filter acts similarly to the Platypus in that it requires gravity to push the water through the filter. It does not have an additional reservoir to store clean water.

The Sawyer Squeeze

Somewhat in the middle of them all is the Sawyer Squeeze with a weight of 3 ounces (5.7 oz full set). Its dimensions are 5 x 2 inches.

This water filter is activated by squeezing the device. It pushes the water through the filter and gives you clean water. It’s an on-the-go filter, so it doesn’t store anything. You drink it as you squeeze it.

The Setup

Backpacking Water Filter-Sawyer Squeeze gravity setup
Sawyer Squeeze Gravity Setup

Ease of use is important for hiking and backpacking. With a full pack of gear on your shoulders, you need your water filter to be easy to set up in order to have quick access to clean water. We’ll go through each one to rate how easy and difficult they are to set up.

The Platypus requires gravity to work. First, you’ll need to attach the hollow tube from one reservoir to the other. The filter is part of that tube. Then you fill one of the reservoirs with water and hang it above the other reservoir. The water passes through the tube, filtering as it does so, and delivers clean water to the other reservoir. You don’t need to pump the reservoir or do anything else.

The Katadyn BeFree is a water filter that’s more on-the-go. It’s designed to be used as a water bottle. You simply fill the bottle with the unclean water and squeeze it. You can also turn it upside down and let the water pass through the filter that way. When you draw the water out of the cap to drink it, the water is filtered as it passes through. This enables you to both store the water and drink it as you hike.

The Katadyn Gravity Camp acts similar to the Platypus except that it doesn’t have another reservoir. You need to buy another bottle, reservoir, or some other form of storage for the clean water. You set it up the same way. You fill the reservoir with dirty water. Then you let the reservoir hang above the storage reservoir to be filled with clean water. This system might allow you to store larger amounts of water.

Finally, the Sawyer Squeeze is the easiest water filter to use. It comes with a few pouches that you can fill with water. Then you attach the filtered, hollow, tube to one side of the pouch and either drink directly from the pouch or place the other end of the tube inside of a water bottle. To filter the water, you have to squeeze the pouch. This is easy in terms of it being faster. However, it may not be ideal if you’re already exhausted from your hike. But if you also want to use it as a gravity filter, Sawyer sells a set that has additional tubes you can set up as a gravity system as well.

In terms of the best outdoor water filters, it’s ultimately up to what you find the easiest. If you’re able to wait for your water to be filtered, then the Platypus or Kadatdyn Gravity Camp may be a better fit for you. Platypus, in particular, already has everything you need without requiring you to buy additional storage for clean water.

However, if you need something that’s ready to be used while you’re hiking, then you don’t want to go through the lengthy process of setting up your gravity filters and waiting for them to be filtered. In this case, the Katadyn BeFree is the quickest and easiest choice. You can simply fill the bottle with the water, then you can drink it as you hike. The Sawyer Squeeze requires you to take an additional step of squeezing the pouches before you can drink from them.

Filtration Process

Each filter uses a different system in order to filter the water. Here’s how the four outdoor water filters compare.

The Platypus uses hollow-fiber filter technology to clean its water. As the water passes through the fiber, it traps dirt, microorganisms, bacteria, and other diseases within it. The Platypus also an antimicrobial treatment to make the water taste a bit better. This filter is able to remove bacteria, protozoa, giardia, salmonella, cryptosporidia, and other particles from the water.

The Katadayn BeFree water filter also uses a hollow-fiber filter to remove contaminants from the water. It’s also BPA-free. Its .1 micron filter is able to trap bacteria and protozoa from the water to the point of EPA standards.

The Katadyn Gravity Camp uses a pleated glass-fiber filter. Inside of the fiber is activated carbon as well. This allows it to remove the unpleasant smell and taste of unclean water. The size of the filter’s pores is .2 microns. This enables it to remove bacteria, debris, sediment, and protozoa. It does not remove viruses that may be lurking in the water.

The Sawyer Squeeze also uses a hollow-fiber tube for its filtration. The filter is located in the tube that connects the pouch to either your mouth or the water bottle. This filter is able to remove salmonella, cholera, E. coli, protozoa, giardia, and cryptosporidium. This filter also has a cap that allows you to spray water directly into your mouth.

If you want the most effective filter, then you’re likely going to want either the Sawyer Squeeze or the Platypus. Both are effective in removing bacteria and protozoa from the water. The Platypus has the advantage of being able to filter more water than the Sawyer Squeeze. However, the Sawyer has the advantage of being able to filter more quickly.

As such, the Sawyer is a better solution for hikers on the move. The Platypus is a better option for camp.

Treatment Time

Backpacking Water Filter-Katadyn Gravity Camp
Katadyn Gravity Camp

Treatment time refers to the amount of time it takes for a filter to fully filter the water within it. Here’s how the four filters compare.

The Platypus filter is able to filter 1.75 liters of water per minute. If you picked one with two 4-liter reservoirs, you’re able to filter all of your water in 2.5 minutes. Considering that it’s a gravity filter, that’s quite quick. The lifetime of the filter is 1,500 liters.

The Katadyn BeFree filter is even faster. It’s able to filter 2 liters of water per minute. Part of its appeal is its large mouth. It has a 43mm wide lip that can be easily dipped in most bodies of water. You can also drink water on the go. This means you don’t need to wait for the water to be filtered as it will pass through the filter as you squeeze or drink it.

The Katadyn Gravity Camp is able to filter out 2 liters of water per minute as well. However, because of its size and the size of the filter, it’s easy for the filter to become clogged. As a result, it may take longer for the water to filter because you need to unclog it. It can also last for 1,500 liters before a new filter is needed.

The Sawyer Squeeze is able to filter 1.7 liters a minute. However, because you have to forcibly squeeze the water in order to filter it, it may take longer or faster to be fully filtered.

The winner in this category is Katadyn BeFree. It’s able to quickly filter 2 liters of water in a minute. The Gravity Camp claims that it can do the same, but you’re likely going to struggle with it when the filter clogs.

Durability and Maintenance

When hiking, it’s essential that your water filter is able to survive the hard life you’re going to put it through. The best backpacking water filters are built to last. Here’s how the four filters compare.

The Platypus has a filter life of 1,500 liters before it needs to be changed if you’re keeping the system is clean. All you need to do is let some of the clean water cycle back to the dirty reservoir. You can do this by just lifting the clean water reservoir above the dirty water one. It also has a few valves that come with automatic shut-offs when water is being filtered or when the hose is disconnected. This ensures you don’t lose the water you just cleaned or collected. The housing material of the filter is ABS plastic which holds up well against damage.

The Katadyn BeFree has a smaller lifetime on its filter. It’s able to filter 1,000 liters of water before it needs to be replaced. It is easy to keep this bottle clean, however. All you need to do is swirl or shake it around to remove any debris. It also has a cap that can seal the nozzle that keeps water from entering through it. Its made of thermoplastic polyurethane which holds up well against heat and trauma.

The Katadyn Gravity Camp also has a lifetime of 1,500 liters before it needs to be replaced. The advantage this filter has is that it can freeze without damaging the hollow filter. There’s a small sponge that’s provided in the kit that allows you to scrub the debris clinging to the filter. The bag is made of a nylon material that makes it ideal for trauma and handling damage.

The Sawyer Squeeze is also made of ABS plastic. It’s durable against strain and won’t break if you drop it. One of the advantages of this particular filter is that the filter does not need to be changed and can last you a lifetime if you take proper care of it. They’re made of Mylar foil which is also collapsible. I have to note, that the pouches are the weakest point of this filter and would recommend getting some sturdier ones before you set up on your trip. Sawyer Squeeze also comes with a syringe that you can use to flush water back through the filter to clean it. However, it can become ruined if there’s water in it and it freezes.

The winner in terms of durability and maintenance is the Sawyer Squeeze. It has the least amount of maintenance that needs to be used on it. The filter is also practically reusable as long as you keep it clean. This makes it both affordable and ideal for long hikes. Where the other filters may rip, this one is strong and durable. However, do get better pouches in advance, they will pop from the slightest pressure.

Weight and Size

Backpacking Water Filter-Katadyn BeFree
Katadyn BeFree

Since the weights have already been described earlier, it’s easy to determine a winner. The lightest filter is the Katadyn BeFree. It comes in at 2.3 ounces. You can easily store this bottle on your backpack or on your belt without its weight exhausting you.

A runner-up is the Sawyer Squeeze. It only weighs a little more than the BeFree, but it is slightly smaller. If your space, rather than weight, is more of your concern, then you may want to opt for the Sawyer instead.

Pricing

Here’s a table that compares the pricing of these four backpacking water filters.

Backpacking Water FilterPrice
Platypus GravityWorks$75-120
Katadyn BeFree$50
Katadyn Gravity Camp$90
Sawyer Squeeze$35

The clear winner here is the Sawyer Squeeze for a few reasons. The first is that the price is the cheapest out of all of them. Secondly, it’s going to have fewer costs to keep it maintained. You don’t need to replace the filter like you will with the other filters. This filter has the most affordability.

The Sum Up

Below is a quick-take on how all of the filters matchup.

The Platypus GravityWorks

Pros

  • Provides 4 Liters of water
  • Able to filter 1.75 liters of water per minute
  • Filters out bacteria, protozoa, particulates

Cons

  • Filter will need to be replaced
  • Assembly can be difficult
  • Have to wait to drink

The Katadyn BeFree

Pros

  • Able to drink on-the-go
  • Filters 2 liters of water per minute
  • Removes bacteria, protozoa, particulates

Cons

  • Filter will need to be replaced
  • Can’t let the water freeze

The Katadyn Gravity Camp

Pros

  • Filters 2 liters of water per minute
  • Made of durable nylon material
  • Removes bacteria, protozoa, particulates

Cons

  • Doesn’t come with a second reservoir
  • Filter needs to be replaced

The Sawyer Squeeze

Pros

  • Removes bacteria, protozoa, particulates
  • Can be used as a gravity filter with an additional set
  • Can drink water on-the-go

Cons

  • Without the gravity hose, you need to squeeze the water manually
  • Pouches are very weak and they are only good for getting water from vertical streams

The Verdict

Backpacking Water Filter-Sawyer Squeeze
Sawyer Squeeze

Best Overall

The Platypus GravityWorks is the overall winner due to an overall balance between quality, durability and speed. Even though it did not win each category, this filter performed well in almost every category.

Best for Easy Use

The easiest use filter is the Katadyn BeFree. All you need to do is dip the bottle in the water, then you can squeeze it or just drink from it directly. There’s nothing else you need to set up to make this filter work for you.

Best for Budget

The Sawyer Squeeze also takes this spot. It’s not only the cheapest filter of the four, but it also will continue to be the most affordable down the road. You won’t need to buy more filters if you take good care of it and for a small increase in price, you can even get the gravity system.

Best for Groups

If you need to store a lot of water, then you’ll enjoy the Platypus. It stores 4 or 6 liters of water per filtration cycle, depending on your setup. You can quickly dump the clean water into a larger storage container and start the process over again. It has a quick filtration time as well, so your group won’t wait long before everyone has a glass of water.

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