When is a Pump Water Filter or Purifier Better for Backpacking?

When is a pump water filter better for backpacking?

Pump water filters and purifiers are often better suited for filtering water from muddy puddles, silt-choked rivers, and other sketchy sources than squeeze-style water filters, bottle filters, chemical purifiers, and UV purifiers. Unlike other methods, they use a two-stage process to remove contaminants. While pump filters are heavier to carry than other filters and water purification methods, they have other benefits that are worth considering, including:

  • Faster for group use
  • Prefilters remove glacial till and biologicals that can muck up a filter
  • Long hose makes it easier to filter water from ponds, puddles, potholes, or down steep streambanks
  • Direct connection to bottles and reservoirs reduces the risk of cross-contamination
  • The internal filter element is replaceable

Faster for Groups

If you’ve even had to filter water for two people or more, it’s nice to be able to drop the hose from a pump filter into a water source and pump all the water you need without having to stop, refill a bladder, filter it and then repeat the process over and over, which you need to do with a single-person squeeze filter or gravity filter system. If you’ve ever had to refill all the water bottles in a scout group or for a multi-person camping trip, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

A Prefilter Removes Solids Before They Reach the Filter

Pump-style filters usually have a prefilter at the end of the hose to remove suspended solids or biologicals before they get anywhere near the filter element. This is useful when you need to filter water from a muddy stream or river that has suspended solids in it or from puddles that have moss, tadpoles, and other biologicals swimming around in them. All of these will gum up a squeeze filter or other single-stage filter and make it virtually impossible to use.

A prefilter at the end of the intake hose strains out glacial till, sand, and other biologicals before they ever get to the filter element.
A prefilter at the end of the intake hose strains out glacial till, sand, and other biologicals before they ever get to the filter element, while the hose makes it easier to reach shallow or hard to access water sources.

Long Hose For Filtering Still Water and Hard to Reach Sources

Pump water filters and purifiers have hoses that make it easy to collect still water from ponds, puddles, desert potholes, or streams with very steep banks. Without that hose, you’d have to carry another container to scoop the water into or scramble down a steep river bank repeatedly to get enough water to satisfy your needs.

Direct Connection Reduces Cross-Contamination

Cross-contamination can occur when unfiltered or unpurified water leaks into your output bottle. This can happen because it dribbles down the outside of your filter or because you accidentally touch the threads of the output bottle with “dirty” hands. Most pump filters screw onto an output bottle or reservoir and can mitigate this problem. Almost all of them screw onto a wide-mouth Nalgene size opening, including Nalgene Bottles, Nalgene Soft Canteens, and MSR Dromedary Reservoirs. Some also have adaptors for other bottle sizes.

Direct connection between the filter and output bottle reduces the risk of cross contamination
Direct connection between the filter and output bottle reduces the risk of cross-contamination

Internal Filter Element is Replaceable

While pump filters can be backflushed or cleaned to improve their flow rates, they also have replaceable filter elements so you don’t have to throw the entire product away when the filter wears out. In this respect, they’re less wasteful than other types of water filters or purifiers.

Pump Water Filters and Purifiers Comparison

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