As a young backpacker I grew up in the days of iodine tablets and guessing whether questionable water had been boiled long enough to be safe (nothing a generous scoop of Tang drink mix can’t make worse). Eventually a friend or two bought filtration pumps that served a dual purpose of making your arms ripped while filtering a single swallow’s worth of water at a time. Water filtering has improved a lot over the years and even now includes techy UV light filters that sunburn bacteria to death. So, with all the improvements why not just go out and buy something? Not a bad idea actually. However, I stumbled on to instructions somewhere about making your own gravity-fed water filter for backpacking and there is no way I would have as much satisfaction having bought a commercial device. I had a spare Camelbak lying around, so I built one in about three minutes and I can’t get over how great it is. It isn’t quite free, mine cost around $40, but compared to decent pumps, gravity-fed filters, and UV lights it is very inexpensive. I also love that it rolls up to almost nothing, eliminates any mechanical or electrical parts that could fail in the field, requires no pumping, doubles as a water container, is remarkably fast, and even my four-year old on our last backpacking trip could easily fill her own water container from the tree-hung filter. I’ve said enough. Here is how you make it:
Make a homemade water filter for backpacking
- Beg, borrow, or steal a hydration bladder. There are some cheap ones on Amazon, but try to get one with a good valve, so it doesn’t leak while hanging.
- Buy this Sawyer Personal Water Bottle Filter and disassemble it to get the filter. This is the least expensive way I’ve seen to get a reputable, brand-name, filter cartridge that will adapt instantly to your hydration bladder hose diameter. It comes with a 1 million gallon guarantee, which seems like an exaggeration to me, but it is apparently easy to clean the filter by back-flushing. If you ever get even close to wearing this filter out you are going to be a seriously hydrated backpacker and should consult with a doctor.
- Look at the picture of mine above and cut hoses to whatever length you think you will need. Push everything together with the strength of those arms you got from previously pumping water.
- Add a parachute cord loop up top for convenient tree hanging.