With so many methods of water purification it can be hard to know which one is right for you and your adventure. Check out our handy water purification guide and ensure your water is safe when you’re out exploring. 

Hiking is thirsty work, and if you’re out for more than a day you’ll probably have to replenish your water on the trail. While creeks may look clear, it’s hard to know what’s happened upstream, and there’s nothing to make you reconsider your hiking career like a bout of giardiasis.

Luckily, there are plenty of water purification methods out there to keep you hydrated and healthy while on the trail. We’ll go through the four main methods of water purification; chemical treatment, filters, UV purifiers, and boiling in the guide below.

Hikers sharing water out on the trail

Photo credit: Lachlan Gardiner

Chemical Treatment

Chemical treatments like Micropur Forte chlorine tablets work by killing off nasty bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. This is one of the easiest ways to treat water, and the lightweight tablets are a great addition to any first aid or emergency kit, or for those travelling in developing countries. 

The tablets take half an hour to treat viruses and bacteria, but need to be left for two hours for giardia. While a favourite method for many outdoors people, those with sensitive stomachs, thyroid conditions, and pregnant hikers should opt for a different method.


  • Easy 2 hour wait time
  • Effective against viruses
  • Won’t freeze in alpine conditions
  • Cost effective


  • A light taste
  • Not suitable for some medical conditions
Micropur water purification tablet being used on a hike

Photo credit: Lachlan Gardiner


Filters treat water by passing it through a very fine membrane. The pores in the filter are big enough to let water through, but too small for bacteria and protozoa. Filters come in pump, squeeze, and gravity styles.

Squeeze models like the award-winning Katadyn BeFree are very lightweight, easy to use, and provide instant filtered water. The BeFree filter can be paired with the Hydrapak Collapsible Bottles for increased capacity.

If you’re treating water for a group of hikers, the Katadyn BeFree Gravity Water Filter is a perfect choice. The BeFree Gravity can be hung from a tree or pack to automatically filter 6L of water while you get on with other tasks.

Pump filters like the Katadyn Vario can be great for expedition-style trips where you may need to filter seriously turgid water, but are overkill for most Australian conditions.

While filter systems are usually not effective against viruses, this shouldn’t be a concern in developed countries like Australia. If you’re travelling in developing nations you may want to opt for an additional method.


  • No chemical taste
  • Instant 
  • Ultralight options
  • Removes particles
  • Cheapest over time


  • Initially more expensive
  • Does not filter viruses
  • Can be damaged by freezing
BeFree water purification filter bottle

Photo credit: Lachlan Gardiner

UV Purifiers

UV purifiers use beams of UV light to kill off microorganisms in your water, without leaving behind a chemical taste like water treatment tablets. This is a very quick and easy method. The Steripen Ultra is our choice of model as it’s rechargeable and has a screen to give you feedback on whether your purification was successful. 

You do need to have charged batteries, so these devices are best for shorter trips or for those travelling in countries without safe drinking water.


  • Time efficient
  • Simple to use
  • No chemical taste
  • Effective against viruses


  • Reliant on batteries
  • Doesn’t remove particles.
  • More expensive


One of the most effective ways of purifying your water is to boil it. To effectively get rid of microorganisms, you need to keep the water at a rolling boil for at least 1 minute, or 3 minutes if you’re above 2000m.

Boiling can be a great option in alpine environments where you need to melt snow, and where filters can freeze and batteries on UV devices run down. Boiling your water does use up more fuel, and if you don’t want to drink it hot you will have to wait for your water to cool.


  • Effective against viruses
  • No chemical taste
  • Uses your existing stove Doesn’t remove particles


  • Uses more fuel
  • Cooling time
Boiling water to purify the water on a hiking trip

Photo credit: Lachlan Gardiner

Whether you’re hiking, biking, or travelling, access to clean drinking water is one of the most important considerations for your trip. Luckily there are a number of ways to safely treat water on the go. Whether you opt for treatment tablets, filters, UV purifiers or boiling, knowing how to effectively purify your water is key to keeping you happy and healthy on your trips.

Still unsure? Feel free to drop into your local Paddy Pallin where our friendly staff will be more than happy to help you decide which purification method is best for you needs.

Trail runner enjoying a refreshing drink form a CamelBak Podium Bottle

Photo credit: Lachlan Gardiner

About The Author


Some 80 years ago, a young bushwalker's dissatisfaction with the limited and heavy bushwalking equipment available prompted him to design and make his own. Before long, word spread, and Paddy Pallin's lightweight, functional designs were soon in demand among fellow bushwalkers. From its early days the company has concentrated on supplying bushwalkers, travellers and adventurers with the highest quality and most advanced products and knowledge. Since 1930 the company has grown to become Australia's leading supplier of specialist outdoor and travel gear. The company, still owned by the Pallin family, now has thirteen stores throughout Australia as well as online, mail order and corporate sales divisions. We are using our vast wealth of knowledge, and experience, to build an online community where we can share our stories, reviews and tech tips to help you research and plan your next adventure.

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