Can You Use a Water Filter Pitcher for Camping?

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Wondering whether you can use a water filter pitcher for camping and outdoor activities?

Here, we’ve shared everything you should know about water filter pitchers for outdoor use

📌 Key Takeaways: 

  • You may be able to use a water filter pitcher for camping and outdoor activities as long as you take steps to pre-treat the water. 
  • However, we don’t recommend water filter pitchers for this purpose because they’re predominantly intended to filter treated municipal water. 
  • Good alternatives to a water filter pitcher for camping and outdoor activities are hanging gravity filters, pump filters, and squeeze filters. 

🤔 What Is A Water Filter Pitcher?

To understand whether or not you can use a water filter pitcher for camping and outdoor activities, you need to know what a pitcher is and how it works. 

A water filter pitcher is a pitcher jug that contains a filter. You add water to the top compartment, then wait for the water to flow through the filter and into the bottom compartment. This filtered water can be distributed into cups when you pour from the spout. 

Water pitchers use gravity filtration, which means water moves slowly through the filter from top to bottom due to the force of gravity, rather than being driven through the filter by water pressure. 

Pouring a glass of water from a water filter pitcher

⛺️ Can You Use A Water Filter Pitcher For Camping And Outdoor Activities? 

You can use a water filter pitcher for camping and outdoor activities, but we don’t generally recommend it because there are other types of water filters that are much better suited to this use case

A water filter pitcher is designed to filter tap water. 

Tap water has already been treated by a municipal supplier to make it safe to drink. It’s low in sediment, and doesn’t contain bacteria or other microorganisms, but is often high in chlorine, which is added in the water disinfection process. 

💡 Water filter pitchers have a carbon-based media, which has the main purpose of reducing chlorine. The best pitcher filters can remove hundreds of contaminants, but they can’t typically remove the contaminants found in lakes, streams, and other natural water sources that you may have access to when camping. 

The high debris and sediment content in a natural water supply would also cause the filter in your pitcher to become clogged quickly. Unlike portable filters designed for outdoor use, a water filter pitcher’s filter cartridge can’t be flushed to remove these contaminants, so the flow rate would become very slow and the filter would quickly become unusable. 

There are some water pitchers designed for filtering well water, which is untreated, and they’re capable of removing a greater range of contaminants (some can even remove microorganisms). 

However, it’s recommended that you treat your water with a pre-filter if it has a high sediment content. You probably won’t have the means of doing this while you’re camping or spending time in the wilderness. 

📋 Factors Affecting The Suitability Of A Water Filter Pitcher For Camping 

There are a couple of factors that affect the suitability of using a water filter pitcher for camping and outdoor use: 

The Water You Need To Treat

The quality of the water you need to treat is the biggest factor to consider. 

If you’ve collected murky, turbid water from a lake or river, it’ll block the filter in a water pitcher almost instantly, and the filter will become unusable. 

But if you find fresh, flowing, clear water with a low sediment content, it should, in theory, be fine to use in a water filter pitcher. 

We say “in theory” because the water could contain microorganisms, even if it looks clean, and most water filter pitchers are unable to remove the likes of bacteria and viruses because these pathogens are small enough to slip straight through the filter’s pores. 

You could still use a pitcher to filter water from a natural source, but we would recommend also doing the following: 

  • Passing the water through a sock, hankercheif, or another clean item of clothing to filter out the larger contaminants before adding it to the pitcher. 
  • Boiling the water or adding sterilizing drops to kill microorganisms, ensuring that the water is safe to drink. 
Water quality in different stages of contamination

The Type Of Pitcher You Own

The type of pitcher you own will also determine its suitability for filtering water in a camping situation. 

If you have a basic filter pitcher that can only remove a handful of city water contaminants, there’s no point in using it to filter a natural water source, which is unlikely to contain chlorine but may contain other contaminants that the filter can’t remove. 

If you have a more capable water filter pitcher that can remove hundreds of contaminants, it’ll be better suited to using for filtering natural water supplies – as long as you follow our advice and use a makeshift pre-filter/boil or sterilize your water if necessary. 

🔀 Alternatives To Water Filter Pitchers For Camping & Outdoor Use

Here are a few of our recommendations for the filters to use instead of a water filter pitcher for camping and outdoor use: 

Hanging Gravity Water Filters

Hanging gravity filters use the same gravity filtration method as water filter pitchers, but they have a different design. 

These filters consist of two bags: a “clean water” bag and a “dirty water” bag. You add water to the “dirty water” bag, then wait for gravity to send water through the tubing and into the filter, where the sediment and contaminants are removed. From here, water flows into the “clean water” bag, ready for drinking. 

Hanging gravity water filters have a filter that can be flushed and backwashed (when you send water through the filter in the opposite direction), which removes the accumulated contaminants and makes the filter suitable for multiple reuses. 

hanging gravity fed water filter system

Pump Filters

Pump filters are a good alternative to water filter pitchers for groups of campers or hikers who want to purify big batches of water at once. 

To use a pump filter, you add water to the unit and push the pump to drive the water through the filters. The filtered water is collected in a clean container, ready for drinking. 

Again, a pump filter can be backwashed to extend its lifespan and remove the accumulated contaminants. 

Squeeze Filters

A squeeze filter is a portable, effective alternative to a water filter pitcher. 

To use this filter, you attach it to the included squeeze pouch or a plastic water bottle containing water direct from the source, then squeeze the pouch/bottle to send water through the filter and into your mouth

Squeeze filters can be passed from one person to another for group use, or, if everyone in your party prefers to have access to their own dedicated water supply, you could buy one filter per person. 

These filters can also be backwashed to remove contaminants from the filter media, and have small enough pores to trap most microorganisms. 

Drinking filtered water through squeeze filters

📑 Final Word

In short, while you could technically use a water filter pitcher for camping and outdoor use, we don’t generally recommend that you do so. 

Most water filter pitchers are intended for filtering city water, and even those that are suitable for well water require pre-treatment. 

It makes more sense to use a water filter that’s specifically designed for filtering lake, river, and stream water, which won’t become damaged beyond repair from filtering this type of water. 


Can you use a Brita filter for camping?

No, you can’t use a Brita filter for camping. Brita filter pitchers can only remove a handful of contaminants found in treated tap water, like chlorine and lead. If you used a Brita filter to treat a natural water source while camping, the sediment in the water would clog the filter, and the filter wouldn’t remove any microorganisms or other contaminants that could make you sick. 

How do you purify water when hiking?

The best way to purify water on a hiking trip is to use a water filter that’s specifically designed for this purpose. There are a number of backpacking and hiking water filters that remove everything from sediment to microorganisms, and can be flushed and reused tens of times before the filter needs replacing. 

Can you use a water filter pitcher for backcountry camping?

No, you can’t typically use a water filter pitcher for backcountry camping unless you pre-filter your water and boil or sterilize it separately. We recommend using a water filter that’s designed for filtering lakes, streams, and other natural water bodies. Straw filters, hanging gravity filters, pump filters, and squeeze filters are all good choices. 

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