Best Water Purification Tablets For Backpacking [Buyers Guide]

If you are on a long hike, is it safe to drink water from a river? Should you boil the water first? What if you don’t have time to boil the water? What is the best way to purify water for drinking? Are water purification tablets good for backpacking? These are questions you should know before you start an overnight hike.

Here are a few top recommendations for the best water purification tablets for backpacking.

Hiking in remote areas or places where water is scarce or impure can be a challenge. If you don’t want to carry a heavy container of water, there are some great alternatives that will help keep your hike safe and enjoyable.

Water purification tablets for backpacking have become increasingly popular because they’re lightweight and easy to use, but it’s important to find the right ones for your needs. There are many different types on the market with varying degrees of effectiveness, so here we’ll answer the important questions you have, and give you our recommendations for the top tablets you should use.

This post contains some affiliate links to products that I use and love. If you click through and make a purchase, I’ll earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. Read my full disclosure here.

What Are Water Purification Tablets?

When you think of purifying water, you probably think of a pump, a filter, or even boiling your water. But did you know that you can purify your water with a water purifying tablet? These tablets are perfectly sized to slip into your emergency kit or backpack, and they can provide you with a quick way to purify water without having to carry around extra equipment.

These tablets were first developed by the U.S. Army and have since been used to help soldiers in the field and hikers in the wild. Many hikers prefer water purification tablets over other water treatment methods, such as filtration systems, because they are small, lightweight, and easy to use.

These are small round tablets that are made from a special type of clay. You drop them into your water bottle or another container of water and let them sit there for about an hour. When that’s done, you can drink the water and know that it’s safe to do so.

How do they work?

Water purification tablets are a great, portable way to keep your water safe in the wilderness. They are small and lightweight and can be stored practically anywhere. But how do they work? There is a little bit of science behind water purification tablets. The tablets contain iodine, which kills the microbes that live in water and cause illness.

In most cases, they work by using a method called adsorption to remove harmful bacteria and heavy metals from the water. Heavy metals, for example, are usually found in polluted water and can be very dangerous if ingested. By using a water purification tablet, you can remove these metals from your drinking water so that you will be much safer to drink it.

Do these work for all kinds of water?

The short answer is “yes.” Most water purification tablets are effective for all types of water, including quite a few that you might not think about. For example, most of them will remove chlorine and iodine from your water, which means they can also remove it from your tap water or the water at the end of your garden hose.

What germs, bacteria, and viruses do they kill?

Water purification tablets may not be able to kill every single germ and virus since there are so many different ones out there, but they can remove most of them. They have been known to work very well against bacteria like E. coli, Giardia, and Dysentery. They also remove viruses such as Polio and Hepatitis A from water.

Most tablets kill a wide range of germs, bacteria, and viruses. One recent study found that an elixir of silver, copper, and zinc kills more than 99.999% of the most common waterborne bacteria and viruses. 

The EPA says a water purifier should kill at least 99.99% of bacteria. The tablets can remove giardia, which is the most common protozoan parasite found in the United States. However, “It’s important to remember that there are millions of different bacteria and viruses in the water in each state and that water treatment technologies have not yet developed to treat all of them.

Do Tablets Really Purify Water?

Water purification tablets, commonly known as water tabs can be used to kill dangerous bacteria in case of an emergency. Water tabs are highly compact and can easily fit into a backpack. They are light-weighted and are considered to be cheaper than the other purifying alternatives such as the water filter and bottled water.

However, a person should always keep in mind that not all purification tablets take care of viral particles. Staying safe while backpacking is every outdoor adventurer’s priority.

While water purification tablets aren’t exactly the most exciting topic in the world, they’re a necessity for those who hate the taste of iodine or want to avoid the hassle of boiling all water.

Unfortunately, the effectiveness of tablets can vary widely, so we thought we’d give you a rundown of what we found after filtering through the research. (To be clear, we’re talking about the tablets that kill bacteria and viruses, not the ones that just remove debris and chemicals.)

Why Should You Use A Water Purification Tablet?

Many people like the idea of hiking because it’s a fun way to enjoy the great outdoors. However, it can also be dangerous, especially without the right equipment. One danger is that it’s easy to drink contaminated water when you’re out hiking, which can lead to serious health problems.

Water from rivers and lakes often has harmful bacteria and heavy metals in it, and water that looks clean can still be contaminated with harmful substances. The best way to prevent this is by filtering the water before you drink it.


  • Handy to carry and use
  • Small and easy to carry; eliminating extra weight on those long hikes
  • Excellent for long hikes and camping trips that last for days or overnight
  • Good when other methods aren’t viable
  • Kills most germs


  • Too much trouble if you are on a short hike; just carry a couple of bottles of water
  • Takes a while for the water to purify (some takes several hours)
  • Can cause water to taste bad

How To Use A Water Purification Tablet?

Water tablets are easy to use. Most require a good bit of time to clean the water, but you simply drop the recommended number of tablets into a water container and wait.

In this video, outdoor expert Kevin Barrett demonstrates how to use purification tablets.

Video courtesy of eHow.

How To Choose Which Purification Tablet Is Best For You?

When you boil it down, choosing the correct water purification tablet can be broken down to a few factors: quality, quantity, and cost. (Well, that’s a nice, clean list.) While there are other factors to consider as well, such as the taste of the water or the ease of use, those three biggies are usually the most important. !

The first factor is quality.

The most important factor is how well they remove unwanted bacteria from the water – do they work well?

Why spend money on a product that doesn’t do what you want it to do? The bottom line is you want quality first.

The second factor is quantity.

Choosing the right amount of purification tablets for you and your family can have a huge impact on cost. The more purification tablets you buy, the better value that gets spread out among the entire pack. And of course, the more tablets you buy, the longer they’ll last, and therefore the better value you get.

The third factor is cost.

While you don’t want to skimp on quality, it is possible to get both high quality at a reasonable price.

Okay, now that you know what to look for in a water purification tablet, let’s take a look at some options. 

Popular Purification Tablets for Hikers

What are the best water purificaton tablets for backpacking?

Below is a list of recommended tablets that kill most germs and viruses in addition to other natural or supplemental ways to avoid getting sick while hiking. Make sure you read the product descriptions well if you have specific requirements for your needs.

Disclaimer: The links to these products are affiliate links so we get paid for qualified purchases. These products are listed because they are recommended by hikers around the world. We are not medical professionals so this information is for educational purposes only.

1) Aquatabs Blueahead 100 x 8.5mg Purification Water Treatment Tablets

Aquatabs Blueahead 100 x 8.5mg Purification Water Treatment Tablets are designed for use with recreational water, such as lakes, rivers, and the sea. The purification tablets are designed to eliminate the risk of infection from water and make it safe for animals and humans to drink. The purification tablets are designed to kill the Cholera, Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, E-coli, Giardia, Listeria, and Salmonella bacteria as well as removing sediment, organic material, color, and bad taste from water.

The downside? Many hikers report these tablets work great but taste horrible.

This is our top recommendation. It is used by government agencies and military personal.

2) Highlander Aquaclear water purification tablets

Aquaclear is a powerful purifier that is highly effective at removing bacteria, viruses, cysts and parasites from contaminated water. This purification tablet has a unique 3-stage filtration system that rapidly reduces pollutants and contaminants.

Aquaclear is an exceptionally advanced water purification tablet that is scientifically proven to remove virtually any kind of water-borne pathogens and kill bacteria, viruses and cysts such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia. It’s extremely reliable and lasts for up to 30 gallons of water. Aquaclear is perfect for international travel, camping, backpacking, emergencies, outdoor activities and more.

One of the top recommended tablet solutions for water purification. 

3) Oasis 167mg Emergency Water Purification Tablets

Oasis 167mg Emergency Water Purification Tablets are recommended for emergency water purification, and are ideal for areas with little or no freshwater. They are ideal for short term use when your tap water is not safe to drink (for example: after a natural disaster). They can be used to purify water from any source (stream, lake, pond, river, or puddle).

The tablets eliminate up to 99.9% of bacteria and viruses that cause illness. They also eliminate unpleasant odors and tastes. Plus, they will not deplete your body of essential vitamins and minerals, like iodine does. Oasis is the perfect choice for when your water supply is questionable and you have to rely on an alternative source for drinking.

It does contain chlorine.

4) Clean Tabs 040781 Aqua Mega Water Purifying Tablets 

While the Clean Tabs 040781 Aqua Mega Water Purifying Tablets are a little bit on the pricey side when compared to other water purification tablets, they do come with the Aqua Mega boast of being the “strongest water purifying tablet on the market.”

Aqua Mega Water Purifying Tablets are used to disinfect water and remove pollutants from water by making use of a variety of natural ingredients. These natural ingredients include silver, copper, chlorine, copper sulphate, silver sulphate, copper sulphate pentahydrate, copper sulphate heptahydrate, silver sulphate heptahydrate and copper sulphate trihydrate. 

5) Mountain Warehouse Oasis Water Purification Tablets

Mountqain Warehouse Oasis Water Purification Tablets


Mountain Warehouse Oasis Water Purification Tablets are designed and developed by Mountain Warehouse. They are capable of purifying up to 20 litres of water in 30 minutes. Mountain Warehouse Oasis Water Purification Tablets is formulated to kill Bacteria, Viruses and Cysts. 

These easy-to-use tablets offer the perfect solution to those who want to drink water from lakes and rivers. They’re suitable for all types of water, including salt water, and can be easily dissolved into drinks. The pack contains 20 tablets. To use Mountain Warehouse Oasis Water Purification Tablets, you simply add one tablet to a liter of water. The water will be purified within 30 minutes.

6) Hygiene4less 100 x Aquatabs® – Water Purification tablets

Each tablet treats approximately one litre of water, equivalent to one bottle. When treating water using chlorine dioxide it is essential that the water be left to stand for at least 30 minutes before use. This allows the chemical to fully react with the water, producing a chlorine dioxide solution.

The chemical reaction produces a residue which is harmless to drink but which will leave a slight colour and taste to the water. The treatment time, along with the residual amount of chlorine dioxide, is dependent upon the amount of water being treated. The residual can be expected to last for up to three days in the water environment.

To use Hygiene4less 100 x Aquatabs® – Water Purification tablets, simply drop one tablet into a liter of water and wait for the tablet to dissolve completely. If you would like to store the water for a long period of time, it’s a good idea to add a couple more tablets to ensure a clean, pure tasting water.

Chlorine dioxide tablets are also suitable for treating the following: water tanks, lakes, streams, reservoirs, cooling towers, swimming pools and spas.

7) Pyramid Biox Aqua Water Purification Tablets

Pyramid Biox Water Purification Tablets


Pyramid Biox Aqua is a water purification tablet that contains iodine and chlorine to purify water. It is used for disinfecting drinking water in an emergency. Each tab contains 5 milligrams of chlorine and 5 milligrams of iodine.

These compact water purification tablets are easy to store and use. Each tablet turns one liter of water into chlorine dioxide, a highly effective water purifier that destroys harmful bacteria and other organisms that cause diseases. These water purification tablets are compact and easy to use. Each tablet treats a liter of water. Tablets are safe to use and leave no unpleasant after-taste. Each package contains 50 tablets.

Many hikers purchase water tablets along with a survival straw for extra safety.

Final Thoughts on Water Purification Tablets

When you’re preparing to head out on your next backpacking trip, there are a number of items you can add to your pack to make travelling easier. Some of these are more important than others.

For example, a map and a compass are essential for navigating.

If you plan on hiking for a long distance, you may need a way to purify your drinking water. Purification tablets are great resource to have in your pack. 

These tablets may be a good option for you if you are looking for an alternative to boiling water or are preparing for a trip in an area where you cannot carry a large amount of water.

In this article we discussed what they are, how to use them, and how to select which tablet is best for you. We also included the top 7 water filtration tablets used by hikers.

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