What’s the difference between a water filter and a water purifier?
It’s necessary to know the difference between a water filter and a water purifier, to ascertain which product is necessary for your camping trip. The difference between the two is in the size of the microorganism that each one combats. If you’re going on a simple camping trip, in the US or Canada, then you might find that a water filter fills all your needs.
The way that water filters work is by physically straining out protozoan cysts (such as Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium) and bacteria (such as E. coli, Campylobacter, Salmonella, and Shigella). If you’re going camping in the US then these biological pathogens are the main ones you want to protect yourself from.
However, if you want to protect yourself from viruses, then water filters aren’t going to cut the mustard. Viruses are too mini for most filters to catch, so if you’re wanting to protect yourself from viruses in the water, you need to look into getting yourself a purifier. They are especially necessary if you’re going camping in less developed parts of the world, or if you just want to be extra sure that the water you’re drinking is fully safe.
What’s different about the water purifiers is that they use chemicals, like iodine for example. Filters, and many purifying systems, use an internal cartridge or element. The function of elements or cartridges is to catch debris, protozoa, and bacteria. The debris and bacteria become attached to the microscopic pores, and over time this builds up on the element, where you can then clean it off, or replace it entirely. Through this system, water filters get rid of the largest things which are dirtying our water.
Some purifiers have an element or cartridge to filter out the larger biological pathogens. The extra precaution which you get with a water purifier is that chemicals like iodine to kill the viruses which are too small for most filter elements. Other water purification methods rely on other ways, like ultraviolet light, to kill the pathogens that are too small to be caught by a filter. If you are camping with your family, you’re particularly prone to catching viruses, or you just want to be particularly careful when drinking water in the wild, a water purifier will give you peace of mind.
Sometimes both water purifiers and water filters use activated carbon in their elements. The reason for this is that activated carbon effectively removes the unpleasant tastes of water, which originate from things like leaf tannins. Activated carbon also reduces contaminants like pesticides and other industrial chemicals, so even if you’re sourcing your water near to livestock or farmland, you know your water will be safe to drink.
There are many different types of camping water purifier, so to help you work out what the best option is for you, we’re going to review one product from every type of water purifier: gravity purifiers, pump purifiers, ultraviolet light purifiers, chemicals, bottle purifiers, and straw purifiers.