We offer Free Shipping on orders over $50 shipped within the contiguous United States...that's the lower 48 to you and me. If your order is received before 5 PM Eastern Standard Time, we will make every effort to get it out the same day. Make sure to take Free Shipping into account when comparing prices.
Free Shipping (Economy) must be selected inside the shopping cart.
You reach a rushing mountain stream. You scoop up some crystal clear water and the coolness drips over your elbow. You take a long, deep sip as the sun shimmers on the water. Sweet. Cold. Delicious… Two hours later you're locked in the latrine at the trailhead, cursing that blasted river. Apparently looks can be deceiving.
You should have used a water filter.
Water filters are a must for any backcountry nut. They don't leave a nasty aftertaste like iodine or chlorine tablets and they eliminate the need to continually boil water on the trail.
We had a look at three filters that our customers love - the MSR Miniworks EX, the Katadyn Guide, and the MSR SweetWater. While these filters don't filter viruses (you need a purification system for that), they block 99.9999% of bacteria, and 99.99% of nasty little protozoan cysts like Giardia and Cryptosporidium.
Our testers broke out the magnifying glass to see why everyone loves these things so much.
After priming each, we filled a wide-mouth Nalgene bottle. We timed how long it took and counted the number of pumps. We repeated this five times and took the average.
Our testers performed the Nalgene Test with absolutely filthy water. This test represents how often you have to clean the filter in less than favorable conditions. In other words, how fast it clogs.
Rating of how easy it was to clean the filter after the Filthy Test. This is a convenience test and also a good indication of longevity.
We dropped three iodine tablets into 1.5 quarts of water and filtered an equal amount with each filter. These samples were then presented to our flavor-guru, Jean-Luc du Chèvres in a blind taste test. He will tell you his findings.
AKA Idiot Arctic Test. We filtered some water, and then stuck each filter in the freezer. This helps us determine the durability of each. We'll find out whether you're screwed if you forget to empty the filter and the temperature drops below freezing over night.
While this took more stokes than the other filters, the pumping action was easy (easier than the MiniWorks, harder than the Guide). There was a consistent flow and the pumping action works both ways - on the down stroke and up.
The first liter filtered in the same amount of time as clean water. The Pressure Release Valve started squirting water (soaking our lovely assistant) after about 750ml, resulting in a longer fill-time. As we started the third liter, however, it was obvious that filtering was no longer possible; the PRV was releasing more water than was going in to the Nalgene.
Jean-Luc says: This has a medium-bodied bouquet with stronger iodine undertones - 3.5-4 Goats. Color rating of G on the gemological scale - 3.5 Goats. The flavor is nice, smooth with a slight hint of iodine left on the palette - a 4 out of 5 Goats.
Pass. No leakage/breakage.
Simple design without many moving parts; no maintenance required.
Out of the three, the Katadyn was the easiest to pump. The large chamber kicked out a lot of water and filled the one-liter Nalgene in no time.
From the first to the fifth, this thing didn't slow down. It consistently filled the Nalgene in less than 40 seconds. It became slightly more difficult to pump around the third liter, but the filter is guaranteed not to clog for one year.
Since this is a glass fiber filter, you can't scrub off the gunk like you can with the others. If you were around real nasty water for a long time, this filter might clog up and become useless.
Jean-Luc says: Despite its hearty tone (a J on the gem scale), this one has a very delicate bouquet. This one gets 4.5 Goats for odor but only 2.5 Goats for clarity. The overall flavor is a strong iodine with a hint of fertilizer – 2 Goats for flavor. This vintage is best served chilled with a hearty freeze-dried meal.
Pass. No leakage. No breakage
All these tests were performed with the filter protector. This has no real affect on the results.
The Katadyn's carry bag doesn't have the best design; it's hard to get everything in there.
It has a simple design without many moving parts. Katadyn included a lubricant if the pump doesn't move smoothly.
This little bugger required the most effort out of the three. It didn't slow down, but boy, did our tester get tired.
The first liter took the same amount of time as clean water. By 2/3 through the second the tester was pumping like crazy and seeing minimal trickle. By the third liter, the pump was useless; it had to be cleaned.
Jean-Luc says: Bottled water never tasted this good. Nice legs - 4.5 Goats. The bouquet is a little iodiney but overall I'd say it is 3.5 - 4 Goats. Color/clarity rating: if this water were a diamond it would get a rating of D – that's not a grade school rating – this stuff is nearly colorless, crystal clear – 5 Goats.
Pass. No leakage, no breakage. However, if somehow you managed to put the cap on the filter without allowing it to drain a little (which is rather hard to do), there is a possibility that the ceramic filter will break.
Lots of moving parts. While it can be taken apart without tools, it is probably a good idea to get the maintenance kit.
After playing with all these filters, our testers felt that it would not be accurate or fair to give an overall rating saying which is “the best.” Each has its strengths and limitations. For example, while the Katadyn filtered much faster than the other two, it had two major setbacks - taste and a non-existent cleaning ability.
For this reason, our testers decided to do things a little differently:
Get the MSR SweetWater if:
Weight and space is at a premium (fastpacking, climbing, day hikes)
Ease of pumping is more important than overall speed
You want good tasting water
Price is an issue
Get the Katadyn Guide if:
You will be filtering a lot of clean water (good for groups, guides, basecamp, families)
You have a variety of water bottles
You want a simple design
Speed is more important than taste
Filter longevity is not one of your main concerns
Get the MSR MiniWorks EX if:
You want a filter that will last for years and years
Space is an issue (weekend trips, backpacking trips)
You want the best possible taste
You will be filtering dirty water and don't want to trash your filter