Choosing a Water Filter

It was just one of those crazy mixed up days. A very painful corn, a detour for food and somehow a gear review for choosing a water filter for a thru hike evolved.

Choosing a water filter for a thru hike is just as important as any other gear in your pack. It goes without saying, we need water, and on a thru hike you need lots of water. Hydration, food prep and cleaning to name a few, are essentials that demand you have H2O. How does one choose a filter? We’d ask, “what are your needs, what type of hike are you on, what is your budget, how much weight will you carry or want to carry?

Look at your options and, first things first, consider reliability. We begin with reliability because this is a very important piece of equipment that you must rely on for the duration of your hike. Move next to usability and weight. Then price. At the end of the day, we need to know our water on the trail is safe for us to drink and cook with (We re-hydrate our meals). Usability is also important, we will be using our filter day in and day out for as long as we are on the trail. If it is not user friendly it will have a negative impact on our outing. If it adds too much weight to our overall pack weight, that too can be quite a hindrance as we pound out the miles. Lastly, price. Sure, like everyone, we have a budget to consider. But, we’d rather spend more on safety and less elsewhere if we can. Safety is all too important when you’re miles from nowhere and relying on the gear in your pack to get you thru safely.

In our field test, see the video above, we tested the The MSR MiniWorks EX and Sawyer Squeeze. We had planned on a long hike putting both filters thru the motions along the trail in different scenarios, however, it was just one of those crazy mixed up days. A few days prior Miller developed a very painful corn on his right foot and was not in any condition for a long hike. We opted for a favorite creek location instead. Add in a detour for food, a quick moving rain / snow squall and somehow a gear review for choosing a water filter for a thru hike eventually evolved. A good day none the less.

The MSR is a pump style filter and pumps 1 liter per minute, weighs 14.6 ounces, uses a ceramic / carbon core while filtering out protozoa and bacteria. A great filter for the Colorado Rocky Mountains, one that we have been using for several years now.

The Sawyer Squeeze, somewhat new to us, is a gravity style filter and filters 1.7 liters per min (when pushing water thru the filter, longer if gravity fed). It weighs 3 ounces, uses a hollow-fiber membrane while filtering out protozoa and bacteria. Like the MSR, a good filter for the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

Our overall impression is that both filters will definitely get the job done. That said, it boils down to preferences. We like the pump style filter, and, while the MSR is heavier than the Sawyer, we prefer it for its pump style process. Being able to put the line into the water source vs having to put an entire bottle into the water source made for an easier process and less risk of contaminated water mixing with clean water. Again, the MSR is the heavier of the two filters and costs more. As a side note, we do plan on hiking long distance hikes with both filters, the MSR being a primary use filter, with the Sawyer acting as a reliable backup.

Our dislikes for the MSR, moving parts that can break and its heavier weight.

Our dislikes for the Sawyer, no access to the filter to inspect its condition. It also seems to dry out much slower, several days vs the MSR which is overnight. But in all honesty, we’re not sure if the Sawyer is completely dry when stored as there is no access to the filter. We just seem to keep “shaking” water out of it for a few days.



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