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Backpacker Magazine – June 2009

Gear School: Water Filters

Remove most micro-nasties, draw water from barely-there puddles, and quench thirst fast with the versatile pump filter.

by: Kelly Bastone, Illustration by Don Foley

PAGE 1 2


USE

  • Extend cartridge life and preserve flow rate by drawing from the clearest possible water sources: calm pools, rocky streams, and headwaters. Avoid algae-filled ponds and turbulent, silty streams.
  • If you must filter dirty water, prevent clogging the prefilter and cartridge by wrapping a coffee filter or bandana around the prefilter with a rubber band.
  • Never allow water to freeze inside the filter, as ice can rupture fragile cartridge components. Pump all water from the cartridge before packing it away.

 

CLEAN

  • Ceramic or silica depth filter: When you notice diminished output, remove the cartridge from the filter housing (take care not to drop it–ceramic cracks easily) and scrub the outer layer with a cleaning pad (generally included; use fine steel wool or sandpaper if not).
  • Pleated filter (or filter cover): Remove from the housing and swish it around in clear water to rinse away surface sediment.
  • Hollow-fiber filter: Backflush after each trip by reversing the direction of water flow. Unscrew the inlet cap, flip over the check valves, and pump a half-liter of filtered water through the cartridge to clean it (see product manual for complete instructions).
  • Disinfect all filters at the start and end of each season by pumping one capful of bleach mixed with one liter of water through the cartridge (use just a few drops of bleach for hollow-fiber models). Disassemble the filter and let all components dry completely.

 

FIX

  • Pump not drawing water? Try turning the housing upside down and pumping again; that often gets it going.
  • No luck? The problem is probably dry, cracked, or dirty O-rings. In the field: Remove O-ring from the piston, clean with a soft cloth, and lube with silicone grease, lip balm, or saliva. At home: Replace damaged or worn O-rings.

PAGE 1 2

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READERS COMMENTS

Camprdon
May 04, 2011

Hail to "First Need"; I've had two different upgrades, and have only changed one filter in 12 years use. Biggest change is ease of pumping, handle fits my hand well, and it fills fast/locks tight on all standard water bottles. I do like the upgraded "pre-filter", never had any hose problems,and after a day's trail use, I just pump out all water in filter and hose, and put it back in it's rubber bag. They include a small bottle of "stain?" to run a test on the filter, and if it starts to show the "purple/bluish" color, time to change the filter. Great filter for the money!

Rob West
Jan 09, 2011

I highly recommend the MSR MiniWorks Ex microfilter. I've been using the MSR WaterWorks II [which is now discontinued I think] since 1998 and have only replaced one ceramic element because I broke it while cleaning. It will remove all bacteria, protozoa and parasitic worms eggs and the granular activated carbon internal element removes many chemicals and bad tastes. If I think viruses are present [I'm downstream of a drop toilet] I'll pretreat the water with Polar Pure iodine for 30 minutes then pump it through the filter to strain out the larger pathogens and the GAC filter element removes the iodine leaving good tasting completely safe water. I've used this method in over a dozen countries and some pretty nasty places and never been sick from drinking water. In most cases I just use the filter without the Polar Pure iodine pretreatment. Check out www.backcountrywater.com for more than you probably want to know about waterborne pathogens and treatment systems.

Anonymous
Apr 07, 2010

The best water treatment is the MSR MIOX, it works the same way municipal water treatment works but on a smaller scale. It kills giardia and Cryptosporidium which iodine doesn't kill. It also doesn't have a taste like Iodine. It kills all bacteria and viruses also. And at 3.5 oz and 7 inches long it is small and light

Michael
Dec 18, 2009

To answer Ben's question (posted Aug 04, 2009) about "why not just boil?"

Boiling would mean having to stop, get out your cookware, your stove, and then find something to carry the water in back to your area that you're stopping in. Then, you have to hope that you scoop up water without getting any grit/sand in your pot.

Then you have to concern yourself with using up all of your fuel (wood fires aren't an option in many backcountry areas). The higher the altitude the more fuel it takes to raise water to a boil. That leaves you with less fuel to cook your food.

Boiling also doesn't remove chemical contaminates like pesticides and herbicides which could very well be present downstream from agricultural areas. Nor does it improve the smell or taste of water. If your boiled water smells bad how are you going to bring your nose and mouth to it in order to drink it?

The amount of water you'd also have to boil on the trail to fill water bottles and camel backs would be quite a lot for the size of most camping pots. You could easily find yourself needing to boil two or three pots of water. More fuel and time wasted. Then you would probably need to wait for your very hot water to cool before putting it into your liquids container.

When you're on a trail, why go through all of that when you can filter straight from the river/lake straight into your container. Done.

Gary
Aug 13, 2009

I have used the MSR pump filters for many trips in Alaska. In silty glacial waters I have had no problems. When I get home from trips I always rinse off the filter element and dry it to prepare for the next trip. Water is clean and tastes great. I bought these for my sons when they started hiking/camping because of my experience with them.

ziondog
Aug 09, 2009

First Need... My first one I pumped probably 3 filters worth I change at 100 instead of rated 150. Even at 100gal best tasting water than my filtered tap. Introducing my nephew to backpacking. He stated it was best water he's ever tasted!
Positive- love screw on outlet for bottles. Never had to "on trail" back wash. Never failed me. 3 days overnight is my norm, but lots of two days. One gasket, carry spare. Like drip overnight option. I do back wash it after every trip. 46 pumps, one up, one down and fills water bottle of 750ml. Negitive- Had to buy a new one b/c of hose diameter change, rubber began to rot. I purched in 1993, so I feel I got my moneys worth. (could have found hose at hardware store probably.)
Told sales clerk who was trying to sell different model to forget it.
First Need.... Zero problems starting from 1993. I even took it to Iraq!

Perry Clark
Aug 06, 2009

I've used a Katadyn Hiker Pro for years, and have absolutely no complaints. Drinkable water in minutes without a chemical taste is a wonderful thing. (I have no connection with Katadyn or any other maker.)

Dan
Aug 05, 2009

There's nothing that breaks my heart more than seeing a poor hiker struggle with a pump filter. Yes, pump filters make water instantly and without chemical taste, but to sit there in a cold rain pumping your arm off, dealing with jammed filters, messing around with hoses, and suffering frozen hands: is it worth it? I say no! My choice: ULA's H20 amigo, you get all the benefits of a pump filter, but without all the labor and headache!

ben
Aug 04, 2009

why not just boil?

chaiguy
Jul 28, 2009

The good news is when the filter just stops working, because then you know it's broken and can try to fix it. (if you can find the problem and have the spare part).

The BAD news is when the filter is broken (i.e., it stops actually filtering, but it still pumps water and only "appears" to be working.

This is why I only use halogens to treat water.

Also, I question the advisability of using chlorine to clean a device with rubber gaskets.

Scott Haas
Jul 25, 2009

I have an MSR and love it. It does become clogged with silt but it is super easy to take apart and clean. I bought a pre-filter for my next use and I think that should eliminate a lot of the silt problem. I read too that wrapping the element with a piece of nylon keeps the silt off the element but you still end up opening the changer to clean the nylon so the prefilter seems the way to go.

Mike
Jul 16, 2009

Ran into a hiker last month that an MSR pump. His had debris lodged under the orange chck valve (flapper) on the filtered water side. Hard to see, but once it was cleaned he was back in business.

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