March 2008 Essentials Review: Hydration - Backpacker

March 2008 Essentials Review: Hydration

Best Buy

MSR Hyperflow

Like some high-school crushes, there are pieces of gear you lust after just because they look cool. The new Hyperflow is one of them, but this relationship won't be fleeting, frustrating, or angst-ridden. This pump is small, light, fast, durable, and dependable. We filtered nearly 3 liters of water per minute from creeks with low silt content (we could see the creek's bottom). "It shoots streams of water like a pool toy," said one tester. The secret is in the tiny filter cartridge, which forces water through porous tubes instead of dense fibers or ceramic. It has an attached wire mesh prefilter, and it comes with a lid-adapter for MSR's Dromedary Bags so you can attach the unit directly for spill-free filtering. MSR says the Hyperflow will filter 1,000 liters on average before the filter element needs replacement. We pumped 50 liters on one trek without seeing any drop in output speed. $90; 7.5 oz.;


Aquamira Frontier Pro

No pumping, no drops, no tablets. Just fill any Platypus reservoir or standard small-mouth bottle (soda or water), then screw on the Frontier Pro. Water flows through the following stages: a fibrous prefilter to trap any large debris; a plastic microfilter to nab giardia and crypto (and other nasties down to 3 microns in diameter); a layer of coconut carbon to neutralize funky tastes; and finally a bite valve. "It's amazingly easy, especially for solo trips," said our map editor after returning from a four-day trip in the Sangre de Cristo Range. "I bought a bottle of Dasani at 7-Eleven and used that same bottle to dip into creeks." Flow rate is adequate, but we had to unscrew the Frontier Pro periodically to let air back into the bottle after squeezing it to force water through. $20; 2.6 oz.;

Hydrapak Reversible Reservoir II

Neat freaks rejoice: Hydrapak has made cleaning the gunk out of your hydration reservoir easier. We put a sugary drink mix into this bladder and let it sit in the sun for a week. De-funking was a snap: Open the top, turn the reservoir inside out, and scrub. Cleaning is usually a "back home" activity, but our field testers appreciated the versatility for longer warm-weather trips. A Velcro tab near the bite valve attaches to a matching patch on your shoulder strap. "It was easy to keep the hose under control," remarked an Arizona tester. A detachable drink tube means you don't have to rethread it into your pack every time you fill up. And a redesigned closure system employs a sturdy, reliable plastic slide-lock. $30; 5.3 oz.;

Meridian Designs mÜV

It looks like a Star Trek gadget, but the mÜV (pronounced "move") is an ultraviolet treatment device that kills protozoa, viruses, and bacteria. Push the button once, and an LED lights the clear dome. Hold the button down, and the UV light flickers to life. The unit floats in your bottle during the 90-second treatment. Meridian Designs says the mÜV will purify 20 liters on one charge; we got 17. Battery charging proved fairly tedious. Two wires with gold-plated magnets, housed in the transparent dome, grudgingly deploy to attach to either end of a AA, C, or D battery. Charging takes about eight hours. Its operation isn't as simple and worry-free as its main competitor, Steripen (which we've previously reviewed), nor is its construction as confidence-inspiring. But the mÜV costs and weighs less than half of any Steripen model and has performed adequately in field tests. $50; 2.4 oz.;

Platypus Clean Stream

On a Wind Rivers trip, our three testers spent most of their time fighting gravity. First, they slogged heavy packs over 10,794-foot Jackass Pass. Then they clawed up a multi-pitch ascent of the Shark's Nose. But gravity was their ally back at basecamp, where they used it to filter creek water with the new Clean Stream. Simply fill the reservoir labeled "Dirty," zip it shut, and hang it on a tree. Physics does the rest, coaxing 4 liters through a filter that traps giardia and crypto. The water drips into the "Clean" reservoir in less than five minutes. Fill bottles or attach a separate hose for use with your hydration pack (no bite valve included–bummer). "It's silly easy," summed up one tester. $80; 7.4 oz.;

Polarpak MoFlo

On dayhikes and mountain-bike rides in Colorado's Front Range, the MoFlo proved totally…unnecessary. But we like it anyway. The pressurized hydration reservoir shoots water into your mouth when you squeeze the bite valve. "You don't have to suck at all," said a tester who called the fast, hands-free drinking ideal for biking and adventure racing. The system comes with a 70-ounce reservoir, a hand pump, and a shower attachment (great for washing hands and dishes in camp). Polarpak claims a 30-percent flow increase versus standard reservoirs, but maintaining pressure as you drink requires additional pumping. It's fun on short outings, but for extended trips, packing the attachments adds weight that most testers couldn't justify. $32; 9.7 oz. (with attachments);