Hands-on Gear Review
Compare backpacking water purification ratings side-by-side >
Street Price: Varies from $100 - $110 | Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros: Only pump effective against viruses, has gravity filter option, fast and easy to pump.
Cons: Heavy, large and clunky, gravity filter option works very slowly, expensive.
Best Uses: International travel, camping with very questionable water sources.
Manufacturer: General Ecology
The First Need XL is the only pump style filter we reviewed that is effective against viruses. This is remarkable because the only other systems that do treat viruses are chemical, like the Katadyn Micropur Purification or UV light treatments like the Camelbak All Clear. Since this filter works for more diseases, it is preferable to use for international travel or for really gross water sources. If you want a reliable filter that offers the ultimate protection, this one does the job. With that said, this is also the heaviest and most expensive filter in this review. It is so large and clunky that it would be a terrible choice for hiking in the backcountry where a filter like the MSR Hyperflow Microfilter or the Katadyn Hiker Pro would be much preferred. This is also not the choice for someone on a budget since it is the most costly purification method we reviewed. A more economical choice would be Potable Aqua Iodine Tablets, which still treats viruses, or the MSR Miniworks EX, which lasts a long time.
Compare top rated competitors side-by-side >
OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
What stands out about the First Need XL is that it is the only pump in this review that completely purifies water, meaning it treats for viruses as well as for bacteria, cysts, and protozoa. The standard micron size for filter media is 0.2 microns, and this structured matrix micro-strainer filter is even better with a size of 0.1 microns, meaning it catches even the smallest organisms.
It also has an additional gravity-fed option to ensure that it will always be reliable. The accompanying storage bag can double as a water bag that when hung can serve as a gravity filtration method. This apparently works even when the filter is clogged, so in an emergency you could still purify water. The downside is that this gravity method works very slowly dripping through the filter, even after starting it with a couple of pumps.
The First Need is not your fast and light water filter. On our scale it weighed in at 22 oz., which discourages hikers from carrying it in the backcountry. However, since it is the only pump filter in our review that effectively treats viruses, this filter still has its time and place.
Time Before Drinking
The First Need was the fastest pump in our timed test, taking just over a minute to pump a full liter. Its handle and pre-filter were very easy to use, and water came out rapidly and easily. There is a lot less resistance to this pump than with others like the MSR Miniworks, which requires some muscle to pump.
Ease of Use
This pump is easy to use, with a pre-filter at the end of the hose and a base that can screw onto a couple different sized bottle tops. The gravity-fed system is a little more elaborate to set up, but it is a nice option to have.
Durability/Uses Before Maintenance
Overall, the filter is very durable but it only treats around 550 liters before the cartridge needs to be replaced, which is very little compared to the 1500 liters treated by the Platypus GravityWorks or the 2000 liters treated by the MSR Miniworks.
The First Need, since it has such a small pore size in its filter, also filters out things that cause bad taste and odor, so it actually improves the taste and quality of the water.
Since this pump treats for viruses, it is ideal to have with you around particularly sketchy water sources, such as on international trips. It is not the best backcountry filter because of its heavy weight and large size, but it is the most effective pump, protecting the user from the most possible diseases. If you will be around very questionable water, this is an excellent choice.
This pump starts out as the most expensive purification method in this review at $115. On top of that the filter cartridge only lasts for about 550 liters before it needs to be replaced. These replacements cost around $50, which adds to the overall expense expense further. This is not a budget filtration system, but it is the most effective pump filter, and a non-chemical treatment for viruses, which in and of itself carries value.
— McKenzie Long
Compare this product side-by-side to top competitors >
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: July 24, 2014
Where's the Best Price?
*Help support OutdoorGearLab. If you click on one of the seller links and make a purchase, a portion of the sale helps support this site
Related Best-in-Class Review
Helpful Buying Tips
Get More OutdoorGearLab
Follow us on Twitter, be a fan on Facebook!
Related Gear Reviews
Recent Best-in-Class Reviews