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First Need XL Review

   

Backpacking Water Treatment

  • Currently 4.4/5
Overall avg rating 4.4 of 5 based on 5 reviews. Most recent review: August 12, 2014
Street Price:   Varies from $90 - $112 | 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.
User Rating:     
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 (4.8 of 5) based on 4 reviews
Recommendations:  100% of reviewers (4/4) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   General Ecology
Review by: McKenzie Long ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ August 12, 2014  
Overview
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.

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

A pump filter, the First Need XL actually purifies water, meaning that it treats for viruses as well as bacteria and protozoa. It is the only chemical and battery free system that accomplishes this.

Performance Comparison
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The First Need XL has the smallest filter pore size of any pump filter in our review, being 0.1 microns, but the filter is only good for 567 liters, which is about half the life of other pump filters.
Credit: Luke Lydiard

Reliability/Effectiveness
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.

Weight
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.

Taste
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.

Best Application
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.

Value
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.

Other Versions & Accessories
The First Need Trav-L-Pure for $227 is a self-contained water purifier that is simple to use. Just pour water into its container and pump.

The First Need Base Camp Water Purifier for $730, is designed for rugged use, expeditions, or while family camping. The Base Camp has a stainless steel housing and a double-action pump for more water with less work.

The First Need XLE Canister sells for $58 and fits the XLE, XL, & Deluxe Models.

McKenzie Long

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: August 12, 2014
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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  • 5
 (4.8)

100% of 4 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
5 Total Ratings
5 star: 60%  (3)
4 star: 40%  (2)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
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   Jul 24, 2014 - 04:40am
Voyageur43 · Other
We've been using the First Need XL for nearly 20 years.

In 1994 we bought a Katadyn ceramic filter for canoe trekking. Several days into a week-long trip in Killarney it started getting hard to pump. Backwashing helped a little. During the next week-long trip (in Algonquin), it was so stopped up that we could no longer filter. Someone tipped us off to First Need and we've had it ever since. I couldn't believe my eyes the first time we filtered yellow tannin rich lake water. The filtrate was perfectly clear water! After more than a half dozen two-week treks in Quetico and Woodland Caribou, we had to replace the filter (around $50). Put in the context of how much all the other stuff for canoe trekking costs, that $50 outlay is a joke. In 2008 we canoe trekked with friends who brought along a brand new Katadyn with ceramic filter cartridge. This one became useless after around 5 days. Fortunately we had our old First Need XL with us!

TIP: We used to make coffee with raw water, figuring that the boiling would keep us healthy. Then by accident, we discovered that filtering the water we use for coffee leads to much better tasting coffee.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   May 28, 2014 - 07:56pm
Walking Josh · Hiker
I'd been dithering about water treatment for some time. Last Spring, I found the First Need XLE at a serious discount, and grabbed it. I suppose it's heavy — certainly heavier than the chlorine dioxide tablets I'd been relying on. That's a definite drawback. However, it pumps very easily and fast. I am able to fill a 1 liter platypus bottle in less than a minute. Also, during the pump's inaugural trip in Isle Royale NP, I was able to pump clean, sweet water from the foulest, muddiest puddles of tannin-dark water — something the chlorine dioxide tablets could not do. In the Mission Mountains, this pump also delivered crystal clear water with none of the sediment and extra protein that the various larvae added to my hiking buddy's water.

This is really a matter of personal preference. I am willing to sacrifice a little space and weight to be absolutely sure that I will have safe, delicious water no matter where I may be. I would recommend this pump, particularly if you can get a good deal on it like I did.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   May 8, 2014 - 07:42pm
Peter Miller · Backpacker · Seattle,WA
I have used a First Need pump/filter for over 30 years. Before that I used iodine-hated the taste,feared the side effects. I've gone through a few canisters and upgraded to the newer prefilter set up which is a great improvement as I do use it to filter glacial fed streams with lots of sediment. I used it internationally-pumping water for a group of 8 tripping through India-filled all of our bottles every morning from the hotel room sink, trekking thru Peru with a group of 9 rivers with lots of livestock!Never gotten sick which is why we do it. The test of pumping dyed water is very reliable. I know I'ved pumped way more than 500 gallons with this filter and it still passes the dye test. Yes it's bulky and heavy but I like knowing my water is safe. I've gotten sick before and it's not something I want to ever repeat.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Nov 10, 2013 - 03:54pm
Hubsbro57 · Backpacker · Harrison MI
The First Need Filter is the only filter I take into the backcountry. With the MSR Sweetwater Silt Stopper II, the First Need gives me peace of mind when hiking with my scouts. This filter really improves the taste of the water it purifies. We used it on water with a sulfur scent and it got rid of the rotten egg smell. I have used this for two seasons now and not had a problem. I purchased the filter from Campmor online. The cost was $89.95 and the MSR filter was $19.95. The MSR filter removes a lot of dirt thus prolonging the life of the main filter. I have never used the gravity feed with this filter. The filter is easy to care for, a few drops of bleach and it is ready to store.
Pros - Takes it out of your drinking water
Cons - Bulky (I carry it w/o the stuff bag)

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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First Need XL
Credit: General Ecology
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