Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Effective against chemicals and toxins as well as bacteria and protozoa, longest filter life of all reviewed (2000 liters).
Cons: Heavy, ceramic filter needs to be cleaned often, takes muscle to pump.
Best Uses: For the frequent backcountry traveler, Camping and hiking trips.
For the frequent backcountry traveler, the MSR Miniworks EX is a long-lasting filter with the added benefit of cleaning chemicals and pesticides from water. It is on the heavy side for a hiker, and requires slightly more time and force to pump than any of the other pump filters. However, it treats more than twice as much water as any of the other pumps, treating 2000 liters before a replacement cartridge is needed. The only other filter that comes close to this capacity is our Editor's Choice winner, the Platypus GravityWorks with 1500 liters. If you prefer a lightweight model for long distance hiking, check out the MSR Hyperflow Microfilter or the SteriPEN Journey LCD. If you need your water treatment to purify for viruses, check out the First Need XL, which is even heavier and more expensive, but effective against more pathogens.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
A long-lasting ceramic filter, the Miniworks is a good choice for large groups or organizations that need a filter to last over the course of many trips. It is on the heavy side for backpacking, but works well.
The MSR Miniworks EX is a workhorse filtration system. The ceramic filter with a carbon core is effective against bacteria, protozoa, and cysts as well as chemicals, herbicides, and pesticides. This ceramic filter is good for up to 2000 liters of treated water, which is more volume than almost all other system we reviewed. This makes this filer reliable for a greater length of time than any of the others.
Tipping the scales at 16 ounces, weight is the biggest downside to the Miniworks. It is the second heaviest filter, second to the clunky First Need XL. This makes it not the most ideal filter to carry with you on a backpacking trip. If you don't mind the weight, another filter of similar weight to check out is the Katadyn Vario.
Time Before Drinking
Since this filter is the hardest to physically pump, it took around 30 seconds longer (two minutes) to pump a full liter than any of the other filters, but still does not require a long wait like the chemical treatments.
Ease of Use
This filter is easy and intuitive to take apart and put together for maintenance wherever you are. It is field cleanable, and comes with an attached plastic disc for scraping the filter when it clogs.
The handle is beefy and thick, which is good for pumping, but it requires noticeably more force to pump than any of the other pump-filters.
Durability/Uses Before Maintenance
Ceramic filters last by far the longest of any other filter media. They may require frequent cleaning if they becomes clogged, but the filter itself will last longer than any of the other filters we reviewed.
The Miniworks filters out chemicals as well as pathogens, so it helps to improve the taste of water. It can even remove chlorine or iodine flavors if you treat with one of those methods beforehand to eliminate viruses.
After polling other people who have used the Miniworks, we got this reply from a frequent camper and hiker, Andrew Reisert, who has owned this filter for around five years:
"It works like a champ. A tad heavy, and the ceramic filter can crack if it freezes overnight. Certain situations I've run into aren't so great though. Like on the Olympic Coast all the tannin in the water made me clean it between every liter or so. Also in the Yucky Kentucky, but then I also was pumping for two other people."
Because this is a heavy filter, it is not the thru-hiker's or ultra-light backpacker's choice. For other camping trips or shorter hikes, particularly for the frequent outdoor dweller, it is a reliable and economical choice. If you are purchasing a filtration system that you plan to use a lot and for a long time, this is the best choice.
The MSR Miniworks is the best value for heavy use. At $89.95, it is average in price, costing less than the First Need XL or the SteriPEN. However, since the Miniworks has a ceramic filter it can filter for over 2000 liters of water before needing a replacement. Similarly priced filters such as the MSR Sweetwater and Katadyn Hiker Pro only treat 750 liters before needing a cartridge replacement, which usually costs around $40, or half the price of a whole new filter. New ceramic cartridges also cost around $40, but need to be replaced much less often. With the long-lasting Miniworks, you can treat the most water for the least amount of money.
The MSR SweetWater Microfilter, $100, is a dependable and popular water filter with average weight and pump speed.
This replacement ceramic filter works with your MSR Miniworks, MiniWorks/WaterWorks EX Ceramic, $40.
The MSR DromLite bags come in 2, 4, and 6 liter capacities and range in price from $27-33. Completely collapsible and ultralight, you can use the MSR Dromedary Bag for no hassle filling.
The Miniworks Replacement Hose, $15, is a replacement for your inlet hose, if needed.
The Miniworks Waterworks Maintenance Kit, $20, comes with a few great tools to clean your Miniworks.
— McKenzie Long
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Most recent review: August 12, 2014
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