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Hands-on Gear Review

MSR Miniworks EX Review

   

Backpacking Water Treatment

  • Currently 4.0/5
Overall avg rating 4.0 of 5 based on 4 reviews. Most recent review: April 29, 2016
Price:   $90 List | Varies from $64 - $90 online
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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.
Manufacturer:   MSR
Review by: McKenzie Long ⋅ Senior Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ August 12, 2014  
Overview
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 Editors' 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.


RELATED: Our complete review of backpacking water treatment

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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.

Performance Comparison


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The MSR Miniworks EX screws onto the top of a Nalgene bottle for ease of use and added stability while pumping.
Credit: Max Neale

Reliability/Effectiveness


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.

Weight


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.

Taste


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.

Personal Stories


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."

Best Application


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.

Value


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.

Other Versions


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MSR Hyperflow Microfilter
  • Cost - $100.00
  • Weight - 7.8oz
  • Flow - 3 liters per minute
  • Strokes per liter - 20

MSR SweetWater Microfilter
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  • Cost - $90
  • Earns out Top Pick award
  • Weight - 11 oz
  • Flow - 1 liter per minute
  • Strokes per liter - 75

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MSR AutoFlow Gravity Filter
  • Cost - $120
  • Weight - 14.6oz
  • Gravity fed water filtration system
  • Treat and store up to 4L of water
  • Durable DromLite material

Accessories


MiniWorks/WaterWorks EX Ceramic
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  • Replacement ceramic filter
  • $40

Miniworks Replacement Hose
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  • $15
  • Replacement for your inlet hose

Miniworks Waterworks Maintenance Kit
  • $20
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  • Comes with a few great tools to clean your Miniworks

McKenzie Long


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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: April 29, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
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  • 4
  • 5
 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
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  • 4
  • 5
 (4.0)

67% of 3 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
4 Total Ratings
5 star: 25%  (1)
4 star: 50%  (2)
3 star: 25%  (1)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
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   Apr 29, 2016 - 03:12pm
Rudy Breteler · Backpacker · Boston, MA
I purchased this filter for purifying tap water for drinking in third world countries where the tap water is not reliable. However, this was a number of years, ago when UV purifiers were new and I still did not trust them. If I were to make a purchase for that reason now, I would use UV. For backpacking, I now carry a Sawyer Mini. I still remain happy with the Miniworks EX for kayaking and canoeing trips, where weight is less of a concern, and I appreciate having a hose that I can drop overboard without needing to lean over the side of the boat.

I have used this filter in some very mucky water and been happy with the results. As the review states, it is easy and intuitive to clean. After every trip, I take it apart and scrub the carbon under running water with a green dish scrubby. It's enjoyable watching the dirt flow off and accumulate in my sink, knowing that's all dirt I would have drunk if I were relying on chemical treatment.

I would not recommend this product to a friend because it's just too big and clunky when there are better, less expensive options now available. The Sawyer mini has changed the equation--it's small, cheep, and lightweight. There is no longer a reason for old-fashioned pump filters like this one to exist.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jan 6, 2016 - 02:28am
amtc · Backpacker · Sequim, Washington
I have owned this filter for a couple years and have been happy with it. It is built like a tank and field maintainable. I did replace the stock pre-filter with the sweet water pre filter and that made a big difference in keeping the ceramic filter clean. I have had two issues with it and both times included filtering tannin water. When filter the water I was only able to get a half liter before the filter clogged. It was a pain disassembling the filter and cleaning it multiple times just to get a couple liters. I realize tannin water is not desirable but there was no other source of water.

I have changed to a gravity filter when I am on a multiple day hike. I find it is much easier to use and more efficient. I carry the MSR mini works on day hikes because I don't have to filter large quantities of water and it is cool to use!

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jan 17, 2014 - 07:20pm
DGottlieb · Climber · Carlton, WA
This is the best portable filter I have used. Outdoor Gearlab tells it like it is when they say it is a work horse. If you filter clean water then all the other filters on the list will do just fine, on the other hand if you filter silty glacier water or muddy runoff then you need this filter as you can clean it when necessary. With Glacier silt I find I need to clean it after 4L, which may sound like a lot but considering that it will either kill the other brands and models or they simply will not work (steri Pen). I travel often and get 3 months of use a year and this (agreed heavy) water filter will last. The body goes and goes on past 6 seasons and I get easily two years out of the replaceable filter. My wife was talked into a inferior model on this list that claimed it was easy to pump, well it was for a couple of days then very hard even after the prescribed back flushing finally it made its way to the trash… Good riddance. Amazon to the the Himalaya MSR Miniworks is the only one I can trust to keep working

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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MSR Miniworks EX
Credit: cascadedesigns.com
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