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Hands-on Gear Review
Cons: Very average in weight, pump speed, price, and filter life.
A dependable and popular water filter with average weight and pump speed, the MSR Sweetwater Microfilter is easy to use, has a comfortable leveraged pumping handle, and is effective against bacteria and protozoa, but not viruses. It is very similar in features to the Katadyn Hiker Pro, having almost identical weight 12.5+ ounces), pump-time (1.5 min per liter), capacity (750 liters), and price ($85-$89). The Sweetwater provides excellent value, dependability, and ease of use for the price, and can treat as much or as little water as needed, which is why it wins our Top Pick award. For the fastest working filter, go with the Platypus Gravityworks Water Filter. However, the SweetWater has the ability to suck water out of smaller, siltier sources than the Platypus, making it slightly more versatile. If you are interested in the lightest and most economical method to purify your water, check out Aquamira Water Treatment Drops.
RELATED: Our complete review of backpacking water treatment
OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
A standard pump filter, this is an easy and popular way to treat water while in the backcountry.
The silica depth filter in the MSR Sweetwater is effective at eliminating bacteria, protozoa, chemicals, and particulate, but not viruses. It is dependable for use in the backcountry, can collect water from small, difficult sources, and can treat enough water for groups or a single hiker.
At around 13 ounces including the storage case and hoses, this filter is average in weight. Not too heavy, but not ultra-light either.
Time Before Drinking
Easy to pump with a leveraged handle, the Sweetwater takes a little over a minute and a half to pump a liter, which is not long to wait.
Ease of Use
The Sweetwater is easy to pump. The noteworthy detail is the handle. It unscrews and detaches so that it can fold up better for more compact storage. The way this attaches and detaches is not the most intuitive, but once you figure it out once, it is fairly simple. Re-attaching the handle adds one more step to this pump than any of the others have. When the handle is connected it has more leverage and is more comfortable to use than the handles of other filters like the First Need or the Hiker Pro.
Durability/Uses Before Maintenance
This filter is good for 750 liters before needing a replacement cartridge. This is not nearly as much capacity as a ceramic filter like that in the MSR Miniworks EX or the Katadyn Pocket, which are good for 2000 liters and 13,000 liters respectively, but it is longer than the Aqua Vessel or the First Need XL.
The handle, which feels really great for pumping, and which detaches in order to pack down better, has been reported by some users to break, which is the only durability issue we have come across with this filter.
Water flavor remains largely unchanged. Chemicals are removed through the filter, which can make water taste better.
This is a durable and reliable water filter that is great for general hiking and camping. It hovers between a light and fast accessory and a heavy base camp filter.
At $89, this water pump is comparable to other pump-style filters. It is less expensive than UV treatments such as a SteriPEN, but more expensive than a chlorine dioxide treatment. Overall, this filter provides great value for its performance.
MSR Miniworks EX
MSR Hyperflow Microfilter
SweetWater Filter Cartridge
— McKenzie Long
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: January 12, 2015
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