We were intrigued by this new product on the market from Aquamira. The Frontier Max is a super light filter unit that will work with most bladders on the market either by connecting directly into any "quick connect" connection or splicing it in line with your hose. The Frontier also is one of the few models in this review that filters out viruses. All this being said, it was difficult to suck water through our hydration pack's hose and found the gravity filter mode slow and challenging to use. While it would be an excellent choice for treks in developing countries, but we would choose something different if backpacking in the US or Canada.
Aquamira Frontier Max Review
Cons: Hard to suck water through, expensive
Compare to Similar Products
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Frontier Max is a lightweight filter option that is compatible with many hydration systems and treats for viruses.
At the time of publishing, it is unclear what the pore size is of the Frontier. Aquamira claims it is effective against viruses, which would mean it's smaller than 0.1 microns. The Frontier has been tested to remove more than 99.9% of Giardia and Cryptosporidium, and Aquamira now claims it has been EPA certified. We also like the MSR Guardian or Aquamira Water Treatment Drops for reliability.
The Frontier can be used either with a hydration system or as a gravity filter, although it always needs to be attached to a bag in some way with a quick connect connection. It is a sturdy unit, and you can purchase replacement filter units for it.
Ease of Use
The Frontier is very easy to assemble and clicks into the desired vessel. We did find it was difficult to suck out water through this unit due to its small pore size. Once we got water into the filter unit (from the bag), it was easier to get and keep going. It has a relatively small outflow, which equates to taking a bit of time (and patience) to get the water you need.
This is where the Frontier excels! The manufacturer says that this product weighs one ounce; however, when we weighed it, dry out of the box, our scale measured 2.1 ounces. Don't fear; this is still an exceptionally lightweight product! The Sawyer Mini still beats it overall, as the Mini weighs 1.6 ounces. We would recommend the Mini over the Frontier for North American use; it's lighter and easier to use. We also like the lightweight Lifestraw Flex because it comes with a soft-sided bottle and is incredibly versatile.
We were surprised and slightly disappointed, to find out that according to Aquamira, the Frontier's treatment capacity is only 454 liters or 120 gallons. The bright side is that Aquamira offers replacement cartridges for a relatively low cost; it's $15 for 190-liter cartridge life.
The Frontier is slow. It took us nine minutes to filter a liter using the "gravity" method and were squeezing the bag to make the flow faster. We suspect this is because of the small pore size, which also made it very difficult to get water out through the hose. This is this Frontier's primary downfalls.
We would recommend taking the Frontier with you if you are planning on traveling to and trekking through a developing country because it filters out viruses. Otherwise, we would not choose this product for backpacking around Canada or the US.
We can't say this product is a great value retailing for $50. It is significantly cheaper than the Guardian but in most instances, we would choose the Aquamira Drops over this product. They can treat large quantities of water for a much lower price ($15) and also treat for viruses.
The Aquamira Frontier piqued our interest but left us a bit disappointed. It is super lightweight, works well with most hydration systems, and claims to filters out viruses. It's also slow to filter and difficult to suck water through our hydration hose. If we were traveling abroad to developing countries where viruses may be present in water sources, we would consider bringing the Frontier along.
— Jessica Haist