Aquamira Frontier Max Review
Cons: Slow flow rate, easy to lose small pieces
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Frontier Max is a lightweight filter purifier that is compatible with many hydration systems and treats for viruses.
While there isn't much information about this filter online, it claims to be effective against bacteria, protozoa (including Giardia and Cryptosporidium), and viruses. We don't know the exact pore size, but if it can filter our viruses, the pore size must be smaller than 0.02 microns.
As a result of this in-line filtration system being able to remove viruses, it stands out from other filtration systems that can't do that. For example, the Sawyer Micro is a favorite among our testers, but it can't filter out viruses so it's better suited only for North American travel where viruses aren't a problem. Aquamira also claims this product is EPA certified. Aquamira claims that it removes foul tastes, biochemicals, and other toxins. When in use, the taste of the water is good.
When filtering through different types of water media, we were fortunate enough to have fresh, clear water. With heavy sediment, the filter does work but can clog, so be sure to pre-filter if you're heading to a place where the water source might contain sediment. In clear water, it worked beautifully.
Durability and Maintenance
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: $15 for 190 liters of cartridge life.
Aside from the life of the filter, it is easy to clean and maintain with an anti-microbial cover that prevents growth in the filter media. While the pieces might be easy to lose, we put them into a plastic bag to keep them together. It's a sturdy unit that is reliable.
The Frontier is surprisingly fast as a compatible filtration method. While the company does claim 0.5 L/min, we got a rate that was closer to 2:30 per liter after three trials when compatible with different gravity fed systems.
That said, when trying to treat turbid water, this filter dripped instead of flowed. In clear water, it works well, but not so well in turbid water. While this isn't the fastest time out there, it's still pretty awesome and gives it an application for use with other systems. Be sure to pre-filter if you find yourself in silty places.
Weight and Packability
When we weighed this filter, dry out of the box, our scale measured 2.45 ounces. With the adaptor kit, the overall weight is about 3.15 oz.
The Frontier Max can easily be attached to a hydration bladder or gravity filter. It also works as a filter that you can click the drinking end into and sip from directly. It fits easily into a small running vest pocket or the top of a pack if you need to store it. Or leave it attached to the hose of your hydration bladder. The lightweight and the super-packable profile adds to its versatility.
Ease of Setup
The Frontier is very easy to assemble and clicks into the desired vessel. It's quite versatile with adaptors to fit any hydration bladder or gravity filter that we've tested thus far.
Not only does it easily fit in-line with these systems, but you can convert the filter into a simply straw filter as well by clipping in the bite valve, creating a super lightweight system.
Since the Aquamira Frontier can work on its own or with an adaptive in-line system, water collection covers all the bases. Use it as a straw filter in shallow puddles, or grab a large amount of water with a gravity filter or hydration bladder. Setup doesn't take any time at all, which we love. We recommend this filter if you want a gravity filter that can also filter out viruses, which none of the gravity filters we've tested do.
Ease of Filtration
This metric is difficult for this filter because filtration modes vary based on how you use it. When in gravity filter mode, it's super easy with little to no effort. Clip it in and walk away while it does its work. The high flow bite valve helps to make filtration when sucking it through more natural.
When using in gravity mode, you clip the filter into the base of the unit or put it inline depending on the adaptability. At first, the flow was slow, but once it got going, it chugged along just fine, with no effort.
In a hydration bladder, we had to suck pretty hard to get water through. But this was no different than efforts we had to put forth with other bladder systems. In straw filtration mode, we were surprised at how easy it was to use. Given the bite valve, it allows you to use more sucking force while providing a decent amount of water.
This product stands out for its tremendous versatility. If you're looking to save a little money on a system that can both filter out particulates and viruses and doesn't require paying for an ultra-expensive purifier, we'd say that the price is a fair one. When you're not at base camp filtering through your gravity setup, unclip it, take it with you, and use it as an on-the-go filter while you hike.
The Aquamira Frontier is a purifier that can snap into any established in-line system such as a gravity filter or hydration bladder. It also works on its own as a straw-based filter. Its relatively lightweight and the output is pretty fast. We find it has uses in places where you might want a filter that can filter out viruses. We primarily recommend it if you already have a gravity filter but want it to filter out viruses, as most filters can't do this. A great option for base-camps (for use with a gravity filter), where you might find yourself taking day trips for on-the-go use.
— Amber King