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MSR SweetWater Microfilter Review

MSR SweetWater Microfilter
Price:   $90 List | $71.93 at REI
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Pros:  Handle is easy to pump, handle collapses to pack, smaller filter pore size than Katadyn Hiker Pro
Cons:  Very average in weight, pump speed, price, and filter life
Bottom line:  Our favorite pump style filter, the Sweetwater is the lightest in its class, but we would still choose a gravity filter over a pump.
Editors' Rating:   
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Manufacturer:   MSR

Our Verdict

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 13.5+ ounces, pump-time (1.5 min per liter), capacity (750 liters), and price ($90).

The Sweetwater provides excellent value, dependability, and ease of use for the price, and can treat as much or as little water as needed. For the fastest working filter, go with the Platypus Gravityworks Water Filter, our Editors' Choice winner. 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.

Looking for even more protection from viruses?
The MSR SweetWater Purifier System is a nice upgrade from the Microfilter that we tested. For $100, MSR provides a chlorine-based SweetWater Purifier solution to inactivate viruses to provide exceptionally clean water. If you're planning on travel to remote, developing countries or certain wilderness zones, the added protection of the chlorine solution may make the SweetWater Purifier System the perfect purifier for you.


RELATED REVIEW: Best Backpacking Water Filters and Treatment of 2017


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Jessica Haist

Last Updated:
Wednesday
August 10, 2016

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A standard pump filter; this is an easy and popular way to treat water while in the backcountry.

Perfomance Comparison


Using the MSR Sweetwater to refill at Iceberg Lake in the Mt. Whitney region.
Using the MSR Sweetwater to refill at Iceberg Lake in the Mt. Whitney region.

Reliability/Effectiveness


The silica depth filter 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.

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 gravity filters like the Katadyn Gravity Camp 6L, which are good for 2000 liters and 1500 liters respectively, but can filter more than the MSR Aquatabs.

The Sweetwater feels a little more delicate and has more assembly and parts than other more durable filters in this review like the Katadyn Vario. 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. We're not surprised, as it has small parts that need to be fixed into place each time, leaving room for user error. This is the only durability issue we have come across with this filter.

The Sweetwater filter handle is the most delicate of the ones we tested.
The Sweetwater filter handle is the most delicate of the ones we tested.

The water flavor remains largely unchanged. Chemicals are removed through the filter, which can make water taste better.

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; reattaching 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 Hiker Pro, although we still prefer a traditional pump handle like the MSR Guardian for pumping.

The handle on this contender is very easy to pump  and then collapses so that it can be easily packed.
The handle on this contender is very easy to pump, and then collapses so that it can be easily packed.

Speed


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, but is not as fast as the Vario that takes a quick 47 seconds and the Gravity Camp that takes 40 seconds per liter with no effort at all.

Luke Lydiard filtering water with the Sweetwater at Iceberg Lake in the Mt. Whitney region. The filter has a pore size of 0.2 microns and a life of 750 liters.
Luke Lydiard filtering water with the Sweetwater at Iceberg Lake in the Mt. Whitney region. The filter has a pore size of 0.2 microns and a life of 750 liters.

Weight


At around 13.5 ounces - including the storage case and hoses, this filter is average in weight for a pump style filter but heavier than the majority of the gravity filters we tested like the MSR AutoFlow that weighs 10.9 ounces or the Platypus GravityWorks that weighs 11.5 oz. Not too heavy, but not ultra-light either.

Best Application


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.

Value


At $90, this water pump is comparable to other pump-style filters. It is less expensive than UV treatments such as a SteriPEN Ultra, but more expensive than a chlorine dioxide treatment. Overall, this filter provides decent value for its performance.

The pre-filter on the Sweetw#ter  by MSR.
The pre-filter on the Sweetw#ter, by MSR.

Conclusion


We prefer the Sweetwater to the Hiker Pro and the MSR Miniworks EX, but have concerns about its durability with the delicate handle. Otherwise, it is easy to use and one of the lighter pumps we tested in this review. If you're looking for a pump to take backpacking for personal or small group use, we'd recommend the Sweetwater. If you're headed out with two or more people, consider a gravity filter instead, like the Editors' Choice Platypus Gravityworks.
Jessica Haist

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Most recent review: August 10, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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