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What gets your vote for best all-around water filter?

Gear Wizard, what's the best backpacking water filter on the market these days? If reliability, ease of use, speed, and size trump price, what's the best? Josh Denver, Colorado

A: I like MSR's MiniWorks EX ($80, I've been using one for years and have found it supremely user-friendly and effective—at least, I haven't contracted giardia while using one! The two features I particularly like are the lever-type pump handle, which I find easy to use, and the fact the filter can be screwed directly onto a Nalgene bottle, so there's no need to try to balance a bottle or pot on a rock and hold an outlet tube over it. The EX is an updated version of the MiniWorks I've long used, with a new filter element and improved pumping action.


The SweetWater Microfilter ($59) is also a can't-miss filter. Like the MiniWorks, it's now made by MSR (which purchased SweetWater a few years back) so it has the same basic filter, just a slightly different design. It's being marketed as the "light and fast" filter, while the MiniWorks is for someone who's willing to carry a few more ounces and gain some durability.

Neither the MiniWorks nor the Microfilter is a water purifier, however. That means they'll catch giardiasis, protozoa, and that sort of thing, but not viruses. For that you'll need to carry along a chemical treatment. SweetWater Purifier ($9 a bottle) does the trick, without adding any aftertaste.

Everything you need to know about pumps, filters, and chemical purifiers in Outside's 2004 Buyer's Guide .

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Filed To: Filters and Purifiers
Lead Photo: courtesy, MSR