A Water filter is a personal choice and a topic which can evoke much emotion, so I will start by saying this isn’t complete overview of water filters or even a set of recommendations. It is however a review of the water filters I have purchased and used in the real world for as long as they lasted or continue to use. The filters under review are the MSR MiniWorks, Drinksafe-Systems Travel Tap and Sawyer Mini Water Filter. This review does not cover a deep technical discussion of filter capabilities, but does state the level of filtering claimed. The level of filtering and the risks you are wiling to take are up to you.
The MSR MiniWorks is the first water filter I ever acquired. It was given me by a friend who was moving house as they had never taken it out of the box. Since then it has been used in so many environments I can’t remember them all. The MSR MiniWorks is sold as being designed for long term heavy use. MSR state it will filter 1ltr per/min and it can filter everything but virus’s and leaves the water taste free. It works via a ceramic/carbon filter.
The MSR MiniWorks is bulky and heavy, mine weighs 477g and 502g with its bag. The beauty of the MSR MiniWorks, is that is just works. The worst water I remember filtering with the MSR MiniWorks came straight from a canal, it did need a clean after every 2ltrs, but worked perfectly allowing me to continue my route without deviating. It provides good flow even when filtering poor quality water. Cleaning is simple and can be done in the field. A quick read of the instructions will give anyone the confidence to clean it and check the filter is still useable.
My personal view is that as a long term water filter it is as close to perfect as possible. Its robustness, simplicity and ease of cleaning make this a brilliant little filter. These are characteristics that more than make up for its weight and bulk. That said the bulk and weight were the main reasons for purchasing the 2 other water filters in this review.
Drinksafe-Systems Travel Tap
The Travel Tap is sold as been lightweight, robust, and fast flow water filter. The water filter comes as part of a water bottle, of which the filter is replaceable. Drinksafe-Systems claims their filter has a life span of up to 1600L and will also auto shutdown when the filter needs replacing. The big selling point of the Travel Tap is it also filters viruses, including Anthrax. Drinksafe-systems also backs up its claims with a list of highly prestigious tests from universities and military Labs around the world.
The Travel Tap is a nice package, the Water bottle makes it easy to use and carry. The design also means there is little extra weight to carry (143g). I first used the Travel Tap in the stream at the top of the path from Seathwaite to the base of Great End. The flow was good and the ease of use great. I was so impressed I ordered a 2nd one. Unfortunately the Travel Tap did not survive another trip. I took both the Travel Tap water bottles to the Peak District for a 3 day adventure. They each managed to filter about 2ltrs of water from the river Dove before the flow reduced to a drip, it hadn’t shut off completely but was too slow to be useable.
It is possible that some unscrupulousness person had poured some highly toxic chemical into the river and the Travel Tap was just saving my life; however on that day, though stood in the middle of the peak district with beauty all around, and what seemed to me as probably safe to drink water flowing past me, I wasn’t impressed.
Unfortunately things got worse after returning from the trip, the filter screws into the cap, but on removing the filter the silicone holding the threaded hole gave way meaning replacing the filter was not longer an option unless I wanted to get the Silicone out. This made the whole thing useless. I would like to think I was just unlucky, but this then happened on the 2nd bottle as well.
It appears then that the Travel Tap is neither robust or a good water filter. The river Dove is hardly dirty water, and if a filter can’t survive filtering more than 2ltrs of clear fast flowing water, I personally would say its not fit for purpose. My overall view is the Travel Tap is little more than a cheap water bottle with a fairly useless filter held in place by silicone.
Sawyer Mini Water Filter
Sawyer describe their water filter as being small and light (65g). Sawyer also claim that the Sawyer Mini Filter is able to filter everything down to 0.1 micron. This means it will filter all bacteria but not viruses. It is sold as providing a high flow rate and the Sawyer Mini comes with a 100,000 gallon (378,540 Litre) guarantee, which they claim will last a lifetime. The Sawyer Mini filter is also field cleanable and can be screwed onto regular plastic water/pop bottles.
In practice when I first got the package the Sawyer Mini Water Filter looked so small and light that I wondered how it was going to survive. The package contains a filter, cleaning plunger and water bag to collect water in. Once in your hands the filter feels robust and well made. My filter weighs in at 52g which is less than the claimed 65g, however if you include the cleaning plunger and collection bag the package comes in at 106g. This still makes it the smallest and lightest filter I own.
In use the Sawyer Mini Filter works very well, the flow is good and the ability to attach any standard thread bottle is great, although I would recommend against trying to use a 500ml bottle to collect and filter water as it can take some time to fill a 750ml bottle. Using the proper supplied bag or a 1ltr bottle to collect water the filter works flawlessly. The cleaning mechanism works really well and is easy to use. Overall I am very impressed with the Sawyer Mini Water Filter and it is now my go to filter for all UK trips.