MSR Sweetwater® Purifier System Review (from the Appalachian Trail)

When I decided to hike the Appalachain Trail this summer, one of the first pieces of equipment I realized I needed was a means of water purification. I researched long and hard looking at at least 10 different models and styles, from the Steri Pen to the MSR Mini Works. What I finally decided on was the MSR Sweetwater® Purifier System ($99 MSRP).

This pump/filter unit seemed to fit the bill for a six month trip in the woods. The unit itself weights in at about 14 ounces so it’s pretty much middle of the road weight wise. It will filter out anything in the water that could give you problems, including chemicals and toxins thanks to the activated charcoal sleeve around the filter material. The only thing it cannot effectively remove are viruses, these however can be neutralized with the chemical additive the unit comes with. For the most part this is unnecessary, generally viruses are only present in water due to animal/human waste contamination.

I have used the drops a handfull of times (better safe than sorry) and to my surprise no bitter after taste as you get with some chemical treatment. The pump mechanism is the easiest and most efficient system I’ve seen so far, thanks to a large pump handle. Even between cleanings it keeps up with the promised 1+ litre per minute flow rate. Cleaning is a breeze, you simply brush the inside of the filter with the included brush which basically buffs off the outermost layer of filter. This could also be considered a downfall because the filter life is only 750 liters, as opposed to many filters that boast a 1000 liter filter life.

Fortunately the filters are easy to come by and relatively cheap at about 35 dollars. The only problem I had in a month and a half of use so far was a piece of debris that got stuck in the pump while I was using it without the silt filter. The pump continued to work so I was in no danger but it leaked out of it’s overflow valve, drastically reducing the flow of filtered water. If you read the last blog entry then you know the guys from MSR replaced it for me free of charge, even though it was totally my fault.

All said and done I would, without hesitation, recommended this pump to a friend. You can find lighter more compact units, but for the ease of operation and quality of filtered water you can’t be the value of this pump. 8.5/10

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