MSR MiniWorks EX Water Filter for the Boundary Waters and beyond by Red Rock Wilderness Store There are a lot of water filters out there for camping. We have sold and tried many of them with less than consistently great results. In fact, some of them were just downright consistently troublesome. Without mentioning several brand names that are absolutely sub-par in my opinion, I CAN tell you who makes the best water filter you can buy. It’s not the most expensive, nor is it the most complicated yet it works very consistently and most importantly, it is field serviceable. You can watch all the parts function with relative ease, no tools required. Prior to the MSR MiniWorks EX water filter, those other water filter systems required that you to clean them with a little round brush when they get dirty and clogged. These types are still being made and for some folks they apparently work fine, but for the life of me, I could not see why anybody would design equipment that consists of an inaccessisible ceramic filter that you have to stuff a brush up into to clean. The hole you need to visually inspect after cleaning with the provided brush is dark in every case. You can’t see doo-diddly towards the back of that filter. The dirt you are trying to clean is also dark. So when your filter is clogged (very hard to pump), you need to shove a brush into a dark hole scrubbing back and forth to try to dislodge the trapped dirt which is hard to discern from darkness. That’s the first problem. The second problem with the “scrubbing hole” type filters is that the smaller the size of particulates being filtered out (.3 microns), the more pressure needed to drive the water through the ceramic that is separating the bad parts out of the good water. This requires a lot of pressure that can build up in the pump. It’s basically low volume – high pressure being employed and the pressure gets even higher when the filter gets clogged. It’s not at all unusual to literally blow the top of the unit, cracking the plastic beyond repair. Now, I saw this happen to two different brands several times. We stopped selling them. I wouldn’t give you two cents for either because having a failure in needed gear sucks. Both companies who made the filters replaced the parts cheerfully which is great. What wasn’t so great was that some of the clients using the blown filters were 3 days into a 5 day wilderness trip or some derivation thereof. Last I checked, the greatest customer service staff in the world still won’t paddle out to your camp to give you the part you need. Crank up the fire, you’re gonna be boiling water for the next three days. That’s a pain, too, unless you like tea.
The part that is really neat about this MSR water filter is that you don’t need tools to take it apart. Plus, if you have the least amount of “MacGuyver” in you, I’m guessing you could figure out how to make it work. We once had a customer who took his MSR out on a 7 day Boundary Waters canoe trip and somehow, he managed to break the pin that holds the handle to the plunger. Don’t know what happened, but he was unable to connect the parts needed to make this pump perform until he got a stick. He carefully whittled the stick down to the correct diameter to fit in the hole for the pin. He stuck it through the linkage, cut it off flush on each side and finished out his trip without incident. I tried it when he returned and it worked fine. MSR just mailed him the pin and he replaced the stick. Now, I’ve looked at a bunch of different filters over the years and many of them would be a bear to repair out in the boonies. That repair put the final knot in my bowtie regarding these being really great water filter pumps. Before that, I just liked them because they don’t fall apart, and one can visually inspect the dirt on the filter and then clean it accordingly. No shoving that little brush up its behind, no wondering if it’s clean. Just quickly disassemble, scrub with the little green scrubby pad they provide, rinse, reassemble and pump. After several scrubbings of the filter, take the little caliper stored on the bottom cover and slide it over the filter. If the caliper don’t fit,
you must acquit you are still good to go on this one. Once the caliper slides over the ceramic, you need a new filter. So, check it at home first if you’re going out for a long haul.
TIP: The absolute best way to never have your filter wear out or need replacing is to forget it on the kitchen table. They last forever in that circumstance.
MORE IMPORTANT TIP: The absolute best way to minimize needing to clean your filter is to put your water in a large pail WHILE you are setting up camp. It should sit for about 15 minutes and then you pump your drinking water from that pail keeping the hose end off the bottom. If you are using an aluminum pail or pot, you’ll see the sediment that settles out of the water. Whatever you can do to not suck up this sediment, the longer your filter will go between needing cleanings. So, don’t lean over the side of the canoe with the filter and suck straight out of the lake. Do not suck up water next to the shore for the same reason. Put it in a pot, wait and pump.
MODERATELY IMPORTANT TIP: Pump only water that you’ll be using for drinking kool-aid – in other words – cold water needs. You do not need to filter the water you use for boiling like your dish washing water, water for bathing, etc. I know our outfitting customers at times have filtered every bit of water they use for all sorts of non-drinking purposes and that is necessary. Just filter the water you need for drinking, period. And, I stand corrected by a friend and expert although I had no idea myself: You should filter your dog’s water. Giardia bugs them, too. Who knew?!
ONE LAST TIP: At no times should one ever allow the kids or immature adults to use the filter as a squirt gun and don’t drop the filter when cleaning it. If you crack the filter, you need a new filter, so be careful while handling.