Nearly all of the gear we rent and sell - including water filters - at our retail store in Tempe and to our customers around the country has been tested on actual hiking or backpacking trips by the LowerGear owner and/or staff. For anything we haven't taken out ourselves, we consider user reviews and evaluations in outdoors magazines and relevant credible web sites before adding it to our offerings.
To help you make the best camping and backpacking gear choices for your next trip, feel free to give us a call for our recommendations. If you prefer to do your own research, read the product descriptions on each item, check out our selection of videos and informational pages, and read other user's reviews and descriptions of the backpacking and camping gear we carry.
Below are user reviews on some of the water filters we offer for sale or rent. If we didn't find a review on the exact item we carry, we include one on a similar product that will give you a close feel on what to expect. We scavenged these reviews from other sites out on the big world web, so we don't really know the folks that did the write-ups. But, it never hurts to hear a second or third point of view. If it just gets confusing, you can always give us a call for clarification.
I had to buy this one as my last hydromedary bag started leaking... after almost 6 years of constant use. I've tried bladders from Camelbak (had three leak) and others, and none come close.
*super, super durable.
*did I mention that durable is important?
*A little slow on the refill at aid stations if you're racing.
*Not clear, so you can't see how much you've got in it. I solved by using a permanent marker to make fill lines on the outside and then you wet the outside a bit and you can see how much you have.
*I personally don't like the bite valve as I like something more simple with max flow, but it's easy to switch.
I hesitated in buying this because it is quite a bit more expensive than comparable bladders. However, the bladder is made of nylon fabric that seems to be EXTREMELY sturdy. I've filled it up several times now almost to 3/4 full and frozen it. The cap does freeze shut so I take it out about 10 minutes prior to filling it the rest of the way with water. Now I have cold water for at least 12 miles into a run. That's very nice.
The mouthpiece does take some getting used to as the flow is lower than other bags.
The tubing at the bottom cannot be removed without water escaping from the bag (if this is what you're looking for, the Hydrapak reversible has this feature.
I'm definitely going to switch to this bag since the material will withstand more abuse than plastic only bladders.
Katadyn Hiker Water Filter
Backpacking with the scout troop in the Colorado back country, we see a bunch of different water filters. This is one of the easiest and fastest to use. The inlet line can be easily placed in a small stream, and the float adjusted so it doesn't sit on the bottom. It isn't very sensitive to being fully submerged, unlike some other filters. Even the younger boys have no trouble operating this one. You can easily fill up a 1-quart water bottle in less than a minute. It comes with a reasonable carrying bag, although some care must be taken to keep the inlet & outlet lines separate. Parts (e.g., replacement filters) are readily available from a variety of sporting-goods & camping stores.
I purchased this product to filter my water on a daily basis (I live in the interior region of a developing country) and it's great! The pumping handle is strong and sturdy, and it takes a short amount of time to filter a 2 liter bottle of water (1-2 minutes on average). The input and output hoses are more than adequate (almost too long for everyday use!). Best of all, when I do travel it packs into a small carrying case that takes up minimal space in my bag, and is lighter than a pair of jeans. A great product, highly rated for both camping/hiking and everyday use.
I've had a Sweetwater filter for years, going back to before MSR acquired the brand, and I've been very happy with it. On a recent long backpack I was able to compare it to the MSR Miniworks, since I tried my hiking partners' Miniworks several times. If I had to get a new one I think I'd give the edge to the Sweetwater, but it would be close and both are excellent. (Before the Sweetwater I had a First Need, and both of these MSRs are far better.)
Filtering ability is, of course, the most important criterion, but I can't test that and so I leave it to the lab folks. I can say that I've never gotten sick drinking water from either model (and given how much I sweat when hiking, I've swallowed a LOT of filtered water, much of it downstream from beaver habitat, so you know what that means), so for my purposes I consider the two to be functionally equal in that regard. The Sweetwater is noticeably lighter, which matters to me. The Miniworks does feel more robust (hence the extra weight), and perhaps it is, though I've never had anything break on my Sweetwater. Also, it's cleverly designed to give the pump handle extra mechanical advantage to make the pumping easier (see the pictures and you'll see what I mean, but note that the handle folds down for easy packing). For both models the ceramic filter has to be cleaned regularly which requires a bit of disassembly. The Sweetwater is cleaned by a brush that runs through the center of the cartridge, which always remains in its plastic casing. The Miniworks' cartridge has to be fully removed to be scrubbed on its exterior, and so there's a bit of a risk of breaking it if it's dropped.
The Miniworks is threaded to screw directly (i.e., without using an outlet hose, although it comes with a hose for other bottles) into a standard Nalgene bottle, or into anything else, such as some hydration bladders, that have the same size and threading. This is convenient but requires that the weight of the bottle or bladder is suspended from the filter while pumping. The Sweetwater instead has an adapter on its outlet hose that fits (but does not thread into) a Nalgene and several other openings, so that the bottle or bladder can sit on the ground while it is being filled.
There are plenty of other filters out there that I haven't tried and so I have no opinion on them, but I do think that the Sweetwater is a winner.
I have had an original "white" model of this filter for many many years and the center filter pump column cracked just a short while ago. The new filter is almost identical except for the color. I consider this filter to be my gold standard for water filters. It works flawlessly and effortlessly. I have had other filters but they are always more difficult to pump. This one has never let me down. You would also find that the company honors the lifetime warranty without question. Great company. I will go out of my way to find products by Cascade design (they have the MRS brand) now because of their great customer support. I called them and told them the center stem had cracked on my 25 year old model and they had me send in the cracked stem and sent me a new one within a week. Another customer I met in a store here told me the same story about his old filter. He also had the same experience with them honoring their warranty.
Want to learn more about other types of backpacking and camping gear? We have broken out our gear reviews by major equipment category. In addition to the water filter reviews above, see our other gear review pages:
For more information, see our full line of water filters for sale or rent.