MSR Miniworks EX Water Filter

MSR-miniworks_exOur water filter was one of the pieces of gear we researched the most and we finally settled on the MSR Miniworks EX.

We wanted a water filter because:

  • Almost any stream or river comes with the risk of picking up parasites and viruses
  • Tap water in many less developed countries is not fit to drink
  • We didn’t want to add to the pile of plastic bottles already in the environment

Initially, we found the variety of water filters on the market quite confusing but we finally settled on the MSR Miniworks EX. It was:

  • Relatively affordable ($89.95 from REI)
  • Field serviceable
  • Battery free (some filters use specialist batteries that we weren’t confident of finding on the road)
  • Long lasting, with a capacity of about 2,000 liters per cartridge (that’s 400 days of filtering at 5 liters a day – more than most cyclists will ever need)
  • Suitable for filtering out protozoa and bacteria larger than 0.2 microns

How it works: The Miniworks EX is simple to use. If we are drawing water from a stream or a lake, we find a spot a few inches deep to drop the collection tube in the water. If that isn’t possible, we collect water in our Ortlieb Folding Bowl for filtering. We then simply place the filter over the bottle or bag we’re filtering in to and pump away until it’s full.

Once we’ve filtered as much water as we need, we remove the collection hose from the water and give the pump a few last strokes to remove as much water as possible from the filter. If we are going to use the filter again within a day or two, we don’t do anything else.

If we think it might be a week or more until we use the filter again, we try to dry out the ceramic filter as soon as possible (usually by hanging it in a mesh bag) and clean it, so it’s ready and free of residue for the next time we need it.

What we like: For the price, we feel we got our money’s worth out of the filter and it’s still good to take on future trips. We loved the fact the sturdy plastic shell of the filter (almost impossible to break) and we were impressed at how clean the water was once filtered, even when the original source was noticeably dirty. The water always tasted good.

What we don’t like: The ceramic filter in the Miniworks EX is vulnerable if you leave it out to dry. A passing cat knocked ours off a table and we had to replace the filter. A replacement filter costs $40 from REI – not bad if you’ve worn your old one out but frustrating when bad luck causes a breakage.

Also, filtering can be tiring business. MSR say you should be able to filter water at 1 litre a minute but it’s hard to keep up that pace for several litres in a row.

Conclusions:The Miniworks EX is reliable, simple to operate and a breeze to maintain. We just wish it weren’t such hard work when filtering large quantities of water.

Other options: Read our overview of Water Treatment Options for Bike Touring