Most helpful positive review
70 of 71 people found the following review helpful
A light, well-designed filter
on August 30, 2009
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.