Any large-scale disruption reminds us that a solid emergency kit offers peace of mind if a disaster were to threaten our local services. While the coronavirus has not been detected in drinking water supplies, we’ve received many questions about emergency water filters. To help, we’re taking a closer look at MSR’s lineup, explaining which filters and purifiers are great for your emergency kits. Water treatment is a complicated science, but understanding the basics allows you to pick one you can trust in times of need.
At MSR, we’re home to on-site water research lab staffed by treatment scientists and microbiologists. Their expertise provides our team an incredible level of knowledge for developing water treatment devices. We’ve captured much of their expertise in these articles:
- Water Treatment 101: Guide to the Basics
- When is Backcountry Water Considered Safe to Drink?
- Water Filter vs. Water Purifier: What’s the Difference?
- Decoding Water Filter “Tested-To” Claims
- Understanding what “Removes 99.99%” Means
- Backcountry Water 101: Danger Zones
As we all lay low, now is the perfect time to brush up how to stay safe on future adventures, so give those articles a read.
Emergency Water Filters and Purifiers
Filter or purifier?
Before we dive in, it’s important to know the difference between a filter and purifier. A filter (more accurately, a microfilter) is designed to physically remove two types of waterborne microorganisms: bacteria and protozoa. A purifier is designed to either kill or physically remove all three types: bacteria, protozoa and viruses.
Thus, to combat viruses, you’ll need a purifier. Or, you use a mircofilter plus a purifying agent.
Effective against: Viruses, bacteria, protozoa, microplastics, dirt
Flow rate: 2.5 L per minute
Style: Hand pump
Best for: 2-4 people; choosing one device that works for backcountry, international travel and emergency use
Originally developed to keep military service members safe while in the field, the Guardian purifier is the world’s most advanced portable purifier. As a pump, it physically strains out contaminants, including viruses, making it as easy to use as a microfilter. Built to military specifications, the Guardian’s robust housing withstands challenging environments and the purifier has been tested to NSF Protocol P248, the military standard for microbiological purifiers. In addition, the pump self-cleans, which allows it to handle demanding water types without clogging. Given its speed—2.5 liters per minute—the Guardian is the ultimate tool for doubling as both a backcountry and emergency kit treatment device.
SE200™ Community Chlorine Maker
Effective against: Viruses, bacteria, giardia cysts
Each batch treats: 200 L (30-minute wait time while chlorine kills microbes)
Style: Creates a batch of chlorine
Best for: Families and communities, and creating large volumes of drinking water or sanitation solution
A result of MSR’s Global Health efforts, the Community Chlorine Maker provides a fast way to generate chlorine on the spot using just water, salt and electricity. In 5 minutes, it produces a small batch of chlorine that treats 200 L of water. The chlorine may be used to treat drinking water, or to create a disinfection solution for sanitizing surfaces and instruments—a key use during emergencies, as microorganisms can spread easily on all kinds of surfaces. The device has been used around the world to support relief agencies and communities in developing nations.
While bottled chlorine’s shelf life is relatively short, the SE200 provides chlorine at the push of a button for a variety of safety needs.
MiniWorks® EX Purifier System
Effective against: Viruses, bacteria, protozoa, microplastics, dirt, chemicals, tastes, odors
Flow rate: 1 liter per minute
Style: Hand pump
Best for: 1-2 people; provides the flexibility to use the purification tablets only when needed
Our best-selling microfilter now comes bundled with Aquatabs purification tablets. This workhorse filter handles demanding water types and is fully field-maintainable. It features a ceramic element for filtering out bacteria, protozoa and particulate, and a carbon element for reducing chemicals and tastes. The Aquatabs tablets add defense against viruses. After filtering the water, simply drop an Aquatabs tablet into the water wait 30 minutes. This combo gives you the flexibility to use the purification tablets only when you need them.
Aquatabs® Purification Tablets
Effective against: Viruses, bacteria, protozoa
Treatment time: 30-minute wait time while chlorine kills microbes
Style: Chlorine-based tablet
Best for: 1-2 people; adding defense against viruses to any microfilter
Aquatabs purification tablets make great emergency back-up treatment solutions. Ultralight, compact and protected in individual packaging, they’re easy to toss into an emergency kit (or a backpack). Use them after filtering your water to combat viruses.
Each year, Aquatabs treat billions of gallons of water, providing a trusted solution for backpackers, relief agencies and defense forces around the world. Given their convenience, there’s no reason you shouldn’t stash a pack away for those “just in case” moments.
MSR Home Emergency Water Filter Kit
Effective against: Bacteria, protozoa, dirt, microplastics, chemicals, tastes, odors
Flow rate: Depends on spigot
Style: Attaches to standard-threaded home spigots
Best for: Treating home drinking water if municipal systems are compromised, such as during city boil orders
MSR’s Home Emergency Water Filter Kit offers a convenient way to treat your home drinking water if it’s contaminated. For example, if the municipal water treatment system is compromised, the city might issue a boil order. This kit allows you to treat the water flowing from your spigot. The kit’s adapter threads onto standard outdoor spigots, including those often found on backyard cisterns. The microfilter uses hollow fiber technology to remove bacteria, protozoa and particulate, and activated carbon to reduce chemicals and tastes. To combat viruses, simply add 2 drops of bleach to a gallon of treated water and wait 30 minutes.
The kit is protected in hermetically sealed packaging to ensure it’s ready to go after long-term storage. Used by the U.S. military for more than a decade, this microfilter provides an alternative to storing weeks’ worth of bottled water as you prepare for unexpected times.
We hope this breakdown helps you navigate your options for smart water treatment solutions. As is everyone, our team is currently laying low, working from our respective home offices. But from afar we hope to remain your resource for information and inspiration—for future adventures to come!