Gear Archives: Trusted Source—The Evolution of the MiniWorks EX Microfilter

In 1991, MSR took the plunge into water products to answer the needs of backcountry travelers asking for more user-friendly and trustworthy solutions to gathering safe drinking water. One of these initial offerings was the MSR Dromedary™ Beverage Bag, a rugged, collapsible bag to tote your water as you roamed. The other was the now-legendary WaterWorks Total Filtration System—a highly engineered pump filter that was more effective than other filters of the day and so easy to use it changed how people filtered water. The MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter is its evolutionary descendent and remains the world’s favorite backcountry filter for its plain and simple workhorse reliability. Four Filters Are Better The WaterWorks filtration system was built with four progressively finer filters that delivered pharmaceutically sterile water, without chemicals. The…

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What Hikers Should Know About Toxic Algae Blooms

You may or may not have heard of toxic algae blooms. If you have, it may have been something related to local beaches, including warnings not to swim or harvest any shellfish. But these potentially deadly occurrences affect inland fresh water as well, including sources used by hikers for drinking. In 2022, Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers may have been sickened by toxic cyanobacterial blooms. So how can you tell if a water source has been rendered dangerous by algae? And if it has, what, if anything, can you do about it? What are Toxic Algae Blooms? Also called blue-green algae, cyanobacteria are found in salt, fresh and brackish water. These simple, plantlike organisms aren’t always toxic, but under certain conditions, including abnormally warm weather or pollution, they can grow out…

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In Terms of Backcountry Water Treatment, When is Water Considered Safe to Drink?

Brown, silty streams, tea-colored rivulets, even clear, ice-cold lakes—any backcountry water source can serve up a cocktail of contaminants. But not everything that’s present in an undeveloped water source is necessarily harmful, and only some things pose an immediate threat to your health. In fact, it’s impractical and unnecessary to remove everything, all the time. So in terms of backcountry water treatment, when is water considered safe to drink? First, what’s commonly in backcountry water? The types of contaminants that make water “dirty” depend a lot on that source’s surrounding environment. But most contaminants can be placed into these categories: Microorganisms- Simply put: tiny bugs or germs. Microbes are the primary focus of treatment devices because of their immediate and potentially serious risk to your health. The pathogenic ones include…

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Water Treatment 101: Viruses

Originally published on February 12, 2015.  Viruses take the cake as tiniest of the waterborne disease-causing microorganisms—smaller than both protozoa and bacteria. These nasty little bugs are also the least understood by scientists, and cause the greatest range of symptoms across infected individuals. The good new is, in North American backcountries, viruses are typically considered much less of a concern than the other pathogenic threats.

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Water Treatment 101: Bacteria

Bacteria are everywhere—on you, in you, in the soil, and yes, even in the wilderness’ cool, refreshing water sources. In fact harmless species of these single-cell organisms exist naturally in the backcountry’s rivers and pools. But humans and animals can carry harmful bacteria as well, and spread these pathogens to the water, making it risky if you happen to drink from the wrong place at the wrong time. Some of these bacteria are the same notorious headline grabbers associated with foodborne outbreaks or epidemics after natural disasters. We’ll discuss those and others, but first a few general facts.

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Water Treatment 101: Cryptosporidium

Research backcountry water treatment and you’re sure to be warned about cryptosporidium or “crypto.” And for good reason. This microscopic protozoan parasite is one of the most common causes of waterborne disease in humans in the United States. Like the parasite giardia, crypto is found in water sources worldwide, and affects individuals differently. Fortunately, the disease it causes is rarely life-threatening in healthy adults. In fact, some 80% of the U.S. population has had cryptosporidiosis at some time, according to the FDA. Still, its symptoms are nasty enough that you’ll want to take strides to avoid it on your next backpacking trip.

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