MSR Miniworks EX Purifier Review

MSR Miniworks EX Water Purifier

The MSR Miniworks EX Purifier is a reliable workhorse of a water filter. It has many strengths that campers will love, but also a few weaknesses.

It’s the filter’s water quality, ease of use, and lifespan that makes it a worthy companion in anyone’s pack.

The areas where it lacks are the routine maintenance needed, speed/difficulty of pumping, and it’s weight. However, none are significant enough to discourage the purchase of this filter.

Water Quality★★★★★
Reliability★★★★★
Maintenance★★★
Speed★★★
Weight★★
Lifespan★★★★★
Ease of Use★★★★★
Value★★★★
Total Score32/40

Table of Contents

Our Opinion of the MSR Miniworks EX Water Purifier

Isaiah using the MSR Miniworks
My son decided that pumping was fun and kept asking if he could fill our water bottles.

We recently took the MSR Miniworks on a week-long trip into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota. It was the only filter we used for our group of 4 campers for the entire trip.

The Miniworks has some great features like being able to screw the tops of Nalgene bottles into the bottom of the filter. This makes catching the filtered water and filling up everyone’s water bottles exceptionally easy.

Other things like its simplicity of use are great. The time needed to grab the filter, attach your water bottle, fill it up, then put the filter away is about 2 minutes total.

The fact that the provided filter is a ceramic filter with a carbon center adds a level of comfort knowing how reliable ceramic filters are. The ceramic portion filters out waterborne bacteria and protozoa, as well as particulate. The carbon center improves taste, odors, and checmicals leaving you with great tasting, clean water.

Our biggest draw to this filter was its ease of setup. We were able to keep it tucked under our canoe seats, pull it out mid-paddle and fill up any water bottles whenever necessary. While doing this, we didn’t have to worry about water contamination either since the Nalgene bottle was secured to the bottom of the filter.

There are a couple of downsides to this filter, but our group didn’t feel as though these were major downsides, more just minor annoyances.

The biggest downside is that the pump is not fast. It should pump one liter per minute, which it does if completely clean. This is ok. If the filter gets dirty at all, the time to pump a liter drops quickly (2-3 minutes). With a ceramic filter, even the clear waters in the BWCA has the filter needing a cleaning every 4-5 liters of pumped water. It is worth noting that this is a problem with nearly all water filters though.

Water Quality

I took the Miniworks to Rice Lake just outside of Minneapolis. This is a smelly green lake. The Miniworks left the water crystal clear.

The MSR Miniworks EX is a champ when it comes to water quality. Whether we collected from clear lakes, moving streams or stinky marshes, we found that the water came out clear, odor free and great tasting every time.

The filter cleans out bacteria and protozoa and the kit does come with chlorine tablets if viruses are a concern. Most filters do not protect against viruses and an extra line of protection, such as chlorine tablets, is typically needed.

Reliability / Durability

MSR Miniworks Water Purifier
MSR Miniworks EX Water Purifier

We noticed right when opening the Miniworks that this filter is built solid and durable. The thick plastic reflects the high quality of the pump.

What we really liked about this filter is that there really aren’t many parts or any assembly when you need to use it. You store it as one complete unit and only unscrew the filter portion if cleaning is needed.

The durability of the ceramic filter not only allows for long life but allows you to scrub the filter clean in the field (quite easily) and re-gain the original flow rate.

Maintenance

The MSR Miniworks Ceramic Filter
The orange ceramic cartridge needed to be cleaned every 4-5 liters to keep flow rate high.

While frequent maintenance of the filter is required to keep a good flow rate, the maintenance is easy and takes less than 1 minute to perform.

The base of the unit unscrews from the top pump and allows access to the ceramic water filter inside. The filter is then removed and gently scrubbed clean with the provided scrubbing pad. I then poured previously filtered water over the filter to rinse it before placing it back into the base and screwing it back onto the pump.

After this maintenance was performed, the pump would perform at 100% flow rate immediately.

When not in use, the filter should be removed from the pump and allowed to dry out while in storage.

This is all the maintenance needed for the Miniworks filter.

Speed

The Miniworks EX water filter has a flow rate of 1 liter per minute. During our use, we found this to be an acceptable flow rate. Everyone was easily able to fill their water bottles and we could fill our 4-liter camp water jug in under 5 minutes.

However, the 1 liter per minute flow rate is assuming ideal conditions and a perfectly clean filter. Once the filter starts to get dirty, which can happen rather quickly, the flow rate drops. If we were pumping from shore in mildly turbid waters, we could get 1-2 liters before the flow rate slowed down noticeably. From the center of the lake, we could easily get 5 liters before noticing a decrease in flow rate.

It is worth noting that all the water filters I have used slow down and clog in turbid waters (cloudy). The fact that the MSR Miniworks ceramic filter was so easy to clean, (it takes less than 1 minute), and get back to 100% flow rate, gives it a big advantage over other filters.

Weight

Pumping the MSR Miniworks EX Water Filter

16 oz (1 lb.) doesn’t sound like much weight but compared to many other water filter systems on the market these days, it is quite a bit of weight.

On our trip, I was carrying a 50 lb. pack, a 42 lb. canoe on my shoulders and the gear I was wearing, for a total of 100 lbs. These hikes were up and down different elevations and on very uneven trails. When I pack for trips like this, every ounce counts. I like to go light and fast (100 lbs for gear + canoe is pretty light!).

If a piece of gear brings me considerable comfort, I will make an exception for weight.

The MSR Miniworks is a great and reliable filter. At 16 oz, it is right on the border for being an acceptable lightweight water filter for my trips. Personally, I would like to see it a touch lighter, but I am being picky here.

If you do need a lighter and faster flowing water filter, MSR has the Hyperflow Water Filter which weighs just 7 oz and has an amazing flow rate of 3 liters per minute! The Hyperflow does not include a carbon core like the Miniworks though. The carbon core will help improve taste, odors, and remove chemicals from the water. So you will sacrifice a bit for the lighter and faster filter.

Lifespan

The ceramic filter in the MSR Miniworks EX has a lifespan of 2000 liters of water.

One thing that always kind of bothers me with water filters is that they claim long lifespans for their filters, but there is no way of knowing just when that lifespan is up. Is it when I start getting sick after my trips?

MSR has a solution for this. The Miniworks comes with an attached gauge that allows you to measure the ceramic filter. Once the filter is smaller than the gauge, it’s time for a new filter, no more guesswork.

Ease of Use

We often took 3-5 minutes to fill water bottles before or after a large portage.

Ease of use is probably one of the Miniworks highest selling points.

On our trip, we had to collect water on all the different parts of our trip, not just at camp.

When we were portaging, we often wanted to collect water before and/or after a large portage as they could be absolutely exhausting. Having the filter in a small pack that hangs under my canoe seat was the norm. I would remove the filter, attach my water bottle, fill the bottle, and put the filter back into the bag under my seat in about 2 minutes.

We often wanted to fill our bottles in the middle of larger lakes as well. With many systems, setting them up in a canoe in the middle of a large lake is not a great or easy idea. With this filter, I was again able to have my bottle full and the filter put away in 2 minutes. If I filled everyone (4 bottles) it would take about 6-8 minutes total. It also never caused too much commotion or rocked the canoe.

One thing worth noting is that the pump handle does press a bit tough. Filling 4 bottles in a row can leave your arm a bit tired.

Overall Value

With a price tag of $99 and an average lifespan of 2000 liters of water, you’re paying roughly 5 cents for every clean bottle of water. Replacement filters are $39 and drop the cost per liter to 2 cents.

What makes the MSR Miniworks a worthwhile investment is the dependability and ease of use. For the right type of camping, this is a high-value water filter.

MSR Miniworks Specs

  • Weight: 1 lb.
  • Effective against chemicals and toxins.
  • Effective against protozoa and bacteria.
  • Filter pore size: 0.2 microns
  • Strokes per liter of filtered water: 85
  • Field cleanable
  • Filter materials: Ceramic & Carbon
  • Cartridge life: 2000 liters
  • Flow Rate: 1 Liter per minute

Is The MSR Miniworks Right For You

Meeds Lake in Northern Minnesota. One of the lakes we canoed on and drank from.

This filter is really a solid and reliable choice for most types of camping and backpacking.

I think it best fits groups of 2-4 people. Once you have more than 4, the amount of pumping you would have to do would become bothersome. For a group of 4 or more, I would recommend a pump like this as a secondary water filter that is used for filling bottles while on the go. For the main camp filter, I would use a gravity filter like the Katadyn 6l.

If viruses are a concern on your trip, make sure to bring along chlorine tablets or a filter made to filter out viruses.

The biggest benefit of this filter vs many others on the market is that it is able to be field cleaned. For many other filters, you run the risk of contamination or you have to bring along a special cleaning kit. Both of which are big inconveniences when camping.

Final Thoughts

The MSR Miniworks EX is a high-quality filter that is a touch on the large side. The flow rate is decent but not fast.

Ease of use in the field is a major plus as is the easy cleaning.

This filter is a staple in my pack. I am confident bringing it as my only water filter or as a supplement to a larger group filter.

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