I did a substantial amount of homework before purchasing this filter system, and I am far beyond satisfied. Over the last few months, I've romped all over Kentucky and West Virginia sticking my MSR Sweetwater into rivers and enjoying fresh mountain water with no illness whatsoever. After first pumping out the black carbon dust, this filter performed flawlessly. There were a few things that I was worried about that I didn't see mentioned in other reviews, so I want to help anybody out that may have the same weird questions that I did:
"That pump handle attachment looks SUPER SKETCHY. Won't it break in a backpack?"
No. This thing is not going to break. The handle detaches at the top of the filter and neatly folds back on itself.
"How is this going to be easy to clean? It seems sort of complicated."
The Grey part is the filter, and it screws right off of the orange part, which is the pump. The ease of use comes in the construction. The pump takes in water from the bottom of the filter, forcing it through the element and out of the side. The pump itself never comes in contact with clean water, and everything can be taken apart, cleaned to your heart's paranoid content, and dried. There are all sorts of methods you can use to prevent cross-contamination.
"Should I save up a bit more money and get one of those super-expensive Katadyn filters? Am I missing out on something?"
No. This filter is awesome. My buddy has a Katadyn Combi, and it's done him well for years. I've used it before, and I think the Sweetwater is much easier to clean, and the pump mechanism is totally genius. I would much rather have the Sweetwater in my pack than his Combi. Instead of spending extra cash on a fancy Combi, I got a new sleeping bag!
"I'm really cheap. Should I spend a little less and go for a fiber filter like a Katadyn Hiker?"
Something about paying ten dollars more for a ceramic filter seems reasonable to me. I'm definitely cheap, which is why I didn't just splurge on the most expensive one I could find - which is what my buddy with the Combi did - but I don't mind paying a little bit more for peace of mind.
"Do I really need this 'Purifier Solution?'"
You mean bleach water? Maybe, but I didn't use it. I figure that pulling near-freezing moving water from a nice stream is clean enough already, the filter is the extra precaution. Carrying around bleach water might be necessary in some third-world country's stagnant poo-trough creek, but I don't think it's necessary on a romp through Appalachia.