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  • MSR - SweetWater Microfilter -

MSR SweetWater Microfilter

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27 Reviews


Small and sweet.

All you really want out of a water filter is to make sure you drink liquids that won't make you sick, but it would be nice if the filter didn't take up much space in your backpack, and when it comes to taste: the sweeter the better. The SweetWater Microfilter sits right in the middle of MSR's filter in terms of weight and durability. Its strong, sturdy design dishes out a liter of sweet-tasting water in a single minute, and yet still weighs less than a single pound.

  • Water filter balances durability with lightness for backpacking
  • Activated carbon core helps eliminate taste and odors
  • Unique lever-action pump processes a liter of water per minute
  • Handle folds flat for easy packing and storage
  • Includes filter, stainless steel prefilter, two color-coded hoses, foam float, water bottle adapter, cleaning brush, and stuff sack
  • Item #CAS0480

Tech Specs

Purifying Element
silica depth
Cartridge Life
SweetWater MicroFilter, stainless steel prefilter, 2 color-coded silicone hoses, foam float, water bottle adapter, cleaning brush, stuff sack
2in x 7.5in
Claimed Weight
11 oz
Recommended Use
backpacking, mountaineering, paddling trips
Manufacturer Warranty

Tech Specs

  • Reviews
  • Q & A

What do you think about this product?

Have questions about this product?

Trusty workhorse

  • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

My parents bought a SweetWater 15 years ago for our family backpacking trips and used it every summer for almost a decade without an issue. I bought one for myself recently and am happy to say that this is very much the same solid workhorse my family enjoyed back then. This is not the lightest or most compact water treatment system out there. But if your looking for a pump-style system, it's hard to beat the SweetWater for the price.

In love compared to MSR MiniWorks

  • Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions

I used this on a 3-night backpacking trip in Sedona and was pleasantly surprised. I've traditionally used MSR MiniWorks which works perfectly fine and gets the job done...but comparatively I thought the Sweetwater was almost easier to use, and cruised through liters of water. I'm sure some of that is due to the filter being new.
Compared to the Miniworks, the inflow is on the bottom and the outflow is on the top (oppositive of MW), and there is a pressure release valve. I didn't get the pressure build up on this trip that got the PRV involved, but if it works how I imagine it will - it's going to be a nice feature. The pressure build-up in the MW can be impossible to deal with sometimes, so I think having an out will be helpful for that issue.
My one concern is being able to test the filter. In the MW, you can take out the ceramic filter and use the clip to see if the filter is's pretty cut and dry which I like. I think the SW you just look inside the tube to see if the filter is worn out, or I guess you won't be able to filter water anymore which would let you know as well. There may be a better way to check it out, but at this point I'm not sure. Easy to work around though and otherwise it seems like a great filter!

Solid pump

  • Familiarity: I've used it several times

This pump gets the job done. It is relatively light and compact as far as pumps go. I have not managed to break it yet; I am pretty talented at breaking things. I have not gotten sick from any water obtained using this. The water bottle adapter is nice but a little big and bulky to pack. I don't usually use it, but it works well. It might not be the fastest pump but it is up there. My GF has a katadyn pump that is similar to operate. I think it is a little faster since it pumps on the up and down stroke. Overall, I would buy this pump again.

Sweet water is a sweet little pump.

    I took this out for the first time around three sisters. Loved it! My friends all had other pump but this little guy pumps twice as fast as all the rest. By the end of the hike everyone was going to sell theirs and get a sweet water. I couldn't be happier with backcountrys service. My pump showed up right on time.

    Sweet water is a sweet little pump.

    Haven't gotten sick yet...

    • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

    The title is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but how else would you know whether your water filter is working?

    I got mine in 2009. I think that year they made some defective filters because mine got irreversibly clogged after three short weekend trips. I noticed that other reviewers had had the same problem and wrote to MSR, who provided a free replacement filter which has now been going strong for three seasons.

    When the filter is becoming clogged, water shoots out of the pressure relief valve. This is good, because it purportedly prevents the filter from being damaged; but it's annoying, depending on which hand you're pumping with, because it can shoot the water straight at your chest. Of course, if you give your kids the job of filtering water, they will laugh hilariously and intentionally shoot water at each other and you won't have to do any of the pumping yourself.

    It probably takes about ten minutes of pumping to get three to four liters of water. It's not fast but it's much faster than the old First Need water purifiers were.

    I haven't had any problems with the prefilter clogging but I have been using very clear mountain streams and ponds as my water sources.

    It's a little large and bulky compared to some of the other filters out there, so if you are an ultralighter, you might want to go with something else. I like this one because, other than the first summer, it has been very reliable. It's so easy to use, even a seven year old can do it.

    Prefilter vs. Ceramic filter problems

    • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

    I've had my Sweetwater for 6 or so years now; over 800 miles on the AT plus other trails. I've worn out 2 ceramic filters and needed a replacement pre-filter also. I probably would not have worn out 2 ceramic filters if the operators instructions were clearer about what is clogging up. They don't tell you how to determine which filter is clogged. At first I assumed all clogs were in the ceramic filter, so I brushed a lot of that filter material away needlessly. MSR was good to send me a free pre-filter replacement once I figured out the problem on my own, but what they have not told me is what solution(s) to best clean it with to avoid buying more replacements. When you try to pump water and there is an obvious blockage in the "suction" feel on the handle instead of blockage on the "push" stroke, with no water popping out the relief valve, you have a clogged prefilter. Right now I am in the process of trying soaking it in vinegar (so far has not helped yet) then I will try a detergent soak and then a diluted Chlorox soak. This is the 2nd time I have done this cleaning. The first time it got my old prefilter working OK. Now the old one is still working but the replacement is about stopped up. Maybe at least I will remember wich solutions actually helps it. You can tell how clogged it is by blowing through the hose into the filter sitting in water or any solution, and comparing how hard you have to blow.

    The confusion with the pre-filter starts because you never see any "crud" buildup on the outside of the screen; it hides on the inside where you can't see it or take it apart. Oh yeah, slight clogs in the prefilter can be helped just by blowing back through the hose into the creek water every time you get water - swishing the filter around while blowing into the water. As it gets harder and harder to blow back, you will get "less to none" pulled up the hose into the main filter.

    H2O filter

      I have the original sweet water pump. MSR didn't change a thing other than the color of some of the parts. I ordered a bottle of the MSR sweet water purifying liquid and added it to the pouch, now I feel that much more secure when I pump from different sources.

      The rate of flow isn't great and you will work for your water.

      Excellent Product

        I have used the Sweetwater purifier extensively while backpacking throughout Utah. It works great in the swift rivers and high alpine lakes of the Uintas and also the trickling creeks and remote waterfalls of Coyote Gulch and Dark Canyon. On average I can efficiently pump about 3 liters in 10 minutes after a fresh cleaning. You need to clean it about once every 9 liters or so. Its easy to clean, easy to store, easy to pack up, and easy to carry. Five stars and I highly recommend this thirsty backpacker's best friend!

        FAST FILTER...!!!

          The sweetwater microfilter a fast, light weight filter that is great for long distance hikes. I've used one on the AT and the PCT with great results. The replacement filters are fairly common, easy to change and easy to clean. MSR has great customer service and have help me out on two occasions when I broke the handles on my filters. They replaced them no questions asked.a good water filter...

          Trusty Little Filter!

            I had a sweetwater filter for a number of years, then lost it, and I am going to purchase another one because it has been by far, among the best filters I've experienced. I've used it with my field crew of 4-6 people back-packing and spending 3 summers in the got used ALOT and I NEVER had any trouble with it. It's very easy to clean in the field, and easy to maintain it. I LOVE how the pump action works water at both strokes into the containers, and I LOVE how easy it is to pump without your arm getting too tired. It's easy to tell when you need a new filter,and the filter is easy to replace. It is worth the cost.

            As with ALL filters, if you are going to the silty waters of Southern Utah, I would recommend putting a coffee filter and a rubber band around the pre-filter to avoid clogging it with all that fine silt!

            Get a SweetWater

              LOVE IT! Almost as much as my Hiker Pro which weighs the same but filters a little faster. Our team had access to NEW SweetWaters all summer and 100% worked perfectly. We made sure all the plastic components were installed correctly & tested each one of them at home before we left. This is a crucial step to test critical gear before venturing out which some people forget about doing. Luckily, no one had any problems and we were dealing with disgusting water conditions. The MSR SweetWater turns pumping water into a really, almost enjoyable, chore.


                I have had this filter for around 5 years now, but only use it occasionally. I have scrubbed the filter a few times, but other than that I have not had any problems health or otherwise. I use this product typically in the PacNW

                Get a katadyn.

                  HATE IT! Our crew had access to NEW sweetwaters all summer, and 90% of them just did not work. Plastic pieces were soon replaced with little sticks, and even after carefully following directions with a new pump, it would take ten minutes to get maaaybe half a liter. At this point, you would give up and take a chance on giardia. Luckily, no one had any problems, but we weren't dealing with disgusting water conditions. Be wary buying this. It turns pumping water into a really annoying chore.

                  Doesn't sound like your crew knew how to work this filter. They are really quite simple to operate as long as you assemble it properly. Next time consider reading the instructions first thoroughly before using & practice at home before venturing out!

                  How much water can be filtered before the cartridge needs to be changed?

                  Does this also remove any chemicals such...

                  Does this also remove any chemicals such as fertilizer that may be in the water source?

                  The carbon will remove impuities like fertilizer, within reason. It will reduce impurities in relatively clean water, but nothing aside from distilling will help very polluted water.

                  Most filter systems like this are primarily for biologicals.

                  The spec's say the filter material is...

                  The spec's say the filter material is carbon. Is this like carbon, ie: activated carbon, making the water taste better? Or is it not related?

                  Best Answer

                  The carbon element is needed primarily for taking out bad tastes and contaminates from backcountry water. This is essentially the 'finishing touch' to allow the water to taste its best and keep it as safe as possible. Carbon is the most essential of all atoms and most elements are attracted to it. It acts as a magnet, causing these molecules to 'stick' to the granular pieces of carbon located on the inside of the filter element. Also taken our by carbon are pesticides at the molecular level. It should be noted that heavy metals cannot be taken out with carbon.

                  How often does the filter need replacing? Does...

                  How often does the filter need replacing?

                  Does anyone have any 'real life' experience with the filter? i.e. "I used it on approx. # trips a year and had to replace the filter after # trips/years." The manufacture estimate is helpful, but I'd also like to hear about practical experiences.

                  Best Answer

                  MSR claims a very subjective 750 liters. This number all depends on the quality of water being filtered. I use the resistance method. When the filter becomes noticeably harder to pump, change the filter!

                  hey Richard,

                  I agree with Jeff, water sources dictate a filters life span. Filtering water from seeps you dig will shorten it life faster than clear running water. The silt from glacial water also clogs filetrs faster.

                  On the Pct a filter would last me around 700 miles, but I would use a toothbrush to clean it to prolong its life.

                  On the AT a filter would last me a lillte more than 800 miles, but I didn't drink as much water as I did on the PCT.

                  These numbers only work for me, everyone's will be different...carry a spare filter with you
                  or have easy access to one until you are confident with it..!!

                  hope this helps

                  What is the better filter, ceramic or...

                  What is the better filter, ceramic or carbon?

                  Best Answer

                  Having the carbon in the system helps to remove tastes and odors from the water. That is about the item that I've ever heard that one holds over the other. Either ceramic or carbon are gonna be great systems, just if you go places where the water tastes funny you might go carbon.

                  I'm planning a multiday backpacking trip...

                  I'm planning a multiday backpacking trip in October for Sipsy Forrest in Alabama and plan to take many more trips within the USA for years to come I'm considering this water filter as well as the MSR mini works. I recently saw both of these in person at an outdoor store. It seemed as though the Miniworks removes the most, yet it still doesn't remove viruses. Should this be of any concern for me in the USA? How can I combat viruses if so? Filter, then boil? I appreciate any input anybody has!!!

                  I wouldn't worry about viruses in backcountry water sources in the US. Not really a problem here. If you are going to be overseas in a 2nd or 3rd world country or a warm climate then it is more of a concern. Any other method to treat water, like a Steripen, chemicals (Aqua Mira or iodine), or boiling will get rid of viruses.

                  I love this filter. It pumps fast and is...

                  I love this filter. It pumps fast and is super easy to use. Recently though, water has been coming out of the top area around where the "piston" part goes into the filter chamber thinger. It's not coming out of the pressure valve--I know what that looks like. Is it possible that one of the gaskets inside is worn and should be replaced? Or do I need a new filter (I don't think the filter is done yet--it still pumps fast). Thanks!

                  Best Answer

                  You're exactly right. The top pump seal/gasket has been compromised however this doesn't effect the water being filtered. It's still filtering like it should. If this still makes you uneasy, talk to the store where you purchased it & they should replace the unit for you. Mine did the exact same thing & the entire unit was replaced.

                  i've been doing quite a bit of digging...

                  i've been doing quite a bit of digging around for a water filter that i can depend on. I have been running into the term 'microns' quite a bit. I am doing an Isle Royale trip in a few weeks and am wondering if this filter will be okay to use by its self. On there DNR site it says a filter should filter .4microns or less for bacteria and 25 microns or less for tapeworm. Will this filter do the job?

                  Best Answer

                  On the MSR website it lists the filter pore size as 0.2 microns and that it is effective against bacteria and protozoa so it should definitely meet their standards and work well for the trip. Also, any of the MSR models(SweetWater, HyperFlow, and MiniWorks) would work for your trip as they all according to MSR are .2 microns in filter pore size.

                  You'll be fine filtering Great Lakes/Lake Superior water with this filter. It will also filter out crytosporidium which is approximately 1 micron in size & a major concern in these parts.

                  How often does the filter need to be...

                  How often does the filter need to be replaced and/or does it matter if it sits for a while after use, less than a year?

                  The standard answer is it should last approximately 250 gallons before the filter element needs replacing. However this is highly dependent on the quality of water filtered and how often it was cleaned. The best indicator of whether or not the element needs to be replaced is if it can filter or not. If it's really hard to filter or the pressure release valve is spurting water everywhere then you should replace it.

                  If the filter has sat for 6 months or more without proper maintenance, I would replace it. There isn't a concern on whether or not it will still filter the bugs out of the water (i.e. it's efficacy), but if it can still pump water. I would use that as the determining factor.

                  Typically how often do you need to change...

                  Typically how often do you need to change the filter if it is used quite a bit?

                  This depends on a number of things. The first thing to consider is the water your filtering from. Certain lake water and high sedimented water will cause the filter to slow down much faster than clear mountain river water. This will greatly reduce the amount of water that can be filtered. The other thing to consider is how often it is cleaned. Often this isn't done enough and can also reduce the filter's life. The key is as soon as you see water come out of the pressure spout, it needs to be cleaned.

                  Generally speaking, it will filter about 250 gallons. For most people this means it needs to be replaced about every two years. However if it's used every weekend for an entire summer, you may need to replace it 2-3 times a season, again depending on how its maintained and what kind of water is being filtered.

                  Best Answer

                  Don't rely on the 200-250 gallon filter replacement estimation. It's very subjective & based entirely on water quality.

                  Simply stated, when your filter becomes noticeably harder to pump, replace the cartridge!

                  Really tough question to answer because everybody's definition of "quite a bit" varies greatly. as with any filter, the best method of extending filter life is to seek the cleanest water available, and be careful of where your prefilter/intake hose rests. avoid it sitting on the bottom of silty water sources etc..

                  I have a SweetWater Walkabout microfilter....

                  I have a SweetWater Walkabout microfilter. Can I get replacement filters still somewhere and is there somewhere a person can get an instruction manuel fort it??

                  Currently MSR is not manufacturing the Sweetwater Walkabout Filter or Element. The only option is finding it on Ebay or similar website. Cascade Designs, the parent company of MSR, should have a .pdf of the instructions. Good luck finding a filter cartridge! Although the Walkabout is a descent filter (subpar to many of the current filters available however), the best option would be to purchase another filter due to the fact that finding another cartridge will rear its ugly head again. The complete MSR Sweetwater Filter will cost more than a replacement cartridge for the Walkabout (if you can find one), but it's filter element is readily available.

                  I've heard that this is freeze thaw...

                  I've heard that this is freeze thaw compatable is this really true?? Im looking for something that works well in warm or cold weather for one or two people during weekend trips. From what I have been told ceramic will crack and ruin the filter when it warms up from really cold, and I don't want to sleep with this thing in my bag just to keep it usable....I know nothing about water filters by the looking to make my first purchase.

                  Best Answer

                  You can leave this out to freeze, but you must be SURE that all of the water is out of the filter. If there is any decent amount of water in the filter you could damage the filter element. All you need to do is give it several extra pumps out of the water and then detach the pump from the filter element. This will insure that there is no water in the pump and that all pressure is out of the filter.

                  I have a Sweet Water that I have not used...

                  I have a Sweet Water that I have not used in several years. Looking into the filter, I see a mosaic of tiny cracks. How do I know if the filter is still good? Must I replace? Brush?