The MSR TrailShot Water Filter is a highly compact and portable water filter that lets you drink directly from natural water sources like streams, rivers, lakes and ponds. It has an unusual design that’s a lot like a water fountain (with a built-in water filter) so you can hydrate on the go without having to carry a water bottle or hydration reservoir. Users who can benefit the most from the TrailShot include trail runners, ultralight backpackers, fishermen, and boaters.
The TrailShot has three components
- A special squeeze bulb with a drinking spout that contains the filter element
- A 16 inch hose
- A pre-filter to remove particulates before they reach the filter element
When you want to drink some water, you stick the pre-filter end of the hose in the water and start squeezing the transparent bulb. This draws water up the hose to a comfortable height and pumps it through the filter. If you want to sip from the drink spout directly, simply remove the cap and aim the water at your mouth or slurp it like a water fountain. I’d caution you against touching your mouth to the drink spout because there is the potential for of cross-contamination if the drink spout gets wet from the hose or pre-filter when the unit is folded up and stuffed in a pocket. You can also use the TrailShot to fill water bottles, or reservoirs directly without removing them from your pack if your hose diameter fits into the TrailShot’s drink spout.
The TrailShot uses the fast-flowing hollow-fiber water filter technology that has revolutionized water filers over the past several years and is used in other filters such as the Katadyn BeFree and the Sawyer Squeeze.
The TrailShot is rated to remove 99.99999% of bacteria and 99.9% or protozoa (giardia and cryptosporidium.) It has a flow rate of 1 liter per minute in ideal circumstances, if you can keep squeezing your hand fast enough without tiring. The weight of the unit is 5.2 ounces and it’s easy to stuff it into a small pocket if you don’t mind the residual water in the filter dripping over stuff.
To clean the pre-filter, simply unscrew it and rinse out the tiny screen inside. To clean the filter inside the squeeze bulb section, pump it full of water and shake it vigorously. Then remove the hose and let the water pour out. This is easy to quickly do in the field, without the need to carry a separate syringe for backflushing.
I’ve been using the TrailShot for over 6 months, primarily when I go fly fishing on streams and small rivers. I like the freedom of drinking directly from a stream using the TrailShot without having to carry any additional containers. I’m literally standing in the water for hours at a time, so it seems silly to lug around bottles of the stuff or a hydration pack.
If you’re a hiker, there’s always a trade-off between the convenience of carrying water and resupplying more frequently. Personally, I’d rather stop once every 4 hours to filter or purify water, than every 30 minutes with the TrailShot. But if you’re obsessed with moving as fast as possible and only carrying what you need, I’d encourage you try the MSR TrailShot Water Filter. It’s a very different way to think about water resupply for highly mobile activities.
Disclosure: The author received a sample of this product for review.
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