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MSR MiniWorks EX

When Brandon sent me the MSR MiniWorks EX water filter for review, I was initially very excited.   No, a water filter is not as sexy as a gun or some new piece of tactical gear, but I did not previously have a water filtration system, aside from the PUR attached to my sink faucet, and as we all know, you can’t be completely ready for a zombie invasion SHTF/WROL situation without some type of portable water filtration system.

MSR MiniWorks EX, photo by MSR

MSR MiniWorks EX, photo by MSR

I live in the inner city and have always been an inner city kid.  I don’t hike, hunt, or where cargo pants or camo unless I’m going through a door on the job.  So why was I assigned the task of testing the MSR filter?  We wanted to test the MSR MiniWorks EX and see how it performs in an urban setting.

I know all the true preppers out there have land to escape to, shelters with food and water stored, and mountains of ammo.  For the rest of us, that level of preparation isn’t always an option.  A good “bug out bag” and an escape plan may be the next best thing.  When people start talking survival supplies and bug out necessities, guns, cool knives, and fancy ways to store food seem to always be the hot topics.  The truth is though, without water, you won’t live long enough to defend yourself with that tricked out AK-47, build a shelter with your survival knife, or eat those delicious cans of beans.  You can go weeks or even months without eating solid food.  Even Dexter Morgan can go longer than that without stabbing or shooting someone.  Our first priority is water.

The minimum amount of water that each of us needs will vary, depending on different factors, such as our weight, activity level, or the temperature outside.  I think it’s a safe estimate that the average person probably can’t go more than three to five days without water.  FEMA recommends that we store about one gallon of water a day for each person.  If you are bugging out to a safer location, gallons upon gallons of water may not be practical to carry with you, which means you may need to survive on water sources you can find along the way. These water sources are probably NOT going to be safe to drink without filtration or purification.  Enter the MSR MiniWorks EX.


Effective against protozoa Yes
Effective against bacteria Yes
Effective against viruses No
Effective against particulate Yes
Effective against chemicals/toxins Yes
Weight 1 lb / 456 g
Width 2.75 in / 7 cm
Length 7.5 in / 19 cm
Filter media Ceramic Plus Carbon
Filter pore size 0.2 microns
Flow (L/min) 1 liters per min
Flow (strokes per liter) 85
Cartridge life ~2000 liters
Field cleanable Yes
Field maintainable Yes
Country of Origin Made in Seattle, USA
Mechanical advantage Yes
Water Bottle Adapter Yes
Cartridge replacement indicator Yes

The MSR MiniWorks EX filter is effective against chemicals, bacteria, toxins, and protozoa.  I’m no scientist and don’t truly understand what half of those things are, but they sound bad and I don’t want to drink them.  The MiniWorks EX also has a long filter life with the ability to filter up to 2000 liters.  With a weight of roughly 16 ounces, it’s much easier to lug around the MiniWorks EX than 2000 liters of water.  Some have complained that the MSR MiniWorks EX is heavy, but I feel it’s a small price to pay for its ability.

Most of the MiniWorks EX’s weight comes from the heavy ceramic filter element that it uses.  The plus side of using this ceramic element is the ability to easily clean it in the field.  You just disassemble the filter, which is very simple and requires no tools, and use the provided plastic scraper to clean off the element.  I did feel like I had to clean the filter more often than I would have liked.  Exactly how often a cleaning is required is going to depend on the type of water you are filtering.  I found that if you take a coffee filter and use it as a “pre-filter”, the element stays clean much longer.  Some may say this is cheating, but I feel it’s pretty easy to throw some coffee filters in a zip-lock bag and rubber band it to the filter body so they are always nearby.  The coffee filter will block all the larger debris inside the water so there aren’t large chunks of nastiness hitting the ceramic element.

MSR MiniWorks EX
MSR MiniWorks EX

I tested the MSR filter on water found in large puddles, old rainwater collected in buckets, etc, since there are no streams or rivers in the “urban jungle.”  I tried to stick with possible water sources one might run across in a large city.  Surprisingly I found that the MiniWorks EX was pretty effective at improving the taste of dirty water.  It wasn’t magic by any means.  I didn’t lap up puddles thinking it tasted like VOSS water (I bet Colin Noir drinks VOSS), but it was easily palatable, and more importantly, I didn’t get sick.  As a bonus, this filter was pretty effective at removing the taste of chlorine and iodine.  So if you choose to treat your water with either of these methods to kill viruses, you can run it through the MiniWorks EX and eliminate the aftertaste that comes with these purification methods.

All in all, I found that the MSR MiniWorks EX filter works as advertised.  I would not hesitate to recommend this filter to anyone looking for a portable water filtration system or anyone that just was not ready to invest in a larger filtration system.  The weight of the MiniWorks EX is manageable and it really doesn’t take up much more space than a Nalgene bottle.  Carrying this filter around is a very small price to pay for the ability to filter and clean almost any water you come across into something you can drink.

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4 Responses to MSR MiniWorks EX

  1. Jason January 30, 2014 at 11:31 am #

    Although the MSR looks good on paper, I have to say my experience has been a bit dismal.
    I am an active hiking/multiday trip backcountry enthusiast… on the most recent (75km coastal trek) I took this filter system. I had owned it for approximately 1 year -a few water bottles here/there on day hikes (fine). I was required during the 6 day trek to collect water a few times a day (murky-clear) for the group.. ugh painful. The ceramic filter was poorly performing, a dribble of water at best after pumping like crazy… no where near the stated output. Keep in mind this is Pacific coastal creek runoff.. pretty much as clean as it gets. 60mm downpour for days.
    needless to say the remaining 5 days was either drinking straight from the creeks (any bacteria would be 7 days to set in) or #aquatabs.
    I was tempted to burn it in the fire, save weight.
    Enjoy your blog immensely, keep up the good work ! Just had to add my .02

    • Brandon January 30, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

      Interesting, thanks for the feedback Jason. I wonder if you got a defective model, as I’ve used the MiniWorks EX on multiple occasions in the Montana back country and have found output to be on par with my Katadyn Hiker.

      • Jason January 30, 2014 at 6:20 pm #

        Yea I’m not sure. Upon visual inspection prior to departure it was ok. Was it the sediment or maybe organic material plugging the pores of the ceramic?… needless to say I haven’t investigated any further once returning.
        As you mentioned, it came highly recommended. It also affirmed 2 is 1 and 1 is none- Thankful for the aquatabs !

  2. hardh8 January 30, 2014 at 6:10 pm #

    The need for water in a survival situation can’t be over stated. Especially in a urban environment. Which are mostly water deserts.