Nothing determines survival more than water and adventure riding plans are dependent on access to safe drinking water. If your definition of “adventure” includes straying away from typical urban sources of drinking water, you will need a way to filter and/or purify water found in creeks, streams, and the like.
Water treatment devices are categorized as filters or purifiers. Filters physically remove bacteria and protozoan cysts, which are the concerns when traveling in the USA and Canada. Purifiers handle viruses as well, more of a concern when you travel in less developed countries.
When it comes to gear choices for the adventure rider, weight and size are main factors. Both need to be minimized, as storage capacity is limited on the bike, and they negatively play on handling and performance. However, this minimalist approach cannot compromise the effectiveness of water treatment, as nothing affects handling and performance as much as being heinously sick!
The newly released MSR TrailShot is a 5 ounce (verified weight), fist sized water filter that is effective against bacteria and protozoa, and particulates to EPA and NSF standards. This filter is tiny, particularly for one that claims to filter 1L/min and it takes up very little of the limited baggage volume available on the bike. The light weight of the MSR TrailShot is negligible considering the downside of not having safe water.
The MSR TrailShot is simple to use, just drop the tiny pre-filter into a moving water source, and squeeze the silicone bulb forcing the water through MSR’s proprietary Hollow Fiber filtration matrix (replaceable and claimed to handle 2,000L). Drinking can be done directly from the conical spout or directed into any suitable container. The spout also matches most hydration bladder hose diameters, which allows direct fill without removing the bladder from the pack. Cleaning the filter is executed by vigorously shaking the unit.
I have used the MSR TrailShot in seasonal creeks in Central Texas. The unit is indeed capable of filtering 1L per minute of non-murky water (always use the clearest running water source available). The hose is a little short for me to comfortably drink directly from the filter, sosome water loss may be inevitable. Filtering directly into hydration bladders is effective and saves the hassle of dismantling the hydration system. Shaking the unit clears the filter and restores pumping efficiency and at no point did I feel the pumping effort excessive. The unit’s hose folds up and is held to the pump via an included rubber strap, barely making a dent in my tank bag or pannier’s capacity. The unit is not designed to treat water for a group of people, but the characteristics of this filter makes it easy for any one rider to carry one.
Realistically, adventure riding itineraries are more dependent on drinking water than gasoline. Having a way to treat naturally available water sources not only lessens the anxiety of possibly running out of drinking water, it also reduces the weight of water carried and can be the saving grace in dire emergencies. The light weight and pocket size of this filter guarantees it will be a permanent fixture in my adventure riding kit. MSRP: $49.95. www.msrgear.com