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MSR Miox vs. SteriPen (i.e. Adventurer) vs. Katadyn Filter (i.e. Vario)

What does everyone else use/recommend? I don't mind spending some money provided that the gear delivers and lasts - I am not terribly tough on my gear. I will always bring along some tablets and coffee filters as backups, but I feel like it's time to spring for something a little better.

I will do most of my backpacking in Michigan (not always many clear water sources), but I would like something that can "go anywhere, do anything" (I realize this is impossible, but I would like to be covered for the majority of the situations I would ever find myself in). I guess my favorite backcountry destination would be the Sierras, so I don't know if mentioning that makes any difference.

I can attest to the Katadyn Vario I have had one for a while and I have never had any problems out of it. Also here in NY there are not a lot of clear water sources either. I is a pretty durable filter I am pretty tough on my gear and its still in one piece. The recommendation I will give you as far as the Katadyn Vario goes is use the longer life setting as much as possible. It will serve you well.

In the Sierra the water runs clear. And while for clear water I use tabs only I am tempted to try a steripen for the instant/no aftertaste gratification. It however being a battery powered gadget, I wouldn't rely on it 100% and would carry tabs as a backup. And since tabs need no backup a steripen would be little more than novelty ballast. So I haven't acted on my temptation yet.

I take the same approach wherever I know the water runs clear.

Where the clarity is questionable (desert southwest) I always carry a filter. I often hike in Grand Canyon and don't much care for the taste of sandstone and slate, and a filter cleans the water right up. My filter for these conditions is an MSR miniworks with a sweetwater glacial silt prefilter; though any high quality filter will work. I also carry tabs as a backup.

When I do not know the water conditions I always bring the filter + tabs.

Point being carry the water purification that makes sense/makes you comfortable drinking water from that particular water source. I use the "this way/that way" approach to save packweight in known favorable conditions.

MSR Miniworks(EX).... Nothing else to say. I am a man of a few words. I use what works. The U.S. military trusts it. I have used it and I trust it w/my life as well.......

Bill's 4-part series on backcountry water is, in my opinion, the best source of free information on the subject you will find.

Start reading here:

Thanks, all. It's good to see that these products are recommended by those who use them. Yock - thanks for the link. I saw that Bill referenced this article in a thread towards the bottom of the page, but I couldn't find it when I searched through the "Articles" tab at the top of the page. I started this thread somewhat reluctantly, but it is great to get responses and information from people using these products in real-life situations.

For what it's worth, lots of folks use lots of different filters and have great success with a very diverse lot of products. As long as you understand the strengths and limitations with each treatment strategy (and arm yourself to deal with those limitations) you're going to be fine.

For what it's worth, lots of folks use lots of different filters and have great success with a very diverse lot of products. As long as you understand the strengths and limitations with each treatment strategy (and arm yourself to deal with those limitations) you're going to be fine.

Good point I agree with yock as well.

I have used the steripen adventure a good bit. It is very fast for just filling a few liters, I believe it is to the tune of a minute/liter. I think it is the fastest way to fill up small amounts on the trail, but it is unreasonable for more than two people. Also, if you are filling a lot of water, say when you get into camp, it is slower than a pump. The pump has a higher set up time, but it is faster if you are filling more than say 7-9 liters (I am not exactly sure where the pump becomes faster).

Steripen is smaller/lighter, but does use batteries which I consider to be a con. I use a coffee filter if there is debris in the water. Taste has never been a big problem, but sometimes there is a mineral taste.

Tough decision, it really depends on preferences.

You mention 3 very different approaches to making water potable. (I say "potable" intentionally - way too many people think these methods will "purify" water, which is very different).

Sticking to just these three -

MiOx and SteriPen both depend on batteries. The MiOx batteries are non-rechargeable. You can get rechargeable batteries for the SteriPen, and the Adventure model is available with a solar recharging case.

MiOx is a device for generating a chlorine solution from salt crystals. It has the advantages and disadvantages of other halogen methods - relatively fast for larger quantities of water, vs time required to deactivate the critters, and it does nothing for taste or chemical contaminants (industrial and agricultural runoff, for example). One other disadvantage is that you need to carry a salt supply, preferably the large-crystal rock salt (which you can buy in most grocery stores much cheaper than from outdoor stores).

SteriPen is, as mentioned by others above, fast for a liter of water if the water is fairly clear, but slow for a large group (you should probably have a SteriPen for every 2 to 4 people). It will deactivate virtually all the critters (though slower for encysted protozoa and bacteria - though these will likely pass on through your system before they become active enough to cause problems). Does nothing for chemical contaminants.

Katadyn Vario is typical of filter approaches - removes particulates and critters down to its pore size. Like most filters, it takes time for large quantities. But then, when using filters, you probably should have a filter for every 2 or 3 people. Personally, I think there are better filters, but you only asked about this one.

Thanks, Bill. I wasn't asking specifically about the Vario (or about the Adventurer, for that matter), but I had an entire post composed that was much more thorough and then Firefox froze on me and I had to Force Quit, thus losing my entire post. I was much sloppier writing this second post. I guess I am leaning more towards getting a filter, and keeping tablets as backup. I was originally thinking about getting the MiOx because it just seemed so damn easy to push a button and let it do the rest, but I haven't really heard ringing endorsements from others. We will see. I really enjoyed reading your article, and have learned a lot from yourself and others on this site. However, sometimes knowing the facts leads me to greater indecision and internal conflict – I guess that's my problem though.

Hay Bill,

Not to hijack the thread (sorry ghost) but I am going to need to buy filters for my Vario but if I can get a better filter which is definitely an option I am considering. What filter would you recommend for me ?


I use it mostly in the North Eastern U.S.
I use a filter year round if needed.
50% or better it will be used in un-clear water.
Connectible to a wide-mouth bottle (Nalgene or GSI) if possible.
Field serviceable/cleanable if needed.
Durable & Reliable.
Relatively good filter life (I know water quality is a huge factor)
80% of the time solo 20% of the time no more than 2 others max.

I was a big Vario fan until the last 6 months. Mine started to leak around the head section. Then, on a trip in Feb. in AL, it would not pump at all. The only way I could get it to pump was open the filter and prime it with water. I will say that Katadyn's customer service sent me a new head with no questions asked (my filter is 3 yrs old). It now pumps, but still leaks around the head. I was very pleased with it before that. My friends all use Katadyn Hiker Pro, with no problems (their filters are years older than mine and they dont even maintain the dang things properly).


I have two filters that I use when using filters, a HikerPro and a SweetWater. Both are field cleanable (a necessity when you are in an area with streams fed by glacial melt, or in an area where the streams run through volcanic tuff - but you still should let the water settle overnight, then decant through something like a coffee filter before pumping it - the superfine glacial flour and volcanic ash do a really good job of clogging filters). Both have a Nalgene connector (which also fits the old Camelbak bladders, but not the new ones). I have a bit of preference for the Katadyn. On trips to 3rd world areas or where the temperatures are low enough to freeze and crack filter elements, I boil and/or use the SteriPen (the SteriPen is what my Tanzanian-required guides and I used on Kilimanjaro). For weekends in the Sierra, Cascades, or Rockies, though, I just use iodine tablets. Never gotten giardiasis. But then, having part of my formative years in Central America and Mexico eating food from street vendors, and much of my life in the woods and hills drinking straight out of streams and lakes, I probably developed at least some resistance to a wide variety of bugs (probably also means I am a carrier). Almost drank a leech once that apparently came from the stream I dunked the water bottle in to fill it, but saw it in time through the translucent water bottle side.

I do have a MiOx, but haven't used it since the first 3 or 4 months after buying it - just seemed too much trouble and fuss to use it. Others beg to differ.

Thanks Bill I appreciate your input.

Last Question: What do you think about the MSR HyperFlow ?

Like Bill, I have multiple water solutions. I have used, for quite some time. Polar Pure which stays in my pack always just in case, SteriPen Adventurer, and the Katadyn Hiker PRO. I always have coffee filters so my pre-filtering is a habit I'm into anyway, and I have pretty good results with the SteriPen. I've even used it to sterilize lake water, which, of course, isn't recommended. I like the Hiker PRO, but have been looking at the MSR SweetWater as a friend of mine uses it and gives it great reviews. I find that the PolarPure is great, but can't be used for a long period time, and it's iodine based, which some people can't use. I'm actually glad to see that the SweetWater got a good review here, as that might be my next filter. Thanks Bill.

I will just back away slowly f/what I have stated. Happy hiking.

...Last Question: What do you think about the MSR HyperFlow ?

I haven't used it, so won't comment on it. But others I know have and like it. Most MSR stuff I have used works well (and other Cascades Designs products as well). The MiOx is the only exception, and it does work well as an alternative to chlorine-based tablets, just that it is a bit complex and does depend on two consumables - batteries and rock salt.

My son has an MSR Miniworks EX and likes it. He used it while working as a Ranger at Philmont. I don't recall for sure, but I think he said it is field-cleanable. I did note that it was fairly heavy, though. Again, since I haven't used it, I can't comment from personal experience.

Thanks again Bill, I may look into a Hyperflow and see what I come up with.

January 17, 2021
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