Water Wherever: MSR Trail Base Water Filter Kit Review

MSR may have just designed its most versatile water filter to date. The Trail Base Water Filter Kit is a gravity system for base camp, a pocket-sized filter for the trail, and a hydration reservoir for carrying water with you. We tested the product in the backcountry of the High Sierras.

MSR Trail Base Water Filter Kit

New for 2018, MSR combined its TrailShot water filter with a gravity filtration system to create the all-purpose Trail Base Water Filter Kit ($140). With its three configurations, it’s sure to come in handy all over the place.

The portable filter lets you carry less water when you’re adventuring near streams or lakes. Its group-size gravity system is ideal for camp settings. And a reservoir for carrying clean water with you is necessary when climbing or hiking through an area where water is scarce.

There are tons of products that perform these individual functions, but the Trail Base Kit does them all.

MSR Trail Base Water Filter

In short: The MSR Trail Base Water Filter Kit is for all kinds of outdoor enthusiasts. The filter component uses hollow-fiber technology to remove bacteria, protozoa, and other particulates common in the backcountry. A lightweight, compact, easily assembled system complements the powerful water filter.

MSR Trail Base Water Filter Kit Review

The kit includes a 2-liter clean-water reservoir, a 2-liter dirty-water reservoir, a TrailShot water filter, and a gravity hose. The clean-water reservoir is ultra light and durable, with a 3-in-1 cap for easy drinking and pouring. And the dirty-water reservoir includes a strap for hanging from a tree, your arm, or another high point during filtration.

MSR Trail Base Water Filter Kit

Conveniently, the system is easy to set up with quick-connect hoses.

To use the filter component, you dip the hose end in a water source, pump, and drink from the end of the filter. To set up the gravity filtration portion, connect the hose to the dirty reservoir, attach the hoses together, and hook the filter to the clean reservoir.

Fill the dirty reservoir with water and hang from a tree or anchor it with your arm (some muscle stamina required). Prep the filter with a few pumps, and voila — you’ll have clean water in minutes. The entire system weighs in at 1 pound 6 ounces, which is light enough for any backcountry expedition.

Eliminating Water Woes

Not having to think about water was the best part about my backcountry climbing trip in Temple Crag. Before hiking into camp, I filled the 2-liter clean-water reservoir, tucked it into my hydration sleeve, and shoved the rest of the MSR Trail Base Water Filter Kit into my pack. The hike was a grueling 5 miles uphill, but 2 liters kept me plenty hydrated on the journey.

MSR Trail Base Water Filter Kit

We camped at Temple Crag near an alpine lake in the John Muir wilderness. Although the water is beautiful in color, bacteria and protozoa from wild animals often contaminate glacial runoff. I set up the gravity filtration system in a few seconds, scooped water from the lake into the dirty water bag, hung it from a tree, and let gravity do its thing. We had 2 liters of clean water in a couple minutes.

The cartridge life of the filter is 1,500 liters. It boasts a 1-liter-per-minute flow rate, which was comparable to what we experienced during this field test. It never clogged during our two-week excursion. But if it eventually does, a couple shakes should get the filter working again. For its $140 price tag, you get a comprehensive water filtration package meant to withstand the rigors of the backcountry.

Final Thoughts

On a short hike around the lake, I carried the filter component solo and drank water straight from the source with a few pumps of my hand. On multiple alpine ascents, I again carried the clean-water reservoir with me. I found that a 2-liter capacity was enough for our full-day missions. But I liked knowing I could carry the portable water filter if needed.

MSR Trail Base Water Filter Kit

The only downside to the MSR Trail Base Water Filter Kit? It doesn’t filter viruses, which could be a concern for world travelers. But for most outdoor adventurers in North America, this system has everything you need: versatility, efficiency, and affordability.