MSR Trail Base Gravity Filter System – – Versatility
Backcountry travel has a special way of beating you up. For me, I think it’s mostly the repetitive nature of it. Get up, eat, pack up camp, walk/climb/ski for many hours, argue about where to camp, set up camp, filter water, eat, then pass out.
If your anything like me by the time you’re ready to make camp your eagerness has worn off, exhaustion has set in, and you will settle for making camp anywhere that you can find water. By that time the last thing you want to do is squat near a buggy creek and pump water through a filter.
The MSR Trail base Gravity Filter System has a sweet alternative for this and I tested it on a recent 4-day backpacking trip in the Unita mountains of northern Utah.
MSR Trail Base Gravity Filter System Function:
When it comes to function, it does not get any easier than the Trailbase system because it does the hard work for you. There are really two main ways that the system can work. In my opinion, the preferable method is to use it as a gravity filter system. The dirty water reservoir is clearly marked to avoid confusion and has a large roll-top opening.
This allows you to fill it really fast which saved me from getting eaten alive by the plethora of creekside mosquitos. Even if you fill the dirty water reservoir to its max marked capacity it’s easy to carry (Tip- don’t overfill it past the max fill line unless you want to get wet).
The quick-connect hoses allow you to leave the filter and clean water reservoir at camp and not have to carry the entire system to the creek. This helps to avoid cross-contamination between clean and dirty water. Once you have all the hoses connected all you have to do is find an elevated position for the dirty reservoir above the clean and the filtering starts.
MSR also included a nice attachment loop that allows you to easily hang the dirty water reservoir in a tree. For me, it took as much as an hour to filter the water but I think that varies based on how you have mounted the system. Hanging it from a sturdy tree is likely the best option but above tree-line, I was able to use a large boulder to create enough gravity to filter.
The filter can also be used by itself without the reservoirs as a pump filter. I used it this way when I needed to quickly filter water while on the trail. This makes the product highly versatile.
Durability: Filters always work great out of the box but the true test is how do they hold up. This system is bomber when it comes to construction. The materials are sturdy and stood up to being dropped from 6 feet up in a tree-like a giant water balloon…….twice. The only issue I ran into was the prefilter getting a bit clogged with debris after I used the system to filter around 35 liters of dirty water. This is an easy trailside fix that can be done in less than a minute.
What I love: Versatility.
What would I change: I had one very minor issue with the hydration cap. On the cap, there are three different options for flow. One of the options is a small-cap that unscrews from the largest cap on the reservoir. This cap had a small wire preventing it from getting lost when removed. This wire made it hard to screw the cap back on fully as it got wrapped around the cap. After a couple of times fumbling with it in gloves, I cut the wire. Not a big deal at all.
Andrew is a trail runner, climber, paddler, snowboarder, marketer, and most importantly a dog dad. Andrew grew up in suburban Philadelphia and now lives on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
While he lives pretty far from the mountains, he puts a heavy focus on preparing for them and inspiring others to do the same. He first fell in love with the mountains on family trips to the White Mountains and the Adirondacks. He spent the majority of his early life competitively running and leisurely paddling, however after college he began focusing on learning to climb, snowboard, and backpack.
Over the past ten years since then, he has been fortunate enough to gain some amazing experiences exploring North America. Some of the most memorable thus far are alpine climbing in the Sierra, trail running in Alberta, learning to splitboard in NH, countless days hiking in the Catskills, or a plethora of mellow days paddling the Chesapeake Bay with friends.
When he can’t be in the mountains Andrew is often running or hiking with his favorite training partners, his two rescue dogs Calvin and Enzo. Andrew is also a self-proclaimed gear junkie and confessed that his gear loft is the most organized place in his home.