Last Updated: April 6, 2022

MSR Trailshot Review – Super-portable Filter

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MSR Trailshot

The MSR TrailShot is a super simple and incredibly lightweight water filter that can provide safe drinking water while you’re on the move. By simply squeezing the filter with a single hand, you can fill a 1L bottle in just a minute or, if you prefer, skip the bottle and drink straight from the source. View Latest Deal

When you’re out in the back and beyond, one of the most important things you need to remember is to stay hydrated. But knowing exactly how much water you’ll need for a weekend in the great outdoors can be tricky, plus carrying around heaps of water can really add to the weight of your pack.

Water filters are a great way to reduce the amount of water you’ll need to carry and to make sure that you’re never caught out without safe drinking water.

MSR has a great reputation for producing all kinds of outdoor products and, in recent years, they’ve put a lot of innovation into their water filters. The MSR TrailShot water filter lets you fill up your bottles while you on the go, and you can even drink water straight from freshwater supplies. What’s more, it’s so small and lightweight you can slip it in your pocket and barely know it’s there.

Here, we’ll go through what makes the MSR so special and give it an overall rating so that you can decide whether this is the right filter to quench your thirst.

Pros

  • Pocket-sized
  • Ultra-lightweight
  • Can drink water directly from the source
  • Filters water quickly
  • Can be used with murky water

Cons

  • Hand-pumping can become tiring
  • Not effective against viruses

Product Rating

92Overall Rating
Mechanism
9/10
Portability
10/10
Capacity and Speed
9/10
Effectiveness
8/10
Value for Money
10/10

Product Information

  • Dimensions: 2.4 x 6 x 6 inches (6.1 x 15.25 x 16 cm)
  • Weight: 5 oz (0.14 kg)
  • Flow Rate: 1 liter per minute
  • Filter Life: 2,000 liters (filter is replaceable)
  • Effective Against: Bacteria (99.9999%), protozoa (99.9%), and particulates

Mechanism

So, how does the MSR TrailShot work exactly?

The TrailShot is comprised of three parts – a pre-filter, a 16-inch hose, a pod containing the main filter, and a drinking spout.

When you find yourself in need of a drink, simply insert the pre-filter end of the hose into the water and squeeze the ‘pod’. This action pulls water through the hose and into the pod that contains the main filter.

From here, you can drink directly from the spout, or squeeze the water into your water bottle. This action forces water through the filter itself, which is made of hollow fibers that trap pathogens and sediment leaving you with safe drinking water.

One advantage of this mechanism is that you can obtain water from shallow sources thanks to the hose. This can be super handy if you aren’t near any deep water sources. Also, the hand-pumping mechanism doesn’t rely on batteries, like some UV filters, so you don’t need to worry about running out of juice.

Furthermore, the water itself tastes fine, unlike when you use chemical drops to purify your water. The main downside of hand-pumps is the fact that they require some physical exertion, unlike gravity filters that do the work for you.

Overall, this is a super simple, yet very effective mechanism that you can rely on when you’re in the back and beyond.

Portability

One of the main advantages of owning a water filter system is that you don’t have to pack your bag full of heavy water bottles. But what’s the point if your filter system weighs a tonne anyway? A good filter system should lightweight and, if you’ll be using it while running, cycling, or hiking, you’ll want it to be small too so you can slip it in a pocket for ease of access. So, how well does the MSR TrailShot perform in terms of portability?

Weighing just 5 oz, the MSR TrailShot is one of the lightest filter systems on the market – you’ll barely even know you’re carrying it. This is definitely one of its major selling points and is a great feature if you’ll be carrying your pack on your back all day long.

Not only is it ultralightweight, but it’s also extremely compact, measuring just 2.4 x 6 x 6 inches. This makes it a fantastic filter for when you’re on the go, as you can grab it out of a stash pocket in seconds.

Overall, the MSR TrailShot is definitely one of the best filters out there in terms of portability.

Capacity and Speed

Capacity and speed are two important factors when you’re weighing up which water filter to buy, and it largely boils down to how many people you expect to provide water for.

The MSR TrailShot can filter an entire liter of water in just one minute, which is pretty impressive for its tiny size. If you’re on a solo mission, or you only expect to provide water for yourself, then this is plenty.

Bear in mind, however, that if you’ll be providing water for a large group, such as on a family outing, then you might find that your hand gets a bit tired from all the pumping. The filter can certainly stand up to being used repeatedly (each filter cartridge has a lifespan of 2000 liters). And thanks to its rapid speed, even filtering for large groups won’t take that long.

Overall, the MSR TrailShot has an impressive flow rate for such a portable filter and can provide more than enough water for a solo traveler in a short amount of time and with minimal effort. However, you might encounter hand ache if you’re proving water en masse, but if people are willing to take turns, then the filter can certainly handle the large volume without a problem.

Effectiveness

In terms of effectiveness against pathogens, not all filters are created equal. All good filters will protect you against sediment, bacteria, and protozoa, and some will also protect you from viruses. But what about the MSR TrailShot?

As we mentioned previously, the MSR TrailShot uses hollow fiber technology to remove pathogens from the water – but which ones? 99.9% of bacteria and protozoa won’t make it through the filter, and neither will sediment, but, unfortunately, this filter doesn’t provide protection against viruses.

This isn’t specific to the TrailShot – nearly all handpumps face this issue. If you’re really concerned about viruses, you might be better off with a UV filter, but bear in mind that these don’t work with cloudy water as they rely on light, unlike hand pumps.

Viruses tend to be more of a priority among travelers than outdoor enthusiasts, and in general, you won’t encounter many viruses in freshwater environments, but the choice is up to you.

Value for Money

The MSR TrailShot is an ultralightweight, pocket-sized filter that can protect you from most pathogens and can use even the shallowest of water sources as a water supply – but is it worth its price tag?

Absolutely! Granted, it might seem a little pricey for a hand-pump, and it certainly isn’t a high-tech filter, but that’s part of its charm – you never have to worry about batteries dying on you or technical errors, all you need to do is the pump. It’s incredibly easy to clean on the field too – simply give it a good shake and you’re good to go – and the filters themselves last ages before they need replacing.

Super portable and extremely dependable, there’s not much missing from this filter – except for virus protection – and for fifty bucks, it’s definitely worth the investment.

Rating

With an overall rating of 92, the MSR TrailShot has scored very well against our rating system.

Although we love the dependability of the hand-pump mechanism, it can get a little tiring, so a point was lost there. The capacity and speed are fantastic for solo travelers, but the capacity isn’t ideal for groups, hence another lost point. Two points were deducted for a lack of viral protection… but this is an issue for all hand-pumps and, as far as hand-pumps go, this filter offers fantastic protection so perhaps we’ve been a little bit harsh…

In terms of portability and value for money, this filter gets tops marks. Overall, it’s done very well – well done MSR!

Verdict

So, do we recommend the MSR TrailShot? Definitely! If you’ll be taking part in fast-paced outdoor sports and don’t want the burden of carrying lots of water, this is the perfect water filter. Pop it in your pocket and whip it out when you need a slurp – you can even drink straight from the source if you don’t want to waste time filling a vessel (or just don’t want to carry one).

MSR TrailShot Pocket-Sized Backcountry Water Filter
859 Reviews
MSR TrailShot Pocket-Sized Backcountry Water Filter
  • Pocket-sized lightweight water filter cleans water on-the-go for hiking, camping, traveling, and emergency preparedness
  • Drink directly from the source or fill a water bottle or hydration pack; easy one-handed operation filters one liter in 60 seconds

It’s also a great backup for slower activities, such as long hikes on sunny days, when it’s hard to judge how much water you’ll need – with this filter, you can be sure that you won’t run out. The main thing lacking is virus protection, so perhaps it isn’t the best option for global traveling, but for solo missions or adventures in pairs, this is a great way to make sure you stay hydrated out in the great outdoors.