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MSR Trail Shot Review

Over the last couple of seasons I've looked to expand my snowboard adventures towards overnight camping to access some more exciting terrain and boost my challenge level.

These adventures have led to more summer scoping missions to really drill down terrain and understand the potential hazards, exit routes and all the logistics that may be required in the winter. 

This means lots of fresh equipment to enable some effective missions. One key element of hiking in the mountains is hydration. Most summer days in the Alps have required 1000m+ of elevation gain over long distances at altitude, so you can get in trouble quickly without adequate amounts of water. 

Water is a heavy commodity. I typically get through around 1.5ltr-2ltrs on an average day to over 3ltrs on hot and heavy hikes. Imagine carrying an extra 3kg of weight on your back, not even considering the space it can take up. This has led me to look at water filter solutions. I'm not one for just drinking straight from a river.

My requirements for a water filtering system was having something light, portable, easy to clean and easy to use. There are numerous options out there including the Sawyer Squeeze which was a distinct possibility, but it didn't quite hit the spot on the above factors compared to the MSR Trail Shot. So here's my take on this product.

Weight & Size

I'm a freak when it comes to weight savings. I do faff a lot with my equipment, which can mean I carry a little more than I need as I commonly over prepare for most eventualities. That does mean if I can save some weight and volume on the kit I do take then its more likely to be taken.

At 140g or 5oz the Trail Shot is certainly light and I've found it to be pretty compact. It fits nicely into the palm of your hand and can be rolled up and stored easily with a handy elastic band. I typically drop it into the side pocket of my rucksack so I can easily bring it out when needed. 

Ease of Use

It's super easy to use. I really liked that you don't need to get fully down to the level of the water and scoop up as you do with the Sawyer. I can drop the suction tube into a small pool of water and start pumping. The suction tube is approximately 44cm long, so you can easily kneel on a rock and drop it into the water without having to get right down into a stream. 

MSR recommend 10 pumps to prime the filter before filling a water bottle. It can seem like a bit boring to keep pumping the filter, but I do find I can fill a 750ml-1ltr bottle pretty quickly. I'd say MSR is bang on with the 60 seconds to pump 1ltr of water. Plus on big hikes it can be a nice excuse to relax and recharge as you fill your bottle.

One key is the let the bulb fill up a little before you try and pump out the water. That way you get the maximum amount of water out.

Another bonus is you end up with a decent amount of water in the bulb when you finish so you can grab a bonus quick drink directly from the filter as you head off. 

Ease of Cleaning & Maintenace

I've not been pushing the filter with really crappy water just to see how good it is. I want to prolong the life of the filter and therefore I've been drawing water from high mountain streams. These most likely have very little water borne contaminants, but it's nice to have that extra level of reassurance that a compact filter system can provide. I'm sure that given most of my hiking will occur in the UK, I'm sure to be testing the capabilities of it more in the future. Also it has a 2000ltr life span, so I think that gonna cover a whole lot of adventures. 

The filter can be easily cleaned by filling the bulb around half full, closing the top spout, shaking the bulb for 20 seconds and squeezing the excess from the bottom once your've removed the suction tube. It's very straight forward. If I know I've going out again in a few days I complete that basic clean and then air dry the rest of the kit. All the filter system breaks down very easily for drying.

MSR do say to air dry the filter cartridge for 7 days prior to long term storage. That would be the only drawback, as you'd need to leave the filter out for a long time. 

All the kit seems very rugged. When I looked into the feedback on the Sawyer it did appear that the squeeze bags do not last very long and the filter would need an additional syringe for backwashing for cleaning over time. Not ideal. So with the MSR it's all self contained. I can clean on the move and know that there’s only a small chance of the product failing in the field.  

Final Thoughts

I've long term tested various MSR products and they've always delivered to a very high standard and this one is no exception. They're certainly not the cheapest, but you get what you pay for. Top notch build quality and durability that's bang on. 

I've found planning ahead is key to know if you have certain water sources on your hike. You don't want to leave yourself short of water in the hope that there is a source somewhere. 

Overall the downsides are minimal. Yes, it can seem like it takes a lot of time to fill a bottle compared to turning on a tap, but actually it's a tiny inconvenience for having safer water to drink. 

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