The only down side is the eventual need to replace the filter element, which is the bulk of the filter’s size, weight, and cost.
Katadyn also makes the Pocket filter, a backpacking filter with a longer lasting ceramic filter element, which filters down to 0.2 microns vice the Hiker Pro’s 0.3 microns. The Pocket is twice as heavy as the Hiker Pro, and more than twice as expensive, but I figure the savings in weight and cost on replacement filters is an offset — not to mention the peace of mind of a higher filtration level. So, the Pocket is on my wish list.
Nonetheless, the Hiker Pro is a winner.
Update to this review, written on September 18, 2015:
Since last writing about this filter, we have used it in the Emigrant Wilderness in the California Sierras, which caused us to rethink our previous, positive review.
Its pluses are size, weight, and initial cost for the pump body plus one filter cartridge. But there is a significant negative that we discovered on a short, five-day backpacking trip in the Emigrant Wilderness: the filter cartridge can have a very short lifespan.
In just five days and twelve gallons of use, the filter became sufficiently clogged to almost prevent water from being pumped through it. And since the cartridge cannot be cleaned, but must be replaced, that translates into carrying extra cartridges for an extended trip. This cancels out any initial size or weight advantage the filter might have over others.
On this trip, we drew our water from clear lakes, but the bottoms were covered in plant growth and sediment, and the intake tube made constant contact with the bottom during use of the filter. So, to be fair, the filter was put through some challenging use. But this was no more challenging — less challenging, we think — than many of the water sources we have used on other trips.
The filter intake tube has a sediment filter on its end, and there is a protective membrane — what Katadyn calls a removable filter protector — that wraps around the cartridge. Keeping these clean did not improve the performance or life of the filter cartridge.
Now let’s compare this filter’s performance, weight, and long-term cost with that of Katadyn’s Pocket Filter.
The Pocket Filter — which we have used extensively in Southeast Asia, Australia, and the Bahamas — has an initial cost of $369.95 on Katadyn’s web site. Its advertised weight is 20 ounces. It has a ceramic filtering element that has an advertised lifespan of 13,000 gallons, and the ceramic element can be scrubbed clean of accumulated sediment between uses to prevent clogging. We have had no issues with use of this filter, other than a ball bearing that serves as a valve becoming stuck, which we fixed easily in the field. It filters to 0.2 microns.
The Hiker Pro filter has an initial cost of $84.95 on Katadyn’s web site, and an advertised weight of 11 ounces. It has a disposable filtration cartridge with an advertised lifespan of approximately 300 gallons (well above our own five day, twelve gallon experience). The cartridge cannot be cleaned between uses, and replacement cartridges cost $49.95, and weigh s around 2.4 ounces (this is derived from a shipping weight I found on a vendor site; Katadyn does not list the weigt on its web site). This product also filters to 0.2 microns.
So, to achieve the same potential filtration unit lifespan as the Pocket Filter, you would have to purchase the original Hiker Pro pump and cartridge, plus 43 replacement cartridges, for a total cost of $2,232.80, and a total weight of 114.2 ounces (just over 7 pounds). This assumes the advertised cartridge lifespan is correct. If you used our five-day, twelve-gallon experience as the planning factor, then you would have a total cost of $54,125.03, and a total weight of 2,607.8 ounces (163 pounds).
And this kind of math is why we think the Pocket Filter is superior for anything more than a weekend backpacking trip. It weighs and costs more in the short run, but weighs much less and costs much less in the end.