Review: Never Go Thirsty Again with the MSR TrailShot Water Filter

MSR's TrailShot water filter is light--just 140g--and compact, allowing you to easily fill water bottles from water sources that you located along the trail.

The MSR TrailShot (photo: Aaron Chamberlain)

Without proper hydration, a mountain bike ride can quickly turn from just tough to soul-crushing. In especially hot climates — like sticky Southeast summers — the risk of heat exhaustion from dehydration is real. A 100 oz. hydration pack will suffice for many rides, but what if you want to head out on a backcountry epic in the middle of July in Georgia? It’s next to impossible to carry all the water you’ll need with you from the start. That means you’ll have to bring some means of water purification along.

There’s no shortage of options for water treatment including iodine tablets, drops, and various pumps. Each method has its own pros and cons, including effectiveness, aftertaste, price, size, and weight. I’ve been using the MSR TrailShot for several months, and it’s now an essential part of my riding kit for long days in the woods.

On the Trail

Compact size (photo: Aaron Chamberlain)

The beauty of the MSR TrailShot is how well it balances several factors. Most importantly, the TrailShot is dead simple to use. Simply find a good water source (crucial for any filter), dip the hose in, and squeeze the pump’s body. Drink directly from the spout or fill a standard-sized water bottle in about a minute. Should the filter become clogged, give it a good shake to clear it out. MSR claims a 2,000-liter filter life.

Dip and pump (photo: Aaron Chamberlain)

The TrailShot is about the same size and weight (5oz/140g) as a balled-up 29er tube. It’s small enough that there’s no excuse not to bring it along, even if there’s only a slim chance you’ll need it. You wouldn’t notice it in a pack, but it also fits nicely in a jersey pocket, should you want to travel light. And with the TrailShot, you have that option — assuming you’ll have ready access to water like we do on the East Coast.

Finally, there’s the price. At $50, the TrailShot costs more than a bottle of iodine tablets but significantly less than most of the pumps on the market. Ease of use, compact size, no aftertaste, and an accessible price make the TrailShot an easy product to recommend to the backcountry rider.

Thanks to MSR for providing the TrailShot for review.