This is a review of the MSR Guardian Purifier Pump which I have been using it for over five years.
Page updated January 2022. The MSR Guardian Gravity Purifier is now available.
I’ve used a number of different water filters over the years but since purchasing this one, it’s been with me on every long distance hike and most overnight trips: the TGO Challenge, Cape Wrath Trail, LEJOG and Dover to Cape Wrath to name a few.
The MSR Guardian Purifier Pump is a water purifier rather than a water filter. The difference is that water purifiers can remove viruses from the water as well as bacteria, protozoa and dirt. Most water filters aren’t fine enough to trap viruses. You can purify water chemically using tablets, but this takes a lot longer and they can make the water taste funny. I also don’t like adding unnecessary chemicals to my body.
The MSR Guardian was originally designed for military use, so it is really well made, easy to use, maintenance free and even cleans itself. This is extremely reassuring on long walks.
This is probably the safest water purifier for travelling anywhere in the world. It removes all the stress of getting ill from the water. You might think that this level of purifying is only really needed when trekking in developing countries, but it is just as important when hiking in really popular (and highly populated) areas of the UK.
The MSR Guardian is probably overkill for high remote hikes in the mountains of Scotland, but I’m often walking in lowlands where there’s a lot of cattle and sheep. This means more chance of bacteria in the water and this is the best purifier I know of for removing them from the water.
The MSR Guardian Purifier Pump meets the NSF Protocol P248, which is the testing standard used by the US military.
Yes, the pump is heavy. Lightweight hikers may flinch, as it weighs 490g, which is considerably more than other systems.
However, because I’m able to get water from a wide variety of sources, even dirty water, I don’t need to carry as much water with me. It’s so quick and easy to filter water as I need it. Carrying less water saves weight, which mitigates the pump’s weight.
The MSR Guardian Purifier Pump is expensive – clicking on the link will take you to the latest price on Amazon.
However, the cartridge allows you to filter up to 10,000 litres of water. This means that in the long run it is quite cost-effective. Most other popular water filters allow up to 1,500 litres per cartridge.
You have to balance the cost of the MSR Guardian against the reassurance of always getting safe, clean water no matter what. I’ve found that it helps enormously when choosing wild camping spots, especially in lowland areas.
There is now the MSR Guardian Gravity Purifier which is cheaper to buy and works by gravity.
Ease of use
The threads in the bottom of the MSR Guardian fit a Nalgene bottle as shown in the picture above.
However, I don’t usually carry one because they are heavy (175g). I carry Platypus or Evernew flexible bottles instead, because they are so much lighter and roll up small when they’re not needed.
These flexible bottles don’t screw on to the pump so they’re a little harder to fill. I have to hold the bottle in place to fill it, but it’s not too difficult because the outlet for the clean water is small as shown in the picture below.
The purifier pipe wraps nicely around the pump keeping everything tidy. It protects the pipe from kinking. It all fits in its own tough bag, protecting it from damage. This is very important when you’ve paid so much money for it!
Servicing and repair
The MSR Guardian Purifier Pump is designed to be serviced and repaired in the field. It is very well made with good quality materials and designed to last, even with hard use.
MSR recommends servicing the pump annually but this depends on how much you use it. They make a service kit that includes all the bits needed. I went 4 years before I serviced mine and it all came to pieces easily and the seals were still in good condition.
The flow rate had slowed so I needed to replace the filter, so I serviced it as well. The Annual Service Kit came with good instructions and it was an easy job to do.
The pre filter and pipe can also be replaced if they get damaged, but mine were still in good condition.
I think the MSR Guardian Purifier Pump is worth every penny. It’s so quick and easy to use, the filter cleans itself and its longevity helps justifies the weight and cost. I often hike with my family so I need to filter a lot of water and need to know it’s safe. The fact it only takes me a few minutes to filter enough for all of us is worth a lot to me.
I’ve spent hundreds of nights wild camping before the filter started to show signs of any reduced flow. It’s now working like new again and will be going with me to New Zealand for Te Araroa.
Check the price of the MSR Guardian Purifier Pump on Amazon and if you buy one, we would receive a small commission that will go towards the cost of running this site.
Link to Filter replacement cost.
The MSR Guardian Gravity Purifier is lighter weight and cheaper than the MSR Guardian Pump.
Check out the price of the Amazon.
My 1100 mile Dover to Cape Wrath walk full gear review
My 11 Leave No Trace Wild Camping Rules
Wildwalkinguk is a blog run by myself in spare time, and I pay for its running costs myself. I do have some Amazon affiliate links and adverts on the site. If you click on these adverts or links and buy what you need (it doesn’t have to be the item I’ve linked to), the company will pay a small commission to us. This money goes towards the costs of hosting the blog. I would be extremely grateful if you could consider using our links when you next need to buy something from our advertisers. Alternatively, you can buy me a coffee here. Thank you so much for your support. Mark.
6 Replies to “MSR Guardian Purifier Pump Review”
I like that it you can use really dirty water as a water source if you have this purifier, but I’ve always been curious – does it improve the taste of the water?
The water tastes OK after filtering it. The only time that it’s not tasted like water should, was when it had a soap like taste. I’d filtered water down river from a town and must have filtered some really dodgy water with chemicals in. The filter is not meant/designed to clean/purify water with chemicals in.
Thanks for message.
Thanks Mark a very informative review.
Its great reading a review from someone you know has giving something a very thorough test.
Hi Wildwalking UK,
I enjoyed reading your review of the MSR Guardian Filtration / Purification Pump. I have researched this product and various other Filters. I am in two minds as to wither the Guardian is the best choice for Rambling, Hiking, Camping and Wild Wilderness Walks in Scotland. I understand all the points about the products Performance, Ruggedness and Longevity. The ability to remove Bacteria and Viruses is particularly appealing. I reckon it’s the best product in it’s class.
However, it’s inability to filter out/remove Chemicals from Agriculture and Farming – such as pesticides – and environmental waste concern me. I’m beginning to wonder if I would be better with something like: SURVIVOR FILTER PRO – Virus and Heavy Metal Tested 0.01. It has a filter that removes chemicals. I found this on amazon along with various other products such as the MSR Sweet-water Filter ( needs drops to remove virus )
My main concern in Safety. Like you I don’t wish to purify my water with chemicals if that can be avoided. But our environment and water courses are becoming increasingly polluted. I would appreciate any thoughts and advice you may have on these filter / purifier pumps that claim to filter out chemicals and remove viruses from water.
Thanks for your time,
Thank you very much for your message. I have checked out the Survivor filter pro and it looks a good filter. But I have never used one before so cannot say if it’s as good or better than the MSR Guardian. The only things I can say are: the price is very good but the flow rate on the Survivor is VERY slow. This can be a real pain after a few days out hiking, especially if I’m using a lot of dehydrated meals or filtering water for my whole family. Also as far as I can tell, it doesn’t guarantee to filter out chemicals.
If you buy one, please let me know how you get on with it. I have added a link to it on my post so others have the choice too. Thanks again. Mark
Thank you for the Speedy Reply. Yes the Survivor Pro has a Slow flow rate of o.500 millilitres per minute. I’ll be Solo Hiking/Camping so that aspect doesn’t concern me as much. I need to do further Research on Water Filters/Purifiers and will let you know what I buy and how I get on with it. I reckon a reliable water purification system is Essential for Wild camping and believe I need to invest in the best. No compromise.
It’s a pity the MSR Guardian doesn’t filter out chemicals like Pesticides and Heavy Metals which can be prevalent throughout various wilderness areas in Scotland. The Guardians capacity to filter out Bacteria and Virus’s in combination with its speed of utility, high flow rate and ability to withstand freezing is unmatched by other’s.
I wonder if the Guardian System can be Adapted in some way in order to remove the lions share of these pollutant’s. Maybe some of your experienced readers Know a way. For Eg: a sheet of carbon filter fastened around the guardians pre-filter ( probably reduce flow rate ) or some kind of makeshift filter attached around a filling bottle that could then be filtered. I’m aware of some Gravity Filter systems, but they take a lot of time. Would be interesting to hear thoughts, comments and possible solutions from your readers.