This post was written* by Dave Polivy, owner of Tahoe Mountain Sports. When Dave is not working hard to find the best products to carry in his shop, he is out adventuring, traveling and putting all the awesome outdoor products that TMS carries to the test!
Being the gear buyer for an outdoor store might sound like a glory job, but in reality, sifting through and finding the best products to offer your loyal customers is a daunting task because of the millions of consumer-focused products that are available in a wide range of categories. Every year I go to countless trade shows, conferences and product demos to try and find the best gear on the market to ensure that Tahoe Mountain Sports has the highest quality products with all the right stuff and at the right times.
When I first found Vapur at the Outdoor Retailer show a few years back, their products really stood out to me for their durability, cool looks and overall message to create the best reusable water bottle on the planet. We quickly brought in the 0.7L and 1.0L Element Anti-Bottles along with some of their kid’s products.
Fast forward to Spring of 2013, and Vapur sends me an email touting their new Vapur MicroFilter, weighing in at just 2.7 ounces with the capability of purifying more than 500 liters of water with one filter. In the past few years, with companies like Platypus, Evernew and even Under Armour jumping on the soft water bottle train, this was the first I had heard of a company trying to marry the weight and functionality of a soft water bottle, with a field-ready water filtration system. As any gear dork would, I had envisioned this marriage from the beginning, as it seemed the ideal way to shave the weight of a pump filtration system and combine it with an awesome soft water bottle. Keep in mind, I was already a soft water bottle convert and if you are not by now, then look out for a future TMS post about why soft water bottles are better than rigid!
I quickly hit reply to the email and made sure Tahoe Mountain Sports was on the list to receive this exciting new product the second it was ready to hit the shelves. We got our shipment in early June and it just so happened that my wife and I had a trip planned to hike to the top of Mt. Whitney to celebrate our 5th Anniversary. I will not sidetrack here, but celebrating any anniversary with a 22 mile hike ascending 6,000+ vertical feet in one direction might have been a silly idea, but as co-owners of a specialty outdoor shop in the heart of Lake Tahoe, what more could any wife ask for?
I thought this would be one of the best places to test out the new Vapur MicroFilter because:
1) Such a long, high and exposed hike was going to demand 5-7 liters of water.
2) My Deuter Streamer reservoir could only hold 3 liters and I hate carrying more water than needed at any given time due to weight.
3) There would be ample water supply along the way.
4) I love testing gear out in the field, so what better situation to put the Vapur MicroFilter to the test.
First – Compactness of the entire system. The best feature of soft water bottles is that you can scrunch, roll, fold, and really do whatever you want to make them as small as possible when not in use or full of water. Although, one of the first things you will notice about the MicroFilter is your ability to roll, fold and flatten is limited unless you remove the filter first. Because 60 meters of hollow fiber membrane is packed into a compact, hard casing, the Vapur MicroFilter can be flattened and the bottom quarter can be folded up to a very compact size, just not as small as a soft bottle with no filter. Still smaller and lighter than any other filtration system I have ever used, this wasn’t a deal breaker.
Second – filling the bottle. I was a bit concerned it would be difficult to fill up or top-off with the MicroFilter, especially in a shallow stream like the ones found during the summer in the High Sierra. But, because the cap and thread area are made of a harder plastic, the bottle retains a fairly wide opening and does not collapse on itself. If you have ever used a hydration reservoir, you probably understand that sometimes the inside plastic can stick to itself, making filling a total pain. Not so with the Vapur MicroFilter – it was easy to fill in a variety of environments from lakes and streams to rivers. Beware, you do have to get down on some rocks or banks to immerse the bottle in the water. If you get some sediment while filling the bottle from a natural source, not to worry, that is what the filter is for…
Finally – filtration flow rate. I used the MicroFilter a few times throughout the day, mostly when I was trying to conserve my reservoir water for the 3 hours above any water sources (12,000 ft and above) and again when my reservoir ran dry late in the day. With first use, my snap judgment was that it was slow, hard to squeeze the water through and I couldn’t use all the water in the bottle if it was inverted… Aside: I, as some can relate, usually demand clean drinking water to be fast, efficient, immediate and thirst quenching now. While this product provided exactly that, without the chemicals, pumping or batteries other brands require, it wasn’t the simple straw, easy flow solution your basic carbon filter provides. I was frustrated and frankly disappointed given my love for Vapur’s other soft bottle lines.
But then, I had an “AHA!” moment. I was being hard on this product. I had hugely high hopes for a product that was not really designed to meet those specific expectations. So, I sat on a long for awhile, pondered the usefulness of this product and came up with a few conclusions:
- For the size, weight and ease of use, this product really cannot be beat.
- The flow rate of this product is necessary if you want safe drinking water.
- The price of this product is exceptional for its level of filtration.
- The Vapur MicroFilter is probably more suited for emergency settings, backup filtration options, long day hikes where additional water will be needed or just for piece of mind.
- Currently, nobody else is producing a product quite like this on the market: a flexible bottle with a filter of this capacity. So, kudos to Vapur for taking chances and getting awesome new products into the hands of people everywhere.
- Vapur has already made improvements to the MicroFilter since this test and there are talks of a next generation MicroFilter in the works. In these updates, it is said that flow rates will be improved, as well as the ability for the water to enter the filter at the top and the bottom; which will assist in the not being able to drink from the MicroFilter while the bottle is inverted.
- Managing high expectations is quite hard, but this product did perform exactly as claimed and I was truly pleased with it once I adapted to the capabilities and limitations of this type of technology.
If you have any questions or comments about my experience with the Vapur MicroFilter, feel free to leave them in the comments of this post or visit the Tahoe Mountain Sports Blog for additional gear reviews, videos and pretty pics like the one below!
– Dave Polivy, owner of Tahoe Mountain Sports.