Aquamira Frontier Pro Water Filter
Test Series by Kurt Papke
Initial Report - July 11, 2008
Field Report - September 26, 2008
Long-term Report - December 10, 2008
July 11, 2008
Backpacking Background: Mostly in Minnesota - have hiked all of the
Hiking Trail and Border Route.
Preferred/typical backpack trip is one week. Dayhiking in
Colorado and Oregon. Mostly Spring/Fall seasons.
Comfort-weight hiker: I try to carry as few items as possible, but do
not go to extremes to reduce weight of items carried. Because of
my physical size & weight I consume a lot of water when I hike, at
least 1 gallon (4 liters) per day including meals. Tasting water
from different sources is one of the joys of backpacking for me, so I
never chemically treat, always filter.
|| Kurt Papke
|| 6' 4" (193 cm)
|| 220 lbs (100 kg)
|| kwpapke at gmail dot com
|City, State, Country:
|| Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
|Year of manufacture:
|| 2 oz (57 g) dry
|Weight as received:
|| 2.65 oz (75 g), plus draw tube at 0.25 oz (7g)
Unfortunately, I used the unit before weighing, so the weight
discrepancy may be accounted for by retained water
|1.25 in outside diameter (OD)
in long (L), 6.75in^3 total volume
(3.17 cm x 14 cm, 111 cm^3)
|1.25 in OD x 5.5 in L (3.17
Total volume = 6.75 in^3 (111 cm^3)
|50 US gallons (190 L)
|Draw tube Dimensions:
|3/8 in OD x 7 3/4 in L
(0.95 cm x 19.7 cm)
The Frontier Pro is an
inline water filter: water is filtered and
purified as it is consumed. This differs from the traditional
pump filter which purifies in bulk as the storage vessel is
filled. It also differs from some other inline filters in that it
is standalone, not a component of a water bottle.
The components of the system, as packaged in the picture at left
1. The filter system.
2. Draw tube.
3. Four spare prefilters. The packaging stated there are only
three replacement prefilters, but mine came with four.
The filter is designed to draw water in one of three ways, but in all
cases the water is sucked directly from the filter bite valve after
removing the valve cap (pulling on the cap and pushing it to one side)
and biting down on the bite valve:
1. Directly from the source using the supplied draw tube (the tube is
seen to the right of the filter in the picture).
2. From a hydration bladder that is connected to the bottom of the
filter. The bladder feed tube is connected to the filter after
removal of the hydration system's own bite valve.
3. From a water bottle or hydration bladder directly threaded to the
28mm female connector.
picture to the left shows the back view of the packaging which were the
only directions supplied with the system - there were no printed
instruction sheets included. The system is very simple to
configure and use, and I found the package-back directions in
conjunction with the usage pictures on the front of the packaging to be
sufficient for me to employ all system features.
Some of the features described on the packaging and website worth
- The valve cap (prevents cap contamination) is attached with two
elastic bands to the filter body making it impossible to lose the cap.
- The "Bite Me" valve: like many hydration systems a bite valve is used
to open the flow. Unless the valve is bit down on, no water flows
from the vessel.
- "Miraguard technology" is used to suppress any growth in the filter
media. The documentation does not explicitly state so, but this
should obviate the need to flush the system with bleach or other
disinfectant between uses.
picture at left shows the system broken down into its components.
At bottom is the main filter system with the valve cap removed showing
the integrated Cap Strap grip system: the black elastic in the picture
is all one piece, and serves a dual function of permanently strapping
the cap to the filter body and also acts as a non-slip grip.
In the middle left is a prefilter disk. This is inserted into the
tube adapter in the middle right which is then threaded onto the bottom
of the filter.
The draw tube above inserts onto a fitting on the bottom of the tube
adapter as shown in the picture below. A hydration bladder would
be attached using the same fitting.
My first impression holding the system in my hand was of quality and
durability. The unit has a feeling of "heft" despite its light
weight, and the Cap Strap provides a soft non-slip grip. An
aggressive pull on the cap gave no signs of possible strap failure.
The first thing I tried to do with the unit was to attempt to attach it
two drinking water bottles (Dasani, Kirkland) I happened to have at
hand - neither fit the adapter threads. Next I fitted it to a
full one-liter Platypus soft-sided vessel, which mated perfectly with
leakage. I did notice that I was tightening two sets of threads:
filter-to-adapter, and adapter-to-Platy. Not an issue, but I made
a mental note not to overtighten and possibly strip threads. I
then pulled off the Cap Strap, pinched the bite valve with two fingers,
and pressed on the Platy. A thin stream of inky black water
emerged into the sink, the black from the carbon dust warned of by the
last note on the rear of the packaging. I was glad I followed the
initial use instructions, as I've heard that the carbon dust can stain
Once satisfied that the unit was safe to use I inserted the Bite Me
valve into my mouth, bit down and sucked some water. It took
about 20 seconds to suck a reasonable gulp of water through the filter.
Next I inverted the Platy (with the cap still off) and pressed hard
with both hands - not a drop emerged from the bite valve (or anywhere
else) despite substantial pressure. Clearly, water leakage was
not going to be an issue. I then did a quick flow rate check
using pressure on the Platy: 3.4 fl oz (100 ml) in 13 seconds. I
then sucked (no pressure on the Platy) for 40 seconds and extracted
about 1 oz (30 ml) of water. Lastly I combined suction with Platy
pressure, and received a satisfying gulp of water. Clearly,
manual pressure combined with suction looked to be the efficient method
of getting water through the filter.
One of the concerns I have going into the test period is that I will
need to contaminate my water vessels with impure water to properly test
the system. This is not a big issue, as they can easily be
sanitized with a little bleach, I'll just have to remember which ones
are clean and not. It may be that this is a long-term concern,
time will tell.
During the month of July 2008 I will be staying with family in
Portland, Oregon. During this month I will be doing frequent car
camping and dayhiking outings, and some short backpack trips.
August will bring me back to Minnesota by automobile where I hope to
test the filter in several venues en route and at home during the Field
Report period. I will attempt to assess:
This concludes my Initial Report on the Aquamira Frontier Pro water
- Usability: I will test the filter using the draw tube drinking
directly from water sources - can I draw enough water in a reasonable
time to avoid frustration, and do I find it convenient to carry the
draw tube in an easily-accessible location? I will test the
filter connected to my 2L reservoir - does the filter hang conveniently
from the hydration tube, do I lose patience trying to suck 2L of water
through the system, do my cheeks get tired? Lastly, I will test
using direct-connect 1L Platy bottles.
- Accessibility: do I find it convenient to access the filter and
draw tube while on a hike?
- Reliability & robustness: any leaks? Does the bite valve get
teeth marks from me biting down on it? Does the filter clog from
any particular types of water sources? How frequently do I find I
have to change out prefilters? Any wear and tear on the adapter
- Functionality: how do I like the taste of the filtered
water? Do I get sick from drinking contaminated water during the
- Aesthetics: how do I feel about using the unit in areas where
other people are present?
- Packability: do I find the unit is light enough to carry in a
pants pocket? Does it fit in my hipbelt pockets? The draw
tube seems like it might be easy to lose: it is small and translucent -
do I still have it at the end of the test period?
- Weight/benefit ratio: the Frontier Pro is substantially lighter
and smaller than my current filter. After several months of use
do I find that the weight and space savings are worth the downsides?
I used the filter system during the a month-long camping excursion to
Oregon in July; most uses were during car camping
or 1-night backpacking trips, though I did use it on some multi-day
backpacking trips to the Wallowa Mountains and to Teddy Roosevelt
National Park in North Dakota. This included several days in the
Columbia River Gorge, 2 days on the Pacific Crest Trail sections near
several days in the Coastal Range just west of Portland, and several
days on the western slopes of Mount Hood. Temperatures
ranged from a low in the mid-30's F (2 C) in the mountains where I
camped in the snow, to highs in the mid 90's F (35 C) in Teddy
Roosevelt National Park. Altitudes ranged from sea level on the
Oregon Coast, to
just under 5000 ft (1500 m) on the slopes of Mount Hood.
Finally, I carried the filter with me on a
week-long trip to Isle Royale, Michigan in early September. The
varied widely, from Minnesota and Michigan lake shores, Cascade
ridgelines, to the Columbia
The water I filtered with the Frontier Pro included mountain streams
and lakes in Oregon. Isle Royale waters included Lake Superior,
inland lakes and ponds. I did NOT attempt to use the filter with
the nasty-looking beaver ponds on Isle Royale, as I had neglected to
bring the spare pre-filters with me and didn't want to clog up the
One of the strengths of the Frontier Pro is the many ways it can be
employed - it has great flexibility, as illustrated in the following
water directly from a mountain stream in the Eagle Cap Wilderness,
Wallowa mountains of Eastern Oregon. I liked the instant
gratification of this mode - whenever I was thirsty and saw water I
wanted to drink I could just get out the filter and tube and drink
I didn't like having to take my pack off and bend over to drink.
Drinking in this position with a heavy pack on is tough. Few
places are as convenient as this one was - in this case I was lower
than the water source. In most cases I had to kneel on rocks or
mud to drink directly.
Pro attached to a 1L Platy container in my pack water bottle holder.
From an ease-of-drinking-effort perspective, this is what I found
easiest. I can use my hands to pressurize the Platy and assist my
mouth in drawing water through the filter.
As is obvious from the picture, this has the disadvantage that the long
filter tube wants to flop over. As the container became more
empty, it got really floppy and I was concerned that the container
would fall out of the holder.
What I ended up doing is using this configuration in camp where I
wasn't carrying the filter attached to a container in my pack.
last mode is attached to a reservoir drinking tube, as in the picture
at left. This was probably my least favorite way to use the
filter. I didn't like the big filter flopping on my chest when I
walked, and I was concerned it would fall off. I didn't use it
this way for very long.
I also didn't like contaminating my hydration reservoir with unfiltered
water. Yes, I can sanitize it with bleach, but I don't like the
wear and tear that puts on a water supply system.
- Water quality from the filter was excellent - no aftertaste or
any other issues
- Reliability was good - absolutely no problems with the
system. This was not surprising to me, as there are no moving
- Packing: the filter itself packed easily - I normally carried it
in my pack lid. The drinking tube was a problem - I was
constantly misplacing it or digging for it in my pack. It is
small, narrow and translucent, so its not easy to see, especially in
- Doesn't work when water is needed for powdered drinks or cold
cereal. I often carry powdered electrolytes and Tang for a cold
beverage, and I eat cold cereal with powdered milk every morning for
breakfast when backpacking. I could not use the Frontier Pro for
this use. Hot beverages are OK, as the water can be used without
filtering as it is boiled, but cold drinks don't work as the filtered
water goes right into my mouth. I suspect filtering Tang through
the filter would greatly shorten its usable lifetime.
My feeling to-date is I am unlikely to "dump the pump", despite the low
weight and small size of the filter. My bottom line is that the
muscles in my arms are a LOT stronger than those in my cheeks - I can
filter a lot more water with less effort with a pump than I can with an
What I am likely to end up using the filter for long-term is as a
backup water source in my daypack. It is perfect for this
use. I will test this during the Long-Term Report period of the
next two months during some dayhiking in Utah and Colorado.
- Small, lightweight, easy to pack and carry
- Instant gratification - don't have to drag out and assemble a pump
- Good tasting water
- Effort required to draw water through the filter
- Some of the connection modalities, e.g. attached to reservoir,
seemed not very useful to me
- Need a solution for clean cold water for powdered beverages
Long Term Report
Long Term Report period my principle use of the Frontier Pro
filter was on a 4-day backpacking trip along the Southern end of the
Superior Hiking trail in Northern Minnesota in early October. The
rivers of this section of the trail have a high concentration of
tannins, and they were quite muddy and swollen from several days of
substantial rain. An example of the water
is shown at the picture at left, taken at Wilson Creek. The
muddy/tannin-filled water is in the background, and the unfiltered
water is in the Platypus container. The water on this trip was
the worst I filtered during the 4-month test period.
This trail section varies in altitude from 650 to 1200 ft (200 to 365
m). The terrain is forested with granite outcroppings.
Temperatures ranged from a high of 60 F (16 C) to a low of 28 F (-2 C)
at night. Water sources were major rivers such as the Split Rock
and small streams.
During the Long Term Report period I also carried the Frontier Pro on
the Black Eagle Wilderness in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and
several dayhikes in Colorado and Utah. Unfortunately, there was
not much water on these trails so my use on these dayhikes was
During the LTR period I used the Frontier Pro solely attached to a
Platy container. I did not attempt to drink directly from water
sources, nor did I connect it to a hydration reservoir. The
reason for the latter is I was also testing the PolarPak MoFlow
and its connections were incompatible with the Frontier Pro. The
reason for not drinking directly from water sources were:
On one day I tried to supply all of my water needs using only the
Frontier Pro or boiling -- no pump. During this day I filtered 4
L (about 4 qt) though the system. I was able to use the Frontier
Pro to filter water for my morning cold cereal -- I filtered a
mouthful, then spat the clean water onto my cereal. It took about
five mouthfuls to get enough for breakfast. Though this method
may not be for everyone, it worked for me.
- I found it too difficult to bend over far enough to drink from
- The effort required to suck water without any mechanical
assistance was too tiresome. I preferred to use my Platy where I
could pressurize the filter with my hands.
I also used
the Frontier Pro with a different backpack which seemed to better
accommodate the filter protruding from the top of the Platy. See
picture at left. The compression strap holding the filter in
place was better positioned, and the side pocket (which can be seen in
the upper left of the photo) is farther away than the prior pack
used. My conclusion from this is that all packs are not created
equal when it comes to carrying the Frontier Pro connected to a water
When the trip was over
I removed the prefilter and compared it to a clean one as shown in the
photo at left. Clearly, the prefilter picked up a lot of the mud
in the water. What I could not see is the effect of the tannins
on the filter element. My experience with other filters is that
the tannins will pass through any prefilter, and slowly clog the filter
element until the pressure required to move water through the system
becomes excessive. In fact, that is what happened on this
trip. By the last day it was getting quite difficult to filter
water through the Frontier Pro, even with the assistance of pressure on
the Platy container with my hands.
In addition to what I stated above during the Field Report period, what
I learned about the Frontier Pro filter during the LTR period was:
My bottom line after this test is: how will I use the unit now that the
test period is over? I am thinking I will make it a permanent
fixture in my daypack.
I will use it to reduce the amount of
water, especially emergency water, I carry on my dayhikes in areas
where water is accessible. With its light weight, it weighs only
a fraction of the water I would have to carry for backup purposes, and
is a good way to lighten my load. This is a stellar product for
hiking backup water. I am unlikely to use it on many multi-day
backpacking trips, as I find I really prefer my high-volume arm-powered
pump filter for filling up a hydration reservoir.
- My favorite way to use the system was attached to a flexible
Platy container where I could use my hands to provide pressure. I
found this configuration worked OK with the side water container pocket
on one of my packs. In this configuration I could go a whole day
without using my pump.
- I did not achieve Aquamira's claim for a capacity of 50
gallons. I filtered at most 5 gallons through the filter, and the
suction resistance is high enough now that I am reluctant to depend on
- I filtered some really nasty water through the Frontier Pro,
never had a bad-tasting drink, and never got sick.
- Not all reservoirs will fit the Frontier Pro, at least not
without some major plumbing modifications.
Many thanks to Aquamira and
BackpackGearTest.org for the
test this product.
Read more reviews of McNett Corporation gear
Read more gear reviews by Kurt Papke