Sawyer Water Filter Review | Average Hiker
This Sawyer Water Filter Review describes a filter I began using last year in Colorado. Honestly, I thought Colorado would have more cows, so I decided to get this new filter.
Sawyer makes the Sawyer Squeeze and the Sawyer Mini. The Sawyer Mini is a lighter filter, but for longer backpacking trips I need a filter that is durable and not prone to clogging like the Sawyer Mini Filter. The Sawyer Squeeze is only one ounce more than the Mini.
I will admit that I do not always filter my water, but I do filter out West, especially in desert environments where water quality can be poor. Western hiking also often includes BLM and grazing lands that are often frequented by cattle. In some cases, I’m sharing my water sources with these bovines, so water treatment and filtering is important.
Different Types of Backpacking Water Filters & Treatments
I have used most backpacking water filters or water treatments over the years, always searching for a lighter, better option. Most of them have worked well enough, but there are advantages and disadvantages to all of them.
- Pump Filters (Katahdyn & MSR Mini Filters) – When I first began hiking on the east coast, and along the Appalachian Trail, these were the most common filters. With the cannisters and hoses, mine had its own section of my backpack. These are good filters that pump water fast, and often have active carbon that improves the taste of water, but they are heavy and bulky.
- Ultraviolet Filters (Steripen) – The Steripen filters are light weight and easy to use, but mine was quirky. Battery life was not consistent, and it did not perform well in cold weather. These are good filters if I’m going on short hikes and not carrying much water.
- Gravity Filters (Platypus Gravity Works, Katadyn Gravity Camp)– Gravity filter allows you to hang a bag of water, and take care of other things around camp while the water filters through a single filter and hose. It is great for group camping, or when you have time to hang out and wait for the water to filter. I used one on the CDT and liked it a lot. It was just a little frustrating when I had to wait for the water to filter.
- Chemicals (Aqua Mira, Micropur) – Aqua Mira is my treatment of choice when moving fast, although the Sawyer Squeeze is just about as easy. I am getting older though, so I am a little more averse to putting any chemicals in my body that are not necessary or fun. One note on Chlorine Dioxide is that it also treats viruses.
Sawyer Water Filter Review – My Requirements
- Bacteria & Protozoa Removal – I am not too concerned about virus removal at this point since I mostly backpack and hike in the US. If this changes then I will look at alternatives like the pump filters or chemical treatments.
- Ease of Use – When I do filter, I do not want a lot of moving parts like hoses, batteries, canisters, etc.
- Light Weight – Weight is important. Filters and treatments are not that heavy, but a few extra ounces here and there eventually add up to a few extra pounds.
Sawyer Water Filter Review – Quick Specifications
- Filter Material – Hollow Fiber
- Weight – 3 oz
- Removes – Bacteri, Protozoa, E. Coli, Giardia, Vibrio Cholera, Salmonella typhi, Microplastics
Sawyer Water Filter Review – First Glance
The Sawyer Water Filter comes in a compact package, and initially I was a little taken aback by what seemed like a lot of components. As I unpacked the filter and began to review the components, I realized that many of them were optional – drinking straw, adapters, etc.
Sawyer Mini Components (S129)
- Squeeze Filter with Push/Pull Cap
- (2) 32-ounce Collapsible Pouches
- Back-washing Plunger
- Inline Adapters
- Drinking Straw or Gravity Tube
- Mesh Carrying Pouch (also used for gravity water filtration system)
Sawyer Water Filter Review – Overall Performance
My current Sawyer Water Filter (Squeeze Version) has about 300 miles on it, and I have had no issues with it. The filter provides about 2-3 cups of water per minute, and I typically back flush it about one every 3-5 days. Clogging has not been a problem, but I have also not used it with water that has a high amount of particulate matter.
The Sawyer Water Filter itself is hard plastic. The inflow end screws onto a bottle or other compatible connection. The outflow end has a sport top that screws onto the filter. There is a small plastic cap that goes over the sport top. This small cap is easy to lose so be careful with it.
Tip: I keep a small piece of cheese cloth over the inflow gasket. This helps strain out large particulate matter, so the filter does not clog easily. If particles are especially large then I will strain through a bandanna or coffee filter.
There are two 32 ounces pouches that can be used to squeeze water, and for extra capacity. Some people choose to use one for dirty water and one for filtered water.
Tips: I don’t use the Sawyer pouches due to lack of durability. All my Sawyer pouches have sprung leaks at some point on every hike. If I need extra water capacity then I carry Platypus pouches, which I find much more durable.
I use Smart Water bottles to carry my water, and do not drink from the sport top. The Smart Water bottles are a slightly more rigid plastic and the perfect size for the pockets on the sides of my backpacks.
One bottle holds my filtered bottle and the other holds unfiltered water. I try to balance the water between the bottles, so I have the same amount of water weight on both sides of my backpack.
The backwash plunger is used to clean out the filter and prevent it from clogging. Sawyer basically says to backwash when the water flow slows. I back wash my filter every 3-5 days, or when I am in town. If I am only going out for a few days then I backwash before I leave and when I return home, before putting it away.
The inline adapters are great if you use a hydration sleeve. Since I no longer use a sleeve, I cannot comment on their performance. I can tell you that they appear well made and durable.
Drinking Straw or Gravity Tube
The Sawyer Water Filter also comes with a drinking tube which you can either drink from (at least I’ve seen several comments saying this) or use to convert it to a gravity filter. I think a gravity filter would probably be the best use of the small tube.
Sawyer Water Filter Review – Final Thoughts
I have used many different types of water filters and chemical treatments. The Sawyer Water Filter (Squeeze) is the best filter I have used to date. The Sawyer Water Filter is light weight, easy to use, and filters out 99.99% of all bacteria and protozoa. There are a lot of options on the market right now, but this is my go-to filter.
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