Sawyer Squeeze Filter System Review
Water treatment options are vast. Chemical, ultraviolet, and filtration options are all available in various forms. I prefer a combination of chemical treatment and filtration on my trips. In the past I have fashioned a gravity filter system out of an Aquamira Frontier pro and Platypus hydration bags. This system has worked well, adding little weight to my pack. It was also a very inexpensive setup. It was, however, not without it's drawbacks. The Frontier Pro filter is a disposable unit, with an expected filter life of up to 50 gallons. The Frontier Pro is also a 3-micron filter, which does not offer protection against a number of possible illnesses. For this reason, I have always pretreated my water with iodine or chlorine tabs, then filtered for better taste. In a pinch, with a trusted water source, one may choose to rely only on the Aquamira filter, but I did not feel comfortable doing this.
Enter the Sawyer Squeeze Filter System. Based around a 0.1-micron hollow fiber membrane filter. This will effectively remove illness causing bacteria and protozoa without the need for pretreating the water. Included with the setup are three soft hydration bags, similar to the Platypus bladders I currently utilize. The filter screws onto the filled hydration bags, allowing one to squeeze filtered water from the other end. It is a simple and effective system, and in my experience has worked great.
In researching the filter prior to purchase, I discovered some reviewers questioning the quality of the included bags. Reports online include numerous discussions of the bags coming apart at the seams. Not wanting to run into this problem while in the backcountry, I intended to utilizt my existing Platypus bags with the filter. This was apparently not an original idea, as I soon found discussions detailing varying success with Platypus bags. It seems that the threaded connection on Platypus bags has changed at some point in the recent past. Newer bags will not seal properly with the Sawyer Squeeze filter threaded on, leading to water leaks. It was suggested that a simple fix for this is the use of a garden hose washer to provide a better seal. As my Platypus bags are a number of years old, I first attempted to use the filter without an additional washer and found that the filter sealed just fine. Your mileage may vary.
As far as actual use of the filter, it is a vary simple affair. After wetting the filter by running some water through it, simply fill a bag with dirty water, screw on the filter and squeeze clean water out the other end. The filter flows easily and has an extremely long life. The filter includes push/pull cap on the clean water end, but this can easily be removed, revealing a plastic nipple which readily accepts hydration tubing. After the filter becomes clogged with particulate matter, simply backflow water through it using the included syringe. Expected life is up to ten years. Because the filter flows so well, it is perfect for use in a gravity flow setup. I typically thread the filter onto a 2-liter Platypus bag containing dirty water, then remove the bite valve from my Platypus hoser setup and place the tubing on the clean water end of the filter. Hanging the dirty water bag on a tree, or up on a rock allows the water to flow through the filter and fill my clean water bag very quickly.
So far, I have been very pleased with the Sawyer Squeeze filter system. I have yet to use the included bags, and cannot therefore speak to their reliability. I will keep them on-hand as a possible future test, or backup to my Platypus bags. While hiking in Arkansas I was able to quickly filter water from a number of streams and was very pleased with the performance of the filter. Water from the filter tasted fine and the system packed into a small and lightweight package.