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Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter System

Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter System
Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter System

I have been testing out the new Sawyer Squeeze Water Filtration System for the past few weeks and I like it better (with a few caveats, see below) than the Aqua Mira Frontier Pro that I’ve been using for the past 2 years. Priced at $50, the Squeeze includes several different sized water reservoir bottles and a screw on filter threaded for a soda-bottle sized cap. The filter has a pop-up cap that you can drink directly from or you can use it in more of a gravity filter mode to squeeze “dirty” water from the water reservoirs into “clean” bottles that you can drink from. I’ve clocked it at 4 cups in 3 minutes, which is very fast!

What’s Included

The Squeeze Water filter system comes with a screw-on filter, 4 plastic reservoir bottles sized 64 , 32, 16, and 12 ounces, and a syringe for back-flushing the filter for when the flow rate starts to drop. The filter weighs 2.4 ounces when dry and 4.0 ounces when saturated. The screw-on end is compatible with the included reservoirs, Platypus reservoirs and most plastic soda and water bottles.

The Squeeze filter uses a hollow tube technology that has been tested using EPA protocols to 0.1 microns and will remove bacteria, protozoa, and cysts including giardia and cryptosporidium. This is generally sufficient for backcountry use in the Continental US, Canada, and the UK and I’d use it without reservation in those regions. It will not remove viruses which are considerably smaller in size and should not be used in developing countries where viruses are known to contaminate water supplies.

The hollow tube filtering technology used in the Squeeze is not new and has been already used for several years in past Sawyer products. What is new, is the packaging of the filter as a screw-on bottle attachment with a pop-up top that you can drink from. I expect that this and and the inclusion of roll-up hydration reservoirs will make this product very attractive to day hikers, as well as backpackers.

Pop-up Top vs Gravity Style Filtration

There are two ways to use the Squeeze filter:  you can drink directly from it by removing the external plastic cap, popping up the top spout or you can use it to filter a larger quantity of water in more of a batch mode by squeezing it from a “dirty” bottle to a “clean” one.

The problem with drinking the water directly from the filter is that it’s really easy to lose the external plastic cap when you are backpacking (it happened to me), and from then on, you can’t really trust the cleanliness of the pop-up spout if you’re trying to avoid bacteria, protozoa, and cysts. The danger of cross-contamination (you put your hands in a “dirty” stream and touch the spout) is simply too great on a multi-day backpacking trip to chance it.

From Dirty Bag to Clean Bottle in Gravity Filter Mode
From Dirty Bag to Clean Bottle in Gravity Filter Mode

A better way to use this filter is to use it like a gravity filter, where you have a dirty water bag containing unfiltered water, and a clean water bag or bottles containing filtered water which you know if safe to drink. When I run out of clean water, I fill the dirty reservoir with fresh water and Squeeze it through the filter and into my clean bottles again. That way, I know that my bottles and their top threads are always clean, and I don’t have to worry about the outside cleanliness of the filter’s popup top.

Pre-Filter Modification

When I tested the Squeeze filter on overnight backpacking trips,  I found that it is incredibly easy for sand and grit to get into the screw-on end of the filter when you put it on the ground. There is also no pre-filter on the Squeeze which can remove suspended solids in turbid water and prevent the filter from clogging up.

One way to remedy both of these problems is to attach a pre-filter to the Squeeze filter module. To do this, I scavenged the pre-filter element from an old Aqua-Mira Frontier Pro filter and screwed it to the base of the Squeeze. This prevents sand and grit from getting into the business end of the Squeeze and still lets you attach it to a soda bottle, on of the included Sawyer reservoirs or a Platypus reservoir.

Sawyer Water Reservoirs

There are a couple of things I don’t like about the Sawyer water reservoirs included with the Squeeze filtration system. The first is that they’re not transparent, so you can’t really see how much water you have left by looking at them. The second is that they don’t really hold of amount of water they say they do. For example, the 32 ounce reservoir only holds 28.3 ounces. That kind of thing bothers me because I use my reservoirs to measure out water quantities for cooking and drinking during the day: an 15% error rate is simply not acceptable for me.

While I can understand the economy and convenience of using the included reservoirs, my preference is to use the Squeeze with the transparent 3 liter platypus reservoir and the soda-bottles I use for hiking with today.

No Break-in Period

One of things I really like about the Squeeze is that there is no break-in period. You can literally fill one of the included water reservoirs with water, screw the Squeeze filter onto it, and start drinking. There’s no activated charcoal to flush out of the filter and there’s no priming required. The first sips don’t have any particulate solids suspended in them and the water tastes clean. This is a problem with the Aqua Mira Frontier Pro which has an activated charcoal filter element.

Overall Recommendation

The Sawyer Squeeze is an excellent water filtration system if you’re looking for an easy and fast way to rehydrate on day hikes or backpacking trips, regardless if you use the reservoirs included with the system, or your own small mouth, soda-bottle compatible containers. It is also provides an extremely fast way to filter a large amount of water very quickly for small groups because it has such a fast flow rate or for individual use at the end of the day when you want to cook and get your water prepped for the next morning. The Squeeze filter and is the lightest weight, most economical (sawyer claims 1 million gallons) filtering solution I know of today for backcountry water filtration and I have already added it to to my 3 season day hiking and backpacking gear list.

Disclosure: SectionHiker received a complementary Sawyer Squeeze Filtration System for testing.

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  1. Thanks for the tips. By the way, I bought the filter online from Moontrail. I haven’t contacted them and don’t really care about the leaky bag anyway. The Coke bottle idea sounds worth a try as they’re pretty lightweight and will fill up underwater much easier than the bags do. I’d guess you fill the Coke bottle and squeeze out what you can, but will not be able to force all of the water from the bottle. So it may take a couple full Coke bottles to get one liter of filtered water? I assume the threaded connection between the bottle and filter
    cap is stronger than the bag is to its adaptor, but maybe not. I’ll find out soon enough…….

    The thing about the leaky bag that is a little concerning is that I did not notice it right away. While I’m squeezing I’ve got the bag directly above my clean water bottle, so the water that is leaking out is going straight into my clean water!

    Overall, I like this filter. I just have to work out the kinks.

    • Here’s what I do. I cut an old platy in half and use it to scoop water into a full platy. I attach the squeeze to the full platy. I filter the water into the coke bottles. This lets me drink from them directly because their threads are NOT contaminated with “dirty”water. The full platy rolls up when empty.

  2. Have seen a ton of these on PCT 2012 as well. We ditched ours, but was great for the first half of the trip. Honestly just got tired of squeezing. Have been using a Steripen classic for last month and it has been great. Although a lot of them are out there, I hope the product improves in future iterations (better back flushing system and better bags/bladders). At $50-ish and returnable at REI, great system to try.

  3. In case people are wanting to use this and are curious if it’ll fit with the platy, the answer is apparently yes and no.

    Yes, I’ve heard of it fitting with a few folks, no in that the platy I bought doesn’t fit.

    You can tell easily however if the threads will match up with a platy or whatever… You’re looking for two sets of screw-grooves: this will mate with the sawyer. The platy I bought today only has one set of thread ridges. It gets about 60% into the sawyer and jumps threads.

    So check bottle heads for thread count. If you need a reference, it’s the same as a coke bottle.

  4. It was lightweight and easy to use. But after 5 days on the AT the 32 oz filter developed a leak. Sawyer customer service would not replace the bag. They said it had too much pressure applied to it. WRONG! Defective design and poor customer service.

  5. Broken record here – that’s why you should throw the bags away and use a platypus reservoir instead. The filter is what matters not the bags.

    • I was hoping that Sawyer would have upgraded their bags to a decent quality. And one might think they would have decent customer service as most outdoor companies do. Alas, wrong on both accounts.

      • They’ve always had the most horrible customer support. But you should return the product to the retailer you bought it from. Hopefully that wasn’t Sawyer.

  6. Great discussions about the Sawyer. I’m still out in the woods with mine. I’m ready to stick with tablets & a bandanna crud filter. By the time I’m finished filling a 2 ltr bottle I may have well used the tablets.

    I will agree another method is needed to fill the bag. A soda bottle scoop & cyclone connector works great. I’ll store the Sawyer in the soda bottle when traveling.

    Also the original bags are weak at the seams. The 2013 bags I understand are an improvement over the 2012’s & earlier version. Do take care when squeezing and or rolling them. I find the current system makes one add their own weight for a scoop & any connector hoses to a bladder or bag. Is the system a true 4 oz or just a marketing ploy.

    Filling times do vary whether the filter is dry or already wet. If dry it takes a few minutes to wet the fibers before it reaches the advertised flow rate.

    My big concern is: what about the freezing factor. Sawyer does say if frozen the filter will be rendered useless. How does one know how dry a filter is before it is safe from freezing damage? How long can the filter be subject to temps hovering around freezing before freezing damages occurs? How about the same for Playtupus’s systems?

    I backpack into the Utah’s High Uinta’s where it’s likely to freeze over night any given time of the year & in the summer.

  7. I used the Sawyer squeeze this year for the first 260 miles of the PCT (Mexico to Big Bear).
    I use a Tornado adapter to connect the filter to pop bottles for back flushing…works great and weighs less that the Sawyer method to back flush.

    This year I used an older Sawyer bag for my squeeze bag and had no trouble….last year I used the old bag and busted out the bag in two days even though I was VERY careful with it.
    I now have an Evernew bag and carry the “new” Sawyer bags for added water and backup squeeze bags (I’ve had to carry up to 7 liters between water sources).
    This system is working great for me and is fast, safe, and light weight.

    One caution about using the different chemical treatments. Most of them will not kill Gardia and other cysts. The chemical drop/tablets will take upwards of 2+ hrs to make the water safe to drink at 70*. The shell on the cysts are just too tough. If you are one of the 50% that are carriers but do not get sick for Gardia then no problem but if you are like me where the ingestion of one or two live cysts will give you distress………
    Chem treatments do work great for viruses.

  8. How much weight savings are you experiencing via just carrying a Nalgene bottle and say Chlor-Floc?

    For that section of the PCT I carried Iodine for water purifiction and treatment and found out the hard way at Kitchen Creek I was allergic to Iodine. The Border Patrol Agent who drove me to the Hospital told me about Chlor-Floc and the FIrst Need Purifier they keep in their trucks. For those who do not know, the water above Kitchen Creek Campground and below the Campground should be treated because of the Illegals deficating everywhere as they do in the creek at the Scissors Crossing bridge. The First Need removes just about everything from Cysts to Viruses to Chemicals which was a problem in the High Sierras with the amount of desolved minerals in the water in some places and helped out my on and off hiking partner who develop stomach issues out of the Bishop basin with the Water. I now use the First Need exclusively with the Chemicals as a backup. My young Marine friends use Chlor-Floc in Afghanstan where human urine and defecation is a constant problem with the water over there.

    My big PCT hike was ten years ago, but I was just at Kitchen Creek Campground this past March 27th-28th and the water issue was the same, in fact the Fed’s are talking about installing a mini-chemical treatment plant to treat the Campground water which comes from a Well and not the creek itself.

    Do the Trail Angels still leave gallons of water above Scissors at the??

  9. Hy all,

    I just bought and received the SP129 the day (Yesterday) I received the mail for Pre-ordering, advertising this mini SP128. You can imagine how tough is my throat now.

    Nevertheless, I MYOGed an accessory to my big SP129 in order to replace the cleaning syringe I consider personaly as a piece of shit.
    It cost nothing, it is multiuse (backwash, straw, platypus or bottle connector …)
    · * the tube come frome a latex aerosol inflator for tires (http://www.competitivecyclist.com/hutchinson-fastair-latex-aerosol-inflator )
    · * the cap comes either from the bottle for dishwashing detergent (of this type http://www.makesfunofstuff.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Day-in-January-2012-105.jpg )- CocaCola or Platypus norms.
    · * or from a mineral water bottle with a sport popup cap like this one http://www.filtropure.fr/PBSCProduct.asp?ItmID=7166448

    Furthermore, I replaced the original Popup cap (which is leaky) by a regular popup cap from a detergent dishwahing bootle por exemple, much more safe and watertight.

    And that gives a result as this here … http://mayake.wordpress.com/2013/09/19/filtration-system-3m-sawyer-platypus/


  10. Wilderness Survival Dude

    I have just bought and tested the lifestraw water filter having used the squeeze filters before.

    and for pure taste quality, you can’t beat it.
    There’s less fiddling around, so worth a look if you’re after an alternative.

  11. What is the difference between this filter & the ceramic filter sold by many including CheaperThanDirt? They sell a bottle size filter as well as a 5gal size. CTD is a lot cheaper than the Sawyer & you can create your own gravity, squeeze & etc

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