The first time I tried filtering water from a stream, I knew that the distance I could hike in one day would never again be constrained by the amount of water I could carry. I remember the scene vividly: getting water out of a stream, surrounded by a sea of hobblebush, on West Hunter Mountain in the Catskills. Hiking was never the same for me afterwards. I’d been freed from the limits of my hydration reservoir.
I carried that pump purifier, a First Need weighing 17 ounces, for the next few years along the Long Trail, up the 100 Mile Wilderness, through the Catskills and the White Mountains, and down the Appalachian Trail, until I tried an inline filter and realized I could cut almost a pound of gear weight from my pack. That was the end of the pump, although I still keep it around for just in case we have a water main break (again).
I was asked to write this post for a regular reader who wants to switch from a pump-based water filter to a Sawyer Squeeze or Aqua Mira purification drops and wants me to explain how I use the two on day hiking and backpacking trips.
My Hydration System
I started carrying two different water purification/filtering methods about 6 years ago so I always have a backup method handy in case one fails. I had an incident on a long trip when my pump-based First Need stopped working completely due to an invisible puncture in the intake hose. I figured out the problem eventually, but it was a wake-up call for me to carry something extra like chlorine dioxide as a backup purification method.
I’ve been using the current lightweight system for a few years now and it works really well for me:
- 2 x liter plastic Aquafina bottles, my favorite brand of bottle. These are only used for “clean water” and are never dipped into streams or springs to be refilled.
- 3 liter Platypus reservoir which can hold 3.5 liters. Platypus doesn’t make this size anymore, but a 70 ounce Platypus also works well. The Platypus is the only container which is used to collect or hold “dirty water” which has not been filtered or treated with chlorine dioxide. The reservoir also boosts the amount of water I can carry for dry stretches of trail or if I want to dry camp away from water sources.
- Sawyer Squeeze Mini (water purifier) – weighs 1.38 ounces
- Aqua Mira water purification drops – the active ingredient is chlorine dioxide, but it works faster than tablets because it’s in a liquid solution. The two bottles weigh 3 ounces full but can be repackaged into smaller bottles depending on the quantity of solution needed.
- MYOG water scoop for scooping water out of small streams made from an old Platypus reservoir
Here’s how I use it:
When I pitch camp at night:
- I fill the Platypus with water and screw the Sawyer Squeeze Mini onto it. (You can get a really tight seal if you wrap the threads of the Platy with white plumbers tape and it prevents the cap from leaking too. ) Water flows through the Mini very easily and squeezing isn’t necessary. Hold up the full Platy and just filter the water gravity style.
- I filter 2 liters into the Aquafina bottles: one for cooking dinner and one to drink at night.
- I refill the Platypus with 3 liters of water.
- I mix and add Aqua Mira drops to the Platypus reservoir and let it sit overnight. This requires mixing 21 drops from each bottle, mixing then together, waiting 5 minutes, and then pouring the mixture into the reservoir. I’ll use this water in the morning for cooking, pre-hydrating, and to top of my drinking bottles. By morning, the inside of the Platypus and the water it contains is considered “clean water.”
I don’t feel the need to pre-filter the water with the Mini before adding Aqua Mira to it. I only take water out of moving streams and it’s always crystal clear. If it were muddy, it would clog the Mini, which I want to prevent. I don’t carry the backflush syringe and have never experienced a complete blockage.
In the morning:
- I use any remaining water in my water bottles for cooking, topping them off as needed with “clean water” from the Platypus.
- I drink 1 liter from a bottle to pre-hydrate before I break camp and start hiking.
- I top of my bottle(s) and dump any remaining water from the Platypus.
I like to get up and go in the morning and taking care of my water purification overnight, ensures a fast start the next day.
During the day:
- I fill the Platypus and filter my water with the Mini, gravity style, whenever I need to refill a bottle. It’s much faster than using chemicals.
That’s all there is to it. While I could just use the Sawyer Mini for all my filtering, I like have Aqua Mira along as a backup. It’s also quite convenient for purifying large batches of water at night, so I can eat dinner and go to sleep earlier.