The HydroBlu Versa Flow Water Filter can be used in a wide range of different configurations for treating backcountry drinking water, from inline filtering in a hydration system to gravity filtering and squeeze-style filtering with a water reservoir. Both ends are threaded which makes it easy to connect the filter to soda bottles or reservoirs that have the same thread size.
While the Sawyer dual-threaded Mini Water Filter is similar, the Versa Flow has a faster flow rate because it’s a larger and longer filter, it has end caps that stop the filter from leaking into your backpack and onto your clothes between uses, and a transparent inspection window so you can see when it needs to be backflushed to clean it. In fact, I like the Versa Flow so much that it’s replaced the Sawyer Squeeze filter in my backpack because it’s less expensive and has fewer components that can fail or be compromised.
Specs at a Glance
- Type: Hollow tube filter exclusion
- Filtration pore size: 0.1 microns
- Weight: 2.6 oz (wet)
- Removes 99.9999% waterborne bacteria and 99.9% of protozoa including Giardia and Cryptosporidium
- Flow rate: 1 L to 1.5L/minute
- Life Expectancy: 100,000 gallons
- Endcap thread size: 28mm
- Bottle/reservoir compatibility
- CNOC reservoirs/ soft bottles: yes
- Regular soda bottles: yes
- SmartWater bottles: no, they leak
- Platypus: no, they leak
The HydroBlu Versa Flow Water Filter is available by itself (reviewed here) or in a Camping Package that contains two (64 oz) soft bottles, a bucket adapter, 2′ hose, and a hose clamp. The filter is identical in both kits.
The Versa Flow filter has color-coded ends to help you keep them straight. The blue end signifies clean water, while the grey end signified unfiltered or greywater. Both ends are threaded, which makes it convenient to use the filter with compatible bottles and reservoirs like the backpacker favorite, the CNOC Vecto soft reservoir, or a regular soda bottle. However, SmartWater bottles and Platypus reservoirs leak when screwed on the end of the Versa Flow filter. This can result in cross-contamination if unfiltered water runs down the outside side of the filter and into your clean water, with the potential to make you sick.
Personally, I prefer filling a CNOC 3L reservoir with water, screwing the Vera Flow onto it, and then squeezing water through the filter into an unconnected plastic water bottle. This is a fast and easy process (hint: tie a piece of elastic cord w/ a cordlock around the base of your backpack to keep your clean water bottle upright and prevent it from falling over when refilling.) The clean water shoots out of the blue end of the filter and you just have to aim it so it goes into your bottle. You guys can aim, can’t you?
- If you use a hydration system, you can splice the ends of the Versa Flow onto your “out” hose and drink through it normally. However, I’d encourage you to keep the filter on the exterior of your pack rather than on the inside in case the hoses separate and you get a catastrophic leak.
- If you want to batch process a lot of water you can also configure the filter in a gravity set up with a water reservoir on top and a bottle below. This is good if you have to filter a lot of water for group use or when car camping.
- You can even jam a straw onto the blue end of the filter and suck water through it if you want.
Plastic End Caps
The Versa Flow has plastic end caps that cover the input and output spouts between uses. If you’re backpacking, the blue cap lets you keep the inside of the spout clean, free of debris, and prevents any cross-contamination with unfiltered water that could leak into it. The end caps fit into grooves at the ends of the filter and occasionally pop off, but are easy to reseat. When I get a chance, I’m going to superglue mine to the filter so they’ll be impossible to misplace.
These caps also prevent water trapped in the filter from dripping into your backpack’s exterior pockets where it can soak down into the waistband of your pants and underwear. This is in contrast to the Sawyer Squeeze, Mini, and Micro water filters which will drain residual water into your pack’s pockets when separated from a bottle or reservoir between uses. If you’ve ever wondered why thru-hikers keep their Sawyer waters filters screwed onto plastic water bottles between uses, now you know one of the reasons why. I prefer to unscrew my filter between uses and these end caps let me pack it away without any residual leakage.
The Versa Flow water filter does not come with a plastic cleaning syringe for backflushing like the Sawyer dual-threaded Mini or the Sawyer Squeeze because you can simply thread a soda bottle to the clean end and squeeze water through the filter to flush it out. The best time to do this is after every trip or when you notice a decrease in the filter’s flow rate. The Versa Flow filter also comes with a clear inspection window on the side of the filter that lets you inspect the filter to see if it is discolored and filtering is indicated. I think this inspection window is a great innovation because it encourages proper maintenance of the product for optimal performance.
The Versa Flow can filter about 1 to 1.5 liters of water per minute. The actual flow rate you experience will depend on the quality and clarity of the water you filter, how much pressure is used to push water through the filter, and when you last backflushed it to clean it out. Anecdotally, I’ve found that the Versa Flow maintains its flow rate much better than the Sawyer Mini. In a side-by-side comparison, it’s obvious that the Versa Flow is longer and fatter than a Sawyer Mini (see below) which explains why it has a faster flow rate.
Comparable Water Treatment Options
|Make / Model||Type||Lifetime (in Liters)||Price|
|Sawyer Squeeze||Squeeze Filter||100,000||$37|
|HydroBlu Versa Flow||Squeeze Filter||100,000||$22|
|Katadyn BeFree||Squeeze Filter||1,000||$40|
|Aquamira Purification Drops||Chemical Purification||120||$15|
|Platypus Gravity Works||Gravity Filter||1,500||$110|
|Katadyn Hiker||Pump Filter||1,100||$75|
|Steripen Ultra||UV Purification||8,000||$110|
|Grayl Geopress||Squeeze Filter||250||$90|
|MSR Miniworks EX||Pump Filter||2,000||$90|
|MSR Guardian||Pump Purifier||10,000||$350|
The HydroBlu Versa Flow Water Filter is superior to the Sawyer Micro, Mini, or Squeeze Water filters in many ways. It can be used with many different configurations (inline, gravity, squeeze, or straw) without requiring the purchase of additional connectors, adapters, or replacement gaskets; it’s compatible will all standard 28mm soda bottles and reservoirs including the CNOC Vecto 2L and 3L soft bottles; it comes with color-coded end caps to keep the intake and output spouts clean; it doesn’t leak between uses, and it has a transparent inspection window so you can determine when it needs to be cleaned.
When I received this filter for testing, I really didn’t expect it to be competitive with Sawyer’s filters, which are still used by more backpackers and hikers than any other water filter. But I’m really impressed. So much, that I’ve switched from a Sawyer Squeeze Filter to the HydroBlu Versa Flow. The flow rates between the two are indistinguishable when it comes to filtering with a CNOC Vecto water bladder where you force water through the filter. But I prefer the Versa Flow because the end caps make it so much easier to pack the filter away between uses, you don’t have to carry around a syringe to backflush it, you don’t have to fuss with add-on connector kits or spare gaskets to use it in different ways or maintain it. Plus it’s less expensive. What more do you need?
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