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.
HydroBlu Versa Flow Water Filter
Ease of Use
Better than Sawyer
The HydroBlu Versa Flow Water Filter can be used as an inline, gravity, squeeze, or straw filter without requiring the purchase of additional connectors, adapters, or replacement gaskets; it's compatible will all standard 28mm soda bottles and reservoirs; 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.
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 Versa 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)|
|Sawyer Squeeze||Squeeze Filter||100,000|
|Platypus QuickDraw||Squeeze Filter||1,000|
|Katadyn BeFree||Squeeze Filter||1,000|
|Aquamira Purification Drops||Chemical Purification||120|
|Platypus Gravity Works||Gravity Filter||1,500|
|Katadyn Hiker||Pump Filter||1,100|
|Steripen Ultra||UV Purification||8,000|
|Grayl Geopress||Squeeze Filter||250|
|HydroBlu Versa Flow||Squeeze Filter||100,000|
|MSR Guardian||Pump Purifier||10,000|
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?
Disclosure: HyroBlu provided the author with a filter for this review.SectionHiker is reader-supported. We independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.
Wow, what timing! Just this weekend I was talking with folks on my backpacking trip about how I had two Sawyers fail on me because I couldn’t clean them easily and they got moldy (SO GROSS). I haven’t yet bought a filter to replace them because I was looking for just the right filter. Well, I think I might just go ahead and get this one.
Maybe. I wish these filters came apart like the pump ones do so I could actually clean the insides and not just rely on backflushing, which I do not trust. For now, AquaMira is working just fine for me even if I don’t love the taste of it. Better than dehydration, right? :-)
I ordered a Versa Flow filter to augment my Sawyer setup, giving me a loaner water filter setup for friends. I love the idea of not having to keep up with parts for the Sawyer: adapters, caps, hose, etc.. When I read about the Versa Flow leaking with a Smartwater bottle, I was pretty sure adding a washer between filter and bottle would do the trick.
The Versa Flow arrived and I quickly pulled a spare garden hose washer from my Sawyer bag (I use the washer with filter screen on the Sawyer; Versa can use a regular hose washer – no screen
) and pressed it into the outlet end of the Versa Flow. I screwed the Smartwater bottle onto the filter so it was snug against the washer. Sure enough that did the trick and no water leaked from the connection. However, I did have to squeeze the dirty water bag to get some clean water flow going as a vacuum formed with the Smartwater bottle. I do prefer a gravity flow setup while I’m taking a snack break. The Sawyer is easy since the adapter coupling can be unscrewed a bit to break the vacuum and get good water flow. With the Versa Flow, a short piece of tubing attached to the nipple on the Versa Flow should do the trick. Or as Phillip says “just aim”!
I too have replaced a Sawyer with the Versa Flow. As pointed out I like the double treads, caps, and window. I set up gravity filtration and flush exactly as described by Glenn above. I use two Evernew bags. These have a wide perimeter you can punch a hike through. I tie a loop of cord through the holes so I can hang the gravity set up from a tree branch and it makes it clear which is the dirty bag. I use a 24 oz Gatorade bottle for drinking. It has a scene open drinking spout, wide mouth for easy filling, and deep grooves so I can strap it to my pack straps with some skinny bungee loops.
HydroBlu also makes a carbon filter that screws onto the Versaflow, and handles some elements that the filter won’t (I don’t have the list handy) – I got one, since I hike in places where agricultrual chemicals (including those that are put onto suburban yards so people can spend weekends mowing instead of hiking) are a potential hazard, and the add-on filter addresses many of these; I’ve got to do the research to see if it will have any effect in the (defunct) mine tailings that pollute many creeks in southeast Ohio.
CNOC has now come out with a 1-liter bottle (Vesica) that is made out of the same materials as the Vecto; I find the 1-liter size and bottle shape more convenient for drinking, so I now carry a Vecto for filling with dirty water and a Vesica for drinking. The Vesica stands up, but doesn’t have a wide opening for easy filling. I now only have a 3-liter overnight supply with this setup, but that’s enough if I use a little care.
For health safety reasons, do I need the activated charcoal add-on to the Versa Flow for filtering water from backcountry sources in the Northeastern U.S. and the Middle Atlantic region (Maine, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York)?
I’m new to water filtration and don’t know if what the activated charcoal is supposed to remove (metals and chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides) are likely to be present in water sources in these areas.
If it’s not necessary for health safety, do you find that it makes a worthwhile difference in the taste of the water you filter?
Thanks for you help!
No. Activated charcoal may reduce them somewhat, but it won’t remove them all. I hike in those same areas and have never worried about metals and chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides. If it’s still a concern, get a water purifier that has an Electroabsorption component like the Grayl water purifiers.
Love the Versa Flow! I use it with the carbon filter attachment. The Versa Flow comes with clear cleaning instructions. Does anyone know what maintenance or cleaning should be performed on the carbon filter attachment? I can’t seem to find this information.
I’ve purchased two of these and they’re great. They claim a filtering capacity of (you choose, depends on what spec you read) 100,000 gallons, or 100,000 liters, or 20,000 liters. No matter which number, it’s a lot. I use the Sawyer plunger to back flush every time. I use it 4-5 times a year filtering about 40 gallons each time. The last time, it took two hours to filter six gallons of relatively clean water. Because it’s a passive system and it stayed at our campsite, time was not an issue. I called HydroBlu and they instructed me to flush it with about two liters instead of the 50cc from the Sawyer plunger. I connected it to my garden hose on return (it threads on) and used very low volume to back flush about two liters worth and it brought the filtering time down to 1 1/2 hours. I’m buying another one for backup, but if I have to buy one every five years, it’s well worth it.