HydroBlu Versa Flow Water Filter Review

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

Treatment Capacity
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.

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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.

Bottle Compatibility

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.

Both ends of the Versa Flow Water Filter are threaded to connect with standard 28mm bottles and reservoirs

Filtering Configurations

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.

Using the Versa Flow Water Filter as a Gravity Filter


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.

Flow Rate

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 / ModelTypeLifetime (in Liters)Price
Sawyer SqueezeSqueeze Filter100,000$37
HydroBlu Versa FlowSqueeze Filter100,000$22
Katadyn BeFreeSqueeze Filter1,000$40
Aquamira Purification DropsChemical Purification120$15
Platypus Gravity WorksGravity Filter1,500$110
Katadyn HikerPump Filter1,100$75
Steripen UltraUV Purification8,000$110
Grayl GeopressSqueeze Filter250$90
MSR Miniworks EXPump Filter2,000$90
MSR GuardianPump Purifier10,000$350
The Versa Flow is longer and larger than the Sawyer Mini, resulting in a faster flow rate.


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.

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  1. 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? :-)

  2. Given the undocumented longevity claims that Sawyer has publicized regarding their filters, I had to chuckle at that one.

    I probably could have done a deeper dive on their independent lab test results, although they are a reputable company and a division of becktek.com which owns several other outdoor brands that also manufacture highly regarded water filtration products.

    But my trust in their veracity steps from the fact that CNOC resells their product. The CNOC Vecto is very popular within the backpacking community and I trust the engineering and backpacking expertise of its founder. Hydroblu filters have also been reviewed by many other backpacking aficionados, although I’m pretty sure they reviewed a different product than the one described here. But I’ll ask HydroBlu for their lab results tomorrow. Yes, I’ve been in touch with them

    Regarding free gear…here’s my policy. It hasn’t changed since I wrote this.

    • HydroBlu has sent me their independent filter test results and yep, they do exactly what they say they do.
      They also design their own filters (they’re based on Utah), although they are manufactured in china.
      Like Sawyer, they test each filter before it is packaged for sale.

  3. I have a question about the filter compatibility. Does anyone know if the Hydroblu filter is compatible with Sawyer squeeze bags? Because I have some new-ish 32 oz and 64 oz Sawyer bags and if they’re compatible then I wouldn’t have to buy the package.

  4. My two cents: not totally a slave to fashion, but leaks w smart water is kinda a dealbreaker. Just saying. Don’t always use them. Depends what store has.

  5. Are these susceptible to freezing as are the Sawyers?

  6. Smart and Life water bottles are very popular with backpackers. I wonder why they didn’t make it compatible with them?

    • Because coke bottles (28mm) are more popular with the rest of the world’s population.

    • 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”!

  7. Hi, Phil:

    I just switched from the Sawyer to the Versa Flow filter, and so far (a practice session at home and an overnight trip) am very happy with it. I paired it with two of the 2L Vectos. (I’d had significant experience with the early 2019 bottles, and extended correspondence with Gilad early in 2019, and found a couple of issues that made them unsuitable for me then. After reading continued good reviews, I decided to order a couple of more, and it appears they’ve fixed everything: no leaks, tethered caps, etc. Since they worked, I ordered the Versa Flow filter, too, partly based on your review.)

    I normally don’t have to carry more than a liter of water, since streams are usually only a couple of miles apart where I hike. I can make a dry camp with two liters if I have to. So why carry two-liter bags? Because they’re convenient, and on those rare occasions when I need to, I can carry four liters from the last water of the day: a liter to drink on the way to camp; two liters for cooking and drinking in camp, and a liter to get me to the first water next day.

    My own preference is to filter water into a “clean” container, and then drink from the container; I’ve just never gotten the habit of leaving the filter attached to a “dirty” bottle and drinking from the push-pull cap included with the Sawyer Squeeze (I always used the “cleaning” attachment so I could screw bottles to each end of the filter.}

    I really like the design of the 2019 Vecto: the measuring marks are extremely convenient for filling (again, I usually carry only one liter; it’s nice not to have to guess.) When full, the two-liter size fits perfectly in the side pocket of my Levity 48 pack; only the cap sticks out above the pocket, so the soft material is a bit protected from jabs of sticks or scrapes on rock walls. I’ve had no trouble with leaks around the cap or slider, or with pinhole leaks; the material seems light but sturdy. The wide opening for filling is very convenient, and the slider clip seems secure and about as idiot-proof as possible to misuse. I’ve had no problems filling these from any source; I haven’t tried water trickling down a rock face yet, but that’s a test almost no container will pass. It also seems easy to roll and squeeze, and probably will resist weakening from crease lines as well as anything. They also dry easily between trips: prop the slider end open with a bit of plastic straw (or wooden peg), take the cap off (it’s tethered, remember?) and let air circulate through it. Mine, so far, dries overnight.

    The design of the Versa Flow is equally intuitive: First, there are screw threads both ends. (Yes, you can get there with Sawyer, but it takes another piece.) The best feature, for me, are the caps to make it harder to cross-contaminate the clean outlet, and to prevent residual water in the filter from leaking into your pack. Of course, it’s not to hard to get rid of most of the residual water before storage: shaking the filter gets most of it; attaching the empty dirty bag lets you force air through the filter, forcing the rest of the water out the clean end. The “window” in the housing is a nice touch. I’ve had no problems with the leaks others have described. When I applied extra force to squeeze water through faster, I did get a couple of drops to come out of the seam where the gray housing joins the filter element on the “dirty” end of the filter, I could get a few drops to come out of gray housing seam, but I think this was simply an issue of trying to put more water into the filter than could move through the filter – which comes perilously close to operator error.

    The first time I used the bags with the filter, I discovered that screwing on the clean bottle can be awkward if you do it “out of order” and don’t roll the bag. The method I discovered is:
    1. When you reach the water source, empty the clean bag by drinking it.
    2. Roll clean bag toward cap, then screw filter on (if you attach the filter before you roll the bag, you trap air in the bag, which is a problem later.) This creates a T-shaped unit.
    3. Hold the bag clip (with the bag rolled around it) and use it as a handle to screw the filter onto the dirty bag, which you’re holding in your other hand.
    4. Lightly squeeze the dirty bag as water flows into the clean bag. Because you’ve eliminated the air from the clean bag, you don’t have to release air pressure from it as the water fills it. (This is a very real problem I had when using Sawyer with a Smartwater bottle.)

    Backflush is a snap – just remove the now-empty dirty bottle off, and squeeze a bit from the clean bottle.

    All in all, the Vecto/Versa Flow combo comes about as close to an ideal system as any I’ve found. (Of course, I said the same thing when MSR came out with its Miniworks – that, with a Nalgene, was about as good as it was going to get. :) )

    (Note: I paid full price for my filter and bags.)

  8. Hello,
    I’d like to buy a versaflow and have you get whatever percent you get but the link goes to garagegrowngear, where the filter is sold out. Please update?
    Thank you SO MUCH for this fabulous site. It’s incredibly level-headed and thorough.

  9. Why does everyone use smartwater bottles and no one uses soda/seltzer bottles. They seem pretty much the same to me

    • I don’t see the logic of using Smartwater bottle either. Why pay a lot for water) I use whatever is around, usually a cheapo seltzer bottle.

    • It’s about the bottle, not the water. The 750ml “sport” Smartwater bottles come with a flip-top cap which you can open/close with one hand without slowing your stride. Very handy if holding trekking poles. They also fit a bicycle water bottle cage. The spout on the “sport” cap is a perfect fit to the Sawyer Squeeze line of products. (I haven’t tried the HydroBlu.) You can transfer the “sport” cap to larger bottles. SmartWater bottles are strong and flexible enough to withstand being squeezed hard to push water through a filter. Some ordinary soda bottles are also, but some will fail under pressure. Straight, slim Smartwater bottles slide in and out of backpack pockets more easily than curved bottles. The advantages are very small, but noticeable. The actual “Smart” water is an expensive, useless gimmick, but worth the price if you use the bottle many times. I also re-use Gatorade bottles, not because of the contents, but because the wider opening makes it easier to mix in my preferred electrolyte tablets while on the go. (Speaking of which — I’d love to see SectionHiker review electrolyte mixes, given the depth of research you do.)

      • I think electrolyte mixes are expensive non-essential marketing crap. I just eat a PB+J sandwich or some chips and I’m good to go. It’s your money…I’m just frugal and prefer real food.

  10. Wonder what the clock face numbers molded on the clean outlet side are for? They don’t seem marked to indicate time of day or anything

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. When backpacking, I hang a bag with dirty water and the filter attached. I use hose and a clamp to allow the water to dispense into a clean container (clamp off when don’t need more). What I’m wondering is: will the Versa Flow blue cap stop the flow from the bag? AKA, can I get rid of the hose and clamp, just rely on capping the Versa Flow blue cap?

    • That blue cap will keep the filter from leaking all over you when its packed, but I doubt it’s strong enough to support a huge water column – that’s a lot of weight. Try it. But I’d keep your clamp.

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