I have been using the Sawyer Squeeze Water Filtration System for the past few 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!
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 that 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.
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 that you know is 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.
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 Aquamira Frontier Pro which has an activated charcoal filter element.
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 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 smallmouth, soda-bottle compatible containers. It 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 100,000) filtering solution I know of today for backcountry water filtration and I have already added it to my 3 season day hiking and backpacking gear list.
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