Water purification tends to be a topic that is highly debated among lightweight backpackers. Some choose the ultralight route of chemical purification, some wave the magic UV wand, some carry bulky filters, and some choose to take the risk of drinking straight from unfiltered sources. After a nasty run-in with giardia a few years ago, I have become the type of backpacker that always purifies water and pays close attention to my treatment method.
In the past, I generally chose between lightweight chemical treatments and heavy filters, depending on the trip. I like the concept of UV light purifiers, but I've had malfunction issues with them in the past. Chemical water treatments provide the lightest purification option, but I'm generally not too keen on pumping my body full of chemicals. I also like to avoid the annoyance of waiting 30 minutes before drinking my water.
On our recent Colorado backpacking trip, Annie and I brought along a Sawyer Squeeze water filter. After extensive testing in the field, I feel confident in saying that the Sawyer Squeeze is one of the finest water filters I've ever used. It's also so light that I won't have to make the tradeoff between chemicals or a heavy filter anymore.
The total field weight of the Sawyer Squeeze is just 3oz, making it the lightest filter I've ever used and the lightest dependable backpacking filter I'm aware of. Sawyer is also introducing the Sawyer Mini Filter this fall, which will weigh just 2 ounces and will have similar functionality to the Squeeze.
Another key benefit of the Squeeze is it's convenience. All you need to to do is fill the Squeeze bag with water, wipe off the excess drips, and squeeze clean water into your bottles. You can also drink straight from the filter cap, which we found to be very convenient. The flow through the filter is surprisingly strong and filling multiple bottles can be accomplished quickly.
If you prefer using water bladders rather than bottles, Sawyer has an inline adapter that will simplify the process. With the inline adapter in place, all you need to do is fill your bladder from the water source, and suck water through the tube. Water will be filtered through the Sawyer Squeeze and you'll be drinking clean water without any squeezing.
Pros of the Sawyer Squeeze:
- Weight - 3oz
- Cost - Much cheaper than most purification methods.
- Size - the Squeeze is much more compact than other filters I've used.
- Convenience - easy to use, easy to backflush, works with bottles, works with bladders, works drinking straight from the filter.
- Guarantee - Sawyer guarantees that the Squeeze will filter over 1 million gallons.
Like any piece of backpacking equipment, the Sawyer Squeeze has it's limitations. Here are the few that we found:
- If you're using the squeeze method (rather than using a bladder), it can become tedious over long trips, just like a pump filter.
- Filling the water bags may be difficult if the source has a very weak flow (we didn't have any issues with this). You'll also have to develop a technique for filling the bag out of a still lake (it's totally doable but will seem difficult the first time).
- The bags themselves will wear out over time (we used one bag for two people over two weeks without any issues. Also, replacement bags are affordable.
- Like other filters, regular back flushing is required (Sawyer provides a lightweight syringe that is easy to use in the field or at home).
- The Squeeze cannot be frozen or it will not work properly. Others have recommended putting it in a Ziploc bag in your sleeping bag on nights where the temperature might dip below freezing. I doubt this will be an issue for me, but I wouldn't have a problem with throwing the filter in the bottom of my sleeping bag on a cold night.
Even with these limitations, I feel that the positives of the Sawyer Squeeze greatly outweigh the negatives. Also, Sawyer is so confident about the performance of their filter that they guarantee it to filter over 1 million gallons of water.
I feel very happy to have found a lightweight water filtration method that provides a good balance between cost, convenience, and weight. I would highly recommend the Sawyer Squeeze filter to any lightweight backpacker.
As always, I'd love to hear your feedback and comments below. I hope you find this article useful.
Disclosure: Sawyer sent me the Squeeze filter for testing but I have no affiliation with them and I do not profit from any sales of their products.
* all prices are current as of the time of this post and are subject to change without notice.