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Rebecca Canode
(bcanode) - F
Filter Recommendation on 05/25/2012 08:38:28 MDT Print View

We have our 20% coupon from REI and are thinking of using it on a filter. The problem is, which one to get? They have the MSR MiniWorks EX on sale, but it seems like most people on this site are big fans of the Sawyer products. But REI carries several different Sawyer bundles and I'm not sure which one makes the most sense. So, its time to appeal to the wisdom of this community.

Below are our requirements. Do you have any recommendations?

1. Used for a family of 4
2. Everyone uses their own Camel Back
3. We do most of our backpacking in Arizona.
4. Prefer being able to filter on the trail if we find water (As opposed to a base camp setup)

Raymond Estrella
(rayestrella) - MLife

Locale: Northern Minnesota
Filter Recommendation on 05/25/2012 09:13:39 MDT Print View

If you want a Sawyer for the Family the 4 L gravity system is your best bet. Or buy the 3-way and make your own using a platypus Big Zip (that you can see through, a big design flaw of the Sawyer IMHO) for the dirty water bag. You can just fill straight to your CamelBaks.

I really like the Platy systems too. I fell in love with the whole concept after getting the CleanStream and am using the renamed GravityWorks right now. They are very fast. (Faster than the Sawyers, which I have all of.)

The Katadyn Vario is a good fast pump filter for family use.

Good luck,

Peter Griffith
(petergriffith) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Re: Filter Recommendation on 05/25/2012 09:32:43 MDT Print View

If you decide to go the pump route, the MSR MiniWorks EX is nice because it is very serviceable in the field. If the flow slows down, just take out the ceramic filter and clean off the outside with the included scrub pad and the flow will be back. We use them for our scout troop and they take a beating but keep on working. One pet peave of mine, make sure you take it apart between trips to dry it out.

Jon Fong
(jonfong) - F

Sawyer filter: do they work well in CA, UT & AZ on 05/25/2012 09:40:15 MDT Print View

So, I have been considering the Sawyer system as well and I have some concerns about the filter and I would like to hear about other people’s experiences. My concern is over clogging filter (I am not worried about priming). I have an MSR filter and love the fact that I can clean it in the field. I camp in CA, AZ & UT: in AZ & UT I have found the water can have a lot of silt. I have had to clean my filter once a day (group of four). In Yosemite, the water is usually fine, but we have experienced that after rain storms that the rivers will also contain a lot of silt for 4-24 hours. I understand that you can pre-filter the water to get the big chunks out, I get that. But silt can be submicron in size. I also understand that you can back flush the system but how effective is it? An MSR Miniworks is ~14 oz. , assuming that I get a Sawyer system with a 2l Evernew bag and hoses and various hoses, it look like I am somewhere between 8 to 10 ounces (please let me know if this is correct). So the question is: is investing in the Sawyer system (saving 4-6 oz.) a good idea given the water sources of CA, AZ & UT? Best regards - Jon

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
Filters... on 05/25/2012 11:00:08 MDT Print View

I've tried a few different filters over the last 10 years or so. I started with a First Need Purifier and used it exclusively up until about three or four years ago. Thing is bomb proof and had the added benefit of being a purifier as opposed to just a filter. Problem was... it was really heavy (around 1 lb as I recall).

From there I moved on to the Platypus cleanstream filter. I already had my own hoses, fittings and platys, so I just bought the filter and made my own gravity filter. It worked fine but was still a little heavier than I wanted, so...

I then graduated to the Sawyer 3-in-1 filter. Again, I had all the other pieces needed, so I just swapped out the cleanstream filter for the Sawyer. It was certainly lighter and smaller than the cleanstream but didn't filter quite as fast (still reasonable though, around 2-2.5mins/L). I also had a couple of problems with finicky performance when using with silty water. The filter would really slow down. Still, it was usuable and I stuck with it for a while, until...

At the end of 2011, I picked up a Sawyer Squeeze filter. Originally, I only used it in squeeze mode which worked fine for a 1 or 2-person trip. It filtered reasonably fast with minimal effort. Good. With the help of a tornado tube (used to connect two plastic bottles together for science projects) I could connect the clean end of the filter directly to a platypus, thereby ditching some of the tubing needed with the typical gravity filter set-ups. Eventually, I discovered I could use it as a gravity filter as well by hanging the dirty bladder from a tree branch. The dirty water bladder is connected directly to the sawyer squeeze filter which is then connected directly to the clean water bladder (with the help of the tornado tube). This set-up turned out to be as quick as (or perhaps even fasther than) the 3-in-1 system with the benefit of weight savings (no tubing required)! In-field backflushing seems as easy as squeezing some clean water back into the dirty bladder if necessary (haven't had to do this in the field yet over the last 5 trips).

This seems to be a reasonable set up for group trips as well. You can squeeze out a couple of liters when in a hurry, or use gravity mode when you have a little more time. 2 2L bladders + sawyer squeeze filter + tornado tube = 6-7oz. When solo, I leave the clean bladder at home, downsize the dirty bladder to a smaller one and filter directly into my 1L snapple bottle. Simple and efficient.

Very happy with this current set-up.

Edited by NickB on 05/25/2012 11:05:14 MDT.

Daniel Cox
(COHiker) - F

Locale: San Isabel NF
Gravity in the desert on 05/25/2012 11:19:46 MDT Print View

Pre filtering isn't a huge problem out west, where the water tends to be a little less gunky than what I found while living in TN/KY/GA, so if you need a prefilter, a cotton bandana seems to work well enough to stop the silt and bugs...algae and moss are more an eastern problem in my experience.

There are a few logistical problems to a gravity filter though:
Many water sources are shallow, submerging a bladder to fill can be a difficult if not impossible proposition.
If you use a platypus- a hoser has a small opening and is hard to fill by 'drowning' but the small opening makes for easy covering with cloth to filter out silt and bugs.
a BigZip is easier to fill, but impossible to pre-filter with a bandana when submerging.

A camelbak is a happy medium between the two platy's, but tastes like plastic, and the hose points upward, putting stress on the connection when used as a gravity filter. Also all the ones I have are opaque plastic, which I dislike for some reason.

The best solution is possibly to have a small cup to skim water and dump into the bladder, through a prefilter. This is slow though, filling 3+ L with a 12oz cup can take time. Probably not more time than pumping though.

Once the bladder is full, I've found that the flow rate through the Sawyer filter is roughly equivalent to a normal, unfiltered drinking bladder hose. Pretty acceptable, considering I'm literally doing zero work just holding a container under the hose while the bladder is held up by a tree, trekking pole, or other person.
Here's a pic of my setup. Post filter has a choice of on/off toggle, or drinking mouthpiece. Not pictured is the bandana for filtering, and a cup. I've never found a need for a 'clean' bag. Just hold the 'dirty' water until you run it though the filter into another container, or suck it though the filter by mouth.
Filter Setup

Edit: total weight of pictured items is 9 oz.

Edited by COHiker on 05/25/2012 11:22:49 MDT.

Terry G
(delvxe) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
another for gravity on 05/25/2012 11:22:12 MDT Print View

I also have to support gravity filters. For many years I use the MSR waterworks then migrated to the Sweetwater (both great filters with a lean toward the Sweetwater) but started using a gravity filter about four years ago for both small and larger group trips. I couldn't be happier with it. Easier and frankly faster than any pump I have used.

I use the now discontinued ULA Amigo Pro. It is very easy to make yourself if you are so inclined (, but I am sure the other systems mentioned here also work well.