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Filter Recommendation
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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.

Adan Lopez
(Lopez) - F

Locale: San Gabriel Valley
Gravity filtering for my family on 06/09/2014 12:14:37 MDT Print View

Thanks for the info guys! For my family of 5, I'm thinking this Sawyer squeeze is the way to go. I'm just trying to figure out the bladder. We dont drink from hydration bladders so I'll need to buy bladders specifically for filtering. We'll each be carrying our gatorade/snapple bottle as usual.

The Platypus Bigzip fills easy and hangs easy, but does it screw onto the Sawyer squeeze? So here's what I'm considering so far, whacha think? Will my system below even work? Anyone using these components together already?

Hiking and camping with family of 5.....
64oz Platy Bigzip > adapter? > Sawyer Squeeze > Water bottles
-squeeze bladder for expediency
-in low water fill bladder with cook pot
-to pre-filter, put bandana over cook pot while pouring into bladder
-in camp, hang bladder and filter directly into bottles/cookpots
-optional, add second 64oz clean bladder for further convenience in camp
-hiking with 1-2 people, replace 64oz bladder with 32oz and thats it.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Gravity filtering for my family on 06/09/2014 12:24:59 MDT Print View

Hi Adan,

We typically carry a liter of filtered water each when hiking. What I've found is that using a 2L/64oz Evernew bottle (Platy is fine too with an adapter) is preferred when filtering for more than one person. I like that I can just fill it once for two people plus it's nice having the ability to carry extra water if we happen to dry camp that night. It's not a big deal but having to unscrew the filter, re fill the water bladder, and then filter the second bottle adds unnecessary time to the process.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Gravity filtering for my family on 06/09/2014 12:37:22 MDT Print View

Platypus bag have a different thread pitch than the Squeeze.

Yet, I just got a Platypus Hoser bag, with the Platyus thread pitch different than Squeeze, yet when I screw it onto Squeeze, it doesn't leak. My 4 liter Platypus bag did leak a little, and that (untreated) water can drip into the treated water, contaminating it.

The hoser bag comes with a fitting to tubing. I bet you could cut that off and attach it to Squeeze for gravity mode.

Although, I think 1 liter soda or water bottle, in Squeeze mode, is easy and faster than gravity mode.

And a lot of people pre-filter, but I don't see the point. Just get clean water that doesn't need pre-filtering. If there's some sand or whatever, just let it settle, If there's one fir needle, doesn't matter. Obviously, it depends on where you go and how clean the water is. I've done many trips to Cascades, Olympics, Trinity Alps,...

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Sawyer filter: do they work well in CA, UT & AZ on 06/09/2014 16:18:36 MDT Print View


I have been using the 1st generation Sawyer inline filter since 2009 or 2008 with no problems.

This year, I moved to the mini....have yet to use it, but no reason for it not to as it is the same technology.

However, I would highly recommend that you replace the syringe that comes with it with one of these:

The tapered tip will allow you to cut a small 1-2 inch section of tubing from the straw that comes with the mini filter.

When you need to back flush in the field, just connect the 1-2 inch section of tubing to the output end of the mini (the clean side) and then insert the syringe into the end of the attached tubing and easy sailing for back flushing.

You cannot do this with the included syringe....very poor choice of syringe for them to include with the current filter as it does not fit into the included straw as I described above.

(Guess the risk is that you could break the tip off of the tapered syringe).

I have filtered some really nasty water before, but nothing super silty.

A prefilter might be in order for screen material, sponges, etc have been discussed on BPL.

P.S. Going to take your Snow Leopard Stove out with the Focus Fire esbit stove for the 1st time in a week or so. Looking forward to breaking it in!


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Filter Recommendation on 06/09/2014 17:37:12 MDT Print View

Highly biased and inflammatory opinions:

Where possible, we do not treat water anyhow. We are just careful.

Then we like:
Steripen Opti (UV) (handles viruses!)
Sawyer filters (small ones don't handle viruses)

The old mainstream companies are now so far behind it is not funny. The MSR filters have ALL been a series of dismal failures. Katadyn Hiker used to be the leader, but it and the others in that stable are now equally obsolete.

Chemicals ... are obsolete, and very slow to work and not always effective. Some are dangerous, others taste 'off'.

Washing your hands seems to work far better in most cases.

OK, discuss!


Adan Lopez
(Lopez) - F

Locale: San Gabriel Valley
sawyer squeeze and platy bigzip on 06/09/2014 17:51:02 MDT Print View

so it sounds like my setup might work then. thanks Ian, Jerry, and Mike for the feedback. i'll pickup a 64oz for 2man hikes but for my family maybe I'll go with a 4 liter bag instead. I'll attach it via the tubing and pick up one of Tony's syringes too. any other improvements.

Roger, you recommend "sawyer filter". which one specifically? Also, would the steripen work on a 4 liter bladder?


Stephen Komae
(skomae) - MLife

Locale: northeastern US
Sawyer and Steripen on 06/09/2014 19:33:53 MDT Print View

In my opinion the Sawyer system is the best system I have used for any trip with more than two people... Perhaps even best for any trip when not flying solo.

The reason is, any system is fine for treating one or two liters at a time, but only the Sawyer is appropriate for three, six, maybe nine liters! You do not have to babysit it or crouch over a stream while it is doing its thing, leaving you free to rest, snack, or stretch. The only other system that works this well at large quantities is chlorine dioxide, which is not always palatable to everyone.

The Steripen is a great treatment option but when you have to treat more than a few liters it gets tedious. You must stir it in a liter at a time and that's 90 seconds a liter. Once you get into large quantities you are getting into Sawyer territory.

As for the Sawyer, I use the Squeeze rigged as a gravity system just because I was able to put it together with bits I had. If I were doing it again from scratch I would probably just get the Sawyer gravity system that they sell as-is. The filter element is the same, but in a different format.

It must be noted that it is very important to back flush it regularly to keep it going.

Finally at 4 people it's worth considering the need for two filters, not just as backup but to increase your overall throughput of clean water so that you don't waste lots of time at water sources if everyone needs to top off.

Edited by skomae on 06/09/2014 19:36:54 MDT.

Adan Lopez
(Lopez) - F

Locale: San Gabriel Valley
To Roger and Stephen re: filtering on 06/10/2014 09:52:46 MDT Print View

Thanks for the info Stephen and Roger!

Roger, are you recommending double-filtering? (when filtering at all) and which Sawyer filter specifically? BTW, I too dont filter at all when possible and it's good to know that works for you too.

I would like to pickup the sawyer gravity system, but I cant tell if that filter allows you to squeeze water through to speed things up when flying solo like the Sawyer Squeeze does. If it does then maybe just go with their gravity system with an additional small bladder and call it good.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: To Roger and Stephen re: filtering on 06/10/2014 10:12:56 MDT Print View

Mini is supposed to be pretty much just as good for 1 ounce less weight. Slightly lower flow rate.

Just use Mini in gravity mode if you wish, although I think squeezing is so easy it's not important. And then you don't need extra weight and complexity of hoses.

I often don't filter and have never noticed being sick.

On the other hand, it's so easy to squeeze, why take the risk? I think if you drink untreated water enough times, eventually you'll get sick.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: To Roger and Stephen re: filtering on 06/10/2014 17:42:54 MDT Print View

> are you recommending double-filtering?
No, definitely not. That was more of a ranking.

Which Sawyer filter? Doesn't really matter as the (standard) internals are mostly the same (assuming you are not looking at the ultra-fine model which handles viruses). So whatever takes your fancy. A gravity flter is fine in forest land with convenient trees, but not so smart in treeless alpine regions.

> The Steripen is a great treatment option but when you have to treat more than a few
> liters it gets tedious. You must stir it in a liter at a time
True, but ...
I treat 1 L for drinking for the 2 of us, and use the rest for cooking. Since the cooking stuff is brought close enough to the boil when cooking, I can't see any need to treat it. Yes, that means morning tea/coffee can be bailed straight out of the creek.


Edited by rcaffin on 06/10/2014 17:45:27 MDT.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: To Roger and Stephen re: filtering on 06/10/2014 17:53:53 MDT Print View

Roger, I have been tempted by the simplicity of the steripens for a long time but am worried about malfunctions. I have read lots of reviews on amazon (and here), and it seems there have been a lot of "issues". However I know the 1-star reviews over there tend to be quite the collection of idiots. What do you think on the reliability issue?

Since unless I am going to be somewhere where I will have to purify very questionable water I usually just use Aqua Mira, so taking it as a "backup" doesn't appeal to me as "simplicity".

Kevin Haskins
(kevperro) - F

Locale: Washington State
Chlorine Dioxide on 06/10/2014 19:21:31 MDT Print View

Chemicals work. If you have a couple ppm of Chlorine dioxide in there it will kill everything given the proper contact time.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Chlorine Dioxide on 06/10/2014 19:49:35 MDT Print View

Yes, that is what Aqua Mira is. It is supposed to be pretty slow (4+ hours) to get all the Giardia cysts, and since those are amongst the #1 issues for backpackers in N. America I would still say it is not perfect. Backpackers seldom have that kind of time to treat water. On the the hand I have been using that almost exclusively for 15+ years. No Giardia yet.

Edited by millonas on 06/10/2014 19:51:12 MDT.