The Sawyer Squeeze filter – some thoughts, a chat with the company and a new lighter filter on the way

Sawyer Squeeze filter
Sawyer Squeeze filter out in the Scafells.


“The flow rate is really good. And in a funny kind of way, I’ve found sat at camp squeezing the pouch filtering water to be rather therapeutic! No joke. I kind of enjoy it. I guess the flow rate helps too, but it reminds me of them squeezy toys you get for stress relief in offices.”

As some of you are aware I’m a big fan of Drinksafe Systems filters for ensuring a safe drink from any source while out on the hills. That being said, more often than not I actually just boil water when wild camping. I can’t be arsed with the hassle of using a filter most of the time, and of course they’re next to useless in the winter. Any liquid still inside can obviously freeze and thus damage the filter making it null and void.

That’s if you are able to source any water on wintry high ground admittedly – in which case I’ll mix some snow with what water I have to hand to get it to melt quicker and thus ensure I save fuel when it comes to boiling while adding more snow.

This summer has been quite a good one for most of us who enjoy walking amongst the hills in sunshine. But as the initial heatwave continued I began to struggle to source any half decent water for camp. Regularly, I’d be collecting H20 from manky pools and tarns laden with sediment and various bugs. Not pleasant.

And thus I began taking taking a filter with me – naturally.

One bit of new kit I was offered to try out in recent months has been the Sawyer Squeeze filter. I’m aware they’ve sent it out to other bloggers and such like, to help Sawyer raise awareness for the new products but I was in no rush to give it a go in truth. I tend just boil water as previously mentioned. Alas, while out with friends Lee and Peter on a camp up Hard Knott in the Lake District, I inadvertently ended up using one of the lads’ Sawyer filters. Water was scarce up there and what was available wasn’t particularly pleasing on the eye.

It was that evening that convinced me to take up the offer of a product from Sawyer and I’m pleased to say it’s been a superb bit of kit. In fact, I’d go as far to say it’s my first choice water filter now. Why?

There’s different models, and some will match or exceed what one can get feature-wise from other brands but the big difference is the lifespan of the Sawyer filter. ‘Last For Your Lifetime’ they say. Over 1,000,000 gallons use. It’s also rather small and lightweight. You collect water with the supplied bladder, screw on the filter, and squeeze the pouch and pour into your mouth or pot.

The flow rate is really good too. And in a funny kind of way, I’ve found sat at camp squeezing the bladder filtering water to be rather therapeutic! No joke. I kind of enjoy it. I guess the flow rate helps too, but it reminds me of them squeezy toys you get for stress relief in offices.

You get various fittings to attach a Platypus hydration drinking tube et al too. And you get all this at a bargain price. It’s small and lightweight and comes with a versatile standard thread.

Wild camping
Yours truly at a camp on Great End. The Sawyer filter is somewhere by me in this shot.

One evening while on a camp at Hollow Stones below the Scafells a big bug flew into my bloody eye. I was in agony and no one was about to help get the little bastard out (though it felt a lot larger!). So, I reached for a Platypus filled it at a stream nearby, attached the Sawyer and then lay on my back while squeezing water into my eye to wash the bug out. Worked a treat. No concerns if the filter would fit my Platy.

I’ve seen lots of advertising of late while out and about promoting the Water-To-Go filter. Be it in George Fishers in Keswick or advertising on websites such as TGO Magazine. Turns out it’s not much cop, and a bit of a false economy. More so when compared to other products including the Sawyer.  The Water-To-Go filter is large and bulky and only lasts 200 litres. For £30!! Eh? A Geigerrig filter I used on and off for the past year has a longer shelf-life! And I didn’t really rate that.

With the Sawyer, in theory you will never need to purchase another filter. No replacements, no limits on it’s lifespan. In my book, that’s a big bonus and not a false economy.

Of course you need to take care of it and therefore it comes with a handy syringe to backflush the water while on your travels. In truth, it isn’t that handy. I soon ditched the syringe as it was a pain in the arse to stash in my pack when out for several nights. So, I just put my mouth around the back end of the filter and just blow now! Seems to have worked. Filter’s carried on working fine. You only need to backflush it for general maintenance, and of course it begins to clog up with crap.

Anyway, me being me, I was initially sceptical to the merits of the Sawyer filter. I’m not now of course. But I didn’t want to try out kit and say it was good, if it were in fact shit. And what with the support Sawyer have offered above, it was critical for me that I liked the product too.

Recently I was talking with Tony from Sawyer about the ins and outs of their filters, and I thought it make for a good read to share with you what he had to say. I’ve edited it to flow well, as much of it was based on questions and answers flying inbetween emails I had for Tony some time ago before using the filter for real….

Tony from Sawyer talks about their filters

In general, if you wanted to make your own filter that passes all of the lab tests, you can do with an old pair of tights and some iodine or chlorine. The tights to filter out most of the large particulate, and the iodine or chlorine to kill the bugs that get through. Most filters currently do exactly this. Pre filter followed by a chemical poison, followed by some sort of sweetener/flavouring process to disguise the chemical. Fact is though, you will still be drinking the dead bugs that got through, together with the chemicals that may have been used.
The Sawyer filter is based on the technology used in kidney dialysis machines. As you can imagine, for kidney dialysis two things are critical. Flow rate, and NO chemicals. The flow rate is achieved by having the micropores in the walls of a tube, and the water passes from outside the tube to the inside through these micropores. So inside the Sawyer filter is a tube several metres long. The water therefore has a huge surface area to pass through instead of a small disc of charcoal or whatever they use.

This means that we can engineer the micropores to an absolute size because this isn’t just some compressed material. We can also better control the materials that the tube is made from. In fact the tube has such a massive tensile strength that it can take up to 40 PSI without damage. The material is also non-biodegradable and heat resistant, so if you want to drink hot unsweetened tea for instance, you can without fear of damage.

If your filter has been left full of gunk and dried out. No worries, put it into some hot water to soak for ½ an hour and back flush it through. It will be as good as new as there are no mechanical parts, or silver magnetics, or chemicals that can be harmed or diminished. The filter will just keep on working. There is nothing to degrade or run out, so other than clogging now and then which is easily back flushed in a few seconds, it will last your lifetime. The purchase price is therefore its whole of life cost.
Versatility? You can use it with the Sawyer pouches, or fit it in-line with a hydration pack, or attach it to a plastic bottle with a standard thread, or use it as a straw, or attach it direct to a tap, or as in the AID industry, attach it to a bucket. Keep topping up your bucket with dirty water, and provide your whole village with safe water,… from 1 filter! NO OTHER FILTER ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD CAN DO THIS!
Safety? The squeeze model has a micropore rating of 0.1 microns ABSOLUTE. Absolute? What’s that?:
Nominal filters vs Absolute filters
Important Note.
NO ACCEPTED INDUSTRY STANDARD TO DETERMINE THE NOMINAL MICRON RATING OF A FILTER EXISTS.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the term Nominal as “(of a quantity or dimension) stated or expressed but not necessarily corresponding exactly to the real value: EU legislation allows variation around the nominal weight (that printed on each packet)”.
It can therefore be seen that the term “nominal” gives a manufacturer a lot of leeway when specifying a “nominal” value.
Nominal Filters
The water filtration industry usually follows these guidelines (loosely it has to be said). A nominal pore size rating describes the ability of the filter to retain the majority of particulate at 60 – 98% of the rated pore size.
This image gives a pictorial representation of what is going on:
Most of the particulate at the rated micropore
size is retained on this side of the filter.
Some of the particulate at the rated micropore
size escapes through the micropores.

So you may ask what happens to the nasty’s which get through? Well because they have not been removed, they must be dealt with in some other way, so they are usually killed using chemicals such as iodine, or in some cases, rely on some magnetic “electro-attractive forces” for retention. In both cases however, these extra precautions will soon wane, and the filter will become potentially dangerous. This is why these systems require replacement cartridges.


Also, remember, if a chemical has been used, you won’t taste it because it will be disguised by some other sweetener or chemical flavouring.

If you use one and it doesn’t have a shut off, JUST MAKE SURE THAT YOU KEEP A COUNT OF HOW MANY LITRES YOU HAVE DRAWN THROUGH IT TO ENSURE THAT YOU REPLACE THE CARTRIDGE IN GOOD TIME!

Absolute Rated Filters
An absolute pore size means exactly that. It specifies the micropore size at which a challenge organism of a particular size will be retained with 100% efficiency under strictly defined test conditions. Absolute micro-filters are used for critical applications such as sterilizing and final filtration for laboratory’s and hospitals.

This image gives a pictorial representation of what is going on:
ALL of the particulate at the rated micropore
size is retained on this side of the filter.

Note: Sawyer water filters use microfibers which have a much greater tensile strength than that used by our competitors, and therefore our micropore rating remains constant even at high pressures up to 40PSI / 2.75Bar. This can’t be said of others though.


Why do Sawyer choose 0.1 micron as the rated size for the outdoors? Quite simply, the smallest known bacteria are those in the Mycoplasma family, and typically measure between 0.1 and 0.2 micron across their smallest dimension. By stopping these types of bacteria, we can be sure that we are also stopping all other biological matter as well, and because we can guarantee to physically remove even the very smallest bacteria, we don’t need to employ any secondary layer of protection.
This means:
    No nasty swimming pool chemical after-taste.
    No cartridges to replace … ever.
    No counting up how many litres have been filtered.
    Nothing else to pay, once you own a Sawyer Water Filter.
Our absolute rated filters are used for critical applications such as sterilising and final filtration for laboratory’s and hospitals all over America.
EVERY Sawyer filter is rated Absolute. Every Sawyer filter has a 1,000,000 gallon guarantee. NO other filter gives you this amount of protection for such little cost

VIRUSES

When is a virus a concern? Certainly not within the EU! If there is a virus outbreak in a part of the world which has poor sanitation, it’s time to get concerned. However there are two factors to take into account.

The virus will only get into the water supply or ground water via untreated human excrement THAT HAS COME FROM AN INFECTED PERSON. Even where there has been an outbreak, subsequent infections tend to come from direct contact with infected persons, unclean hands, and by air. Also, a virus in the water supply requires a host to reproduce which is bacteria or protozoa or other much larger nasty’s. Therefore in real life situations, if you filter out the bacteria, you also filter out the virus. For cases of particular virulence though, we have the exact same technology but rated at 0.02 micron absolute!


CHEMICALS

Well, most chems and heavy metals are in particulate form. In that case they will be removed by the Sawyer. If they are dissolved though, they are at the same molecular level as the water and will pass through. That is why filters can’t be used with salt water.
Basically, a filter claiming to remove chems and heavy metals which are dissolved may have some active carbon or the like to soak them up. However, consider this. If the contamination is as severe as you may suspect, how quick would these active carbon elements fill up with the chems?

Lets say for instance you have filtered 1,000 litres which was contaminated with say just three or four tablespoons of a chemical. If it has been contained where is it? If it is full, where are the subsequent chems going? Again, most chems and metals including fertilisers etc are in particulate form and will be removed by most filters. (we don’t claim to remove them because if they are dissolved, they are part of the water, and ONLY distillation will remove 100% of them). You will note that the usual terminology is “removes chemicals and heavy metals”. They will never say anything like “removes 100% of chemicals and heavy metals for the filters whole life”.

sawyer filter comparison
A wee comparison chart. CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE



So, thanks to Tony for all that info. I’m sure some folks will find it interesting and rather enlightening. Granted, we don’t need to filter water all that often on our hills but it’s worth bearing in mind how different areas will require some care when it comes to safe, drinking water. eg, the high barren moors of the Peak District and so on.

I’ve been so impressed with the filter along with other folks out there, that I’ve been only too happy to agree to Sawyer Europe supporting me on my latest project ‘Life of a Mountain: Scafell Pike’.

More importantly, Sawyer will have in stock shortly a new filter. It’s the New MINI. Works just the same as the squeeze but is half the size. It comes with a 0.5 ltr bag, but will still fit hydration bladders etc because of its standard thread. Stock is due in October but is loaded up on the website for pre-order now.
And its just £29.95

If you visit the following link HERE, all readers can receive 10% OFF EVERY PURCHASE on the website.

Consequently, Sawyer will donate a small contribution towards ‘Life of a Mountain: Scafell Pike’ (that’s if you’ve not noticed the banner saying as much at the top of this blog).


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