The Sawyer Squeeze is a 3 oz / 85 g hollow-fiber membrane water filter that removes bacteria and protozoa from water. It’s become the default water treatment system for hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail and is definitely worth being considered for your backpacking kit.
Despite it now being one of three different filters in the Sawyer lineup (there’s now the Sawyer MINI and the Sawyer Micro as well – variations on the original Squeeze discussed here), the Sawyer Squeeze is probably the only one you should be considering for your next backpacking trip (if you’re filtering for one).
- Color: Black
- Weight: 3 oz / 85 g
- Filter Medium: Hollow-fiber membrane
- Housing Material: ABS plastic
- Dimensions: 5 x 2 in / 12.7 x 5 cm
- Country of Origin: USA
- MSRP: $37
- Includes two 32 fl. oz. pouches, a cleaning coupling, and accessories for gravity and inline use
- Hollow-fiber membrane filter removes 99.99999% of all bacteria and 99.9999% of all protozoa
- Filter has a built-in (removable) push/pull cap
- Includes syringe to back-flush (i.e. clean) filter
- Filter fits the threads on most grocery store water bottles (found in the United States)
- Includes mesh carrying case
THE WEIGHT: Despite the 3 oz / 85 g Sawyer Squeeze being the heaviest of the three Sawyer Squeeze filters (the Sawyer Micro and the Sawyer MINI weigh in at 2 oz / 57 g) and heavier still than simply carrying bleach or water purification tablets, the Sawyer Squeeze is still a lightweight option for backpacking. It’s also very compact and can be stored directly on a water bottle in the side pocket of your pack.
THE COMPATIBILITY: Although the Squeeze comes with bags to use for filtering, you also have the option of using a number of store-bought water bottles with the squeeze. Typically, hikers (in the US) will use smartwater or LIFEWTR bottles for this (superb structural integrity, these ones). Even better, get yourself a smartwater or LIFEWTR bottle with a sport cap and then swap out the cap that comes on the Sawyer Squeeze for it (the sport cap keeps dirt off your filter/bottle’s teat).
THE EASE OF USE: Fill up bag/bottle, screw-on filter, squeeze water through filter. It’s not complicated at all. Just remember that if you connect the Sawyer Squeeze to a water bottle, consider that water bottle a dirty-water water bottle (i.e. it’s been contaminated) until you have cleaned the bottle with chemicals.
THE FLOW RATE: The flow rate on the Sawyer Squeeze isn’t terrible, but the flow rate you have when you first get one won’t last long. Sure, you can backflush it (more on that below), but after filtering some sediment-heavy water, the flow rate will never be what it was when you first got it.
THE BACKFLUSHING: Included with the Squeeze is a syringe to use for backflushing (i.e. cleaning). You fill the syringe with clean water and then push that water backward through the Squeeze to backflush. This can be annoying to do in the backcountry and even at home, you can never really seem to restore your Sawyer to what it was when you first got it. All it does is serve to slow your Squeeze’s slow descent into uselessness.
THE O-RING: Inside the bottom of the Squeeze (where you screw it onto your Sawyer bag or water bottle) is a removable o-ring to ensure a smooth transfer of water from your dirty water container and through the Squeeze. The threads on the Sawyer are shallower than the threads on most water bottles and so you must be careful not to overtighten the Sawyer or you will damage this o-ring and your filter won’t work as well. I have also had problems with this o-ring falling out when removing the Sawyer from my bottles. It can be replaced with rubber gaskets from hardware stores but make sure you get one that’s FDA approved for food use (or just risk having toxins in your water).
THE FREEZING: One of the worst things about the Sawyer Squeeze is that, due to it using a hollow-fiber membrane to filter, it can freeze. What happens if it freezes? It no longer functions as a reliable water filter. When the filter is left in freezing temperatures, residual water trapped inside freezes and expands, thus damaging the membrane. There is no way to tell if your filter has been damaged due to freezing. Sawyer’s official position on freezing? “THERE IS NO WARRANTY FOR A FROZEN FILTER.”
THE BAGS: Sawyer includes two 32 fl. oz. pouches (better known as bags) with the Squeeze filters. You’re supposed to fill these bags with water, screw the filter onto the top of the bag, and then squeeze (get it? squeeze?) the water through the filter from the pouch. It works fine. The only problem is that these pouches aren’t incredibly robust and they will break with repeated use. Many long-distance hikers use water bottles instead of pouches which work well except for the fact that you will have to stop to let more air into the bottle while filtering.
Who is it for?
BEGINNER BACKPACKERS | If you’re just getting into backpacking, there’s nothing wrong with getting yourself a Sawyer Squeeze. If you’re looking at getting something like a Lifestraw (which probably does a better job of marketing to beginner backpackers), you might as well get yourself a Sawyer Squeeze.
WEEKEND WARRIORS | If you’re filtering for just yourself on your weekend backpacking trips (more on this below), then the Sawyer Squeeze is a great option – so long as you don’t have to worry about viruses in your water supply.
THRU-HIKERS | The Sawyer Squeeze is basically part of the default thru-hiker kit. If you’re heading out on a thru-hike and don’t already know what you want to bring terms of water treatment, the Squeeze is as safe a bet as you can make.
A NOTE FOR COUPLES | If you are a couple on a hike and are going to be filtering a lot of water, I would suggest bringing one Sawyer Squeeze for each of you. It would be incredibly frustrating to have to sit and filter something like eight liters of water with a single Squeeze. You might even want to consider something heavier (but more convenient), like a Platypus GravityWorks.
|Sawyer Micro||$29||2 oz / 57 g||Squeeze/Straw||2 x 5 in / 5 x 13 cm||Hollow fiber||Protozoa and bacteria|
|Sawyer Mini||$20||2 oz / 57 g||Squeeze/Straw||1 x 5 in / 2.5 x 6.6 cm||Hollow fiber||Protozoa and bacteria|
|Katadyn BeFree||$25||2.3 oz / 65 g||Bottle||11.3 x 3.5 x 2.8 in / 29 x 9 x 7 cm||Hollow fiber||Protozoa and bacteria|
|Aquamira||$15||3 oz / 85 g||Drops||N/A||Chlorine dioxide||Protozoa, bacteria, and viruses|
|Platypus GravityWorks||$100||10.9 oz / 309 g||Gravity||3 x 7.4 in / 7.6 x 18.8 cm||Hollow fiber||Protozoa and bacteria|
The Sawyer Squeeze isn’t the perfect water filter, but it’s arguably the best one currently available for backpacking if you’re filtering just for yourself.
If you’re going to be on a long-distance thru-hike, this is probably your best option if you’re not somewhere you need to treat for viruses and you’re not a fan of using chemicals to treat your water. That said, it is also a great and inexpensive option if you’re just getting into backpacking or you’re just out for the occasional weekend trip.
Check out the Sawyer Squeeze.
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