Thirsty? Eliminate your risk of gastrointestinal bacteria and protozoa by 99.99999% while you satiate that thirst.
As a father of four children, I have had some amazing experiences. Some of my favorite memories have been with my boys participating in Cub Scout activities. As one of the den leaders, my boys and I have camped, hiked and enjoyed various aspects of nature. Normally we take backpacks with water bladders to fulfill one of Dave Canterbury 10c’s of survival. For shorter trips, we may take our Nalgene bottles or simply carry bottles of water. What happens when that water runs out? What happens if the tap water we rely upon becomes undrinkable? For those times, water filters can literally become lifesavers.
The Sawyer Micro Squeeze Water filtration system arrived in a 5 inches wide by 7 13/16 inches tall by 2 3/8 inches thick clear plastic package. I appreciated the ability to directly visualize the Sawyer filter behind the form molded plastic. To the left of the device, the company included a 4 5/8 inches tall by 2 1/4 inches wide mountainous image, with a lady drinking from the water bag. Beneath the image, I was able to discover that the 2-ounce filter could be added to the included straw, screwed onto the top of a standard water bottle or used with water bladders. The side panel provided a list of ideal uses (hiking, camping, boil alerts, emergency prep, hunting, fishing, travel) and a list of the package contents (Micro Squeeze Filter, 32 oz pouch, cleaning plunger, drinking straw, cleaning coupling and spare gasket). The reverse panel started with a vivid image of the device screwed onto a water bottle across the top. The middle section provided useful facts about the device. It promised to filter up to 100,000 gallons from freshwater lakes, rivers streams, or tap water sources, and that it would remove 99.99999% of bacteria and Protozoa (yes they added five decimal points of precision). Interestingly, they noted that the device exceeded EPA recommendations and did this without batteries or chemicals.
I was pleased that the company added a “How It Works” section. Similar to a dialysis system, the 0.1 micron filter allows water to pass through but contaminants remain behind. Even though this system will work to protect you from bacteria/parasites, it will not remove viruses, heavy metal or toxic chemicals. The inner panel of the cover provided some useful tips for the device. It recommended caution against squeezing the pouch too hard and to avoid sharp objects. The panel also recommended backwashing the filter regularly, to take the backwashing kit with you, to avoid over-tightening, to soak in vinegar to remove calcium build-ups, to replace if frozen (damages fibers and reduces protection), and to clean with 1 capful of bleach per pouch of water. If you need additional information, they recommended that you navigate to www.sawyer.com.
Beyond camping, I like to have a method to clean water during bad weather. During heavy rains, local waters may become unsafe to drink and municipalities may suggest the need to boil water. This past weekend, my area received roughly 2 inches of rain over a 24-hour period. I used this gift of nature to test the abilities of the Sawyer Micro Squeeze filter. I filled a Diet Dr. Pepper bottle with stream water and screwed the filter onto the bottle. I found that there was no way to mess up the direction because only one side had a universal screw port and the straw attachment port as well. I was pleased with how easy the filter attached to the bottle. I turned it upside down and squeezed the bottle and filtered the murky stream water into another bottle. I was amazed at how clear the water became after a single pass through the filter. There was no odor to the water before or after the test and the water tasted normal after the filtration. I filtered that clean water through the device again and found minimal change. I drew up the filtered (cleaned) water into the large syringe, attached the mouth of the syringe to the filter and forcefully blew backward into the filter. Brown, dirty, gross water streamed backward from the filter. I repeated this test a few times and found that backwashing made a prominent improvement in flow rate. I did not experience any leakage of the seals, nor did I experience any issues with the O rings.
I tested the bag three times and found that the connection between the bag and the filter remained secure. I would worry that the thin plastic bag would be the weak link in this system and would encourage you to have a backup. At the risk of sounding cliché, it is not wise to place all of your eggs into a single basket. As a regular user of the LifeStraw, I was excited to try the Sawyer Micro Squeeze filter. Despite reading numerous raving reviews of the Sawyer Micro Squeeze, I did not expect to find such a high-quality product. I have not used other Sawyer products and thus cannot compare the varieties of models. However, I was impressed with this product. As noted, the filter will outlast the storage bags and that will be another expense/weight to consider. I loved that the black straw port jutted outward from the base of the O-ring. If you have ever consumed a thickened sports drink or smoothie through a narrow hole, you know that the particles clog the opening. If you let the filter stand upright, gravity would pull many of the larger particles beyond the opening of the straw port and leave them outside of the filter. I was not certain if this was an intended design feature, but it worked great.
Whether I pack my water bladder backpack or my hiking bag, I tend to have a few ways to obtain clean water. I loved that this system was capable of 100,000 Gallons of water purification, and after my above testing, it has been added to my carry bag. I do wish that there was an included carry bag for the accessories and possibly an extra water bag. A small nylon bag/pouch would have been perfect to tote the backup pouch along with the syringe, extra O-ring and straw. The most important aspect to remember is that this device cannot freeze. If you live in an area that has freezing conditions, you may not be able to rely on the device. If there is any possibility that the device has frozen, it needs to be discarded because there is no way to know if the integrity of the filter was compromised. As stated above, an insulated zippered carry pouch would likely be ideal for this situation. You could add a hot hands packet into the kit as well, to further reduce the chances of freezing. With the Sawyer Micro Squeeze Filter and my potable aqua tablets, I do not worry about finding drinkable water.