Sawyer Squeeze: Updated Thoughts, Ideas, Tips
My Sawyer Squeeze article that I published a little over a year ago has apparently become one of the de facto articles for this product on the internet, which is really cool. It gets a lot of attention from hikers, hunters, adventurers and travelers, from around the world. It is always fun to see an article in a language I am not even able to read (thank you google chrome for having an automatic language translator) and it is the second most popular article I have written.
All this means I get a lot of folks contacting me asking me questions about it, which I am always happy to do.
I wanted to take a few moments and share some of my thoughts regarding this filter, having used it for over a year.
There have been five big issues with this filter by other bloggers and hikers the world over. I am going to address my thoughts on each of these issues.
1) Bag Durability
There is no reason for anybody to keep hashing out this issue. Everybody knows the original bags failed to perform for a lot of people. I suspect that the vast majority of these failures were a result of user error. People squeezing the crap out of the bags with such force that it was causing the seams on the bags to blow up. I even read the account of one AT hiker who blew through all three original bags, an Evernew bag, and two platypus bags. We need no further evidence than that story of the fact that most folks just abused their original squeeze bags to much. I put well over 50 gallons of water through a single bag and never have a failure.
Regarding the Evernew bags: I am pretty sure I was the first hiker to publish documentation saying that the Evernew water bags fit perfectly on the Sawyer Squeeze. Within 48 hours of me publishing that article, every major retailer in the USA was sold out. Literally thousands of Evernew water bags were bought by hikers within a matter of two days. I had companies emailing me and telling me they were sold out within 24 hours and eight months after I posted my article on them I was on a hike with the owners of some of the big name outdoor companies and those who did not know me at least knew that somebody out there had obviously posted something about it, and it was fun getting to hear their stories of having hundreds of orders in their inbox when they arrived the next morning at work. It has been estimated that there were over 25-thousand dollars worth of Evernew bags bought by hikers within 48 hours. Since that happened the companies here in the USA have received two or three additional shipments of the bags (they are made and shipped over from Japan only a few times each year) and every single time the companies here in the USA get shipments of the bags they are either already pre-sold or end up being sold within a few days of being listed as in-stock.
Clearly these Evernew bags are performing at a higher level of quality control than the Sawyer bags, otherwise they would not continue to be selling as fast as they are. As I documented in January of this year, Sawyer released an entirely new bag to try to stem the bleeding bad PR that they were getting because of the bags. It was all too obvious that they had a sure winner on their hands with the filter itself, but failed to bring to market a bag worthy of the filter itself. Or, as I have said in times past, Sawyer should have called it the “Sawyer Roll” – in a quasi-jokingly manner – in that rolling the bags reduces the vast majority of the stress on the bags.
Regarding the new bags… there have been a lot of people who have claimed that the new bags are not different from the old bags, beyond just the pretty picture. If you think that a new picture slapped onto a bag (when there was already a layer of ink on it) results in an additional 5 grams there is not much I can do about that. My contact at Sawyer has never once indicated to me that the bags are the same, beyond the change of artwork, even when I directly asked the question. I just do not have any further response regarding the new bags then this information. If somebody out there wants to, and has the ability, to do some kind of spectral analysis or whatever it would take to validate the claims by Sawyer, I would welcome the whitepaper on your research, beyond that, I can do nothing more than share with all of you what my Sawyer contact has told me.
Update: April 18, 2013 – Mountain Laurel Designs has gotten access to, and has started to sell, multi-packs of the new Sawyer Bags in both 1L and 2L sizes! They are $15 bucks for three 1L bags, and $15 bucks for two 2L bags. They are a 9-ply bag, compared to a 5-ply bag of the Evernew bags, and they are estimated to be 4 grams less weight than the Evernew bags.
2) Freezing Temperatures
There has also been a LOT of discussions and arguments about whether or not the Sawyer Squeeze can survive freezing temperatures. I have long held with the fact that any freezing of the filter should result in you throwing away your filter. I have zero evidence to prove such a drastic action, but to me the facts are simple: the squeeze is a Hollow Fiber Membrane filter. What this means is that there are a whole bunch of very very small tubes inside of the filter (read more on wikipedia regarding membrane filtering) and this is really good in that it allows for significant amount of more water<->surface contact thereby allowing the water a higher chance of being filtered. But the downside to this is that the tubes are significantly smaller than non hollow fiber membrane filters, like most other backpacking water filters. These smaller tubes mean that any water trapped inside of them results in a drastically higher chance of that water freezing and as we all know, when water freezes it expands in size, and therein is the problem. When the water freezes it a very high likelihood of blowing a hole (rupturing) one of these very small tubes. When that happens it means there is a very high chance of allowing water through the filter without being filtered.
Here is the official position of Sawyer via their FAQ page:
While we have no proof that freezing will harm the filter, we do not have enough proof to say it will not harm the filter, therefore we must say that if you suspect the filter has been frozen, to replace it — this is especially true with a hard freeze.
Only you can decide if the risk is worth it, personally, I do not. Puking my guts out four 2-4 days, than being constipated for 4-7 days is simply not worth it to me. $50 bucks is not worth a week or two of suffering.
This past winter when I was on sub-freezing hikes I carried with me extra handwarmers and made sure that at least one handwarmer was hot and inside of the bag that my Squeeze was in, to help make sure that it did not freeze. It meant carrying an extra 3 ounces per day, but again, what is safe water worth to you?
3) Tips & Tricks
It has been fun to see others sharing their tips of what they have done to make their life using the Sawyer Squeeze easier. For all the people out there hating on the Squeeze, there are a lot more people out there talking about how the Squeeze has become a part of their life and sharing ideas and such regarding their interactions with the filter. I think it is always a sign of a winning product when you see folks talking about how they are modifying it, or other things to work with it, and the internet is filled with hikers, hunters, and world travelers talking about how they have modified other gear to work with their Squeeze.
About the only thing I have done is to buy the Sawyer SP110 Inline Adapter Kit which allows you to attach the Squeeze to hydration tubing. There were a LOT of people out there making these on their own, so it was a brilliant move on Sawyers part to push out this adapter kit. It works really well for gravity filter systems, and it works ok, but not great, for drinking dirty water straight from a hydration bag through the filter and a bite valve.
One of the neat tricks of the SP100 is the ability to use just one part, the outbound part, and attach a short piece of hydration to into it, thus making it waaaay easier to fill up water bottles on the go.
One of the more unique and ideas I really want to try has come from this article in which you take a wire coffee filter and cut out the wire filter from the plastic and cut the filter part into circles and place one of them in the dirty water entrance of the filter (note: probably will have to buy a thinner washer in order to make a proper seal). There have been a lot of articles on the internet where people are adding pre-filters to their Squeeze, but I think this idea has one of the best long-term solutions that I have encountered.
Lets face it… that syringe that is included with the Squeeze is huge. When my very first Squeeze showed up and I pulled out that huge syringe I started laughing and scared the cat sleeping on a couch. It is comical. But, it has a very real purpose and should not just be dismissed.
One of the major selling points of the Squeeze is its claim to do “1 million gallons”. Of course the real selling point is the fact that it is an Absolute One Micron filter – read my original article on why that is important and why you should only be using an Absolute One Micron filter.
Part of their ability to claim such a high usage rate is because it is a hollowed membrane filter. The other part is because of its ability to be backflushed.
I have heard stories of AT/PCT thru-hikers bouncing the syringe from town to town so they did not have to carry it. I admire these hikers and think they are doing the right thing. If you are pre-filtering your water you should easily be able to make it three or four, maybe five days before you really need to backflush the Squeeze. It is called preventive maintenance – something we hikers hate thinking about, more or less doing, but it is just a reality when it comes to the Squeeze.
Please folks, do not just throw away that syringe, and when you get back home from your weekend hike, take the 10 seconds it will take to backflush your filter.
5) Drying / Storage
As I mentioned above, a hollow fiber membrane filter is an awesome thing to have because of the higher water<->filter contact time, which results in a higher level of filtration. But like water freezing inside of the tubes is a serious downsize, so too is improperly drying and storage of the filter.
When you get back home, you really need to do everything you can to dry out your filter. There has been an insane amount of people online sharing how they do this. Some of them downright comical, but most of them are really great ideas.
Personally what I would love to see would be Sawyer releasing a new product (SP118 maybe?) that would allow you to attach something like the SP100 to the inflow side of the filter, and have a small hole like the outflow side, which would be the same size as what the syringe fits onto. This would allow us the ability to attach this little device to the inflow side and use the syringe to blast a bunch of air through the filter to flush out the membrane tubes – much the same method of backflushing. It just makes sense and I am flabbergasted nobody has come up with a way to do this, nor that Sawyer has not thought of it themselves.
A lot of talk on the internet is how to carry the filter when you are hiking… some people put theirs in zip lock bags to keep the water inside of the filter from getting their get yet (solved by my idea above, hmmm). Some hikers just throw it into one of the pockets on the outside of their backpack. In the winter time I carried mine inside of a ziplock bag. This allowed me to keep it right next to handwarmers in sub-freezing conditions, as well as have it inside of my sleeping bag at night without getting my bag/feet wet. During the summer time I just threw it into an outside pocket and oh well if it drips because I only use outside pockets for water bottles and wet gear (groundcloth, shelter, rain jacket, etc.)
Anyway, those are my thoughts on all things related to the very awesome Sawyer Squeeze water filter. In the year+ that the Squeeze has been on the market it has take a huge percentage of the water filter market within the hiking community. I get messages on an almost weekly basis from old timers telling me they have been using the same water filter for years, yet have made the switch to the Squeeze because of its 0.1 Absolute Micron filter, its easy of use, and its weight compared to pretty much everything else of worth out there.
As I said in my original article:
Until something lighter comes along that provides Absolute 0.10 Micron level filtering that does not involve waiting hours and hours to have drinkable water, and is under the 2 ounce mark, the Sawyer PointOne Squeeze Water Filter System is going to be the only filter making it into my backpack.
That absolutely continues to be the case and the Squeeze will continue to be the only filter in my backpack until such is no longer true. In worst case situations, I can also use a few drops of bleach that I keep in a micro-dropper for washing my clothes with. And I understand there are still going to be a lot of hikers out there who will continue to use Aquamira. There is no doubt aquamira weighs less than the Squeeze – nobody can make that argument, especially if you carry them it within 3ml containers. Only thing I can say to that, and that I have been saying for over a year now, is to share a story about a 70 year old hiker who sent me an email the other day saying that after 50+ years of hiking, he finally realized that having the ability to drink water as soon as it goes inside of your water bag is a really nice thing, versus having to wait 15-30 minutes. This is so especially true if you are hiking somewhere that water is very scarce. You… well *I*… do not want to be hiking for hours and hours without a water source and finally get to one, then have to wait another half hour before I can drink the water. All of us have to make our own choice on whether an extra ounce is worth that or not. This year I am going to be in some pretty remote locations and I might only have the chance to get one once a day. Carrying that much extra water to make it through the rest of the day and into the next day, is going to result in water alone weighing more than my entire backpack, so the extra two ounces for the Squeeze is just not even going to be noticed.
I would love to hear from all of you what kind of modifications to your gear you have done to make using the Squeeze be better integrated with your hiking setup!!
+ John Abela
In accordance of USA Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255: I hereby declare that the products mentioned within the content of this article were not supplied to me in exchange for services. All products mentioned within the content of this review are free of endorsements between myself and the manufacturers and meets all FTC 16 CFR.255 compliance requirements.
April 18, 2013 – added update about MLD now selling multi-packs of the new bags – and further confirmation that these new bags are indeed stronger.