When out on any outdoor adventure, having a clean and reliable supply of water is essential for survival. To minimize water health risks it’s important to treat your water properly whether you’re on a hiking trip, camping, backpacking or traveling abroad.
This article will highlight the features to consider when looking to purchase a water filter for the outdoors, and will give a Sawyer water filter review on one of their most popular water treatments on the market, the PointOne Squeeze Water Filtration System.
Important Water Filter Features to Consider
Filters Vs. Purifiers
It’s important to know the technical differences between water filters and water purifiers to understand their intended uses and effectiveness.
Filters mechanically push water through a filter device to strain out bacteria and protozoa. They can strain out particulates and usually improve the taste of the water. However, typically they do not kill viruses.
Purifiers on the other hand eliminates viruses, bacteria and protozoa. Purifiers typically involve the use of chemicals, but some UV lights can purify as well.
Many (but not all) chemical treatments can eliminate the harmful Cryptospordium with extended incubation time. However, chemical treatments do not strain out particulates and usually negatively affect how the water tastes.
UV purifiers do not change the taste of the water since they only scramble the DNA of the organisms to prevent them from reproducing. Only some UV lights are approved as purifiers because they do not actually kill pathogens.
Removal Of Pathogens
Water treatments are used in order to remove pathogens from water that harm the human body if ingested. Below are a list of the different pathogens that water filters and purifiers are made to eliminate:
- Protozoa are the group of parasitic organisms most commonly feared water of all the waterborne illnesses. They are single celled organisms which can survive in cold water for weeks or even months at a time.
They cause intestinal problems and illnesses such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium. Unfortunately, Cryptosporidium is resistant to various kinds of water treatment because of its hard protective outer layer. Symptoms can appear anywhere from two day to two weeks after ingestion.
- Bacteria are the easiest of the pathogens to treat and filter out since they are larger than viruses. Examples of harmful bacteria which live in the water are E. coli, Dysentary and Campylobacteriosis.
- Viruses are very small and therefore cannot be strained out through most filters (unless the pore size is at least .02 microns). Viruses are eliminated by iodine, chlorine dioxide and UV purifiers. Some harmful viruses include Hepatitis A and Rotovirus. Viruses are said to be less of a concern in Canada and the U.S., and a larger threat in less developed countries.
- Heavy metals, pesticides and fertilizers cannot be strained out by most filters unless they contain a charcoal component to trap these chemicals.
Type Of Filtration System
- Pump-style. Pump-style water filters are considered micro filters because they act like colanders to filter out protozoa and bacteria. Holes are made just small enough for protozoa and bacteria, but not for viruses. For this style of filtration system physical labour is required. Pumping can feel especially laborious when filtering murky or silt heavy water.
- Gravity/Water Filter Squeeze Bags. Gravity/water filter bags are also considered micro filters and are used to filter out bacteria and protozoa, but not viruses. For gravity-fed filters, once you get water in the bag all you do is just hang and wait. Challenges you might face are: finding a place to hang the bag or getting water in the bag if your only option is a low flow water source.
In a place with potential viruses in the water, it’s best to bring chemical tablets for back-up filtration. Squeeze bags, on the other hand, require some manpower to speed up the filtering process.
- Ultraviolet Light. For the UV light to be effective, the water needs to be agitated in order for the UV rays to hit the bacteria, protozoa or virus. It works best when used in clearer water, but if the water is silty or murky it will be less effective and less enjoyable to drink if it does not undergo pre-filtration.
- Filter Straws/Squeeze Bottles. Straw water filters are generally more lightweight and portable than other filters. Filter straws allow you to drink directly from any water source, but are not optimal for filtering large quantities of water for storage. Having squeeze bottle filters are great for personal use because you can have water filtered directly into your storage/drinking container.
- Ceramic is an earthen material which can be cleaned a number of times before needing replacement, therefore making it a long lasting filter medium. They can get clogged easily, but can also be easily scraped clean. Some ceramic filters have a carbon core to help eliminate chemicals from the water.
- Fibreglass is effective at eliminating particles, however, it’s more fragile than ceramic.
- Hollow fibre is made up of many hollow U-shaped microtubes which allows water to flow through the tiny pores and into the core, where pathogens are strained out.
- Silica depth consists of multiple levels of different sized silica sand. The levels go from largest to finest in order to catch different sized particles and organisms as the water flows through the different density levels.
The micron size refers to the pore size of the filter medium. Bacteria come in different sizes, so the pore size will determine what pathogens can be strained out. The smallest bacteria is 0.2 microns, while the smallest virus is .02 microns.
The most effective filters will have a pore size around the same size as the smallest bacteria (0.2 microns) or smaller. However, filters that can eliminate viruses are less common because of the incredibly small pore size also makes the filtration incredibly slow.
Flow Rate/Time Before Drinking
Each treatment method takes a different amount of time to complete filtration or purification. And depending on your outdoor lifestyle and activities, will also depend which treatment method will be best suited for you. Filters with a flow rate of greater than 1 litre per minute are considered very quick.
Generally, filter mediums with larger surface areas have faster flow rates. Gravity filters have a flow rate of about 0.5 to 1.5 litres per minute.
UV options such as the SteriPen Ultra can take only 90 seconds to filter 1 litre of water, the 6L Katadyn Gravity Camp Filter only 40 seconds, while Aquamira Chemical Treatment Drops can take up to half an hour to be effective.
For long multi-day or multi-week hiking trips it would be wiser to choose a quicker water treatment method to avoid dehydration on the trail. But for more relaxed weekend camping trips time might be less of a concern.
And for international travel where viruses are more of a threat, it’s important not to sacrifice effectiveness of water treatment. Generally, filters (gravity-fed or pumps) treat water faster than chemical options. However, most UV treatments are also quick. Flow rates also depend on how clean a filter is and altitude it’s being used (the higher the altitude the slower the flow).
Quantity of water needed to be filtered also plays a role in decision making. For situations that require lots of water to be collected and treated at one time, pump filters and gravity/squeeze bag filters give you the ability to control how much water you treat at any given time.
These filters would work best with large groups or if you need to stock up on water because of limited water sources. But for single hikers or for short trips, bringing a UV light pen or filter straw will work just fine.
For hikers and backpackers, portability is also an important feature to consider for a water filter. Factors to consider are: where you’re going and the distance you’re traveling without a clean/reliable water source. Most water filters are in the range of 6 and 20 inches in length, 2 to 4 inches in diameter and 8 to 16 ounces in weight.
Gravity and squeeze bag filters usually weigh between 11 and 17 ounces, but since the water bags lie flat when empty they don’t take up a lot of space. Sip/squeeze bottles are usually 12 inches high and 4 inches in diameter, and can weight 9 ounces or less when empty.
UV lights are between 6 to 8 inches in length and about 2 inches wide. Their weight ranges between 9 and 16 ounces. Chemical treatments are usually in small bottles or paper sleeves which weigh only ounces and occupy minimal space.
Longevity of Filter
It’s important to think about how long/how many uses the treatment is good for before maintenance or replacement. For longer trips in the backcountry it’s best to have a water treatment that is field maintainable. For instance, ceramic filters can be scraped often when clogged and most pump filters have backflush features to remove clogged dirt and debris.
However, there are treatment options that are more difficult to maintain in the field, such as fibreglass filters and some sip/squeeze bottles.
Before taking your water treatment method out in the field, it’s important to be aware of its longevity. For filters, keep track of how many times the filter can be used before needing to be replaced. Filter lives range from 500 to 2000 litres of treatment. For electronic methods, such as UV purifiers, be aware of battery life and bulb life.
UV lamps typically last for about 8000 treatments, while batteries only last between 40-100 treatments. Keeping your water filter cleaned and maintained will help ensure its effectiveness and longevity.
Now that you have some grounding on the important features to consider when looking at water filters, next we’ll move on to a product review of one of the most popular treatments on the market, the Sawyer PointOne Squeeze Water Filtration System.
Sawyer PointOne Squeeze Water Filtration System Product Review
- Sawyer PointOne screw-on water filter
- BPA-free Mylar foil reusable water pouches in 16-, 32- and 64-ounce sizes.
- One replaceable pop-up drinking spout
- One syringe filter cleaner
- Installation, cleaning, and maintenance instructions.
Type of Water Filter: 0.1 absolute micron hollow fiber membrane inline water filter
Level of Filtration: Removes greater than 99.9999% of all bacteria, such as salmonella, cholera, and E.coli. Also removes greater than 99.999% of all protozoa, such as giardia, and cryptosporidium. However, it does not remove chemicals, dissolved solids or viruses.
Flow Rate: ~30 seconds per litre
Weight: 3.5 oz
Size: 7.5 x 2.5 x 4 inches (water filter)
- SP129: includes only 32 oz water pouch
- SP131: includes 16, 32 and 64 oz water pouch
- SP137: includes 32 oz water pouch, drinking straw and inline adapters for hydration pack bladders (sold separately)
Price: $33-43 USD depending on model
Recommended Uses: Hiking, backpacking, ultralight backpacking, camping, emergency preparedness
Who Is This Product for?
The Sawyer PointOne Water Filter is good for anyone who frequently goes hiking, camping, hunting, or fishing, especially in the backcountry. Basically it’s useful in any situation where a clean running source is not available within a short radius and/or a long trip that would make carrying your full water supply very inconvenient.
- Lightweight, easily portable 0.1 absolute micron hollow fiber membrane inline water filter;
- Highest level of filtration on market — removes greater than 99.99999% of all bacteria and 99.9999% of all protozoa;
- Built-in and removable push/pull cap; spray water straight into mouth or bottle from included pouch; attach to standard threaded water bottles;
- Comes with three BPA-free collapsible pouches (16-, 32-, and 64-ounce) that roll up tightly for easy packing;
- Backed by manufacturer’s lifetime limited warranty.
Its use is ideal for wilderness settings, but can also be used by travellers who want a portable water filter for potentially compromised or questionable water. It’s also great to have in any emergency preparedness kit.
How Does This Product Work?
First choose which size pouch you want to fill. Fill up the pouch with water directly from a lake, stream, river or water faucet. Then screw the filter directly on the pouch. Once secured, squeeze the water out of the pouch to filter the water, and pour directly into a water bottle or other container of choice.
Alternatively, you can drink directly from the filter because it features a built-in push-pull cap for easy drinking. The filter can also be attached directly to standard threaded water bottles.
The filters are made up of a hollow fibre membrane comprised of U-shaped microtubes. The microtubes allow water to flow through tiny micro-pores and into the core while the bacteria and protozoa are trapped on the outside. The filter is made up of many microtubes, spread out along a wide surface area, making the PointOne one of the fastest flow rate filters.
Included with the water filter is the syringe filter cleaner which ensures the filter can be kept in good condition even in the field. The syringe is used as a backflush for the filter to keep the flow-rate right and to ensure its longevity. Backwashing is recommended when the flow rate begins to diminish, before prolonged storage, and prior to use post-storage.
Product User Opinions
Users of the Sawyer PointOne Squeeze system praise it for its light weight and its effectiveness for filtering. The filter is so small that it can easy fit in your pant or short pockets, making it ideal for backpacking. The squeeze systems allows for a relatively fast flow rate, especially if you apply a slow steady pressure to the bags.
However, not all reviewers are happy with the water bags. They say that the bags are easy to fill with a fast-moving water source, but it’s much more difficult with bodies of water such as lakes. It’s easier to fill up a hard water bottle and then pour into the bag. Also, product users say that the bags can break easily, so be wary with how much pressure you apply to the bags.
Some tips from users include: Do not apply pressure on the part where the bag meets the mouth of the filter or else the joint will pop; bring an extra bag in case your bag breaks; make sure to back flush the filter occasionally to ensure effectiveness and longevity of the filter; and keep the filter out of below freezing temperatures to ensure your drinking water will be safe.
Pros And Cons Of The Product
- Lightweight (only 3.5 ounces!)
- Small and portable because the water filter rolls up into the collapsible pouches
- The collapsible pouches can be reused hundreds of times
- Various model options depending on your water filtration needs
- Field maintainable with included syringe filter cleaner
- Removes foul taste that can come from bacteria, dirt, and green matter
- The inline filter is compatible for hydration packs, a pre-filter for an existing pump system, with a faucet adapter or a gravity bag
- Does not remove iron, sulfur, other chemicals or simple compounds
- Not made with charcoal, therefore the filter is not effective in removing heavy metals, fertilizers and pesticides from the water
- Cannot withstand freezing temperatures, so if you suspect the filter has been frozen, your safest bet is to replace the filter. And keep in mind that there is no warranty for a frozen filter.
Similar Products On The Market
Sawyer Mini Water Filter
The Sawyer Mini is has the same level of filtration as the PointOne, just lighter and more compact. It’s made of the same 0.1 micron absolute hollow fibre membrane but weighs only 2 ounces and only 3 x 1 inches. It includes a 16 ounce reusable squeeze pouch, 7-inch drinking straw and cleaning plunger.
The straw can be used to drink directly from the water source, or the filter can be attached to a hydration pack or screwed on to a 28mm thread standard disposable bottle.
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Versa Flow Light-weight Water Filter System
Just like the Sawyer PointOne Squeeze Systems, the Versa Flow Light-Weight System is versatile because the filter can be attached to a standard plastic bottle with internal 28 mm threading, as an inline filter for hydration packs, gravity or bucket system, or used as a straw to drink directly from a water source.
It has the same 0.1 micron hollow fibre membrane but has a slower flow rate of 60 ml per minute.
Although the flow rate is slower, the Versa Flow weighs only 2 ounces with the same level of filtration as the Sawyer PointOne (removes 99.999% of all bacteria, such as E.coli, salmonella, and cholera, all protozoan cysts, including Giardia, cryptosporidium and other protozoa). The Versa Flow can also be back lashed to increase longevity of the filter.
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Sawyer PointOne Squeeze System is just one of many options on the market, so be sure to do your research on other models before jumping the gun and buying the first water filter you come across.
The PointOne Squeeze System sets the bar for outdoor water filters, but always take into consideration the different features of water filters, and be sure to invest in a water treatment method you feel the most comfortable with.
Also be sure to assess your outdoor lifestyle and needs in order to find the water treatment model that will suitable for you.