Water Filtration is important to at least have knowledge about prior to heading outdoors on your next adventure. Many argue that in North America your chances of contracting a waterborne sickness from water harvested in back country water sources are rare. Some say you need to treat all water because it is not worth the risk of getting sick.
We say you should educate yourself and make the decision that makes yourself the most comfortable while trekking into the wild because outdoor survival is 80% mental and 20% skill. Making educated decisions even if wrong will help keep your mental attitude in the right perspective.
For myself I have chosen and used a Sawyer Squeeze for the last few years and have been extremely happy with it and have no plans for changing my choice of back country filtration system. However for the record if my Sawyer squeeze ever does fail me, the next water treatment system I plan on trying is UV light; i’ll get to the reasons for that later.
What it is:
- The Sawyer Squeeze is a portable water filter typically used for outdoors enthusiasts and travelers.
- A .1 micron Hollow fiber filter
- The filter and housing is small and lightweight (3.5 oz)
- The housing is threaded to accommodate most standard plastic water bottles on one end and a removable push/pull spout that enables you to drink water directly through the filter.
- I use the SP131 model that comes with 3 separate size bags. NOTE: You do not need the bags but I find them very useful, durable and worth the additional cost of the filter. I’ll explain more later.
- It comes with a large syringe that is used for back cleaning the filter to remove any build up of particles.
What it does/ Pros:
- Filters 99.9% of all bacteria and protoza
- Packs small and light
- Easy to use, simply fill and squeeze.
- Easy to maintain, simply back-flush after use with syringe in order to avoid build up of any sediment
- No moving parts or intricate mechanisms that can break or are easy to lose during maintenance or use
What it does not do/ Cons:
- Does not kill viruses
- NOTE: At the time of this writing I am not aware of an FILTER that is capable of filtering out viruses. Only boiling, chemical purification and UV light treatment are effective in removing viruses from contaminated water.
- It does not guarantee that you will not get sick from water harvested and consumed in the wilderness.
- I have had some people say that over time it can become difficult to squeeze water through the filter. Personally I have not had any issues; but if you have arthritis or a similar condition it may prove difficult to use. Also, if it is not properly maintained over time excessive sediment could become trapped in the filter making it difficult to squeeze water through.
- Prior to harvesting water make sure hands are clean, lack of (or improper) basic hygiene is suspected to be the leading cause of sickness from waterborne sicknesses in the wilderness.
- If at all possible collect water from a moving source not a stagnant non moving supply.
- Scout around water sources for signs of animal waste or dead animals that may be in the water upstream from where you plan on harvesting water.
- Use the bags for collecting water and prior to attaching the filter wipe any drops of unfiltered water from the outside of the bag/ collection container.
- Use filtered water to flush out the Sawyer filter after use.
- If you have any doubt about the water or feel uncomfortable in any way you should always boil your water prior to use. If boiling is not an option, use the Sawyer filter as instructed in the directions and then treat with an approved chemical treatment or UV light.
The Sawyer Squeeze has been a very welcomed addition to my pack. I also carry with me purification tablets for times when I can’t collect from a moving water source or I just don’t feel comfortable for one reason or another, such as a lot of animal activity within the area of the water source.