Sawyer Squeeze questions: how to pre-filter, and recommended dirty-water bag?

RyanP

Formerly bob32
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I use a Sawyer Squeeze for water filtering and it has mostly been a good solution for me (other than the constant concern about keeping it from freezing). I have two questions though:
  1. I've had bad experiences with the Sawyer bags used for dirty water. I am always careful with them and gently roll them when filtering, and I have still had a few fail spectacularly on me. A second, more minor, complaint is that they are a pain to fill up; they don't open all the way unless you blow into the bag just right, and then the small bottle opening makes it hard to fill in some situations (like from a shallow stream or pothole). I know there are alternative third-party bags that are compatible with the Sawyer filters; I have heard of Evernew and CNOC bags in particular. Evernew seems to be lighter and more durable (?), and maybe easier to roll/squeeze, whereas the CNOC bag has the wide opening on the bottom making it easier to fill in many situations. Does anyone have any experience with these?
  2. I've never really figured out the pre-filtering thing for silty water in the desert. I've tried using paper coffee filters and bandanas when I'm worried about the filter clogging, but haven't really figured out how to do this effectively with the Sawyer bags. My solution so far has been to bring my syringe for backflushing along with some purification tablets, and if the filter keeps getting too clogged, I just switch to the tablets and I deal with it. But I know this wouldn't cut it with really silty sources (which I typically just avoid). If anyone has any tips for how to pre-filter or avoid the filter clogging in general, please let me know!
Thanks
Ryan
 

Jackson

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Evernew is the brand I use with my Sawyer. Way better than the Sawyer bags and the Platypus bag I used previously. I don't really use my Sawyer filter anymore but would continue to use my Evernew bags if I were using it.

With large particles like sand, I let the water sit in the bag for a long time so the sand settles, then carefully pour it off into a different bag to be filtered. If it's gross, more finely sedimented water (think the Green River), I take aluminum sulfate powder with me, put a spoonful in with the water, shake it up, then let it settle. It causes the nasty stuff to congeal in a gel like substance and settle at the bottom, then I pour it off into another container just like with bigger sand particles.
 

Janice

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I don't know if this would work well with the Sawyer (we use Platypus), but we have used this lightweight foldable bucket to let water sit before filtering. It's not perfect - it falls over if it's too full - but we have found it helpful in a few situations.
 

futurafree

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I've had 3-4 of the 64 oz Sawyer bags fail in the field, but I don't like Cnoc or any "soft" bags. Sawyer has changed their bag material 2-3 times in the past years, and I think the current version is better. I've learned not to apply extreme pressure or let the connecting part of the bag bend while squeezing because that puts extra pressure on other parts that then fail. I take 3 bags in the desert and 2 bags in the mountains. I find the extra 1-2 oz worth the peace of mind, because it's no fun using emergency purification pills.

I also use "alum" powder for crazy silty rivers or murky potholes. 1/5 to 1/8 tsp per gallon. You can buy it in the grocery store spice section because it's used for pickling.

My best trick in the desert is a combination of a 1-gallon milk-jug style container (only 2 oz) and an 8" x 8" 25-micron filter that honey and hash producers use. The 1-gallon jug is great for using alum powder or letting it sit overnight, but usually I just immediately pour the silty jug water into my Sawyer bags through the 25-micron filter to save time. I even started bringing a tiny plastic funnel I happened to have in the kitchen that weighs nothing and is super efficient. The jug is also great for having extra water around camp or putting out fires. It's bulky, but I just tie it to the outside of my pack. Backflushing a filter never completely restores it back to its original flow rate, so the best way to extend its life is to not clog it in the first place.
 

WasatchWill

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I must be lucky. Everyone else seems to have issues with their Sawyer bags, but mine always held up until one finally did spring a leak and I think that's because something sharp simply pierced it or a wrinkle or crease in it finally wore through, even though i was always careful with rolling them up and all that. For filling them, I found that simply taking along a quart size ziploc with a bottom corner cut off (very small cut) solved the complexity of filling the bag. Made for an ultralight collapsible filter of sorts. I would just dip the ziploc into lake, stream, or hold one side down against a shallow flow until I could get it as full as it would get and then hold it over the sawyer bag. That water would stream out the hole cut into the bag and I gave me a direct stream that was easy to aim into the small opening of the sawyer bag. In fact, I could hold it so that the corner sat gently cradled into the neck of the sawyer bag as it emptied into the sawyer.

I've also seen others take along a cheap water bottle with the top cut off that they were able to use to scoop up water. Others just cut off the top 1/4 of one of their sawyer bags so they could use that as a scoop or collection device.

That said I ended up switching to the CNOC. Yeah, it adds an extra ounce or two of weight, but it's pretty durable and loved being able to tie a bit of paracord to it to hang it up on a low branch thus being able to rig up a gravity feed. I would use the couple attachment they make to attach my bottle, usually smart water brand, and have it connected to the outlet of the filter with that attachment. Just had to make sure the bottle was loosely connected on the threads so that air pressure could do its thing and not inhibit the flow, or I would just squeeze it myself with everything still attached as described when i was in more of a hurry but still wanted the convenience of having my bottle more secure and not have to worry about holding it between my legs or feet to keep it stable.

The CNOC bags have been hard to get lately with stock and supply issues, but they're currently available now again, so if you are intent on still using your Sawyer, I think they're a worthy replacement to the Sawyer bags. The wide opening on them can be a pain themselves sometimes because of how rigid the plastic is on the edges so it takes a bit of hand/finger strength to keep them open when setting the bag down into a stream or lake to gather water but once you get it figured out with how to hold it with the right amount of strength at the right angle, it fills fast. Fold it over the right way, slide the slider on to lock the wide opening closed, tip it upside down, remove the small end cap, attach your filter and away you go. Mine did eventually develop a pinhole leak on it, which isn't uncommon with them. Really easy to patch reliably with a bit of Type B Tear Aid.

Now...having said all that, I've actually switched over to the Platypus QuickDraw. That thing was great for a week in the Wind Rivers last year, until on the last day, its bag sprung a pretty bad leak at the welded seam between the harder plastic neck and the softer plastic material that made up most of the bag. I finally got a replacement under warranty for it this last week. We'll see how long that replacement holds up. Apparently a lot of people had issues with flowrates on theirs though. Must have been a bad batch that slipped through a bad QC process. Maybe the result of Covid. I don't know...but the flow rate on mine was and has remained great as I got it not long after the released it. Hopefully they fixed whatever issue caused many to have poor flowrates so quickly so that newer ones now being sold are back to how they were in the first batch produced. So for me, only the bag became an issue, and until then, I thought it was amazing up until that point because it has a little handle on it and a wider mouth for gathering water easier without having to deal with two opening as with the CNOC. Fortunately the filter mates really well to Smart bottles as well so you can filter straight from the bottle and if your filter was made right, the flow is so good it will be like drinking from a water fountain or even a common kitchen sink turned half way on. But in my case, I had taken a Gatorade sport bottle because the wider mouth on it was easier to hold the filter over as I filtered into it since I could no longer connect it with a coupler attachment directly to a smart bottle. Also, I just like how much more durable Gatorade bottles seem to be and they have grooves on them that allow me to strap them on my shoulder strap more securely. So of course, I couldn't mate it directly to the gatorade bottle. Oh well...Anyway...the flowrate of a good Quickdraw filter is definitely a step up from the standard Sawyer, right close with that of the Katydyn BeFree, but easier to backflush and maintain, I think, than the Sawyer, which is still a great filter.

Don't have any sure fire tips for silty water beyond those already mentioned above...I do know that's what gives Katydyn BeFree filters fits much faster than it will a Sawyer...even glacial water with all of its mineral content despite looking so clear. Its also much more difficult to clean the Katadyn properly because just swishing it in clean water isn't always enough to make much difference and with much it's filter fibers are exposed, it's hard to get an effective back flush done with it due to lack of pressure build up. All that exposed surface area of the BeFree is apparently both a pro and a con. It is a big factor in it being the fastest flowrate on the market for any hollow fiber membrane filter because of how much more water can be exposed to those membranes at once, but in turn, that much more surface area is exposed to so much more silt.

As for my experience with silty water, I've been lucky there too and never had much trouble with water being too silty in all the desert locations I've been to, as I've always had a clear running stream/creek or potholes where all the sediment had already settled. But I know a rainstorm upstream can bring up the silt levels in a hurry for a stream or creek so that's something I'd need to be more mindful of if there's any chance for a storm to strike the area I'm in. If I was doing an extended desert trip or somewhere where I was unsure of water quality and sources, I'd consider taking a Nalgene to let sit for a half hour if needed and hope most all the sediment and silt would settle to the bottom, then carefully pour it out into a dirty bag to be filtered. As for using a bandana or something like that for a pre-filter, I'll have to try a bandanna rubber banded to my Platypus with its wider mouth to see how well it takes in water. I've tried that with the narrower sawyer bags and the surface area was too small to allow much of the water to pass through into the bag efficiently. Instead would just roll over the edge and yeah, just wasn't really efficient at all. Even when forming a little cup with the bandana by pushing it into the water bag's opening by about a half inch or so. Was like pouring too much oil into a funnel causing an overflow because the funnel was too narrow to keep up with the amount being poured in, only in this case with the water, even the smallest amount being poured into it would overflow fast. If that all makes sense.
 

Pukwudgie

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I'm a big fan of the Cnoc water bags with the sawyer Squeeze. It is the best setup I've ever used. It is very easy to fill and the flexible style bag rolls up small and is very durable.

Cnoc VECTO 2L Water Container, 28mm Thread​

As far as silty water I do the same as you, either use chemicals, or let it settle out.
 

WasatchWill

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...Backflushing a filter never completely restores it back to its original flow rate, so the best way to extend its life is to not clog it in the first place.
While it may be true you may never be able to get it to exactly the level of factory new flowrate conditions, I've come really close where the difference is almost imperceivable. If you do a thorough submerged soak in moderately hot distilled water (recommended not more than 140F), for about a half hour or so, then backflush with clean distilled water vigorously a few times, then repeat the soak, this time with household vinegar (white would be preferred but apple cider type will work ok in a pinch too), and then repeat the vigorous back-flushing with more distilled water, then forward flush and back flush, back and forth a few times to ensure you get all the vinegar taste out, can you bring a filter back to life pretty effectively that way. I know i've had great success with that method. Especially after making the mistake of using my hard tap water to maintenance it with and put it up for the winter only to find out the hard water minerals dried and clogged it up worse than it had been after a season of use in the outdoors. That was early on and I was ignorant of what hard tap water can do to Sawyer filters and the like. In fact I had even bought a new Sawyer to have as a backup on hand at home and to compare the flow-rate of the old one and the difference really was almost imperceivable. So yes, they can be resurrected from such hard clogs.
 

futurafree

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If you do a thorough submerged soak in moderately hot distilled water (recommended not more than 140F), for about a half hour or so, then backflush with clean distilled water vigorously a few times, then repeat the soak, this time with household vinegar (white would be preferred but apple cider type will work ok in a pinch too), and then repeat the vigorous back-flushing
Oh wow, thanks. I never realized my hard water was destroying it in between trips. I feel bad buying new filters and they aren't cheap, so I'll try your method next time.
 

WasatchWill

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Oh wow, thanks. I never realized my hard water was destroying it in between trips. I feel bad buying new filters and they aren't cheap, so I'll try your method next time.
No prob. Hope it's as effective for yours as for mine. This vid is where I first learned of this technique and then did some research to confirm it.
 

RyanP

Formerly bob32
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Wow, thanks everyone. I have lots of stuff to consider now from this thread.

Yeah, I've had the same problem once or twice with my Squeeze completely clogging up over the winter/off-season, which I eventually reasoned was because of the hard water flushing before the long-term storage. Good to know this is fixable if it happens again. On the other hand, I kind of just plan on replacing my filter every few years because I reckon there's a decent chance that at some point it has frozen (and is no longer effective).
 

wsp_scott

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I use 2L Evernew bags with my Sawyer Micro. I mostly use it as a gravity filter with a 2L bag on each end, the dirty bag has some cord to hang from branch.

No experience in the desert, but if the water source looks dirty, I will try to hang the dirty bag for a bit and then dump/release some of the water that has settled towards the bottom/lid.

An easy fix for slow flows is to bang the Sawyer on something to loosen the clogging and then backwash again. I am sometimes amazed at how dirty the backwash is when I bang the filter on the side of the sink while cleaning the filter. Do this a couple times and it usually flows pretty good. I've never done the vinegar thing, but with the hard water in the SE, I probably should.

I also figure after a couple years it is probably time for a new filter.
 

RyanP

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OK, I’ve thought about my entire water system some more, and here’s the system I’m leaning towards:

Filter: Sawyer Squeeze. (This is what I already have, and I wasn't planning on switching, but after doing a little research, that sounds like the overall best option for my needs anyway).

Backup purification tablets (ClO2): only if needed due to filter clogging or particularly bad water

Clean water: 2 Smart Water 1L bottles (same as I currently do), supplemented by however many collapsible 1L platypus bottles are needed for the particular trip. If I happen to anticipate needing to get water from a trickle, then maybe bring a wider-mouth Gatorade bottle in place of one of the SmartWater bottles

Dirty bag: Evernew 2L bladder. I love the idea of the CNOC (because of its wide-mouth opening for easy filling), but my impression is that those are less durable.

Water scoop: A partial Sawyer bag (the bottom of the bag---just like 1/3 of it) to make it easier to fill the dirty bag, especially when the water has gunk in it. The scoop plus evernew weighs less than the CNOC, although it wouldn’t be quite as convenient to fill.

Pre-filter: A small mesh material of some kind cut out to install directly into the sawyer squeeze, something like this: http://adropofrain.net/2012/08/simp...prefilter-hose-adapter-evernew-water-bladder/. I’m skeptical as to how effective this will be, but as long as I can set it and forget it, I figure it's probably a little better than nothing.

Container to let water settle: the collapsible bucket that @Janice linked to above. I would only bring this is on rare trips when I think it might be particularly needed. I would also bring alum or the like for these trips. I may just skip this and instead just hang the dirty bag upside down for a while like @wsp_scott suggests. Or I'll just bring the syringe on such trips and deal with the annoyance of constant backflushing.

-------------------

Does anyone have any tips for keeping their filter from freezing? That’s the one huge flaw to the Squeeze IMO. Do you just toss it down by your feet in your sleeping bag/quilt? (that's my current approach, but having a cold/hard item in there seems suboptimal).
 

TheMountainRabbit

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Does anyone have any tips for keeping their filter from freezing? That’s the one huge flaw to the Squeeze IMO. Do you just toss it down by your feet in your sleeping bag/quilt? (that's my current approach, but having a cold/hard item in there seems suboptimal).
I sleep with mine - but I also sleep w/ my cell phone and battery, so there's just a collection of hard items in my bag with me. Not sure there's a better way to keep it warm than that.
 

balzaccom

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We have used a Sawyer for years. And we take a few purification tablets, just in case. We've never used them.

Clean water: a couple of platypus bottles that collapse when they are empty--two for each of us.

Dirty bag: We use the gravity flow bag from Sawyer for this. It has a larger mouth. We also take a folding bucket--weighs almost nothing, and take up no space, either.

Water scoop: The bucket doesn't need a scoop. It works fine. We look for a place to hang it, though, as it won't really stand up on its own...as others have noted.

Pre-filter: This is what your bandanna is for.

Container to let water settle: the collapsible bucket works nicely for this.
 

TheMountainRabbit

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I use Aquamira and don't have to worry about any of it :)
This is what I do when I take a few people w/ me - it is definitely more efficient. I think I have a hang up about adding "chemicals" to my water even though I genuinely can't taste it and know intellectually that it's just fine. (And then I get back to civilization and have a diet soda... :lol:)
 

RyanP

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Pre-filter: This is what your bandanna is for.
I've tried using the bandana but I haven't figured out how to pre-filter easily/efficiently using the sawyer bag as a dirty water bag. I've only tried this on maybe two trips though.
 

LarryBoy

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This is what I do when I take a few people w/ me - it is definitely more efficient. I think I have a hang up about adding "chemicals" to my water even though I genuinely can't taste it and know intellectually that it's just fine. (And then I get back to civilization and have a diet soda... :lol:)
Funny enough, chlorine dioxide (the active ingredient in Aquamira) is commonly used in municipal water supplies as a disinfectant. So if you're on city water at home, you're already using Aquamira :D
 

RyanP

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I use Aquamira and don't have to worry about any of it :)
I used to use the tablets, but at some point the taste started to really bother me so I switched to the filter. An added benefit to the filter is that you get the clean water instantly instead of waiting, so from a weight perspective it is actually a little lighter. But I agree that the simplicity of the tablets is awesome.

I know you've done a lot of desert hiking; do you ever have issues with silty water since you just use tablets? Maybe I'm overly paranoid about the murky water thing. I did one trip in Grand Gulch a few years back where the water was the color of chocolate milk, and I was very worried that my filter would instantly clog and that I basically wouldn't be able to drink that water (or that it would mess with my digestive system a lot), even though I had the tablets with me as well. It turned out to be fine---the sawyer did surprisingly well with some backflushing---but I'm always worried that I'll encounter a situation like that in the desert where all I have is super-silty water that I can't filter. This worries me more if I have my son with me (like he was on that trip).
 

LarryBoy

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I've tried using the bandana but I haven't figured out how to pre-filter easily/efficiently using the sawyer bag as a dirty water bag. I've only tried this on maybe two trips though.
If I know I'm gonna be drinking some gnarly sludge, I generally bring a coffee filter or two, which performs quite a bit better than a bandana in my experience.
 
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