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HomeHomeDiscussionsDiscussionsGeneralGeneralBetter Water Filter?Better Water Filter?
New Post
4/2/2014 5:25 PM

Every couple of years I re-evaluate my basic loadout. Always looking for more efficient - better. Light weight is important, but it is only one component of efficiency. If you're spending extra energy messing around trying to get an ultralight item to work in real world conditions, you've just used all of the energy and maybe more that you saved by carrying a lighter item. That's before you even address reliability. The following is one of the items that I'm currently re-evaluating.

When I got my current filter, I took Scot's recommendation since he had been filtering water all summer long living in a remote trail crew camp. The Sweetwater Guardian was his choice and what I've been using ever since. Here are its positive attributes:

  • Compound leverage pump mechanism is very energy efficient
  • Entire unit is easily field serviceable. I carry the brush and I've been on trips where I had to brush halfway through to keep water moving.
  • Since it is a pump, I can get water up out of anywhere
  • Includes a pre-filter on the hose end

I've been very happy with it. The only reason that I'd go with something else is to drop weight and bulk.

The obvious candidate is the sawyer mini filter, but it doesn't seem like it would work anywhere but places where there is plentiful clear water. If you're needing to get water from a small trickle or under a talus field, what do you do? Carry a secondary pumping mechanism to extract? Take the time to dig out a basin below water level and then let the sediments settle until you have a big enough pool of water to dip from? How do you keep it running when the water is less than gin clear? Does back flushing actually work to remove stuff like glacial sediments or waterborne clay? Once you factor in a dedicated dirty container, does it really save that much weight or bulk? If anybody can sell me on a sawyer, I'm all ears.

Likewise, if anybody has anything else to recommend that saves a lot of weight and bulk over the sweetwater but works just as well, I'd love to hear about it.

Steripens don't actually render microorganisms inert, so they're not an option even if the electronics were reliable which they're not.

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
New Post
4/3/2014 10:55 PM

 Had the original sawyer squeeze, I liked it but the bags that came with it pop easy.  Maybe that's been fixed since then.  Filling them did suck.  After it got stolen, I got there hanging filter with the dedicated dirty bag.  Wide mouth on it is easy to fill, from running sources down pretty small.  I've been able to backflush it as well.  Not sure on the particulates you mentioned.  You could use a piece of t-shirt over the top to get the large stuff I guess.  Not sure on the talus slope other than using that GSI cup to dig for you.

And the thing all up really doesn't feel too heavy to me. Im over counting ounces these days.  Ive gotten cheaper with my gear and just find a way to deal with a heavier than I used to carry load. 

There is a bit more water where I have used it as well...

New Post
4/4/2014 5:36 AM

Unless you are going to go back to using a bladder, then I do not think that you would like the Sawyer.  For me anyway, the only way the Sawyer makes sense is to use it as an inline system on your bladder.  Using it this way you have to dedicate your bladder to dirty water only, this can be a major PITA in my opinion.  If it was me I would stick with what you have for the time being. 

New Post
4/4/2014 3:53 PM

Unless you're willing to go with Aquamira I don't think you'll find a better option.  Never owned a filter myself.  I've been on trips where partners used the Sawyer Squeeze, and have been very unimpressed.  It clogs way too fast, even if filtering good water.  I can only imagine what a nightmare it'd be if used on the Colorado Plateau.

New Post
4/5/2014 6:37 PM

 I gave up mechanical filters about ten years ago and have been using Aquamira as my only purification system since.  I am fortunate enough to spend most of my backcountry time in places where I can find fresh, clean water that I do not treat at all.  I do still own an MSR pump filter that I bring along with me when car camping or canoe camping with groups of people where large quantities of water are needed that would tax the relatively expensive Aquamira system unecessarily.  

New Post
4/7/2014 12:42 PM

 The sediment and turbidity of the water around here is thick enough to clog about every mechanical filter I have seen used in less than 1 gallon.   

I got to tag along with Tony Nester on a desert survival course with a mess of instructors from back east.  They all had mechanical filters that had proven effective in there AO.  All filters were tits up before the week was over.  “This has never happened to me before, in all my years.”  Pre-filtering and letting the collected water “settle” was helpful but the filters still clogged.    

I use iodine and I don’t mind the taste.  But I’m kinda simple.  However this does nothing to remove chemicals and toxins.     

Clorine Dioxide works well for some but gives others GI upset.

Just my 2 cents.

Talk is cheap...lets compare fur checks.
New Post
4/7/2014 3:25 PM

I'm glad I asked this question. I used to use iodine exclusively. I'm pretty sure that was before chlorine dioxide (aquamira) was on the market. Nothing wrong with it other than the taste which wasn't a big deal and the wait which I sometimes chafed at. Also, the milsurp iodine tabs often didn't seem to dissolve like they should so I would do a bunch of shaking and wait longer just to be sure. Since switching to the pump, I've lumped all the "tabs" together without realizing there was a difference. Totally didn't think about going back to tabs. So -- Iodine vs. Chlorine Dioxide, pros and cons? Wait times? Dissolution in a wide range of water temperatures? Long term physical effects if any? Anything meaningful that filters accomplish that the tabs don't?

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
New Post
4/7/2014 4:39 PM

 When I was in the delta course, we had a small portion on field sanitation and the milsurp tabs were addressed.  I don't remember too much of what was covered (my brain was full on fried by that late point in the course) but the general consensus was that they don't cover all the things a normal fella would want to see taken care of.  Something like crypto but not giardia or the other way around.  Don't quote me on this but it's worth looking into. 

Oh, we went to a particularly nasty little swamp area behind the school house and were forced to drink that disgusting turbid water with only 2 drops of bleach in a 1qt between us and sickness.  Rouchly 100 men drank that stuff that day and noone got sick.  For what that's worth.

New Post
4/7/2014 4:56 PM

I want to say the Iodine tabs have a 6 month shelf life AFTER opening.  The container is dark glass to limit UV rays (I think), and I have never busted a bottle…and I’m kinda hard on gear.

Again, the Chlorine Dioxide tabs give some horrible gas and GI upset.  YMMV.

None of the chemicals removes mine tailings, insecticides, birth control (estrogen), or other chemicals.  It just kills the “wigglies”.

Chlorine in tap water is being traced to colon cancer, I think.  Iodine is contraindicated for pregnant folks, I think.

I would be interested to here what chlorine and iodine don't kill. 

Talk is cheap...lets compare fur checks.
New Post
4/7/2014 6:51 PM


Scott, here is an article on iodine not being overly effective on crypto. Not that I think backpacker is the authority on much else than pushing high end gear though. 


ETA, not really an article, sorry. 

New Post
4/7/2014 7:31 PM

Thanks Joe.

Excellent post and point.  No perfect solutions...

Talk is cheap...lets compare fur checks.
New Post
4/7/2014 9:35 PM

 Just for the sake of posting something actually respectable for reference;

New Post
4/8/2014 7:03 AM

 Well it looks like boil, filter, and treat with chemicals is the saftest way.  Time consuming but safe.

As a reminder... They make pills to cure most of the cooties you get from hydrating with contaminted water.  They don't make pills that cure death from dehyration.  DRINK UP.  

Talk is cheap...lets compare fur checks.
New Post
4/9/2014 9:05 PM

Joe, did you ever use Chlor-Floc?  That stuff is amazing.  You need a dirty vessel and a clean one.  Dip up pond scum filled water, add Chlor-Floc and allow the flocculent to make all of the organic matter settle, then carefully pour off the clear water (containing a chlorine residual)

This was devised because just putting bleach into water containing a high amount of organic matter won't always work.  You have to have 5ppm of chlorine in solution.  If you have a LOT of organic matter, a lot of the chlorine will bind to it first.  If you ingest all the water/organic matter, the chlorine dose alone may give you the trots.

New Post
4/11/2014 6:30 AM

The easiest way to use Aquamira is to bring a third, non-clear dropper bottle.  Pre-mix parts A and B at the start of the day, keep the third bottle handy, and then you'll only have the ~15 minute wait for the drops to work.  Consensus seems to be this unofficieal protocol does not diminish effectiveness.

I prefer Aquamira to Iodine tabs.  No taste, easier to handle, no weird blue spots inside your bottles.  I'm not sure if there are bugs Aquamira doesn't kill.  It can freeze (has to be down in the teens), but it's easy to carry in an inside pocket.

New Post
4/11/2014 11:00 AM

 I'm using this stuff primarily out in the backcountry and am less concerned with things like pesticides, pharmaceutals, etc and am more concered with the "wigglies".  I, like Dave use a three bottle system and mix up a batch of Aquamira in the morning to last me most of the day.  

The official directions on the Aquamira bottle call for seven drops of mix be added to a liter followed by a 15 minute wait time.  I figure that quantity and wait time probably has a fair bit of "lawyer-speak" built so if I'm going to let a liter of water sit overnight or don't mind waiting twice as long I may only put in half the amount of drops to conserve.  

Mike Clelland consulted with the folks at McNett, the makers of Aquamira and although he couldn't get them to give him an official position on how long the chemicals remain effective once mixed but the word on the street is if the mix is still yellow in color then it's still effective.  In my experience I've had the stuff show up yellow quite a bit of time later but I use a 24 hour rule - after that amount of time I throw the little bit of mix out and make up a new batch.  

New Post
4/11/2014 1:52 PM


No never heard of it.  Sounds interesting though.  I am interested in the aqua-mira people are talking about.  What's a good low weight/bulk prefilter solution?  Maybe couple layers of t-shirt in a pinch...

New Post
4/13/2014 6:37 AM
The finer the weave the better you do, and silk seems to get the nod as a result. When Evan and I were in Alaska a number of years back the water source was a river laden with glacial silt. I was pulling a 5-gallon bucket of water, letting it settle for at least 5 hours, pre-filtering into a second container using a bandana, and then using the filter. Even with the settling and pre-filter I was having to clean the filter about every 2 gallons. For 3 guys in warmish temps that is a lot of cleaning of the filter. Without the ability to clean the filter we would have been screwed shortly. Alpendrms is posting some relevant stuff in his Peru trip report. It really depends on what your water source going in is. However, on the AK trip we expected to be multiple miles up a tributary, but due to low water levels we didn't make it. If we got where we planned the water would have been clear, but we didn't. I have also seen clear mountain streams turn into muddy water by rain runoff.

Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
New Post
4/13/2014 8:11 AM

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
New Post
4/13/2014 1:47 PM

A few years ago I did a huge amount of personal research on just this topic.  I've tried to keep up with periodic developments.  My goal was long-term, ultraportable. 

To my knowledge, the iodine based treatments are still outlawed in Europe.  Reportedly for health effects in long term use; it is also bad for persons with thyroid issues. 

Chlorine dioxide tabs are really the king of chemical treatments in clear water, but there's still a treatment time to deal with.  Turbidity affects treatment, as one commenter has already commented on the bonding problem.  Also, suspended solids may encapsulate pathogens and prevent direct contact with treatment.  Cold temperatures slow the treatment process.  Storage life is 5yrs if memory serves.  I believe the Micropur and Aquamira dioxide tablets are made by the same manufacturer.

I've never been able to find out much on the effectiveness of Xinix KlearWater.  The concept of an immediately soluble method more stable than Aquamira drops is intriguing.  As is the claim of other, topical uses.

My current setup:  Primary is Sawyer Point Zero Two filter bladder (source water) and bottle (potable).  As one person mentioned, it does nothing for heavy metals, agri chemicals, etc.  Also, freezing temps + residual water in the filter can damage the filter's tubes.  In a camp setting we have used the bucket config without problems in temperate weather.

Secondary treatment, for emergencies, is sponge pre-filter, small Visqueen sheet for scooping and Katadyn Micropur tablets.  Those items are rolled up inside a Cantene.  Spare water container and treatment all in one.

Tertiary is the small Ti cook pot if I pack it.

I've always shied away from pumps.  Clogging, breakages, leaks, bio crud growing in filter pleats/pores, etc.  I'm not sure the filter elements are immune to hard freezes.  I might as well sleep with my Sawyer as a pump.  But there is that water-right-now feature of a pump.

HomeHomeDiscussionsDiscussionsGeneralGeneralBetter Water Filter?Better Water Filter?