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Most backpacking requires a way to filter water. Despite looking clean and clear, most water contains bacteria that will make you pretty sick. The problem is easily remedied by a few methods. Water treatment drops will kill bacteria, but they don’t remove them and can leave a bad taste in the water. My favorite method is the use of a water filter.
Most of the water filters I’ve used in the past have been great, but fairly bulky and expensive. On our recent trip backpacking in the Apostle Islands, we tried a new water filter that is both cheaper and lighter than any I’ve tried before.
We used the Sawyer Mini water filter, which can be bought for $20 to $25 either online or in many outdoor stores. The filter is small and lightweight. It does sacrifice some ease of use, but for the weight and cost savings, the tradeoffs are worth it for most purposes.
The filter unit itself is easy to understand. Dirty water goes in one end, and clean water comes out the other. With the filter comes a small, lightweight bag to use as a ‘dirty’ bag. The connector is a standard bottle thread though, so you can replace the included bag with anything from a cheap water bottle to a full sized two liter bottle.
You filter water by filling the included bag (or replacement bottle) from a lake or a river and screwing it on to the filter. you then squeeze water through the filter and into your clean water bottle. The process is quick and easy. You do need to make sure you don’t get dirty water on the clean end of the filter, but that really is the only thing to pay attention to.
In addition to using a different bottle, there are other upgrades you can make as well, including quick attachment connectors to common water bladder systems. In a genius way, this filter system is perfect. It provides just the bare necessities, and allows expansion and customization as desired.
This filter performed wonderfully during our backpacking trip. It will also make an excellent addition to our emergency supplies, allowing us to filter water in circumstances where we cannot find clean water.
There are instructions right on the dirty bag for how to backwash the filter (when it starts slowing down or gets clogged) as well as how to clean for long term storage. Spoiler- you just use a little bit of bleach water and squeeze through the filter, drain it, and let it air dry.
Pros: lightweight, small, easy to use, screws onto any top of regular bottle.
Cons: Included bag is a little small for a family of 5. It just takes a little longer to filter enough water.
We are definitely glad we have this, and plan to upgrade to a larger dirty water bag in the future. We’ll buy one of Sawyer’s, or most likely just get another Platypus Platy Bottle and write “Dirty” on it with a sharpie.