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Reviews > Water Treatment > Filters > Sawyer Inline Water Filter > Owner Review by joe schaffer

Sawyer Inline Water Filter

Owner Review by Joe Schaffer

November 18, 2016

NAME: Joe Schaffer
EMAIL: never2muchstuff(at)yahoo(dot)com
AGE: 68
HEIGHT: 5'9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 175 lb (79.4 kg)
HOME:  Bay Area, California USA

     I started backpacking when I was 11. I enjoy California's central Sierras, camping every month with a goal to match my age in nights out each year; about 30 solo. For comfort I lug tent, mattress, chair and such. Typical summer trips run 5-8 days; 40 lb (18 kg), about half food and water related; about 5 miles (8 km) per hiking day. I winter base camp most often at 6,000 to 7,000 ft (1,800 to 2,000 m); 2 to 3 nights; 50 lb (23 kg); a mile or so (1.6 km) on snowshoes.

Filter on rockProduct: Inline Water Filter SP121 (succeeded by model SP122, Three Way Water Filter)

Manufacturer:  Sawyer Products, Inc.
    Mfr. Measures:
        Weight: 1.8 oz (51 g)
        Filter life:  Exceed 1,000,000 gal (3,785,000 L)
        Removes: 99.99999% of bacteria and 99.9999% of cyst protozoa
        Filter size: 0.10 Absolute micron
Description: (modified from mfr. package)
    Water drawn into the cartridge flows through the side walls of micro-fibrous tubes into their hollow center and out the tube ends, mechanically filtering out sediment, bacteria, protozoa, cysts and other contaminants. Filter can be back-flushed indefinitely, accounting no end to its useful life.

My Specs: 
   Weight--NA, see below
   Length of filter: 5.25 in (13.34 cm) including nipples
   Circumference, maximum: 1.7 in (4.32 cm)
MSRP: $62.99 US

Purchased: June, 2010

filter squeezeProduct Description:
    The unit is cylindrical with an input tube end and an output tube end. The cylinder contains a filter made of many tubes. It is presumably equal in use to the newer model, but looks a little different on the outside.
    The unit functions by putting water through the input end and draining it through the output end. Gravity, suction or squeezing all work to get the water through the filter.
    Sawyer says the filter mechanically removes sediment, bacteria, protozoa, cysts and other contaminants.
Sawyer recommends replacing the filter if the user suspects it may have frozen after getting wet.
    The unit came with a faucet attachment for back-flushing or filtering suspicious tap water.
    The newer unit looks a little different in shape and color from mine, so I've not done a photo array but rather show two options for running water through a gravity filter. The new unit also uses quick-release hose attachment as opposed to friction-hold.

Field Conditions:
I had this unit for 3 years before I started keeping track of usage. I'm thinking it's fair to double the subsequently tracked 3-year usage, which would then total 300 days. I probably average about 2 L (2 qt) a day of filtered water, so my estimate of use to date is about 600 L (150 gal).
    As freezing can ruin it, I tend to avoid trips where that may happen. If I get caught in cold temps, I put the unit inside the tent. I know folks with this type of filter who put it inside their sleeping bag, but I've yet to do that.
    I most often pre-filter water through several layers of a paint screen to keep shrimp, wings, frog eggs, etc. out of the filter; and I avoid muddy water or water stained dark with algae.

    The big claim at the time I bought it was to use the filter in-line with no concerns about drink mixes clogging it. That, I found on my maiden voyage with no backup, was just not true. "Well you can't run sugar through it," customer service said. I grumped that nothing in the product bio said anything about sugar, and sugar is certainly no stranger in sports drinks. The filter plugged so tightly in less than a liter (quart) that I could not force a back-flush even using my knee to squeeze the bottle.
    Getting the unit unplugged enough for back-flushing required taking it apart and soaking the innards in hot water. That disassembly revealed an improperly seated 0-ring. Eventually I got over being peeved about the errant product claim, rationalizing the problem may have led to resolving a potentially more serious issue.
    I love this unit. It's tiny and light, which of course are major advantages. The plumbing adds a slight bit of bulk and weight, but I'm otherwise already carrying the other stuff--dirty bag, clean bottle and utility cord to hang the bag. The whole system adds up to about the weight of the 12 oz (340 g) (dry) pump filter I used to carry. The filter unit itself is about 10 oz (280 g) lighter, which I think is a significant weight loss.
    It works fast--probably faster than my favorite pump system. The higher the dirty water is above the receptacle, the faster it goes. I like being able to stick the output hose in a receptacle and walk away, letting gravity and time do all the work. On rare occasions I can't find a tree or high-enough rock, I can hold the bag up for the short time it takes to refill my trail bottle. Water can also be sucked or squeezed through the filter.
    At first I thought the system would be wonderful in camp, but not so hot on the trail. Getting used to the different way of doing things on the trail did not take long and I've become perfectly comfortable with this unit for trail stops as well as camp use. I haven't used the unit in conjunction with a trail bladder very much and likely won't again. Initially I liked using a trail bladder, but after too many leaky experiences I may have had my fill of that system. (I also like getting a gusher of grog instead of having to suck for a sip.)
     Plugging up is the nemesis of every other filter unit I've used. Excepting the above referenced nonsense, I've never experienced a field failure or even come close. I usually run the output hose contents back through the filter each day when I'm done with it. Occasionally I use the faucet attachment at home for a power back-flush. I think it probably ridiculous to claim a million gallons (4 million L), but I've already run more water through it than any of the pump filters I've used and none of them lasted as long as this unit so far. This unit costs about the same as a replacement cartridge for my favorite pump.
    Part of being incredibly light is that the housing isn't very strong. I managed to crack the input end of the housing trying to get the hose to come off. I pasted it with a dollop of gasket sealer intended to beef up the weakness, and thereafter have not removed the hose. (Thus I cannot accurately weigh my unit as the sealer adds a bit of weight and of course the hose does too.) It looks like that design weakness may be addressed on the replacement unit; and also the quick-release tactic should allay any reason to stress the nipple.
    It doesn't use batteries; doesn't require frequent back-flushing; and the only real moving parts are time and gravity. It's sensitive to freezing and probably doesn't like to be dropped. It is the only water cleaner I carry for non-winter camping. I'm back to no backup; and my formerly favorite pump does nothing but draw dust on the gear shelf.
Quick shots:
    a) light
    b) small
    c) fast
    d) dependable

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Reviews > Water Treatment > Filters > Sawyer Inline Water Filter > Owner Review by joe schaffer

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