How reliable really are Sawyer & Be Free water filters?

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michaelzim
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How reliable really are Sawyer & Be Free water filters?

Post by michaelzim » Wed Sep 16, 2020 11:44 am

I have been going dizzy trying to figure out from reviews and articles if the Sawyer Squeeze (or Mini) and the Katadyn BeFree water filters are actually reliable enough to take on long trips v. my tried and true Katadyn Hiker pump filter. In my current quest for radical weight saving these filters offer significant reduction, but if they don't work or quit = very bad news!
I definitely want filtered water due to the lasting consequences of a prior multi-water-borne parasites infection, and am not keen on chlorine or iodine either. I also want a filter to be stand-alone so would have no need to take along my pump filter.

The Sierras are my back-packing zone so have always managed to get water from very clean sources. Silt-crud clogging should not be an issue.
Likewise the "dry filter" issue of the BeFree seems easy to solve by just pre-soaking the thing. Air bubbles seem solvable to. As does the "weak bags" problem. So the key questions for me are only with respect to the filter part itself:
1. Do they work for more than a short while?
2. Do they quit on you out of the blue with no obvious reason?
3. If they quit does flushing them (swishing in clean water for the BeFree and syringe for the Sawyer) solve the problem - or not?

Any feedback here would be much appreciated especially by those who have used either of these filters for some time.

Thanks much ~ Michaelzim








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c9h13no3
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Re: How reliable really are Sawyer & Be Free water filters?

Post by c9h13no3 » Wed Sep 16, 2020 12:21 pm

The weak bags on the Katadyn are certainly a concern if you're using the direct drink versions. Mine sprung a pinhole after about 20-30 hikes and it's pretty annoying. I find myself carrying a Platypus gravity filter on even dayhikes these days, it's just less hassle and easier drinking.

I've never had any issue with the hollow fiber part.

Filtering water is sorta overrated. Half my friend group doesn't filter at all. I suppose if you're especially paranoid, or in a section of the Sierra where there's been a lot of campers & cattle grazing, you could carry a back up set of back up chlorine dioxide tablets. They weigh pretty much nothing.
Last edited by c9h13no3 on Wed Sep 16, 2020 12:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How reliable really are Sawyer & Be Free water filters?

Post by TurboHike » Wed Sep 16, 2020 12:35 pm

michaelzim,

I've used the same Sawyer mini over the past few years on multiple week-long trips. I always carry the backwash plunger and I backwash daily in the field. Filtering time is reasonable, a few minutes per liter, but it's a small filter and you should not expect a super fast filter rate. It's important that it does not freeze -- if low temps are expected, I put it in the footbox of my quilt. I use an Evernew 2L bag as my dirty water bag and I drink from a Smart water bottle. The mini screws onto both, so... if the Evernew were to spring a leak, the Smart water bottle is my backup, drink straight from the filter, if that makes sense.

I have not use the BeFree. It has a strange diameter which led me to choose the Sawyer.

Cheers.

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Re: How reliable really are Sawyer & Be Free water filters?

Post by bobby49 » Wed Sep 16, 2020 12:43 pm

Can I make a suggestion? This has worked for me for many years.

Gravity Filter with a Sawyer filter element.

I fill up one 2-liter Platypus with raw water, and this is attached by tubing a couple of feet above the Sawyer element. Then below the Sawyer there is another foot or two of tubing that connects to another 2-liter Platypus for the filtered water. I hang this up from a tree branch, and gravity does all of the work.

In the event that the Sawyer filter element is completely dried out, then the flow will be too slow. So, I press on the top Platypus to pressurize it a bit. Once the flow takes off and the filter is wet, it does not require any attention.

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Re: How reliable really are Sawyer & Be Free water filters?

Post by neil d » Wed Sep 16, 2020 12:58 pm

I have many miles on a Platy hollow-fiber filter, and fewer miles on a Squeeze. Both work a dream. I only occasionally backflush, but I am also choosing very good sources. My favorite setup is a 2L CNOC water bag connected to the Squeeze, filtering into 1-2 Smartwater bottles. Got the F-F coupler which allows Smartwater bottles to stay attached to the filter. Works great as an actual 'squeeze' system trailside or a gravity system in camp.

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Re: How reliable really are Sawyer & Be Free water filters?

Post by oddtiger » Wed Sep 16, 2020 3:47 pm

They are very popular and work for thru-hikers and that should tell something about reliability. The only issue is that one has to be careful when it's below freezing temperature at night. These filters will be permanently damaged once frozen. I have both and have never had issue, but I replace the filter every year just to make myself feel safe psychologically. That's about 20-30 days of use.

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Re: How reliable really are Sawyer & Be Free water filters?

Post by CAMERONM » Wed Sep 16, 2020 8:43 pm

The only issue is that one has to be careful when it's below freezing temperature at night. These filters will be permanently damaged once frozen.
+1 done that

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Re: How reliable really are Sawyer & Be Free water filters?

Post by Wandering Daisy » Thu Sep 17, 2020 7:25 am

I use chlorine tablets for most of my water and the Sawyer Mini is just to minimize carrying water during hiking. I use two 2-L Playtpus bags, one for chlorine treated water and one for raw water. I only treat water I will directly drink. Cook water is boiled anyway and I do not worry about wash water. Germs get on cooking pots while in the pack anyway, and they automatically get sterilized while cooking.

Even if you only treat half the water you directly drink, risk is reduced. Often I will not take any filter and carry half a liter of chlorine treated water while hiking and drink directly from streams when I run out. Since I drink as much or more treated water in camp, the risk is still reduced. Of course, you should be careful with where you get water from the streams and lakes, such as thinking about upstream pollution.

I prefer the MSR chlorine tablets. Although their small size makes them a bit more difficult to work with, I swear the Katadin tablets make the water taste funny. You do have to think ahead since it takes 4 hours to totally treat the water with tablets, but I now have a routine that works well.

I see why thru-hikers, PCT and such, use filters; they are on a lot of over-used trails. I am mostly off-trail away from pollution sources. Perhaps since I have been drinking mostly untreated water for over 50 years, I have some resistance to low levels of water born microbes.

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Re: How reliable really are Sawyer & Be Free water filters?

Post by michaelzim » Thu Sep 17, 2020 8:47 am

Thanks all for comments here and seems like the larger Sawyer is worth a try with some chlorine tablets as back up. Fortunately the water in the Sierras is generally super clean, but unfortunately the air is not - right now anyhow, so may not get to test this until next year.

For those who are interested in this topic (and many others ref. UL backpacking) I found this online forum yesterday. It's called "Backpacking Light" and a search here at HST did not bring it up. Looks like a gold mine of user info for UL backpackers. For instance, just the Sawyer has an array of extensive threads & posts with many, many user comments, experiences, individualized setups, etc., etc.

Here is a link to the main forum: https://backpackinglight.com/forums/
This one is from some years back re Sawyer filter: https://backpackinglight.com/forums/top ... /#comments
This one for the Sawyer is more recent: https://backpackinglight.com/forums/top ... wyer-mini/

I did general searches in Google to find these as could not see a "Search" window on their web-page (maybe have to be a member like HST). Google: Backpackinglight.com Sawyer filters ...and you will come up with links for more details than you ever dreamed possible!
From what I can see (rather overwhelming!) they match what has been said here by you on HST.

Thanks much ~ Michaelzim

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Re: How reliable really are Sawyer & Be Free water filters?

Post by sambieni » Thu Sep 17, 2020 1:57 pm

I use a Sawyer filter.
I do not use their accessories, just filter. I simply use Smart Water Bottles during hikes and have an Evernew 2 Liter reservoir I use when get to camp/overnight. I drink a lot of water along route, but using those bottles and screwing on Sawyer works fine.

I rarely backwash and have found that in storage,despite best of my abilities to pre-dry, they can get mildew-y/smelly before their next use and sometimes won't work again.

Since I only get 2-3 trips/summer, I mostly just take to using 1 per trip and discard til next time. Its a bit wasteful, but given can get them for only $25 or so a piece, I just deal.

My biggest complaint are the washers. Those F%%$kers always fall out and go missing. You can work w/out them, but your seal is not as good and then risk some water splashing/leaking as you drink. Really annoying.

I previously used Gravity Platypus setup, but had major issues from filtering at Polly Dome Lakes way back years ago in Yosemite. It clogged my lines and made my trip unbearable as filtering started to take like an hour or so when it should have been minutes. Backwash didn't seem to help it.

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