DIY Sawyer Squeeze gravity filter system
No more pumping or squeezing! Convert a Sawyer Squeeze water filter and let gravity do the work of filtering water.
NOTE: see the update below on using a new CNOC Vecto Water Container instead of the Sawyer bag. I’m leaving the description that shows how to use a Sawyer bag for those that already have one.
I’ve been using the Sawyer Squeeze for filtering water on backpacking trips for the past two years, but find the process of squeezing the bag to be a tedious task that takes too much time. I was planning to purchase a gravity system, but decided to turn my Sawyer into a gravity system instead, which not only saves money, but also saves weight!
Here’s what you need:
Hydration bladder: I prefer using a hydration bladder that has a tube you can disconnect, like the Camelbak Antidote. At camp, I remove the bladder from my backpack and use it to hold water. It’s easy to pour from the wide opening into a water bottle or backpacking stove as needed. Purchase at Amazon
UPDATE: the Camelbak Antidote is no longer manufactured. The newer Camelbak Crux has a wider diameter tube that does not work with the Sawyer Fast Fill Kit, so make sure to use a hydration bladder with a tube that is 1/4″ diameter.
Cord or rope cut into 2 foot length. I like the BlueWater 3mm NiteLine Utility Cord. It’s lightweight, strong, and has reflectors so you can see it in the dark when you shine your headlamp on it. Purchase at REI
Optional: use a CNOC Vecto Water Container instead of the 64 oz Sawyer bag.
Step 1: Cut holes in the bottom of the 64oz Sawyer bag, being careful to not cut through the part that holds water. I used a paper hole punch.
Step 2: Add cording through the holes and tie knots to securely hold the bag when it’s full of water. I used a bowline knot.
Step 3: Cut the hydration tube and add the Fast Fill Hydration Kit Adapters as shown. I recommend cutting the tube no more than 6-8″ from the bite valve. The longer the tube, the better the gravity system will work. The tube on the left in the photo above is the smaller section of tubing with the drink valve. The tube on the right side is the longer section that connects to the bladder.
Step 4: Attach the remaining adapter from the Fast Fill Kit to the Sawyer Squeeze. If using a Sawyer Mini, remove the adapter from the longer section of tube and attach the tube directly to the Mini.
To use for filtering water
Step 1: Fill the Sawyer bag with untreated water. To make it easier to fill the bag, I use a water bottle that I cut the top off of. I used to put the Sawyer bag in the water source and swish it back and forth, but that tends to stir up sediment which ends up in the bag and can clog the filter. The plastic bottle also makes a great holder for the filter and bag, rolling them up together to place in the bottle for storage.
Step 2: Attach the Sawyer filter to the bag.
Step 3: Reconnect the tube to the hydration bladder, then connect to the filter using the plastic adapters, which will click when connected. Note: the water will begin to flow as soon as the bag is hung, so connect everything before hanging the bag.
Step 4: Hang the Sawyer bag from a tree using the cord.
Kick back and relax while gravity does the work of filling the hydration bladder! When set up using this method, it takes about 2-3 minutes for two liters of water to go through the filter and fill the hydration bladder. You may need to release air from the bladder so water can fill it completely.
If you are filtering a lot of water, or if the water has sediment, you will probably need to backflush the filter on an overnight trip. With this gravity setup, you won’t need to bring the syringe that comes with the Sawyer Squeeze. Instead, with at least a liter of clean water in the hydration bladder, hold it above the dirty water in the Sawyer bag long enough for clean water to flow back through the water filter, which is the same as backflushing. This method worked well for me on several three night backpacking trips this summer.
Post-trip clean up
After each backpacking trip, I rinse out the water filter, Sawyer bag, and hydration bladder. Lay them out to dry thoroughly before putting away to eliminate issues with mold and mildew. Some people keep their bladder in the freezer to keep bacteria from growing, but I’ve never needed to do this. After several backpacking trips, I’ll use a cleaning tablet made for hydration bladders to clean it and the tubing, and a drop or two of bleach in a gallon of water to backflush and disinfect the water filter and Sawyer bag.
Instead of using a Sawyer bag as part of this system, I’ve switched to using a CNOC Vecto water container – made specifically for collecting water to filter using a Sawyer Squeeze. It’s a sturdy bag that has a zip-top opening at the top, making it much easier to scoop water without needing a separate scooper, and a screw neck at the bottom that connects to the Sawyer Squeeze filter.
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