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by Little MoosefromNot reliable & can't back-wash it in the fieldBought this in May 2011 and used it once on a backpack trip; it worked great. I back-washed it when I got home from the trip. There is no way to flush it in the field because it requires water from a spigot under pressure.
After a 3-year hiatus from backpacking, in June 2014 I took the SP161 on a backpacking trip. Filled it with clear creek water and it flowed slower than an IV drip. Luckily my companion brought his own filter which he had used on numerous trips--an ultra-light and portable Sawyer Mini--so we were able to easily filter water. At home after the trip, I tried to backwash the filter but all it did was spray all over me even though I only turned the spigot on low and held the back-washer tightly against the spigot. What a drag.
I bought a Sawyer Mini and donated the SP161 to a charity thrift store.
Date published: 2014-06-28
Rated 2out of5
by ArnfishfromWorks great...unless it is malfunctioning!!I've had two of these so far. Both have failed. When it wants to work, the flow is awesome and fast. Much better than any of the hand-pump filters we used to use. I really like the gravity feed design. However, if the filter sits unused for several months it doesn't work well again. I have had this happen to me TWICE already - the exact same problem. Specifically, I use the filter for a season and take very good care of it. I always have clean water sources (in the Sierras of CA) and back flush and dry it when I get home. Then, after it sits dry for a winter, the flow is so slow that it is unusable in the spring. Barely a dripping comes out. Same thing happened last season and again this season. Luckily I tested the flow at home before my first trip this season and found the problem. I wasn't as lucky last year and had to deal with the dripping which meant hours to fill a couple liters in the field. The customer service at Sawyer is sparse at best. Nobody answers the phone! I see other reviews saying the same thing. Luckily REI did the exchanges for me, as they always do! Thanks REI!
In summary, ***TEST THIS FILTER AT HOME BEFORE EACH AND EVERY TRIP!***
Date published: 2014-07-17
Rated 5out of5
by TightwadfromNo Need To Be ThirstyThis filtration system is very simple to use. Simply fill the bag, then connect the filter line and let gravity do the work. Water begins flowing through the filter very quickly. It comes with a backflow device to connect to a home faucet for cleaning the filter. Just be sure to not lose it! It is rated for a million gallons. I doubt I'll ever come close to that capacity, but perhaps my grandchildren will reach it!
Date published: 2013-11-01
Rated 5out of5
by Boulder BenfromAWESOME!!!This filter is EASY and FAST! It has only filtered two gallons, but it didn't get plugged up like a newer SweetWater filter with a prefilter did on the same river. I love not having to pump. It only took a few minutes to filter a gallon of water.
Date published: 2009-07-18
Rated 5out of5
by RuthlessBabefromGood sturdy filterThis is a great filter for the right situation. If you're going to be constantly on the move, there might be a better one out there, but if you're going to use this to hang in one spot for your trip, it's hard to beat!
I used this in rural Africa for 6 months, no cleaning of the filter, and it still ran fast.
Initially it arrived with a defect, small hole on the outlet fixture that leaked, but I patched it with superglue and it worked for the 6 months afterward.
I worked out the easiest way to use this thing:
-hang it at a height that allows the out nozzle to rest gently on the rim of your favorite water bottle.
-fill reservoir with more water than your water bottle holds.
-excelerate filtering speed by forcing water to fill the tube. pinch tube simultaneously and rapidly with both hands, watch water rise up the tube.
-when your bottle is full, raise it (and bottle together so you don't spill) and hook the filter nozzle over the hard plastic handle that rotates around the reservoir entrance. this keeps the water you filled the tube with in the tube, so you don't have to pinch again next time you use it. I know it's recommended that you don't leave water in the tube or bag, but I think if you're filtering often (2 times a day) there shouldn't be issues, I didn't have anything growing. The fuller the bag, the faster it flows.
If you need to carry it somewhere to fill it up, hang the filter part over your shoulder, all other methods involve water everywhere. It's much easier to use if you bring your unfiltered water to the filter.
I did once try to flush out the filter per the directions and failed miserably. But like I said, works great after 6 months continuous use!
I wouldn't especially recommend it for short trips because it's kind of awkward/difficult to just pull out and use. I went on a short bike trip with some friends and we brought a Katadyn Hiker Pro pump filter, which was also kind of awkward/difficult, but I think better for the situation than my Sawyer. Not by much though!
The real rating I give it 4.5 stars, because I still categorize it as bulky. It could have a more streamlined packing design.
Date published: 2010-03-22
Rated 5out of5
by PageMakerfromLove, love, love it!Love this water filter; this coming from someone who's used the MSR Sweetwater system since the mid-90's. I really like the Sweetwater, and think it's a durable, compact & reliable design, but I like even more that I don't have to baby-sit (squish-squish) this unit when I'm filtering my water.
You can either clip the water bag to the paracord you use to hang your bear can, or just bungee it to a tree; anything that positions it about chest-high works great. Drop the tube into your receptacle & then go do something else for a few minutes, when you get back, your water is waiting.
As for being less-suitable for trips where you're going to be on the move, I disagree somewhat. You're typically going to make a quick stop at some point during the day, to grab a snack out of your pack; if you can stop where there's a water source nearby, you can have 2 liters done in about 10 minutes. If you've ever had one of the Brita pitchers at home, it's about the same deal as one of those. I've never found the wait to be an inconvenience, as I can busy myself with something else while my water filters.
Specs-wise, it's a .1 micron hollow-fiber filter, so it comes in at half the aperture size of the Sweetwater, and 1/3 of the Katadyn Hiker Pro, but filter replacement is practically non-existent; they guarantee the cartridge up to a million gallons. Swimming pool, anyone?
My one gripe about the system is that it is an assemblage of tubes & fittings & the sack you use to collect your water to be treated, and it's a little awkward, even though it is lightweight. I found that the easiest way to keep all the parts wrangled was to use a small stuff-sack for it (it doesn't come with one); on the plus side, the whole assemblage is flexible, so you can work it in between oddments in your pack. As mentioned above, I highly recommend keeping a 2-foot bungee cord with it, because it makes it a cinch to just hang it off a tree trunk when you're filtering. My other thing on a wish-list would be that they'd put a mesh screen on the opening where you fill the bag, just to keep it from ingesting larger silt or leaves, which can clog up the outlet at the bottom, and can be a pain to get out of the bag.
Date published: 2010-05-12
Rated 5out of5
by Camper BillfromAll the water you want...instead of.....All the water you want, instead of all the water you are willing to work for.
I was happy with my old MSR pump filter but was unable to locate it this spring - probably got left behind on some beach last fall. I was just going to buy a replacement but saw this and figured in the spirit of gearhead adventure, to give it a try. After all, it is REI, right? If it sucks I will just return it.
So with iodine tablets packed in reserve, I took off to the great outdoors on a backpack.
Bottom line - this is a piece of gear I keep. I love it so much I am trying to find justifications for buying other Sawyer filter models - fellow gear addicts will recognize these symptoms.
This filter is so easy to use and so fast compared with every pump filter I have ever used that I cannot see going back to those bad old days.
My son lost the cap for the bag on the very first combat fill, but even with not being able to pressurize the system it filled a liter bottle in about a minute and all I had to do was hold the bottle.
Before, when I was using a pump filter I would always get new water and boil it for cooking just so I wouldn't use up that precious filter-pumped water. This filter makes it so easy to have clean water that I used filtered water for coffee, oatmeal, rehydrate - every cooking use.
This filter is as light as any system except perhaps some of the Steripens, but I don't have to worry about batteries or electronics in the wilderness. In fact, because I can use filtered water for my cooking now and I don't need to take water all the way to the boiling point my guess is that my fuel usage will go down significantly, resulting in a net weight advantage for a longer trip. I had a small stuff sack to put everything in - it doesn't come with one (hint to you Sawyer - something in a nice mesh) and it packs down quite nicely.
Another advantage over pumps that didn't even occur to me until I used this filter is that after you fill all your water bottles, you can fill the bag and bring it back to camp - 2 more liters available at any time.
As it is, this is a great piece of gear, but just in case Sawyer is listening - some improvements I could suggest - I would like to have a removeable mesh screen that could keep bigger chunks out of the bag - removeable so that you can clean the inside if you need. Also, I would like to have the lid permanently attached to the bag so it doesn't get accidently dropped into a fast flowing river while the bag is being filled.
One caveat - I have used this filter on one trip, where my source water was a nice, clear mountain stream - I hope the honeymoon continues when I need to use it with more challenging water.
Date published: 2010-06-06
Rated 5out of5
by Jonathan LfromLightweight and easy to use filter!I've used this filter through several national parks in the states and Panama, and love it so far. It doesn't require any pumping (previously used a MSR unit) and the water flow is fast if you really lift it up high. Also great to have a cleanable filter to keep using it over and over again - no wastes and continued investment!
Date published: 2011-11-30
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Sawyer Water Filter System - 2 Liter Customer Reviews