@Gategate Hey! Thanks for asking. It can be scary to try a brand-new thing on the trail, especially for something as important as Water, without first getting some feedback! I'm happy to offer my experience. I used the Sawyer Mini system for an AT thru hike a few years ago and continue to use it on the trail even now. The filter itself is the same exact one, but the bag did eventually spring a leak. I don't look at that as a ding, though. This thing worked hard every day over many months for me! It screws in nicely to the filter and squeezes well if you drink straight from it through the filter. As I continually rolled and unrolled it and squeezed it into my pack pockets haphazardly, the first thing to go was the blue printing on the outside, but that was just cosmetic and I kept using it until it began to leak. It is compatible with other brand bags as well. The Sawyer Mini is NOT universally compatible with all water bottle threads, though. Smartwater bottles work great with it. There may be others, but test before you get out there. Also, the soft-sided Sawyer bag (really any soft-sided bag) can be difficult to fill in shallow standing water, so some sort of a scoop can be useful to have along for those situations. Or just use the straw attached to the filter to drink straight from the source at times like that, bypassing the bag.
Don't recommend them except for backup water storage. They are a pain to use for gathering water and are apparently prone to split when used as a squeeze bag although I never used them for that.
I use Smart or Life water bottles for storage and a 2L CNOC vecto bag set up for gravity using Sawyer parts but with a clear 1/4 pvc tube because it rotates on the barb unlike the rubbery one Sawyer provides.
I also use a 1 inch mesh hose filter (eg Camco 20183) as a pre filter with my Squeeze. I use the sawyer back flush collar or a sport cap for regular back flushing from the smart water bottle and use the provided syringe for periodic back flushing (eg after a trip or maybe in your bounce box if thru hiking).
The regular squeeze has better flow and is less prone to clogging than the other models.
I am still very new to backpacking but I went with the Sawyer Squeeze for water filtering. I had read a number of reviews that noted that the filter was awesome but the bags left much to be desired.
I used the Sawyer bags on one trip and quickly realized a) why folks seem to love the filter and b) why folks seem to not love the bags. I was able to get water but, unless there was a water fall or pipe, it wasn't easy (it was easy to get water into the bags if I could get the bag under running water). I only used them on the one trip, so I can't speak to their longevity but can confirm that it was a pain getting water into them.
I've since bought one of the CNOC 2L bags and plan to use that for a trip coming up in August. The Sawyer bags are small and lightweight, so I'll keep those with me (two is one, one is none) but I plan to use the CNOC bag as my primary means of getting water.
I'm new also, but all my research led me to a Sawyer Squeeze with a CNOC bladder as well. I've heard not great things about the Sawyer bladders, but the actual filter gets good reviews from Dixie.
I've used the sawyer mini and sawyer squeeze for several years. I've had two bags break, both while filtering. I use the quart size and always carry a spare. On a long trip I might take a third for a spare, they don't weigh much. For as much as they're used, I don't think 2 busted one over several years is too bad. The squeeze is worth the extra grams over the mini IMHO. BTW, I tried a soft water bottle once, dropped it into some mulch as I was getting out of my car and punctured it. I'll stick with the bulletproof Nalgene, much easier to drink out of too.
I guess I can be proud to say I use the sawyer bags that come with the filter because, free?, and never broke a one. Some of them are years old and I did get rid of one because the outer layer started to peel off. I wonder if the plastic is contaminating me....
I've found that as long as you realize that even though it's a "squeeze", the real bottle neck is the speed that the filter can filter at. If it's running slow, you should really back flush the filter. I do carry a water bottle that I can use where it's hard to get the water in the bag and some backup water purification drops to clean out the bottle when I want to use it to drink from.
I still carry the bags that came with the Sawyer as a backup (they don't weigh anything really) but I do like the wide flat opening on the CNOCK for collecting water. That's what originally drew me to the CNOCK.
I've also found it to be pretty resilient. I'm clumsy, on occasion, and have dropped the CNOCK bottle more than once and (knock on wood) still haven't punctured it.
In my experience, they are junk, rubbish, refuse, waste, scrap...
Their singular, most redeeming quality is the first one/s is free, since they give you one or two with the filter.
... litter, debris, c**p, garbage, trash...
If you insist on using them, I suggest that if you roll them, roll them the SAME way every time, otherwise, they will fail you even sooner (NEVER fold them!)
... clutter, rummage, dross, oddments, flotsam...
However, they should last you long enough to buy a CNOC water bag, which is what I use and heartily recommend!
... jetsam, leavings, dreck. Get the idea?