Finding a New Product
This is a continuation from our last blog as I’m sharing with you my journey through the testing of some of the wild water purification products that are available. We’ve discussed the pro’s and con’s of the Millbank Bag and the First Need Pump and as you know I was put off by the practicality, pricing and availability of these products even though they are phenomenal in their own right.
So, my search continued until I stumbled upon the Sawyer Squeeze Water Filtration System. I’d heard a friend chat about it and how brilliant it was when he went wild camping along The West Highland Way. Being suitably intrigued I did a bit of research on The Squeeze.
As a unit it was half the price of the bag or replacement filter for the pump. That was in May 2016 but the smaller unit Sawyer offer is still half the price. It claimed to be able to be able to filter up to 100,000 litres of water. It had a backwash capability and also a gravity feed option. Well this was too good to be true. My inner kit monster exploded with excitement and I purchased my own Squeeze unit.
What’s in the Bag?
When my new water filter arrived I was really happy with what was in “The Bag”. There was;
- The filter
- Two 32oz Squeeze bags
- One syringe
- A connector hose for hydration systems
- A net carry / storage bag
The whole set up is light and the bags seem really well made with a large, strong seal around the edges. The syringe is for backwashes purposes and this is an easy task.
Sawyer claim that The Squeeze is the best filter on the market today. It suggests that it removes greater than 99.9999% of all bacteria and protozoa. Pretty good going as far as I was concerned. Fabulous. Time for the test.
Off I went to the woods looking forward to a wild water coffee. I was going to use the Squeeze, my Crusader mug and a fire gel stove my Instagram buddy Moleskin Joe had kindly given to me. Why boil perfectly “squeezed” water? You’ll see later down the page.
Filling the bag
So, first things first; filling the bag with water from The River Brue. This, let me tell you, isn’t as easy as you may think. Simply dunking the 32oz bag in a water course and expecting it to fill up to its maximum capacity is going to disappoint you. Trust me on this point. What you need is a fast-ish flowing part of the river to force the water into the bag.
The thing with filling the bag is you need pressure to get the optimum fill. If the water source isn’t running you have to move the bag to scoop the water in. It takes 6 or 7 scoops to fill. A bit of a faff but do-able. This is where you have to be careful about the river bed as sharp shale will damage The Squeeze bag.
Once the bag is as full as you can get it simply screw the Squeeze filter onto the bag. With the “Flow”arrow firmly pointing towards the white pull/push valve you are good to squeeze the bag, force the water through the filter and drink away. Simple…in theory.
During my time in the military we were trained how to cope in the event of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical warfare situations. Cross contamination of anything was a definite no no. So when the instructions told me to invert the bag and squeeze I wasn’t too impressed when I saw the water on the outside of the newly dunked bag. There was unsterilised rivulets of river water over the whole thing. Easy enough to wipe off I suppose but old habits die hard and this point really niggled me. The chance of cross contamination, and therefore a dodgy tummy, is definitely there.
Drinking from The Squeeze
Dry the outside of the bag. Invert and squeeze. How simple is that. It tastes pretty good as well which is always a plus for me. I really can’t stand the steritabs or other chemicals that you can use to treat wild water.
Once the outside of the bag has been dried of the contaminated river water it’s okay straight out of the bag too.
I filled my crusader mug with more “Squeezed” water and set up the fire gel stove. Nice and easy. Nice and clean. The stove is hinged so you can place a small billy can or mess tin on top when fully opened. For smaller cooking vessels simply angle the stove inwards like I have here. There is also a little wind cheater included that works really well.
One sachet of gel achieved the rolling boil that is ubiquitous to the world of bushcraft cooking. I was really pleased with that. A very simple system that is perfect for solo day trips to the woods.
The Sawyer Squeeze system is an affordable and light piece of kit that will purify your water beautifully. It is easy to use and the build quality is robust. It works very well, very quickly. However, for me, the filling of the bag and the presence of the contaminated river water on the side of the bag brought the usability of The Squeeze down. I want to be able to easily fill a reservoir like the Millbank Bag, filter it to the same sort of level as The Squeeze or First Need and crack on without the worry of cross contamination.
The capacity of The Squeeze bag is prohibitive. I know you can buy larger ones as an add on but I’m testing this one as it was delivered to me. To fill a hydration pack or dromedary bag would definitely take some time.
If you are a fell runner or lightweight backpacker the Sawyer Squeeze should definitely be on your list of water purification to consider. For me though, the search goes on for my Holy Grail of wild water purification.