There are many ways you can make backcountry water sources safe to drink, from chemical treatments to pump filters to UV light emitters, but these days it appears that one particular variety of water filtration system is cleaning up the competition: the Sawyer Squeeze and Squeeze Mini. (Both are essentially the same; the Mini is just a smaller version of the Squeeze.)
The system consists of a compact and lightweight (3 and 2 ounces, respectively) filter cartridge that screws on to either a durable, collapsible mylar Sawyer pouch (available in 16, 32, and 64-ounce versions) or a standard narrow-mouth water bottle (like a one-liter recyclable soda bottle).
Once the filter is attached, you have two options. You can squeeze the pouch, forcing water through the filter and into your drinking vessel of choice; or you can drink directly from the filter. The Squeeze features a removable push/pull cap for easy drinking. For the Mini, you need to attach an included (but separate) drinking straw. Both systems can also be used as an in-line system on hydration packs and gravity set-ups, though you’ll need to use an adapter for the Squeeze (the Mini can be attached directly to the hose).
The filter for both the Squeeze and Mini uses a 0.1 micron hollow fiber membrane to remove bacteria, such as salmonella, cholera, and E.coli; and protozoa such as giardia and cryptosporidium. When the filter starts to get gunked up, you can use an included cleaning syringe to backflush it and restore some of its filtering speed. Most reviews indicate that you can fill a 1-liter water bottle in less than a minute using the Squeeze; the Mini takes about twice as long, not a surprise given its smaller size.
The price is also right, with the basic Squeeze set-up running $40 at most outlets; the Mini sets you back only $25. (You can also buy sets with more accessories for an additional $10 to $20.) Reviews of both are generally rave; the Squeeze even earned a coveted Editors Choice award from Backpacker Magazine in 2012.
What’s most interesting to me, however, is how quickly the Squeeze and Mini have become adopted by a large portion of the hiking community, especially since neither existed a decade ago. Per a recent survey by Philip Werner at SectionHiker, hikers are now using the Sawyer systems more than other option; nearly 40 percent of those surveyed indicated it was their water filtration option of preference.
So if you’re tired of the squat-and-pump, treat-and-wait, or UV-zapping methods of water purification, consider joining the growing throngs who are embracing the Sawyer system as their main squeeze.