A couple of years ago I posted an article about the lightweight water filtration setup that Sandra D and I were using at the time. Up until recently we’ve been using that same kit, but with the introduction of the SP128 Sawyer Mini filter about a month ago it was clear that the time to make a change had arrived. Here’s a look at the new filter and one way that it can be used to drink directly from a Platypus reservoir.
Some Background on Sawyer Filters
Sawyer has been making lightweight water filters for years. Hikers (among others) have picked up on this and many of us have abandoned the days of using chemicals or having to pump for their water. Instead, gravity can be used (as in our previous setup), or squeezing the reservoir to force water through the filter (as in the Sawyer Squeeze setup), or simply drinking directly through the filter (which is what you’ll see below). Generally, these are simple techniques which produce great tasting water via compact filters that weigh very little.
Prior to the SP128 (“Mini”), the SP131 (“Squeeze”) was somewhat popular over the SP122 (“3-Way”) kit, which already boasted “ultralight” right on the packaging. As you might have guessed each generation has become smaller and lighter. All of these filters are 0.1 micron absolute rating, which is more than adequate for filtering from water sources in the US. For worldwide use these are adequate filters for developed countries. For under developed countries where viral contamination of drinking water can occur, these are not suitable filters. Although viral water filters are available, boiling and chemical treatment are better options. So, yeah, getting back on topic… great filters to take while recreating in the developed world.
Bloggers have been talking a lot about the new Sawyer Mini filter. John Abela of HikeLighter.com covers everything you ever wanted to know about it and then some in his comprehensive post, which I would suggest checking out for a different perspective.
I’m not going to say a whole lot about the filter. It’s light, small, inexpensive, and easy/flexible to use… it’s a water filter. If you’re shopping the options, stop now and just buy one.
The Purchased Bits
This is easy. You’ll need a Platypus Hoser 2L hydration reservoir (about $20), and the SP128 Sawyer Mini filter (about $25). By the time you are done putting this together you’ll have a water filter and hydration reservoir that weighs less than 5 ounces and cost less than $50. If you don’t like this particular setup I’ll talk about a couple other ways the filter can be used before wrapping up.
Putting it Together
There’s not much to do. Cut the drink tube a few inches up from the end that connects to the Platypus. Now attach that end to the nipple on the filter that is opposite the arrow showing direction of flow. Attach the other end of the drink tube to the nipple on the filter that the arrow points to. The arrow should be pointing towards the bite valve when put together correctly.
If you try this, you’ll notice it’s a very tight fit. This is good. We don’t want those tubes pulling loose inside your backpack. To get them pushed all the way onto the filter, run some hot water over the ends of the drink tube to soften it up a bit, then muscle them all the way on. When you’re all done, they’re not going to want to come back off (so getting it apart is possible but not easy… just bear that in mind).
Differences From Our Previous Setup
Previously our filtration setup was designed to be shared between two or more people. It worked fine for one, but seemed like a lot to carry, even as light as it was. Simplifying and lightening up were part of the reason for change. The other part is that Sandra D and I have been moving towards self sufficient setups rather than sharing gear. I realize that may seem odd for a married couple who hikes together; I’ll explain why I think it makes sense in another post that I’m working on. The Mini is the right size and price to make this an easy decision for us.
This setup has less pieces and trimmed about 8 ounces (as carried by one person) which is very good. The external dirty water reservoir is now gone, as is the dirty water tube. The quick couplings are gone too, though they could make a future re-appearance in this system. I’ll wait until that happens to elaborate. What you really want to know is: what about drinking through the filter?? It’s not bad! The extra effort required is minimal and I acclimated to it quickly. Back flushing after trips seems to be the key to maintaining flow that doesn’t require sucking the chrome off a trailer hitch… err, ok. I’m actually back flushing through the bite valve, which works just fine and hasn’t impacted my bite valve at all.
Getting water into the Platypus is done by pouring from a cup, mug, bowl, or even a freezer bag which works well as a scoop in shallow areas.
It’s hard to come up with any cons. I mentioned in our original filtration post that membrane filters need to be protected from freezing (all of them, not just Sawyer filters) so that isn’t a specific negative, but it’s something to be aware of. There are ways to test the integrity of a membrane filter but it’s not something that can be done on the trail, and even at home nobody but really geeky people will have the goods sitting around to do it. Just don’t let it freeze and be confident that it will serve you for 100,000 gallons worth of filtered water.
Other Ways to use the Sawyer Mini Filter
- Gravity: Temporarily remove the bite valve and hang it from a tree. It’s about as fast as the Sawyer 3-Way in gravity mode, if not faster.
- Squeeze: The Mini filter comes with a squeeze bag. The filter itself has a female thread on the dirty side that can be attached to the squeeze bag directly.
- Survival Straw: Yes, the filter comes with a straw also and it can be used to drink directly from a lake, river, puddle, bottle of water, or your GF’s bellly button.
- Another Way with Platypus: Using the thread on the filter, it can be threaded onto a Platypus bladder without cutting the tube. However this would be a bit awkward in the hydration sleeve of a backpack. Also worth noting, it seems that the thread on the filter only matches well with some Platypus bladders and is leaking with others. Not so good.
The Bottom Line
This post was way longer than it needed to be. If you need a water filter for backpacking and prefer not to pump, stir, or use chemicals it will be hard to do better than the Sawyer Mini.