That’s a mouthful! The Sawyer Gravity Water Filter system is a great lightweight, functional, and affordable water filtration system for backpacking and other outdoor activities that may take you more than a day to accomplish.
Water filtration systems are pretty easy to rate. At the end of the day I think you really only need to ask 2 questions:
- Does the water come out clean?
- Were you able to drink the water without getting sick?
If you answered yes to both questions, then it is probably a good filter. That’s a little bit simplified, but essentially you are just turning dirty water into potable water; and Sawyer makes great products for doing just that.
Background and demo
Sawyer filters are one of the most widely used amongst backpackers. If you are unfamiliar with how they work, it’s quite simple. You fill up a pouch (typically 16 ounces) and thread the filter onto the end and squeeze the water from the pouch, forcing it through the filter. I will now demonstrate over the kitchen sink:
Sawyer Squeeze filters
A few weeks ago in Dolly Sods, WV, our group walked by a campsite with about 6 people and there was literally a pile of the pint-size Sawyer pouches (fully filled) with a filter threaded onto each pouch. I guess that speaks to Sawyer’s popularity. They are cheap, lightweight, and easy to clean in the field. The directions are printed right on the pouch too.
Before I ever used a Sawyer filter, I was skeptical. I thought the pressure from squeezing the pouch over and over would inevitably wear down the pouch (and filter) and rip while I was using it on the trail. Maybe some unfortunate souls have run into this problem, but it would take years for them to wear down to that point. I have used my original Sawyer filter and pouch for about 5 years now and they basically look brand new…
But since the original filter is now 5 years old, I thought it might be time to replace it. Although Sawyer says their filters are good for 100,000 gallons (not that I have been counting). So I got a new one, but this time I got an entire Sawyer filtration “system” similar to the Platypus gravity filters you see everywhere. I hear people praise the Platypus system and I am sure it would work for me; but it’s expensive!
Sawyer makes their own gravity system for $40! It’s a little less sophisticated from the Platypus design, but it’s still easy to use (and clean), lightweight, and cheap! Plus it’s built for compatibility with Sawyer filters (of course). I did not need to cut any tubing like you do with other gravity systems.
Similar to the original Sawyer Squeeze, the Gravity System has a pouch to gather water. However this pouch is 1 gallon and has a larger opening for dirty water and a small opening to attach the filter. The pouch also has a handle to make it easier to carry and allows you to hang it and let gravity do the work.
The entire system came with a lot of parts: 1 gallon pouch, filter, caps, tubing (Sawyer calls it a gravity hose), tubing adapters, and cleaning plunger. It’s a good deal for $40.
- Easy to fill with big opening
- Easy to filter with or without tubing
- Easy to stop the flow with the flip-top cap
- Easy to clean
- Stores a lot of water (1 gallon is a lot for backpacking)
- Tricky to pack
- tubing could be longer
After using the Sawyer Gravity System for a few days in the field, I can say it works just as well as the original Squeeze system. It’s a passive system that you can just hang on a tree and let gravity do the work to fill your water bottle. It’s much better than having to squeeze water 16 ounces at a time.
One of the handy attachments is a flip-top cap that you can attach to the end of the filter to “turn off” the water while not in use. Again, it’s less sophisticated than the Platypus system, but it works.
The tubing that comes with the system is about 2 feet long. It worked for me, but I had to find a low branch to hang it if I wanted to fill my water bottle and walk away to do something else. You can always get longer tubing though!
The only thing I would point out it that the 1 gallon reservoir (pouch) does not store super well in a backpack. It flattens and takes up almost no space, but it’s difficult to fold or roll up in a compact manner. I wound up either stuffing it in the top pocket of my backpack or in the water bottle pocket.
Overall I highly recommend trying the Sawyer Gravity system. If you already have a Sawyer filter, everything should be compatible so you could use a new or old filter. For a fraction of the cost of other gravity systems, the Sawyer Gravity Water Filtration System is totally worth checking out. I plan on using it as my primary water filter system for years to come.