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Water in the Wilderness – Sawyer Water Filtration System

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

Not the most gripping title I’m sure you will agree! Picture this though – you’re out in the middle of nowhere, you have just taken your last mouthful of water, and unless you find a magic lamp and get 3 wishes from a Genie, a shop isn’t going to magically appear. At this moment you will be grateful you knew about this piece of kit!

sawyer water filtration system

Simple & Extremely Effective

Now I’m sure some of you plan your routes so that every so often you pass through a village or town where there is a good chance you will be able to fill your water bottles. A local shop might help out, or you may even convince a friendly member of the public to let you use their garden tap. Either way, if this is the case the you can probably skip this post.

However, if you’re like me and like to explore as far off the beaten path as you can there will definitely be times when you’re out of water and you’re listening out for that trickle of a stream, or better yet, that healthy rush of a flowing river. To most people those sounds won’t conjure up images, or thoughts, of having a drink but to a bikepacker on an adventure they have one thought – let’s fill up all the bottles!

Before I took my first pedal stroke on a bikepacking trip I read an article that said you should never pass up a water source (tap or natural) if there’s empty space in your water bottle because you never know where the next drink is coming from. Never has this been more apparent when you’re on a gravel track riding deep into the forest or up and over a border crossing point.

view from the top

Strangely enough there was no shop up here…

So the revision began. What water filter did I need? How safe were they? Were they expensive? How long did they last? All valid questions because the last thing I wanted was to be riding my bike or be camping and get a sickness bug from some suspect water I had consumed. Yes, you can buy water purification tablets and boil it etc but I wanted something quick and easy that I could use on the go whenever I needed it.

I was discussing this with a friend of mine (Josh if you’re reading this then thank you!) who does a bit of hiking and wild camping. He had a lovely bottle that used some sort of fancy technology to purify the water once it was inside the bottle. It looked great but I didn’t want to run the risk of breaking it due to a drop or a fall on the bike. He explained you could get simple water filtration bags that you simply squeeze the water through. Simple and effective. Just what I needed.

In the end I purchased a Squeeze Water Filtration System made by Sawyer International. Click that link just there to have a look or if you’re interested in buying one.

Weighing in at a tiny 78 grams it contains a 1 litre squeeze pouch, the water filter screw top adapter, a straw, and a syringe to backwash the filter at the end of your travels.

sawyer water filtration system

To Use…

sawyer water filtration system

To Wash…

sawyer water filtration system

In All Its Glory

sawyer water filtration system

Packed Away for Travel

Now get ready for the stats, this is not a typo! Sawyer say this filter has a life expectancy of 100,000 gallons. That’s a lot of aqua! It removes 99.99999% of all bacteria including salmonella, cholera, leptospirosis, and e-coli and removes 100% of microplastics. I won’t pretend I know what all of those are but if they can make me feel sick then I’m glad this filter stops them getting through.

This lives in the bungee cords on the top of my Ortlieb Seat Pack (click that link for the review) so whenever I fancy a top up I have quick access to it and can be having a fresh drink in no time at all.

bikepacking in scotland

On the Seat Pack! I wouldn’t lie to you!

It can be a little awkward to fill up in low water but if the water is flowing just drag the bag, underwater, into the flow of the stream / river and it will force it into the bag nicely. The bag itself is a strong but flexible plastic but be careful not to over tighten the filter screw on cap. Hand tight is fine. Also, don’t squeeze the life out of it. Slow and steady wins the race!

My most recent trip involved some fairly hot weather so this bag was used a lot for both my friend and I to stay hydrated. Having seen how versatile it is and having that peace of mind that I don’t always need to be near a shop for water allows me to explore that little bit further afield. I can go a little bit deeper into the woodland, a little bit further up that gravel track, just for the adventure, just because I can.

This is a piece of kit I wouldn’t bikepack / camp without and it’s worth every penny. In the long run this is going to save you a significant amount of cash that you could be spending on the important things – Haribo!

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