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My take on a gravity water treatment system

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My take on a gravity water treatment system

Postby mschnaidt » Sun Dec 11, 2011 4:24 pm

As I was doing my gear check for a September trip into Emigrant Wilderness it became apparent that my trusty MSR Sweetwater water filter cartridge had finally worn out. Earlier that Summer on a Lost Coast trip I had dropped my Steripen and broke it. Darn, it was time to go gear shopping :) . So I headed over to REI to pick up a new Sweetwater filter cartridge.

Of course I’m incapable of just grabbing what I need at REI and leaving… So after a few minutes of browsing in the water treatment section with my new $44 cartridge in hand I noticed the gravity filters. As I’m not a big fan of pumping water I started reading the labels and price tags.

The first thing that struck me was that even the least expensive gravity system was double what my Sweetwater cartridge was going to cost so I stuck the thing back on the peg and moved on. That’s when I noticed the Sawyer 3 Way Inline Water Filter for $59.95
( ... ter-filter). I was intrigued. Here was the same filter from the $129 Sawyer gravity system without the water bags and tubing.

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Saywer 3 way filter

Like anyone who has been backpacking for a few years I have a collection of CamelBak, MSR and Platypus reservoirs and tubing in my gear closet. After thinking about it for a second or two I knew it was time for a creative solution and bought the Sawyer filter.

Once home I grabbed my favorite red MSR 4L Dromedary Water Bag ( and the Hydration Kit ( that I use with it. I popped off the bite valve and the adapter from the Sawyer kit fit perfectly with the MSR tubing. This would work perfectly for the “clean water” reservoir side of my system.

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MSR bag and hydration kit

Now it was time to find something to work for the “not quite clean” side. For this I came up with something unusual.

When I hiked the Lost Coast earlier in the year I knew that the water in the creeks was going to be frigid and the ocean even more so. While I find a cold water rinse off refreshing, my kid doesn’t. So I bought a Sea to Summit solar shower ( ... ket-shower). Not only was it a handy lightweight shower that kept my kid from being stinky I discovered that it was a great way of transporting 10 liters of water back to camp. If left in the sun for a couple of hours it would heat the water to 80 degrees or so. This saved quite a bit of fuel when boiling water for dinner and cut down on trips to the creek/lake to haul water back to camp and the shower became a part of my normal trip gear.

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The Sawyer filter comes with a faucet adapter that I hoped would fit the shower. Unfortunately it didn’t. The shower head was too big. So I went to work on it with an Exacto knife. After a few minutes of slicing away some of the rubber on the adapter it fit perfectly on the shower head and didn’t leak a drop. One added benefit of using the shower is that it has an on/off function.

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The system

The system works great. And since the guys I backpack with use MSR water bags also, we can fill our reservoirs with one trip to the water source with no pumping. This total system weighs 17.2 ounces but since I carry the MSR reservoir and the shower anyway I only added 6 oz to my pack weight. That’s a 9 oz weight savings over using my Sweetwater filter.

If I’m going ultralight I can use the filter with some tubing and sip right out of the lake or stream. In this configuration it weighs a little under 4 oz.

This system filters down to 0.1 micron and removes bacteria, protozoa and cysts. It does not remove viruses. It is backwashable in the field and this only takes a few seconds. The filter comes with a million gallon guarantee which seems more than a little optimistic to me. However if I can get a few years of filtered water out of it I’ll be happy.


Last edited by mschnaidt on Mon Dec 12, 2011 9:09 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: My take on a gravity water treatment system

Postby oldranger » Sun Dec 11, 2011 5:51 pm

Waiting for a field report! I almost sprang for one last summer but reviews were mixed so I opted out,


Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!
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Re: My take on a gravity water treatment system

Postby The Other Tom » Sun Dec 11, 2011 6:42 pm

Thanks for posting. My son and I used one on a trip last spring. We were getting water from a spring which had a lot of debris in it...leaves, twigs, sand, etc. It worked ok if we were able to put "clean" water in it, but that was a chore. Personally, I prefer to pump, but my son loved it. Getting water from a lake or stream would be a lot easier.
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Re: My take on a gravity water treatment system

Postby frediver » Mon Dec 12, 2011 1:04 pm

I have been using one for 3 years and it still works great.
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