Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Prudent Prepping: Sawyer Filter Dry (and Wet) Run!

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Now we concentrate  on what to do in, and how to plan for, the long term via Prudent Prepping.

Sawyer Filter System Test
Slight correction to last week's post

This is Part 2 of the Sawyer filter article that I started last week. The instructions will be followed to the best of my ability, to give as realistic a "First Use" review as possible.

This is a picture of the 2 water pouches and the cleaning/backwash syringe. Sawyer includes them so this filter can be used as a personal as well as a group filter. When dry, the whole setup weighs 5oz. and when rolled up neatly, will fit into a 1 liter wide-mouth water bottle.

Here are the major components that make up the Sawyer filter.

Top Row: Sawyer filter body, 13/16" spade drill bit

Second Row: Spare sport bottle top and cap (same as the one on the left end of the filter); 2 screw-on bottle caps; a spare filter inlet fitting; and a plastic hook (more on this later) used to attach filter to the bucket as seen in last weeks post.

Bottom Row: Spout assembly with strain relief and another filter inlet head.

What makes this product so nice, in my opinion, is the lack of proprietary parts and fittings. All caps are standard water bottle size, shape and thread pitch, which makes for easy replacement.

Building the Filter

The instructions state no power tools are needed to install this filter, so that is how I started.
Since this is a test build, a non-food grade bucked was used. In an emergency, any clean bucket that has had no chemicals of any kind in it may be used.

  1. Measure 1.5 inches up from the bottom of the bucket. It is important not to be less than this or more than 2 inches. More on this later. 
  2. I grabbed the included bit in my hand and started 'drilling'. 3 minutes later I was about 50% through the bucket and with my hands starting to cramp, I broke out my cordless drill and finished drilling the hole on LOW speed. One mistake people make when drilling lightweight or flexible plastics is drilling at too high a speed, with too much pressure applied to the job. Due to the aggressive shape of the bit, too fast and too hard runs the risk of cracking the bucket as you drill through.
  3. Clean the edges of the hole (inside and out), being careful to remove the 'fuzz' from the edges and not change to shape of the hole as you go. Drag the blade of the knife over the side of the hole instead of attempting to slice the excess off. This will help to prevent any leaks when using the filter.
  4. Make sure to wash out the pail to remove any junk, like the curlicues visible on the table.

This next picture shows the spout and the mounting system. Notice the two cone-shaped washers with their narrow ends pointing towards each other. That is how is needs to be when installed.


   A close-up of the outer washer, correctly installed.

Assemble the spout, with the narrow end of both washers pointing towards the bucket, and then install the nut to finger tightness.

On my first run I found a slow drip from around the spout, which almost stopped when I reached into the bucket and wound the nut on tighter. I don't think using wrenches are required, since after tightening the leak slowed it down to a drip every 30-45 seconds.

Here is a picture of my assembled Sawyer filter bucket, and now you can see why the hole has to be within very narrow limits:  The built-in strain relief will not be at the correct angle to steady the filter and hose assembly. Too low or too high, and the threaded end will not be centered in the hole, which could distort the gaskets and cause leaks or premature failure of those rubber pieces.

At 1 1/2" off the bottom, the strain relief is resting perfectly on the table and the spout is square to the pail.

This was my second hole, as my first was too high.  

This is the last accessory in the kit: a faucet adapter. I did not see in the directions where or how this is to be used, but it doesn't seem to be intended for this to attach to the filter, but instead used to fill buckets. I am checking for more info.

The Filter Test

This was one of the simplest projects I have ever done, and the easiest to do. The use of power tools is really not needed -- if there are extra people around and you need to tag-team the drilling, so be it. I would estimate the total time to do this by hand to be less than 10 minutes, including prepping the hole and attaching the spout. With power tools, the total time was less than 3 minutes.

Really, really simple.

First run with water
Sawyer wants the filter to be pre-wet before use, if the filter is dry. This involves using the Backwash syringe to force water through the fibers 2-3 times. Obviously, this needs to be done with clean, drinkable water. Once this was done, the bucket was filled and onward I went to test the filter!

When I stated last week that it took 2 hours to filter 5 gallons of water, I'm afraid I was operating from a misunderstanding.  Those 2 hours were added onto the filtering time to allow any large particles to settle to the bottom of the supply bucket -- not how long it would take the Sawyer filter to process 5 gallons! The actual time to filter (almost) 5 gallons of water totaled just 20 minutes.

Why almost? There are approximately 1.5 inches of water in the bottom of your bucket, where contaminant particles will settle during the filter run. This works out to about half gallon that needs to be discarded.

Second run
No backwashing was required, since I'm using tap water. The same small leak was still there, but otherwise no other problems were observed and this time the bucket emptied in 18 minutes!

Storing your filter
After filtering contaminated water, Sawyer recommends backwashing the filter several times with a mild bleach solution and allow to air dry before packing your gear away.

A VERY, very minor complaint
Image courtesy of

The only thing that I have any concern about is the hook that is used to keep the filter out of the dirt (or to stop the flow of water if you don't need to filter everything). It is a thin, flexible plastic piece that I think might break if dropped. 

Even with this, I have to give the Sawyer a 5 star rating due to its ease of assembly and use.

To recap: One Sawyer filter set, model SP181, $52 through Amazon.

As always, if you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!
NOTE: All items tested were purchased be me. No products have been loaned in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

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