The Sawyer Gravity Water Filtration System

Sawyer Gravity Water Filtration System Featured Image

I want to start this review by admitting something personal: I’ve had an affinity for Sawyer Products for quite some time. And that affinity stems from the simple fact that they share a first name with my younger brother.

While he’s not the only Sawyer out there, it’s a special connection for me, so when I reached out to them in need of a new water filtration system, I was ecstatic when they agreed to send me the Sawyer Gravity Water Filtration System to use and review.

Sawyer Products Overview

Sawyer Gravity Water Filtration System - Product Shot 2

The ‘SP160’ One-Gallon Sawyer Gravity Water Filtration System filters a full gallon of water in under 7 minutes through a small, gravity-fed mini filter.

The one-gallon bladder weighs just 4.5 ounces when empty and, once filled, it gives you the ability to set up a communal “water station” in the center of camp. This greatly reduces the number of times you need to return to the closest water source to refill. Gone are my days of sitting beside a stream or lake for 20 minutes of pumping water.

The Sawyer Mini-Filter is a light and versatile filter that weighs just 2 ounces and fits nicely into almost any pack. It is rated to 0.1-micron absolute filtration, which means that it removes 99.99999% of all bacteria (i.e. salmonella, cholera, and E. coli) and 99.9999% of all protozoa, such as giardia and cryptosporidium.

The mini-filter in this water filtration system is also equipped with threads on both sides, which means you can screw the On/Off cap onto the filter for easy functionality while filtering to control water flow.

Sawyer Testing Environment

On my first trip with the One-Gallon Sawyer Gravity Water Filtration System, we headed over the hill and down to a spot we call “Emerald Pools.”

It is a stunning section of the South Fork of the Yuba River with towering granite cliffs on either side of the river (making for excellent cliff-jumping opportunities) and some of the coldest water you’ll dive into (year-round! It never warms up!).

We hiked down to the river from the trailhead and then proceeded about a half-mile downriver before crossing and setting up camp at a little beach spot for the evening.

Here’s a quick photo of our spot:

Sawyer_Gravity_Water_Filtration_System_-_Yuba_Camp_Spot

As part of the camp set-up, there just so happened to be a convenient string hanging down about 10-feet from the large tree that provided our camp with abundant mid-day shade. I decided it was the perfect string for the water bladder and, after filling it from that frigid water, I strung it up and let my companions know it was theirs for the taking as needed.

We spent one night at this spot and the better part of the next day. There were 6 of us on this trip and I think we refilled the bladder 3 or 4 times in total. It provided ample drinking water for the whole crew and the Mini Filter ran strong throughout.

Here’s a photo of the mini-filter and it’s size in relation to my hand:

Sawyer_Gravity_Water_Filtration_System_-_Filter_in_Hand

Sawyer One-Gallon Filter Pros

– Large water capacity

– Less time spent filling the bladder

– Lightweight

– Easily folds up and stores away in your pack

– Perfect water purification solution for group camping

– Small and light enough to take on a multi-day camping trip

– Super easy to use. Gravity does all the work!

– A breeze to clean once I got home. Just add water to a syringe and rinse several times.

Sawyer_Gravity_Water_Filtration_System_-_Cleaning_Instructions

Sawyer One-Gallon Filter Cons

– Filtration itself isn’t “lightning speed”.

– Takes about 1-2 minutes to fill a 32-ounce water bottle

– No place to hook the tube and filter cartridge when not in use (although we got creative!)

Final Sawyer Products Verdict

Overall, I’m super happy with the Sawyer Gravity Water Filtration System. I shouldn’t be surprised, as I’ve had several quality Sawyer products that I’ve been very happy with in the past. However, finding a water filtration system that I’m truly happy with has been a bit of a struggle for the last several years.

Sawyer Gravity Water Filtration System - Product Shot 2

In the early days of my backpacking adventures, I used a hand-pump style filtration system from MSR. It worked just fine, but as I mentioned earlier, it required about 20 minutes of steady pumping to fill a 32-ounce bottle. Sure, it meant getting an upper body workout after a day of all legs, but it certainly wasn’t ideal. So when the filter element finally cracked, I was ready to investigate new solutions.

Enter the LifeStraw and the SteriPen UV filters. Honestly, I bought the LifeStraw as a backup for all other solutions (except maybe iodine tablets). I still haven’t put it to use, so my verdict is still out on that one. But I have used the SteriPen as my main method of filtration for the last two or three years.

While I haven’t had any health issues (and I would’ve known if I did), I have had the SteriPen run out of batteries on me during a trip, it’s not the lightest item to bring along, and I’ve also struggled to fully trust what I can’t help thinking looks so much like a “magic wand.”

As such, I’m excited to finally have my preferred method of water filtration rely on gravity and one of the most highly-rated, lightweight filters on the market. A huge thank you to the team at Sawyer Products for making an excellent water filtration system and for allowing me to test and review it!


Share Your Water Filtration Experience!

I’d love to know if you like gravity-fed water filters and, if so, which specific brand you trust to provide you with clean water in the backcountry. Also, If you decide to purchase a Sawyer Water Filter after reading this review, I’d love to know how you like it after you’ve had the chance to use it a few times!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this review of the Sawyer Gravity Water Filtration System and I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments section below. I’ll be quick to reply to any questions, comments, or concerns you feel like sharing!

About The Backpack Guide

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PC Tucker Ballister

At The Backpack Guide, I’m always looking for new trails and wildernesses to explore and I’m also interested in the experiences of others in the wild. The content that I create here is meant to help others explore the wilderness, create new learning opportunities, and connect with nature.

Feel free to reach out to me directly (email below), or share your latest adventure or backpack by tagging @thebackpackguide on Instagram!

Thank You Gravity!

The Backpack Guide

tucker@thebackpackguide.com

Sawyer One-Gallon Gravity Water Filtration System

39.99
4.95

Ease of Use

5.0/5

Effectiveness

5.0/5

Ease of Maintenance

4.9/5

Pros

  • Large Capacity
  • Lightweight
  • Compact for Easy Storage

Cons

  • Slow(ish) Filtration
  • No place to hook tube and filter cartridge when not in use (they've since changed the product to address this concern)

Comments

  1. Sondra M

    Great website!   Great review of the Sawyer Gravity Water Filtration System.  This system sounds ideal.   Generally, I don’t go camping places that I have to rely on having a water system.   Yet, I’ve wanted to find a water filtration system  that was extremely light weight that I could carry in my camera bag, camel back or back back in the event that I found myself or my group having to stay out longer than intended.    Basically, I’ve wanted to have a way of getting clean, drinkable water in the event of an emergency while out hiking or even driving to/from some remote destination.    

    The two minute time period to fill a 32 oz bottle sounds much better than 20 minutes that the MSR hand pump water filtration system required.  

    p.s.  Your Emerald Pools spot looked great.    

    1. Post
      Author
      Tucker Ballister

      It sounds like this is the ideal filtration system for your needs. I really like the ability to provide water for a larger group without having to spend an inordinate amount of time “pumping.” This filtration system has been a game-changer by freeing up so much more time for additional exploration while backpacking! 

  2. j52powell

    This really looks like a very portable easy to use device.  I see it takes out a number of the contaminants I am concerned about, E. coli, protozoa and cholera.  I live in the Philippines and fortunately now I can buy bottled water for drinking or easily boil it, but in the past as a scuba instructor I have lived in out of the way places or gone on safari to such places that had a very undependable water supply.  In fact, I picked up hepatitus A from what I thought was safe spring water.  Does this filter remove hep A?

    I like this great product a lot for camping.  Thanks for the info.

    1. Post
      Author
      Tucker Ballister

      That is a great question and in all the research I’ve done on this product I can say I honestly haven’t found anyone that has experience with filtering that contaminant using this filter. I come from a very blessed history of hiking in the Sierra Nevada mountains, where most of the water is clean and fresh enough to drink without filtering. For sources like the one you mention, I would invariably use at least two filtration techniques, such as running it through a Sawyer filter and then boiling, or using iodine tablets and then running it through the Sawyer filter. Hope that’s helpful!

  3. Dale

    This is a game changer and great to know that we can go out and have all the water we need with very little effort as the end of the day can be pretty tiring.

    You are right about the Sawyer products being some of the best for the out door enthusiast. 

    Thank you for this great review.  Im sure its going to go great for many of us who love to be outdoors.

    Dale

  4. zuchii

    Thanks for being honest about your review Especially sharing your Special connection with the name sawyer .However the sawyer gravity water filtration system Seems to be a great product . It’s easy to use procedure makes my number one recommendation for outdoor adventures .

    Also I like the colour and its packaging makes it come in handy anytime anyday.

  5. Janice Gustafson

    Hi Backpack Guide: I am so happy to be commenting on your post, and to comment on the Sawyer Gravity Water Filtration System.

    I was raised on a cattle ranch, and every summer we rode horses clear across the LaSal mountains, (in Utah) to visit our friends at their ranch. We had a pack mule named Turkey, but in those days…a lllooonngg time ago, we did not pack water. My father seemed to know every stream across the mountain, and he had us get down on our stomachs and drink out of the stream. Our horses would be thirsty and drinking out of the same stream, and my Dad’s only advice was: “Don’t drink below your horse, drink ABOVE him!!” We should have had the Sawyer System.
    Thanks for the memories Backpack Guide!!

    1. Post
      Author
      Tucker Ballister

      What a great story! Thanks for sharing. I feel incredibly fortunate to have grown up in the Sierras where we could probably drink from most water sources up at the higher elevations without filtering. But for peace of mind, we always have. I love your Dad’s recommendation, and I hope you enjoyed reminiscing a bit. Happy Trails!

  6. eohia

    I never knew something like gravity-fed water filters for outdoors existed. Because of the country I live in, it’s not common to go camping outdoors, but I love this device. From the description of what it does, it sounds like something I’ll really love to have. I believe it will come in handy some time. Thanks for the review, it is well detailed and enlightening.

    1. Post
      Author

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