With gravity, there’s no need to work hard to get clean water in the wild. For group camping, check out the Sawyer One-Gallon Water Filtration System!
As a backpacking guide in Northern California, securing water for my groups is always the top priority when we get into camp. In the old days, we used to have to take turns “pumping” using the old MSR MiniWorks EX that I used to carry around.
And while that pump came with the added advantage of getting an arm workout while refilling your bottles, it meant a lot of time spent pumping that could have been used covering more miles or just relaxing in camp.
So when I finally bought the Sawyer Products SP160 One-Gallon Gravity Water Filtration System, I was super excited by the idea of allowing gravity to do the work for me! It should be noted that this system is available in either a single-bladder or dual-bladder design, but I have the single-bladder version, so I’ll be speaking strictly on my experience with that one in this review.
I’ve now tested this Sawyer Filtration System on several personal camping trips as well as for two backpacking trips that I guided in the summer of 2019. I’ve now used it for group sizes up to 11 people to test its flow rate, ease of use for group camping, and overall safety and effectiveness.
On that last point, the hard part about truly putting a water filtration system to the test is that the only way you’ll know if it doesn’t work is if you get sick. And I’m quite happy to report that no one that’s been on a trip with me and drank from this filtration system has been sick to date!
Features – 8/10
This system obviously has a one-gallon capacity and it comes with a dual-threaded Sawyer Mini Filter as its filtration component. This allows you to screw the filter right onto the smaller hole on the bladder itself or attach the hose coupling accessory to give you an extra hose length for easier filling.
The 0.1-micron inline filter weighs a total of just two ounces and is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. It can also screw directly onto the top of a Smart water bottle, which means that this filtration system can actually be a dual-purpose solution.
The entire package with all the included components is great for short group camping trips, but you can only take the Mini Filter along if you want to cover more distance on a lightweight backpacking trip.
In terms of those other included components, the Sawyer SP160 comes with a cleaning plunger and coupling, a two-foot rubber hose, and all the adapters needed for multi-purpose use.
Oh, and the hard plastic handle on top of the bladder makes it easy to carry it when full and it also gives you a hard point to help secure the bladder to your pack if you need to carry more water for dry trail sections.
Durability – 7/10
This entire system is rated to filter up to 100,000 gallons of water and it’s triple-tested to remove protozoa, bacteria, cysts, and microplastics from your drinking water. The rubber hosing is ¼” in diameter and the filtration membrane uses hollow fibers to remove particulates.
From my experience, I would be very careful with attaching a full bladder to any pack for an extended carry. I had an unfortunate accident involving a full bladder strapped to a pack and, when it accidentally made contact with a sharp branch, the bladder suffered a small puncture hole.
Other than that, the bladder material feels like a relatively thick plastic and I have no doubt it would’ve lasted longer if I had been more careful with its use.
Functionality – 7/10
If you need a good water filtration solution for group camping or emergency prep, it’s pretty tough to beat the Sawyer SP160. For groups, I love the fact that we can set up a central area for everyone to refill bottles on their own time. And whenever the bladder runs out, the wide mouth opening makes it easy to refill with just a few swoops through the water.
With a flow rate of about 7 minutes per gallon (0.5 liters per minute), this filtration system is a bit slower than comparable models. But I’ve found that it does flow much faster if you slightly unscrew the wide mouth lid to allow extra air flow through the bladder. That being said, you’ll have to remember that you unscrewed it when you take it down or you’ll risk spilling your water everywhere (been there, done that!).
Value – 8/10
On a final note, the single-bladder Sawyer Filtration System is super affordable. And because it can serve as the center of a group camping water station or the compact filtration solution to shove in the side of a lightweight backpacking pack, I think this system offers tremendous value!