Since we were going camping in the Porkies as a group, we decided to get a larger gravity style water filtration system. It would be easier to share a larger quantity of water among three people, than having to mess with a bunch of smaller bottles or pump filters. We did a bit of research and decided on the Sawyer brand gravity system, specifically, the 1 gallon, 2 bag setup.
The package comes with everything you need to create a full gallon of water, in an easily dispensable format. You start by filling the dirty water bag with your source water. My only complaint was that this took a bit of practice to get right. You have to hold the bag under a water source, and at the same time make sure that no air bubbles push the bottom of the bag up out of the water, thereby dumping out your water. I found what worked best was to use a scooping motion to quickly dunk about 3/4 of the wide mouth opening under the water, gathering up as much water as I could in a single swing. I was usually able to get 2/3 to 3/4 of a gallon of water that way, without having to dip a second time.
Once you have your bag of dirty water, you then need to hook up the hose and filter that will lead to the lower bag. It’s important to practice this at home a couple of times, so that you’re not scrambling to figure out which ends connect to which, while standing in the wilderness. Once you bleed the line of aid (lifting it above the level of the bag and then lowering it until water comes out), you hook up the filter, and the attachment that goes to the lower bag.
There is a clever little stopper on the line, similar to what you see in medical IV systems, to control the flow of water into the clean bag. Once everything is hooked up, you open up this stopper and the flow of water begins. It only takes about 15-20 minutes for the bottom bag to fill, at which point you have clean, filtered, water for whatever you need. The real beauty of this system, is that once you have finished filling the “clean” bag, you then can hang it up where the dirty bag was, and you have a dispensing system.
Anytime you need water, you just walk over to the hanging bag and open up the stopper. This made camping with a group incredibly easy. Anytime someone needed water for drinking, cooking, or cleaning, they just walked over and grabbed some from the bag. We always filled up the dirty bag right away so that we were never more than 20 minutes away from another bag of filtered water.
This is the first gravity system that I’ve used, but I have to say that I’m impressed. The flavor of the water wasn’t chemical or metallic at all (which goes to show how long it’s been since I’ve drank filtered camp water). We also had some good water sources that helped with overall flavor. This included Lake Superior herself, which not only tasted good, but was nice and cool.
The entire setup is incredibly easy to work with, and the plastic bags are very malleable and durable. Since they’re just plastic, they will be easy to replace if they tear or become damaged. We kept all of the tubing in it’s own sealed ziplock baggie, and made sure to clean and dry everything before we put it away at home. There is a flush kit included for backfilling the filter and cleaning out any gunk that’s gotten in there.
Once we were done with 5 days in the backcountry, we all agreed that this was an incredible system, and loved using it. It gave us tons of water, in an easy to use format, and packed down nice and light. For those who are weight conscious, the kit comes in at 12oz. If you’re traveling even lighter, you can cut that down by leaving the clean bag at home, and only bringing enough tubing to get water to the filter. From there you can attach a sport-cap to the filter, and drink directly from it. The filter is a standard Sawyer MINI filter, which means you can use it in a lot of different configurations, depending on how you’re traveling.
I’m certainly a believer in this system, and I’ve heard from others who have used it that they love it as well. It’s one of the best camping investments we’ve made, and I’m sure it will give us many years of outdoor fun.