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After bumbling and fumbling my way through West Clear Creek last summer, I’m now in the process of shaving weight off my pack—piece by piece.

In the effort of backpack weight loss, most people will start with big ticket items like a tent, sleeping bag, or sleeping pad. These can take whole pounds off your pack weight but their ultralight counterparts are very expensive. I’m starting small and simple with a crucial backpacking need—the water filter.

Trading a Pump for a Squeeze

I’m currently using the MSR MiniWorks EX and it’s a great pump filter. It delivers a lot torque on the lever and can fill up an empty Nalgene in just a few minutes. However, it’s relatively expensive ($90 on REI), large, and weighs a ton by ultralight standards. 460 grams (about one pound) may not seem like much on its own, but when the goal is a sub-20 pound pack, it just won’t do.

So I ordered the Sawyer Squeeze filter system on Amazon for $30. Squeeze filters, while requiring more elbow grease, are much smaller and weigh just a fraction of full-size pump filters. A squeeze system also completely changes the way I gather and carry water on the trail. Right now, my gather/carry system looks like this:

9 to 5 Hiker MSR Water Filter Setup

  • Fill my 3L reservoir at the trailhead (6.6 pounds of extra pack weight)
  • Pack my MSR MiniWorks (now 7.6 pounds)
  • Fill my reservoir and Nalgene bottle at each water source (pushing 8 pounds and beyond)

Unless you know for a FACT that there is not another water source ahead, there is no reason to carry 3+ pounds of water on your back. The new gather/carry system will look like this:

9 to 5 Hiker Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter Setup

  • Ditch the water reservoir
  • Pack the Sawyer Squeeze bottle and two Smartwater bottles
  • Use one to gather dirty water and the other to filter clean water

Almost Two Pounds Lost

Even with both water bottles full, this won’t come close to eight pounds. The threads on the Sawyer Squeeze fit a Smartwater bottle perfectly and a small plastic attachment lets me fit water bottles on both ends for easy filtering. With a total savings of 625 grams (more than 22 ounces), this is a huge weight reduction for only $30, and it will save a decent amount of space in my pack as well.

9 to 5 Hiker Lighter Pack with OLD FILTER

With the MSR MiniWorks

9 to 5 Hiker Lighter Pack with NEW FILTER

With the Sawyer Squeeze System

Build Your Own System

The Sawyer Squeeze and threaded attachment are available on Amazon or wherever outdoors products are sold. You can pick up a Smartwater bottle at any convenience store and I bought the Alkaline Water + Electrolytes bottle at Trader Joe’s. It has the exact dimensions of a Smartwater bottle, but the blue tint helps me differentiate it when filling unfiltered water. You can just as easily use two Smartwater bottles.

What does your water filter system look like? Share your setup in the comments below and look out for the next article in the “Lighten Up” series.