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  1. #1
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    Default Sawyer Mini - LTS issue

    Hi,

    I was running short on water this weekend and went to filter with my Sawyer Mini, which had been in long-term storage (LTS), in effect. I rarely use it because I usually just opt for carrying extra water when needed, rather than filter (the water where I hike is awful - mining runoff. Some isn't even safe after filtering). But yesterday I did choose to filter, and I could not get it going beyond drops.

    My mini has seen, um, mini-mal use, and I've always backflushed it with distilled water, so mineral buildup should not have been a cause of poor flow.

    I knew it might be hard to start when it was dry, so I was patient for awhile and I got some drops. But it didn't improve after say 15 min. Finally I gave up - but put the pouch and filter in my pack upside down, so I hoped it might fully saturate the filter during the last 3 hours of the hike. Back at the trailhead, though, I still only got drops.

    Any suggestions, insights, or advice?

    My plan now is to soak it overnight and see how it does. Then backflush with distilled water. And maybe I need to soak it overnight before every hike! Seems like a classic example of going out with untested gear. I had used it before, but not in a long time, and I didn't think it would be so hard to get it going again out of dry storage. Again, there should be no significant mineral buildup in it, either from use, or from backflushing with tap (I always use distilled for that).

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Flow issues with my Sawyer. They said to try soaking in distilled white vinegar, then forceful backwash.

    TF


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  3. #3
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    I've had this problem several times with both the regular Sawyer and the mini. Most recently I got my regular filter working with a lot of hard backflushing with the syringe. But it's a pain, and I've been on two trips where I neglected to test the filter ahead of time and it didn't work. (Pur tablets to the rescue.)
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  4. #4

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    I've found that soaking the filter in water (I use distilled) the night before I head out to help.

  5. #5
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    Sawyer's are so inexpensive that when I start having a problem, I toss them and buy a new one.

    I too have headed out with my Sawyer after winter storage and forgot to test it. I fortunately use it in a gravity mode where the water goes from a dirty water bladder thru the filter, then a hose to the clean water bladder. I was able to rig something up so that the dirty water was near the top of my pack and the clean near the bottom and over the course of hiking a few miles got my 2L of water to filter.

    You say you always backflush with distilled water. I wonder if the issue is that you are filtering very hard water and you didn't back flush enough to get the water that always remains in the filter to be diluted enough that there were still enough minerals to clog the filter.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by HooKooDooKu View Post
    You say you always backflush with distilled water. I wonder if the issue is that you are filtering very hard water and you didn't back flush enough to get the water that always remains in the filter to be diluted enough that there were still enough minerals to clog the filter.

    Thanks all for replies -

    HKDK - it has only had a handful of uses, all but two at home while figuring out how to make a gravity feed system with a water reservoir I was retiring. At home our water does have some mineral content, but nothing unusual. Scale builds up around sink faucets enough to warrant cleaning - every 2-4 years maybe. (with vinegar, btw). The times I've used it in the field were on the Cumberland Trail, much of which runs through old mining areas. In a few spots you cannot even safely filter or boil the water. Anyway, the times I filtered in the field, it was in areas safe for filtering, and whatever bacteria it filtered out, the water still had a pretty terrible metallic taste. Probably a total of 2.5L filtered on those two occasions. Maybe 5L at home. Hard to imagine enough mineral scale being built up then and not being flushed out.

    Right now it's soaking in tap water; we'll see if it can filter tomorrow AM. If not I'll backflush with distilled and test again.
    Last edited by Time Zone; 06-02-2020 at 22:11.

  7. #7

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    I backflush when I get home with water, then with vinegar and let it sit and backflush with vinegar again 24 hours later and then put it in to storage.
    I've had the same problem as you but the vinegar helps prevent mineral deposits building up.

  8. #8

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    Like HooKooDooKu, I'll just toss a Sawyer if it starts to be a problem. 'Course I've tossed 1 or 2 after leaving them out during polar vortexes...
    I threw away a Mini that sat for a long time after a weeklong trip where it caused problems, and required multiple backflushing *per use* before it was over with. Awhile back, I got it out to compare with the regular Squeeze and the Micro I'd just bought, and it was totally unusable.
    My suggestion is to ditch the Mini, and never look back.
    I was never happy with the Mini, and with the advent of the Micro, really don't see a reason for it to even exist any more.
    So far so good with the Micro after a lot of use, though I think it's slowing down lately, in spite of backflushing with the syringe at home. "Slowing down" is relative, though. Right now(paired with an Evernew bag that I can manhandle), I'm ok with it taking 25sec to fill a .7L bottle instead of 20.

    Helpful hint if you're squeezing, and not using it inline or in a gravity setup: Use an oversized bag. It's a lot easier to get leverage on a bag that's already partially rolled down. I use 2 .7L bottles and a 1.5L bag, but am going to switch to a 2L after wearing out another 1.5(over time, even Evernews will develop small leaks where they're bonded around the neck).

  9. #9
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    At this point I might as well try vinegar too. After an overnight soak, the filtered water is coming out just short of a stream ... rapid fire drops, basically. So I backflushed with distilled water, and first attempt kind of sprayed all over. It wasn't going through. Second and subsequent attempts mostly went through, but I'd say that it isn't as strong as new. Again, this is less than 10L filtered in its life. Compare that to the ad copy on the packaging.

    The Micro - I'm unfamiliar with that. But I must say, I'm not keen on Sawyer products right now. If the thing basically only works well if kept wet in regular use, that's fine, but they should be up front and say that. They should caution that it's hard to get it going again out of long-term storage, even if pre-soaked. And that it may never work as well as new. Whether it goes back in service for me or not, I think I should keep some backup tablets in my FAK ... hard to think of something more important on a remote hike than the ability to turn water potable.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by DuneElliot View Post
    I backflush when I get home with water, then with vinegar and let it sit and backflush with vinegar again 24 hours later and then put it in to storage.
    I've had the same problem as you but the vinegar helps prevent mineral deposits building up.
    The white distilled vinegar seemed to do the trick on my Sawyer and Sawyer Micro. I was amazed at how how difference there was with the back flush compared to just soaking in hot water.


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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by HooKooDooKu View Post
    You say you always backflush with distilled water. I wonder if the issue is that you are filtering very hard water and you didn't back flush enough to get the water that always remains in the filter to be diluted enough that there were still enough minerals to clog the filter.

    I think you may be on to something here. Even if my water isn't very hard, the backflushing with distilled may not necessarily clean out the entire pathway. It'll clean out the pathway of least resistance - that's why they tell you to do it forcefully, so you clear out as wide as possible a path. But as you imply, some regular tap water and its minerals may remain, and with full drying between cycles of usage and backflushing, the minerals remaining each time may steadily choke off more and more of the potential pathways. So use of vinegar may be necessary even with light use, even with backflushing distilled water. Just a hypothesis, but it seems reasonable based on users' experiences.

  12. #12
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    Just to add some data-points to the theories...

    I used a Sawyer Mini for a JMT thru hike.

    I purchased a brand-new one just before leaving so that there was no chance of freeze damage why flying cross-country.
    {A Sawyer filter CAN be frozen BEFORE its 1st use. But once water has gone thru it, it's darn near impossible to get it to completely dry out... except perhaps for an over-winter storage}.

    I took along the syringe that came with it, and back flushed it every other day.
    That would simulate what I normally do to a Sawyer over the course of a typical hiking season... camp for two nights, go home, back flush... camp for two night, go home, back flush...

    After about two weeks on the JMT, I noticed a significant reduction in performance
    {how long it took to gravity filter 2L}

    But I was never use to seeing such reduction in performance over the course of a typical hiking season back home.

    But one huge difference I noticed while hiking the JMT is how dry the weather was.
    I usually do most of my camping in the VERY humid GSMNP. If you wash a wool sock in the smokies, it is going to stay wet until you either wear it dry or get an opportunity to leave it out in the sun for hours.
    But on the JMT, it was routine to alternate wearing/washing two pair of sock. {Wear for two days, wash, stick in mess pocket of back pack, after 2 days, they would be bone dry}.


    So I started to surmise that the dry air out west was allowing more of the water in the filter to evaporate than I ever encounter in the humid south. And given that I was often walking on granite, I'm pretty sure that water was hard.

  13. #13
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    The vinegar soak cleared it. So yeah, either the backflushing water labeled distilled wasn't really distilled, or it was just clearing a path of least resistance, a path which probably got narrower over time.

    I guess I'll have to check it before every time I go out. Will probably get some chemical treatment as backup for higher risk, solo, remote hikes.

  14. #14

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    Having a backup is never a bad idea.
    My memory sucks, so I keep MicroPur tabs, and other little things that can make or break a trip when they suddenly become the one thing you really need(pad repair, some anti-chafe, chapstick, etc), in my first aid kit to avoid giving myself the opportunity to leave them behind.

  15. #15
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    Yeah, some tablets will be added to my ever-growing bag of essentials. If I don't hate the tablets or drops, maybe they'll be my go-to if the Mini dies, because I'm not 100% sure I'd go filter again after learning how I'll have to check it before every hike and maybe spend time reviving it every time it dries out. High maintenance.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by HooKooDooKu View Post
    After about two weeks on the JMT, I noticed a significant reduction in performance
    {how long it took to gravity filter 2L}
    If you were taking water from streams which were feed from snow fields, those streams have a lot of silt in them. That can clog a filter pretty fast. Coffee filters are often recommended to pre-filter the water to take out those fine particles.

    I once used my filter on some water with a lot of algae in it. That clogged the filter up really good.
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  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by HooKooDooKu View Post
    Sawyer's are so inexpensive that when I start having a problem, I toss them and buy a new one.

    I too have headed out with my Sawyer after winter storage and forgot to test it. I fortunately use it in a gravity mode where the water goes from a dirty water bladder thru the filter, then a hose to the clean water bladder. I was able to rig something up so that the dirty water was near the top of my pack and the clean near the bottom and over the course of hiking a few miles got my 2L of water to filter.

    You say you always backflush with distilled water. I wonder if the issue is that you are filtering very hard water and you didn't back flush enough to get the water that always remains in the filter to be diluted enough that there were still enough minerals to clog the filter.
    When I used a Sawyer filter for months on a thru attempt, and it seized up due to disuse over the winter, that was cheap. When I used the second one for a few days in the fall, and it seized up after a winter of disuse, that was enough to make me think twice about replacing it.

  18. #18
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    Seems to me that, at the very least, their instructions for [putting one in / bringing one out] of long term storage are inadequate.

    Maybe that's part of their business model, IDK.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    If you were taking water from streams which were feed from snow fields, those streams have a lot of silt in them. That can clog a filter pretty fast. Coffee filters are often recommended to pre-filter the water to take out those fine particles.

    I once used my filter on some water with a lot of algae in it. That clogged the filter up really good.
    But wouldn't silt be large enough that regular back-flushing would keep silt from building up?
    I'm not discounting the idea... it's something I had not considered.

    The specifics of my situation were:
    * I'm filtering only for myself. So we're talking about 2 gallons per day tops.
    * I'm filtering via gravity feed. So water isn't being forced thru the filter, except for the 4psi (max) suction the gravity system generates.
    * I'm back flushing every other day (likely about 5 to 6 full "squirts" with the Sawyer syringe using filtered water).
    * The time it takes to filter 2L is taking longer and longer the more time I spend on the trail. I would GUESS that the time it took to filter 2L perhaps doubled after 17 days on the trail.
    * I didn't notice any increased flow rate immediately after back flushing.

    Because of the granite, I'm ASSUMING the water was hard, and that's why I've always ASSUMED that the issue was mineral deposits building up that a back-flush can't dislodge.


    Given all that data, what is your theory on how silt might be accumulating to decrease flow rate over time?

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Time Zone View Post
    Seems to me that, at the very least, their instructions for [putting one in / bringing one out] of long term storage are inadequate.

    Maybe that's part of their business model, IDK.
    I wonder if they simply develop these filters in an area with soft water and/or high humidity such that mineral deposits are not an issue.
    Their instructions certainly don't have anything to say about the possibility of a mineral deposit build up. But in certain circumstances, it seems to certainly be an issue.


    But in any case, I've never had a problem with a Sawyer getting so blocked it was beyond practical use during a season.

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