AllOutdoor Review: The Sawyer S3 Select Water Purifier Bottle

   10.14.22

AllOutdoor Review: The Sawyer S3 Select Water Purifier Bottle

Clean drinking water is a necessary resource no matter where you’re at. There are tons of options out there ranging from external pumps, inline filters, electronic filters using the power of ultraviolet light, and even simpler methods like boiling water or using purifier tablets to make otherwise questionable water sources safe to drink while you’re out adventuring or hunting. Squeeze bottle-type filters have fascinated me since I first tried to use a Life Straw. While the Life Straw is a great and inexpensive innovation for sourcing safe water, it requires a lot of suction to get water flowing and that’s why the Sawyer S3 Select piqued my interest – you can let your hands do the work. Today we’ll check out what the S3 has to offer in terms of features versus other types of water filtration and I’ll also give you a few of my experiences from the field with the handy little bottle too.

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Photo: Sawyer/Wilderness Culture

AllOutdoor Review: The Sawyer S3 Select Water Purifier Bottle

In comparison to both the S1 and the S2 dual-stage filters from Sawyer, the S3 is intended to purify the worst possible sources of water you can come across. In addition to Bateria, Protozoa, Chemicals, and Pesticides that the S1 and S2 remove from your water source, the S3 takes it a step further and eliminates, Heavy Metals, and Viruses as well. It does this at the cost of its purifier life which for you math people out there means that the price per filtered bottle goes up. The S3 is rated for up to 400 uses, and has a liquid volume of 20 ounces of water (the container itself is about 32oz but a lot of that volume is taken up by the interior foam filter.

The S3 comes standard with a 0.1-micron purifier head and an interior foam filter that removes viruses and heavy metals. (a small set of cleaning tools is also included)

S3 Specifications

Features

  • Capacity 0.591 Liter
  • Height 14 Inches
  • Weight 10 Ounce
  • Effective Against Bacteria Yes
  • Effective Against Protozoa Yes
  • Effective Against Viruses Yes
  • Filter Type Siphon
  • Cleanable Filter Yes
  • Filter Media 0.1 Absolute Micron Hollow Fiber + Carbon
  • Country of Origin United States of America
  • Filter Life 400 (1600 Uses)
  • Price: $90 from most online retailers

Description from the Sawyer Website

The Foam Adsorption Technology used in these systems was developed with a partnership with Foamulations LLC to now be able to safely remove contaminants like heavy metals, chemicals, pesticides, and viruses while also improving taste and odor. Adsorption filtration is the process in which molecules adhere to the surface of the adsorbent foam membrane. This highly advanced filtration and purification process, combined with our 0.1 micron absolute filter will ensure that any and all particulate or pathogens above 0.1 microns are filtered out of your water, including bacteria, protozoa, cysts, dirt and sediment.

AllOutdoor Review: The Sawyer S3 Select Water Purifier Bottle
Instructions for use are printed right on the side of the bottle.

The Design of the S3 is quite long but somewhat compressible due to the foam insert not quite taking up the entire volume of the bottle. However, the odd design of the bottle and the fact that over-compressing the foam filter will result in permanent damage and a reduction in the overall life of the foam itself. Damaging the foam basically negates its entire benefit of it in that it is one of the few filter systems that actually takes care of viruses, even some of the higher-end hand-pump water filters won’t do that. However, aside from it being hard to store, the S3 can in fact be stored with or without water safely as the proprietary foam filter and materials used in the construction of the bottle prevent the growth of bacteria and other odor-causing bugs. I’ve been using mine on and off for work trips the past couple of months and the interior of the bottle still smells well… odorless.

AllOutdoor Review: The Sawyer S3 Select Water Purifier Bottle
This small screen keeps larger debris from clogging the Micro Squeeze filter
AllOutdoor Review: The Sawyer S3 Select Water Purifier Bottle
The foam filter

User Experience

On one of my latest trips to Oregon, I had the opportunity to go camping on the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway. There my travel companion and I got a lot of good use out of the filter just by gathering water from the many spigots, sinks, faucets, and even streams that dotted the coastal region of my home state. Oregon already has pretty good water, to begin with, but some of these sources, most notably campground water, are sources of water I’d never dream of taking a direct sip from. The S3 filter is really easy to fill up, simply remove the 0.1-micron hollow fiber filter and dump water directly into the bottle. After the hollow fiber filter has been replaced, you then squeeze the bottle in an alternating fashion about 10 or 12 times to get the water forced through the foam filter. After this, all you need to do to slake your thirst is squeeze the water through the filter and directly into your mouth or into your drinking container of choice.

AllOutdoor Review: The Sawyer S3 Select Water Purifier Bottle
One handed squeeze
AllOutdoor Review: The Sawyer S3 Select Water Purifier Bottle
Two handed squeeze

This is where there was really an eye-opening experience for me. While I have pretty decent hand strength and was able to draw water from the filter without issue, my travel companion (a ~100lb woman) had a tough time getting water to flow consistently through the filter without using both hands. The increased suction required is largely due to the fact that the 0.1-micron filter is forcing a lot of water through a lot of small pores and as a result, you get purer water, but all that purity is going to come at the price of that extra effort. The best course of action in my opinion is to simply squeeze all the drinking water you want into a cup (you’ll get between 16-20 oz per fill since you can’t really squeeze all the water out of the filter without damaging the foam), and then drink it from there.

AllOutdoor Review: The Sawyer S3 Select Water Purifier Bottle
A convenient cap for keeping dust and debris out of the drinking end of the micro squeeze. This can be removed and replaced for cleaning

AllOutdoor Review: The Sawyer S3 Select Water Purifier Bottle

As far as taste goes, the S3 earns all of its claims about improving taste. Most of the water sources I mentioned above would normally carry a pretty metallic taste to them due to the age of the pipes the water is flowing through. However, with the S3, that taste is significantly reduced and instead tastes closer to a store-bought bottle of water. Not quite Smart Water but it’s also not as bad as attempting to drink out of the tap from a fraternity bathroom.

Final Thoughts

The Sawyer S3 gets a few dings for being unwieldy to carry in a compact nature, being nearly the full cost of a hand-pumped water filter without being able to be replaced, and also being a bit difficult for those with weaker hand strength to get a solid draw of water through without significant effort. However, most of those cons are far outweighed by the pleasant taste of the purified water, the ease of care the bottle has in-between uses, and of course its phenomenal filtration/purification abilities with it removing the standard list of contaminants plus heavy metals, and viruses. So if you’re headed out on the trail for a hardcore backpacking experience across the nation’s beautiful landscape, Backcountry Hunting, or you’re just like me and you need to make sure you’ll always have clean drinking water on a 2-week vagrant experience across the pacific northwest, the Sawyer S3 will get you through it and make you glad you had it. Simply put, it’s a jack of all trades that happens to excel in the most important skill – keeping your drinking water safe.

AllOutdoor Review: The Sawyer S3 Select Water Purifier Bottle

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Luke Cuenco is currently a writer for AllOutdoor who has chosen not to write a short bio at this time.

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