Hands-on Gear Review

Sawyer S2 Foam Review

A great choice for front country purifying needs while travelling internationally
By: Jessica Haist ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 22, 2017
Price:  $80 List  |  $59.99 at Amazon - 25% Off
Pros:  Effective against viruses, easy to use, inexpensive
Cons:  Foam particulate in our water
Manufacturer:   Sawyer
72
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#14 of 20
  • Reliability - 25% 9
  • Weight - 20% 7
  • Treatment Capacity - 20% 7
  • Speed - 15% 5
  • Ease of Use - 20% 7
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  • 2
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  • 4
  • 5

Our Verdict

We took the Sawyer S2 Foam Filter with us on a two-week trip to Mexico, where we knew the tap water was not recommended to drink. The S2 squeezed the heck out of many liters of water and kept us healthy throughout. It is not the easiest or quickest model to use, but the fact that it is effective against viruses and other microorganisms is very comforting, and it was a no-brainer to throw in our luggage. We could bring it along with us on our daily excursions to drink from, and use it in our AirBnB to filter water into other vessels. We did notice some particles from the foam filter in our water that changed our water to a bluish color and were a bit disconcerting to drink.

To see how the Sawyer S2 stacks up to its competitors check out the Best Backpacking Water Filter Review.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

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The Sawyer S2 is handy to have along with you on your international travels. It protects you from viruses but does deposit debris from the foam into your drinking water.

Reliability/Effectiveness


Our favorite thing about the Sawyer S2 is that it treats everything you're afraid of - including viruses which not every model in this review does. The Guardian purifies for viruses as well and is faster and more efficient than the S2. Our main concern in this area is that when you twist and squeeze the silicone bottle the seal around the top breaks and some un-treated water leaks out and can get into your clean water bottle, contaminating it. This is a bit of a concern, and we needed to pay attention to not twisting it too hard near the seal. Other effective purifications against viruses in this review are chemical treatments like the MSR Aquatabs and Aquamira which do not filter out particulate.

We used the S2 to filter water from the tap at our BnB in Mexico City.
We used the S2 to filter water from the tap at our BnB in Mexico City.

We like that the S2 uses the traditional Sawyer Micro Filter for particulate along with the foam, but were surprised that some of the foam particulates continue to get in our water after about 80 uses. The amount of particulate has lessened, but the tint to our water is still a blueish purple which is a bit of a turn-off.

The Sawyer S2's foam sheds debris and clouds your water for the first 2 weeks of use but gets better over time.
The Sawyer S2's foam sheds debris and clouds your water for the first 2 weeks of use but gets better over time.

Ease of use


The S2 is relatively straight-forward to use, but you need to have some squeeze strength and patience if you're trying to fill up a lot of water bottles. We think the Sawyer Mini is still easier to use as long as the filter unit is unclogged. The first few uses take a while to fill up the bottle as the foam is water repellent until it gets saturated. Then once it is wet, it is much quicker to fill up the bottle. We imagine that this bottle would be challenging to fill up at a shallow water source and don't think it's an excellent choice for using on wilderness trips for that reason. The flexible bottle is ideal for different sized sinks; it can be crushed into a smaller space for filling up. The Guardian is one of the most straightforward filters to use in this test, along with the gravity units like the Platypus GravityWorks.

The Sawyer S2 Foam Filter is a great choice for traveling when drinking the water out of the tap is not safe. It's flexible bottle makes it easy to fill from all kinds of sinks.
The Sawyer S2 Foam Filter is a great choice for traveling when drinking the water out of the tap is not safe. It's flexible bottle makes it easy to fill from all kinds of sinks.

Weight


The S2 is not particularly light, weighing in at 13 ounces and is usually heavier than that since the foam never entirely dries out. However, it is a bottle to hold water in as well as a filter, so it could reduce your weight if you leave another bottle at home. It seems a bit weird that the foam never dries out, but Sawyer assures the user that "The proprietary ingredients in the foam will make sure that your foam does not grow bacteria or develop an odor." The lightest filter that treats for viruses are the chemical treatments like Aquamira. The Sawyer Mini is a great lightweight backpacking choice if you're in an area that you don't need to worry about viruses in your water (anywhere in the US and Canada).

Treatment Capacity


If you have a lot of water to fill, you'll need to dedicate some time out of your day to do it with the S2. The bottle is supposed to treat 20oz but it's hard to get all that water squeezed from the foam, and if you do, you're sure to get foam particulate in your water.

Getting the full 20 ounces from the S2 requires a lot of squeezing.
Getting the full 20 ounces from the S2 requires a lot of squeezing.

It has 800 uses or about 500 liters worth of water treatment - we imagine the bottle and/or seal around the lid will give out before this amount of uses. If you don't need to worry about viruses, the MSR Gravity treats up to 1500 liters in its lifetime. The Guardian treats all things including viruses and is suitable for 10,000 liters!

Speed


If you drink from the filter directly, you can get water almost instantly out of the filter unit. In theory, you can drink right from the bottle, but the long filter and having to really squeeze the bottle make it pretty awkward to do so.

You can drink directly from the filter  but it's slightly awkward and we prefer to fill another bottle to drink from. Here reviewer Jessica Haist poses in downtown Mexico City.
You can drink directly from the filter, but it's slightly awkward and we prefer to fill another bottle to drink from. Here reviewer Jessica Haist poses in downtown Mexico City.

It's easier to squeeze the water out into another vessel. In our timed tests, we managed to squeeze a liter's worth of water in about 2 minutes and 28 seconds. This process can feel tedious if you're filtering a day's worth of water for two people. The fastest product we tested was the Katadyn Gravity Camp at 40 seconds per liter, followed closely by the MSR Guardian at 42 seconds.

Best Application


We think the S2 is a great product for international travel when you're not sure the water is safe to drink. For backpacking uses, we prefer lighter methods that can treat larger volumes of water at a time like the Autoflow.

Value


Retailing for $80 the Sawyer S2 is a decent value for what it is. It treats for viruses, which many products in this review do not, so if you need something that is convenient, not super bulky and a decent value the S2 could be it, especially if you plan only to use it in a frontcountry setting. The Guardian retails for a whopping $350, so it is a much cheaper alternative to that purifier.

The Sawyer S2 comes with a bottle with foam enclosed  the Sawyer micro squeeze filter and a cleaning plunger.
The Sawyer S2 comes with a bottle with foam enclosed, the Sawyer micro squeeze filter and a cleaning plunger.

Conclusion


The S2 does it all, relatively well. If you're looking for a purifier to treat your water while overseas in a frontcountry settingm this product could be for you. It's relatively easy to use and effective. It's not a great choice for backpacking trips and is unnecessary in the US or Canada.

Jessica Haist

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Most recent review: April 16, 2018
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
  • 1
  • 2
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  • 4
  • 5
 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
 (0.0)

0% of 1 reviewers recommend it
 
Rating Distribution
1 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 100%  (1)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Climber

Apr 16, 2018 - 04:52pm
 
AnswerMan · Climber · BROOKLYN

So according to your own review, it is difficult to use, awkward to drink from directly from the bottle, leaks untreated water into your clean bottle when squeezing it, and contaminates your drinking water with significant and very noticeable quantities of deteriorating foam (which somehow pass through the 0.1 micron filter), and yet this product gets 4 stars? Huh?

This last point alone, about the foam contamination, should set off major alarm bells. Those particles in your photo are clearly much much larger than 0.1 microns. If the filter can't handle those, then it certainly isn't filtering bacteria or protozoa. Now I suspect that you're mistaken, and what you're seeing is not deteriorating foam but bits of activated charcoal, which is common anytime you're using a fresh filter that contains charcoal, and would not be a concern because it's harmless and the charcoal is typically located after the microfilter element. But the fact that the reviewer believed that bits of foam were passing through a 0.1 micron filter and found this in any way acceptable, makes me question the competence of both the reviewer and editors, and question whether I should trust anything I read on this site. If these particles were indeed passing through the filter media, it would mean at least that the filter was compromised due to damage or defect and was not functional.



Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.


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