CNOC Vecto Long-Term Review (Better Alternative to Sawyer Squeeze Bags)

By Alissa Bell: lover of long trails, big views, and light gear

Updated:

At a Glance

  • The CNOC Vecto is a “dirty bag” that turns Sawyer Squeeze / Mini / Micro, Katadyn BeFree, and other squeeze-style hollow fiber water filters into hands-free gravity filters.
  • If you use a Sawyer water filter, the Vecto is a MUCH better replacement for the squeeze pouches it came with.
  • The Vecto comes in multiple sizes, weights, and thread types for different filters.
  • I’ve been using the CNOC Vecto (28mm thread) for several years of backpacking and bikepacking and I’m a big fan. I always have one in my pack or on my bike.

Filtering water is a never-ending trail chore, so streamlining the process makes a big difference in “quality of life” out there. If you’re like me you’d much rather spend your breaks relaxing than trying to squeeze water through your filter. The CNOC Vecto is a simple yet brilliant water bag designed to turn popular backcountry water filters into hands-free gravity setups so you can snack, pitch the tent, or just chill while your water filters itself.

For Sawyer filter users specifically, the CNOC Vecto water bag can be revelatory. I’m a big fan of the Sawyer Squeeze (and Micro and Mini, depending on circumstances) for backpacking and bikepacking, but those darn dirty bags / pouches are awkwardly shaped, hard to fill, and have been known to crack and leak. Sorry Sawyer, I love your filters, but I need an alternative to the Sawyer dirty bag.

Enter the CNOC Vecto. Back in 2020 when I first started using it to convert my Sawyer filter into a gravity setup, the CNOC water bag was relatively unknown. These days I’m happy to see it on the trail much more frequently. The Portland-based brand CNOC, launched via Kickstarter in 2017, has expanded their Vecto lineup to include three sizes, two durability levels, and two different thread types for maximum compatibility.

I own several Vecto water bags in different sizes, and I’ve been using them on almost every backpacking and bikepacking trip I’ve taken since 2020. They’ve traversed the Arizona and Colorado trails in my backpack, traveled on my bike through Northern Africa and Central Asia, and enhanced my camp routine on countless shorter adventures.

In this review of the CNOC Vecto water bag I’ll explain why it’s a game changer, how to get the most out of it, and how to choose the right option from the Vecto lineup.

Backpacker holds up CNOC filter bag of very dirty water with disgusted look on her face
Getting ready to filter a bunch of nasty water from this 3 liter CNOC Vecto bag on a dry section of the Arizona Trail
CNOC bag hanging from fence gravity filtering into backpack
Gravity filtering from a CNOC Vecto into my hydration bladder on the Arizona Trail

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CNOC Vecto Review Summary


Price
: $20 – $25 depending on size

Capacity: 1, 2, or 3 liters

Weight: 2.4, 2.8, or 3.2 oz

Filter compatibility:

  • 28mm thread: Sawyer Squeeze / Mini / Micro, Lifestraw Flex, HydroBlu Versa Flow
  • 42mm thread: Katadyn BeFree

My Rating: 4.8 / 5 stars, almost perfect except they don’t last forever

Where to buy: The Vecto is sometimes available on Amazon, but the selection is usually best on the CNOC website.

Review Summary: The CNOC Vecto water bag is a lightweight and versatile dirty bag that turns popular squeeze-style water filters into gravity filters. I’ve been using it for years and especially love the thoughtful easy-to-fill design, flexible gravity setup, and ultralight extra water capacity. A couple of mine have sprung small leaks, but I like this product so much that I keep buying new ones.

What I Love

  • WAY better alternative to Sawyer dirty bags
  • Flexible material rolls up into compact space
  • Easy to hang for gravity filtering, even in awkward spaces
  • Wide top opening is easy to fill even from shallow sources, and makes the bag easier to clean
  • Several color options are helpful for keeping track of personal gear in a group
  • Can be carried full if need be, so can double as emergency extra water capacity
  • FDA approved and BPA, BPS, and BPF free

What I Don’t Love

  • Plastic slider can get a bit sticky if not kept clean
  • Tendency to spring tiny pinhole leaks after extensive use
  • Minor weight increase over Sawyer water bag: the CNOC Vecto weighs 2.95 oz for a 2 liter bag compared to 1.4 oz for the original Sawyer squeeze bag
Sawyer Mini water filter attached to a CNOC Vecto water bag
The CNOC Vecto 28 mm attaches directly to the Sawyer Mini and other Sawyer water filters.

Vecto Options

Size: The CNOC Vecto water bag comes in 1, 2, and 3 liter sizes. I own both the 2 liter and 3 liter versions, and I think 2 liters is the perfect size for a solo trip in a water-rich area. For sharing with a partner or traveling in dry areas where I’ll need to filter large amounts at once (hiking the Arizona Trail, bikepacking in Morocco) I prefer the 3 liter Vecto.

Color: CNOC makes the Vecto with different color plastic parts such as orange, blue, or green (and I’m hoping the newer purple color is back in stock soon!). This may seem minor, but being able to tell whose bag is whose can be helpful in a group. It also helps distinguish between between dirty and clean bags if using one on each end of your filter.

Thread type: The 28 mm thread works with Sawyer filters and a few others like the LifeStraw Flex. CNOC also offers a 42 mm version that screws onto a Katadyn BeFree, so be sure to order the correct thread type for your filter.

Durability (NEW): CNOC recently came out with the VectoX, an “extra durable” version that weighs about a half-ounce more. I haven’t tested it yet, but hopefully it fixes the pinhole leak problem I’ve had with my original Vecto.

Sawyer water filter and CNOC water bag in gravity setup with prefilter fabric
Sawyer Squeeze water filter (and nylon prefilter) attached to CNOC Vecto water bag as a gravity filter

CNOC Vecto Review

How I Use the Vecto

I use the Vecto as a dirty bag on Sawyer filters (Squeeze or sometimes Mini or Micro). Typically I’m filtering into my hydration bladder hose using a quick-connect kit, or into a Smartwater bottle or Platypus SoftBottle using a coupler ring.

I don’t use it this way, but you can also use a second Vecto as a clean water bag. This setup would imitate a Platypus GravityWorks filter, great for sharing a water filter among a group or filtering lots of water for use around camp. CNOC also offers an interesting collapsible bottle called the Vesica that’s worth a look for this purpose.

Design for Filtering Water

A water bag seems like a simple thing, but the devil’s in the details, especially for an item so critical to daily trail routine. The CNOC Vecto got its start on the trail and matured as a Kickstarter project, so innovation and trail-friendly design are in its DNA. Gear like this is at its best when you don’t have to think about it, and in my opinion the Vecto nails this.

The Vecto’s dual opening is key. The bottom end screws onto your water filter, just like the original Sawyer dirty pouches do. But if you’ve ever tried to fill one of these Sawyer pouches from a shallow stream, you’ll be extra-appreciative of the Vecto’s wide top opening. It also makes the bag far easier to clean when the inevitable funk starts accumulating.

CNOC Vecto water bag with plastic slider halfway on
Slider in halfway open position
Wide top opening on a CNOC Vecto water bag
Wide top opening is easy to fill, even from shallow sources

If you want to use the Vecto as part of a gravity filter setup (and trust me, you do) the sliding plastic clamp makes it easy to attach a loop of cord for hanging. Instead of sitting there squeezing water from a pouch, you can simply hang the Vecto from a tree branch (or doorknob, bike handlebars, hiking pole tripod, etc) and let gravity do the work.

The fact that the sliding clamp sticks out beyond the edges of the bag makes the height of the gravity setup adjustable. Just loop the cord around the edge a couple times to shorten it if needed. I use a loop that is about 22 inches in circumference and find this setup versatile enough for all the weird places I’ve ever needed to hang a water bag.

I have only one minor complaint about the slider, which is that it can be a little sticky when dirty. Make sure to wipe the grime off periodically for smooth sliding.

Two CNOC Vecto water bags hanging from hiking pole tripod on Arizona Trail
No trees around for gravity filtering? This Sawyer Squeeze gravity setup uses a tripod of hiking poles in the treeless Arizona desert.
CNOC Vecto water bag hanging on handlebars of bikepacking rig in Arizona
A Sawyer Squeeze gravity setup with 2 liter CNOC Vecto filtering into my hydration pack during a bikepacking race.
For the sake of comparison, here’s a much worse makeshift gravity filter setup with the original Sawyer squeeze pouch, before I discovered the CNOC Vecto as a better alternative.

As for the filter end of the Vecto, the plastic threads attach easily to 28mm threaded filters like the Sawyer Squeeze, Mini, and Micro. The 42mm thread version is for the Katadyn BeFree, though this is a bit less noteworthy since Katadyn, unlike Sawyer, already offers a decent gravity setup.

One last thoughtful detail: When filtering silty water, the flat lip around the bottom opening works great for catching larger particles as they settle downward, taking some of the load off your filter so it doesn’t clog as quickly.

Related: Best Water Filters for Backpacking

Closeup of CNOC Vecto with paracord loop for making the Sawyer Squeeze into a gravity filter
My addition of a paracord loop for hanging the Vecto in gravity mode
Using the edges of the plastic slider to shorten the paracord loop for a higher hang

Design for Carrying Water

If you’ve ever done a long outdoor adventure with an isolated dry stretch, you understand the challenge of water capacity planning. For a multi-month bike route like the Great Divide, riders need 2-3 liters of capacity most of the time and 6-8 liters on occasion. By using the CNOC Vecto as extra capacity when needed, you can avoid carrying extra containers that spend most of their time empty.

The CNOC Vecto works pretty well for this type of water carrying. Unlike the Platypus GravityWorks dirty bag, for example, which can’t be reliably sealed, the Vecto’s top slider makes it watertight even when upside-down. I’ve hauled it in my backpack on dry stretches of the AZT, carried it in a bike pannier through the desert of Sudan, and strapped it to my rear rack while biking in scorching Kazakhstan. If I’m headed to a dry campsite I’ll often just scoop up some dirty water in my Vecto bag, carry it to camp, and filter it there.

I will say the Vecto is not ideal for strapping to the outside of a pack, or anywhere on a bike. Unless it’s completely full it has a tendency to squirm out of straps as the water sloshes around. This makes it tempting to carry inside your pack or bike bag, but this feels a bit reckless due to the possibility of leaks (see next section).

CNOC Vecto 3 liter water bag strapped to rear rack on bicycle
Vecto strapped to a bike rack for extra water capacity in a dry part of Kazakhstan.
CNOC Vecto water bag strapped to handlebars while bikepacking
Partially full Vecto strapped to bike handlebars

Durability

The Vecto water bag has a very flexible and lightweight feel to it, and one might reasonably wonder whether it can stand up to the rigors of trail life. I’ve put mine through heavy use in rugged environments, sometimes strapped to my bike without much protection, and I’ve found it to be pretty durable.

I’ve never seen a Vecto leak catastrophically, but I have had two of them develop a tiny pinprick hole that only leaked when the bag was under pressure. In both cases I was able to continue using the bag for the duration of the trip, being careful not to carry it full inside my bags. I’m guessing this is why CNOC recently released the VectoX, made from thicker and tougher material and only about 0.4 ounces heavier. The next Vecto I buy will be a VectoX.

The plastic parts on all my Vecto bags are still working flawlessly, but it’s nice to know the CNOC online store offers replacement caps and sliders, should the need arise.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for an ultralight gravity filter setup, and especially a better squeeze bag for your Sawyer water filter, I highly recommend the CNOC Vecto and VectoX. The designers put a ton of careful thought into the design, which means I don’t have to put much thought into filtering my drinking water at the end of a long day on the trail.

I’ve been using Vecto bags for years on nearly all my outdoor adventures and have no plans to stop. It’s a rare intersection of practical, affordable, and lightweight gear, which is hard to find in the outdoor world!

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About the Author

Hi there, I’m Alissa, founder of Exploring Wild. I’ve had the pleasure of hiking the Arizona Trail, Colorado Trail, John Muir Trail, Tahoe Rim Trail, and countless shorter amazing trails throughout the US and abroad. I love solitude, big views, and a good lightweight gear setup. Learn more here.

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13 thoughts on “CNOC Vecto Long-Term Review (Better Alternative to Sawyer Squeeze Bags)”

  1. Quote from an old friend: “there is no advantage without disadvantage”

    So there must be some downside to this design. Balanced reviews are more credible, etc.

    Reply
    • True enough in some cases, but not here. You’re probably thinking this is a sponsored post (sad that this is the state of the internet these days) but actually it’s just me writing about my personal experience because I was excited to share it. If that doesn’t make it credible, I don’t know what would!

      Reply
    • I thought the review was exactly what it should have been – the balancing was comparing the existing crappy Sawyer bag (a disadvantage) with the advantage of this CNOC alternative. Anyone who’s had the mouth of their Sawyer bag rip open on multiple occasions is dying for any workable alternative. I found this site by looking for alternatives to the Sawyer bag and am getting one of these CNOC bags as a result of this review. Thanks!

      Reply
  2. A trekking pole suspension can be arranged with two poles, a piece of thin line and a tent peg.

    Lean the poles away from the tent peg. It’s surprisingly solid 🙂

    Reply
  3. Is there some type of screen or filter that can be placed in before the Sawyer that would keep larger pieces of debris out?

    Reply
  4. No mention of the taste of the H2O from this bag. I do not want to be out in the wilderness with pristine creeks and have plastic taste from my water. I have found many hydration bladders have this problem. I suggest a test of filling the bag and leaving the water in it for a few hours then see if the taste is affected. Thanks

    Reply
  5. Do you use your CNOC Vecto to carry water inside your pack? I thought this being a container that water goes in, meant for the backpacking crowd, that it’s a no-brainer to say “yes” to this question… yet CNOC themselves, on their 2022 FAQ specifically say they “don’t recommend putting your full Vecto inside your pack if you’re concerned about leaking”!!! So what the heck? I don’t get it. A water bladder for hiking that you CAN’T put in your pack if there’s water in it???

    Reply
    • I usually don’t keep it full inside my pack, except briefly when carrying extra dirty water to a dry camp. I think it’s fairly reliable but does seem a little less robust than my Platypus bladder. But unless you’re filtering inline, sucking water through the filter as you drink (which I find annoying), I don’t see a need to keep the CNOC full in your pack. It’s designed to hold dirty water before it goes through your filter, and most people stop to filter into their bottles or hydration bladder and then continue on.

      Reply
  6. What i’d very much like, is an adapter angled like a funnel, which connects the 42mm CNOC to Sawyer-Squeeze. That way I can put a 3″ square of parachute fabric over the mouth of the 42mm CNOC, to filter debris and silt. After which i’d screw the 42mm-adapter onto the CNOC, while the fabric is sandwiched between the male-threads of the adapter, and the female-threads of the CNOC. I’d then screw the Sawyer onto the 28mm-hole (on the other side of the adapter).

    I don’t see why people use a Bladder at the outlet-end of the Sawyer. After all, the 34-oz. blue Sawyer filter-bottle is just the right size for storing both the Sawyer-squeeze, and a length of tubing. So why not also use the blue-bottle as the receptacle, since its also the perfect sized-mouth for the Katadyn carbon-cartridge? You just insert the Sawyer-Squeeze+tubing inside double plastic bread-bags, then stuff it inside the filter-bottle (after dispensing with the idiotic black-domed lid, along with its attached filter.) Now the remaining problem is to find a lid to replace the domed-lid. For now, I’m using the lid of a 9-oz. spice bottle, except it has flip-up sprinkling-tabs, thus not waterproof.

    Reply
    • Hi Judy, thanks for this detailed info, sounds like you know these systems really well.

      For the first paragraph, I wonder if I might be misunderstanding you, but I think I do something similar with the 28mm CNOC and a Sawyer Squeeze. The fabric area is smaller than it would be with 42mm but it still seems to do the trick. I did this with really silty water on the Arizona Trail, for example.

      I don’t have experience with some of those parts, but your second paragraph sounds like a clever setup!

      Reply

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