Hands-on Gear Review

Compare backpacking water treatment ratings side-by-side >

Sawyer Mini Review

   
Best Buy Award

Backpacking Water Treatment

  • Currently 4.5/5
Overall avg rating 4.5 of 5 based on 4 reviews. Most recent review: October 3, 2014
Street Price:   Varies from $20 - $25 | Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  Small, lightweight, easy to drink from, can be used several ways, inexpensive
Cons:  Doesn't treat large quantities well
Best Uses:  Backpacking and hiking
User Rating:     
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (5.0 of 5) based on 3 reviews
Recommendations:  100% of reviewers (3/3) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Sawyer
Review by: McKenzie Long ⋅ Senior Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ August 27, 2014  
Overview
As a smaller, lighter, and less expensive system, the Sawyer Mini has usurped its big brother the Sawyer Squeeze for our Best Buy award. It only weighs 1.4 ounces for the filter and will cost you a mere $25 for a filter that lasts for 100,000 gallons. This is an unrivaled price-to-weight ratio in our extensive review. The similar and popular LifeStraw weighs a bit more, is four inches longer, and is less versatile than the Mini, but it does cost $5 less. We find the Mini to be the best filter for personal use in the backcountry.

Read our full Water Filter Review to learn more about all of our favorite options for water treatment and the pros and cons to different systems.

Compare top rated competitors side-by-side >

  • Photos
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge


OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

A small but versatile filter, the Sawyer Mini can be used either as a straw-style filter or can be attached to the top of a bottle. It is the lightest filter available, simple to use, and a great value, which is what earns it our Best Buy award.

Performance Comparison
Click to enlarge
Drinking through the Sawyer Mini with it attached to the included 16 oz bag. If you brought the included straw you can also drink directly from the source, like you can with the Life Straw.
Credit: McKenzie Long

Reliability / Effectiveness
With a 0.1 micron pore size in its hollow fiber membrane filter, the Mini is effective against protozoa, bacteria, and the hard-shelled Cryptosporidium. It does not treat for viruses. Since it has no moving parts and no batteries, it is less likely to break or not work when you are out in the wilderness and need it most. We find this filter to be very reliable.

Ease of Use
The Mini is very simple to use, and can be used in several different ways. Like the straw-style LifeStraw, you can use the Mini to drink directly from a source. This works best if you have the extra straw attachment that comes included with the filter. The downside to this is that it is a separate piece that could get lost, but the plus is that having a longer, separate piece allows the filter itself to be smaller and lighter than the LifeStraw.

The Mini can also be screwed onto a small-mouthed water bottle and drunk directly from in that way, just like with the Sawyer Squeeze. The filter comes with one 16 oz. soft bottle included, but it will work on other small bottles as well. This is handy because it allows you to bring water with you between sources. The LifeStraw requires you to have a separate bottle to carry water, and it doesn't screw onto the top of a bottle, but must be inserted inside the bottle to drink from it. The Sawyer Mini is more intuitive to use in combination with a bottle.

Click to enlarge
Using the Best Buy winning Sawyer Mini is as easy as scooping water into the collapsible bag, attaching the filter, and drinking. It takes minimal time or effort and is a very reliable treatment system.
Credit: McKenzie Long

Lastly, it can be used inline on a hydration bladder. This would require committing a bladder to only being used with the filter for two reasons: you would be putting contaminated water into the bladder, so you would not then want to put clean water in it and drink from it. And second, in order to get the filter inline you will need to cut the hose in half, and attach the filter in the middle. This system will work great once you have committed to it and set it up, just don't expect to use it without the filter the next day.

All of these configurations allow for an extremely useful and versatile filter. Where both the LifeStraw and Sawyer Squeeze have similar characteristics, both are slightly more limited in use than the Mini.

Treatment Capacity
The Mini does not work as well as the gravity filters like the Platypus GravityWorks or the MSR AutoFlow Gravity Filter at treating large quantities of water or water for groups. It works best as a personal system for one person. The only way to treat more water is to carry dirty water with you in separate bottles.

Time Before Drinking
Since you can drink directly through this filter, the treatment time is instantaneous. It should be noted that drinking through the Mini is easier and faster than drinking through the Squeeze or the LifeStraw. It feels as effortless as drinking through a regular straw.

Weight
At 1.4 ounces for the filter alone, this is the lightest treatment system in our entire review other than chemical treatments. It is 1.8 ounces for filter and soft bottle, and 2.4 ounces for filter, bottle, and straw. By contrast, the similarly styled Life Straw weighs 2.7 ounces (which does not include the weight of a bottle) and is almost 4 inches longer. The Mini is so, well, mini and light that it is almost inconsequential to include in your pack. This alone is reason enough to consider purchasing this filter. It can provide you with clean water without weighing down your pack. Weight and bulk are the two biggest complaints people have about water filters, and why someone would consider not bringing a filter. The Mini counteracts these complaints with style.

Click to enlarge
The Sawyer Mini (and its included straw) next to the LifeStraw (top) for size comparison. The Mini is much lighter and more compact than the LifeStraw, and in our opinion, more versatile as well.
Credit: McKenzie Long

Durability / Uses Before Maintenance
Sawyer states that the Mini can treat 100,000 gallons before needing to be replaced. This is far more than the similarly styled LifeStraw, which can treat 1000 liters, and it is less than the Sawyer Squeeze, which can treat a claimed 1 million gallons. 100,000 gallons is a very large amount, and this could potentially work for many years, depending on frequency of use.

If it gets gunked up, you will need to backflush the filter with the included syringe, but you can use the filter for a decent number of times before this is required, and the backflush process is much less involved than with pump filters like the MSR Mini-Works EX or the MSR Hyperflow Microfilter.

Take care that you do not let the filter unit freeze, this can damage the hollow fiber membrane. We usually bring it in our tent with us at night to ensure that this does not happen.

Click to enlarge
The Mini and its included accessories: a cleaning plunger and a drinking straw that allows you to drink directly from the source.
Credit: McKenzie Long

Taste
The taste of water remains unchanged through the Sawyer Mini, it delivers water just as cold and fresh as the stream you may be drinking out of. It doesn't leave a chemical aftertaste like Aquamira Water Treatment Drops.

Best Application
This filter works best as a personal water treatment system for backpacking, and is not ideal for groups or car camping. In those situations we recommend a gravity filter than can treat large amount of water very quickly, but this filter is lighter and smaller than either of the tested gravity options. This is an excellent choice for a hiker wanting to go far and fast in the backcounty.

Value
The Mini costs $25. Can it get much better than that? The LifeStraw costs $5 less, but it more limited in use and slightly heavier. The Sawyer Sqeeze costs almost twice as much at $40. Hello Best Buy Winner!

Conclusion
Even lighter, smaller, less expensive, easier to use, and more versatile that its big brother the Sawyer Squeeze, the Sawyer Mini takes its place as our new Best Buy winner. We love this filter for personal use and think that you can't get much better for the price. Definitely recommended!

Other Versions & Accessories
Since the Mini is a personal treatment system, you can buy it in a Mini Multi-Pack, $110, which includes 4 Minis, to allow a group of people to treat water with this small and light filter. For a bigger system with more pouches, try the original version of this filter, the Sawyer Squeeze - $40. For a water bottle filtration system, check out the Personal Water Bottle Filter - $50.

Need a replacement pouch? Check out the Sawyer Squeezable Pouch - 16 oz - $8, the Squeezable Pouch - 32 oz - $9, or the Squeezable Pouch - 64 oz - $10.

McKenzie Long

Compare this product side-by-side to top competitors >

Where to Buy?


Thinking about buying some gear we've reviewed? Help OutdoorGearLab out if you do. Just click on any of the above seller links and if you make any purchase, the seller will contribute a portion of the sale to help support this site. It won't cost you anything extra, and it's a simple way to help us fund our gear reviews. Thanks!

*Most retailers free shipping offers apply only to lower 48 US states using ground/economy shipping. See retailer's website for details.


OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: October 3, 2014
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (5.0)

100% of 3 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
4 Total Ratings
5 star: 75%  (3)
4 star: 25%  (1)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 3 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
Write a Review on this Gear

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Oct 3, 2014 - 11:48am
This is the MOST AFFORDABLE filter on the market and works extremely well.
Filter pore size blows competitors out of the water and for the size/weight it's pretty amazing.


Reality from 800 A.T. miles of use:
  • Weight is ~2.5 oz because after the first use there is residual water inside so Ignore the manufacturers weight claim.
  • Flow rate can drop considerably if not back-flushed every 2-4 days or so, you need to carry the syringe or at least a Smart water bottle sport cap if using for more than 3 days at a time.
  • Flow rate is much faster from the Sawyer "Squeeze" which is one size up and +$15, however also about 1.5oz heavier and 2x larger as well.
  • Squeezing day after day can get old, and eventually the water pouch it comes with WILL need to be replaced. On the positive side sawyer is producing a newer generation of bags which are stronger. I have used platypus bags, sawyer bags, and Evernew bags. Sawyer is the best and strongest unquestionably, also most (or perhaps all) platypus bags have proprietary threading so when you screw the filter on it doesn't fit well and could strip the plastic threading if forced.
  • Your bag will leak or burst eventually but your mileage will vary based on how you use the bag, roll from the bottom down, patiently and steady for the best flow rate without compromising the bag for a few seconds less of squeezing.
  • Standard threading allows you to use with soda bottles, most water bottles, and best of all Smart Water bottles (for which the sport caps fit perfectly to the "Mini" and can be thus used to back flush.
  • Easily set up with a gravity system if you get sick of squeezing.


Recommendations based on use:
  • When you fill the bag screw the filter on half way and give the bag a gentle squeeze to push out some water so that there is minimal to no air in the bag, this makes squeezing more efficient and makes the bag last longer. Additionally less air is forced through the filter. When Air passes through it will lead to slower flow rates and thus more frequent back-flushing.
  • If using a water bottle instead of the bag a smaller bottle = faster filtering due to more pressure created when squeezing.
  • Before back-flushing tap the filter against your knee a few times on each side and you will notice much dirtier water being washed out, and also a faster flow rate afterwards. Also back-flush with as much pressure as possible to keep the flow rate optimum. And do not blow into the filter either side, this will decrease flow rate which means more squeezing.
  • I never prefiltered with a screen or cloth to prevent larger particle debris from slowing down flow rate, however It may have required me to back-flush a little less often.



In conclusion I carried this with the bag in my hip belt and would fill the bag at preferred water sources and combo squeeze and suck directly from the filter to drink ~500-600 mL of filtered H2O which ket me hydrated while not having to carry more than .5-1 Liter at any given time. Often I would keep ~300mL on me as backup if I couldn't find some water and would drink my fill at each water source directly through the filter. This defined Fast & Light for me.
Personally I highly recommend this filter however would choose to go with the slightly larger "squeeze" if I wasn't so partial to drinking at the water sources. The faster rate of the "squeeze" (due to more microtubules) will make filtering faster when you squeeze directly into a water bottle or with a gravity setup. I highly recommend the squeeze for a gravity setup.

Even if you completely hated this it'd be the best $20 you ever waster on outdoor gear.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Aug 30, 2014 - 06:40pm
Cliff · Backpacker · Nashville
The best way to use this filter is inline. Who cares if your water will be dirty when you put it in your bladder because you will always have the filter attatched to your drinking hose. In return you get the lightest, most versatile, cheapest water filter available. The inline filter can be used in numerous ways: drink directly from filter & bladder, take filter off drinking tube & use in any way listed above, or hang up bladder with the filter attached to the drinking hose & you now have a gravity filter to drain into any container including another bladder (without even having to take the bladder being filled out of your pack). One tip: put the filter close to the end of your drinking tube to give you the most flexibility

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Oct 1, 2014 - 02:52pm
NMoutdoors · Hiker · El Paso,TX
Love this product. Very light weight, perfect for hiking or backpacking. This is designed for single person use, for treating large amounts of water you may want to look elsewhere.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No


Have you used the Sawyer Mini?
Don't hold back. Share your viewpoint by posting a review with your thoughts...

Write a Review on this Gear
Click to enlarge
Sawyer Mini
Credit: Sawyer
Where's the Best Price?
Seller Price
Amazon $19.97  -  20% off!
REI $24.95
MooseJaw $24.95
Compare prices at 4 sellers >

*Help support OutdoorGearLab. If you click on one of the seller links and make a purchase, a portion of the sale helps support this site
Related Best-in-Class Review
The Best Backpacking Water Filter and Treatment Systems

The Best Backpacking Water Filter and Treatment Systems

A detailed comparison of 17 water treatment methods for backpacking and travel.
Get More OutdoorGearLab
Follow us on Twitter, be a fan on Facebook!
Subscribe to our Newsletter
Other Gear by Sawyer