This personal filter is lightweight, versatile, and has many applications. Namely a personal on-the-go filtration system, it's perfect for lightweight missions and backpacking trips where water supply is ample along the way. It's not suited for group use.
Grabbing water from a shallow puddle on a trail run in the desert is a perfect application for the Mini.
Loaded with a hollow fiber membrane filter with a 0.1-micron pore size it is effective against bacteria and protozoa including Cryptosporidium and Giardia. It does not treat viruses. It does well in clear sources but does clog easily after just a few uses in turbid water. Maintaining the filter is essential. If you use it in areas with high sediment, you might find yourself unclogging it often with the accompanying syringe.
To unclog, take the syringe and backflush the system for a few minutes. If you find yourself in areas where sediment is abundant all the time, carry a handkerchief or buff with you. Pre-filter using this system first, then use the on-the-go filtration system. Another tip is to take water from the top of the water column if it's a stand-alone puddle.
The filtration system provides storage and on-the-go capabilities that filters out bacteria and protozoans.
Durability & Maintenance
This filter can treat up to 100,000 gallons of water which is seemingly a lifetime's worth of water! This rating is far more than other filters in this review! The Sawyer Micro sports this same spec.
We want to note a few things about durability and maintenance. This filter is nice and sturdy and super easy to clean but does require diligence. After a few days of heavy use treating personal water on a backpacking trip, we noticed it getting harder to squeeze water through the filter. This issue was easily fixed by backflushing it with a syringe for a couple of minutes. The bag that it comes with is pretty durable, but after especially rugged trips, expect to replace it. It's also essential to make sure you don't freeze the filter as it can damage the membrane inside.
Maintenance is relatively easy but frequent with the Sawyer Mini and back flushing with the provided syringe is required every few days.
Bring the syringe along with you to avoid clogged or slow-flowing filtration systems. Don't leave it at home!
As a filtration system that works when you drink through it, time for treatment is instantaneous. It is compatible with in-line systems like a hydration bladder. While it's not advertised on the packaging, it is also suitable for a gravity filtration set-up. When we tested the rate of flow, we got a liter in just over one minute, making it a great option if you're seeking a new gravity filter.
Weight & Packability
The entire kit with the 16 oz bag, straw, filter, and syringe weigh about 3.70 ounces. The filter itself weighs 1.80 oz, making the system incredibly lightweight and packable. While we wish it came with a little carry pouch for all its contents, it fits nicely into a large ziplock bag. The thin profile makes it easy to carry while trail running or embarking on long missions. We used it all the time while taking on 20-mile runs in the desert.
Ease of Setup
The Mini is straightforward to use, and can be used in several different ways. Use it on its own, with the straw that comes with it, or attach the pouch for additional storage. If you have a hydration bladder, attach it to the end of the tube and drink directly from the filter. If you have a gravity filtration set-up and you're not happy with it, consider the Sawyer Micro as it offers an ample flow rate.
Given the versatility of this filter, collecting water isn't hard. You can use a standard sized water bottle to collect water. The collapsible pouch is helpful but is limited to collecting water from medium to large sources. The straw allows you to get at small puddles and pools but requires you to get pretty close to the ground, leaving muddy knees. Overall, in all uses, setting up this filtration system is super easy.
Using this model 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.
Ease of Filtration
After set-up, you need to either squeeze or suck. When used in straw mode, sucking force is required. Given the smaller output and narrow straw, it takes a little energy to get water into your mouth. Squeezing it through the filter via the bag or filter is a little better, but still relatively slow. The Sawyer Micro is a little heavier and more expensive, but it offers a much better rate of flow namely because of the larger output diameter.
The in-line system with a gravity filter proves to be relatively fast while the hydration bladder is a lot slower. In a lot of ways, we wouldn't even bother using it in a hydration bladder because of the effort required to suck through the bit valve once its in-line is too cumbersome.
Working best as a personal filtration system, its perfect for on-the-go use and backpacking. It is not ideal for group use. It works in all sorts of water sources, but be careful with especially turbid water. This filter is an excellent choice if you're trying to go quick and fast in the backcountry. We also love it for trail running. Just make sure you don't lose the straw when taking off your hydration vest as we did!
Sadly we lost the straw and had to get REALLY close to our water source, but the Mini kept us healthy and happy...despite this high sediment and stagnant water source. Here we trust it while running 20-some miles.
Of the on-the-go filtration systems, this one sports the best value overall. For the whole kit that includes a filter, straw, bag, and syringe, it retails for $20! Given its awesome versatility and performance, it's a great deal. The Micro Filter, cousin to the Mini is a little more expensive and offers better performance in some respects.
We love this high-value filter. It's light, easy to use and highly versatile. Take it on your next trail run or backpacking adventure. It won't cost too much and will last for many years to come. A great investment.