The Sawyer Mini is one of the lightest and most versatile options we've tested and a reliable filtration system for personal use. It can filter out particulates as well as bacteria and protozoa like Giardia and Cryptosporidium, but not viruses. It works in many configurations. The filter is super light and offers a little more reliability than other on-the-go systems. While we appreciate this versatility, we will say that filtering on-the-go always makes drinking a little harder. This filter has a narrow output nozzle making it harder to filter water. In addition, the bags, because you have to squeeze so hard to get water through, break regularly. However, as a lightweight system, it still functions well during ultralight adventures. You just have to exercise patience and have a backup plan.
Sawyer Mini Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Inexpensive, lightweight, versatile, durable and reliable
Cons: Hard to suck and squeeze, clogs easily, low durability of the included bag
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Our Analysis and Test Results
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.
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.
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 of 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 after every use The bag that it comes with it seems durable at first, but have proven to leak (multiple times) if you squeeze it too hard. With this smaller filter, we wanted to squeeze harder and found the bag breaking much more than other Sawyer Squeeze products.
The nice thing is that this filter can be adapted to fit a water bottle, which is more durable. We'd recommend using this as an alternative for the squeeze bag configuration, or ensuring that you have a bag (or two) on hand for longer trips.
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, it took us two minutes to squeeze a liter of water through the filtration unit. This decreased more if we didn't take the time to backflush the unit. Overall, treatment when squeezing takes time, but instantaneous if you're simply drinking right through the filter.
Weight & Packability
The entire kit with the 16 oz bag, straw, filter, and syringe weighs 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 less than almost any other option! 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.
— Amber King