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Sawyer Mini Review

This personal and versatile on-the-go filtration system offers great value.
Sawyer Mini
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Price:  $20 List | $19.95 at REI
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
Manufacturer:   Sawyer
By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 6, 2019
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SCORE


RANKED
#19 of 20
  • Water Quality - 20% 8
  • Durability & Maintenance - 20% 4
  • Treatment Time - 15% 4
  • Weight & Packability - 15% 8
  • Ease of Set-Up - 15% 7
  • Ease of Filtration - 15% 4

Our Verdict

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.


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Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award 
Price $19.95 at REI
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Inexpensive, lightweight, versatile, durable and reliableFast, easy, hands-free filtration, large volume, storageEasy to use, fast flow rate, collapsible, lightweightLightweight, adaptable, easy to use, lifetime guaranteeLightweight, great price, durable design, fast flow, high volume filtration
Cons Hard to suck and squeeze, clogs easily, low durability of the included bagA little expensive, can't gather from shallow sources, clogs with heavy sedimentLacks durability and reliabilityNot great for group use, better if you replace the bagsDoesn't filter out viruses, no additional storage reservoir
Bottom Line This personal and versatile on-the-go filtration system offers great value.A fast and easy to use gravity filter perfect for dynamic duos, solo travelers, and groups.Our favorite lightweight on-the-go filtration system.Simple filtration that is light and reliable with a lifetime guarantee.The best value gravity filter on the market.
Rating Categories Sawyer Mini Platypus GravityWorks Katadyn BeFree Sawyer Squeeze Katadyn Gravity Camp 6L
Water Quality (20%)
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8
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8
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8
Durability & Maintenance (20%)
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6
Treatment Time (15%)
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9
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9
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8
Weight & Packability (15%)
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7
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Ease Of Set Up (15%)
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Ease Of Filtration (15%)
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Specs Sawyer Mini Platypus... Katadyn BeFree Sawyer Squeeze Katadyn Gravity...
Type of Filter Squeeze, in-line, on-the-go Gravity filter Squeeze & on-the-go Squeeze, in-line, on-the-go Gravity filter
Time to Treat One Liter (Timed Test) 2 minutes 52 seconds immediate 40 seconds 64 seconds
Measured Weight (entire kit -- oz) 3.7 oz 11.5 oz 2.1 oz 5.7 oz 11.7 oz
Storage Capacity Varies 4L 0.6 L Varies 6L
Removes Bacteria? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Removes Protozoa? (Cryptosporidium, Giardia Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Removes Viruses'? No No No No No
Removes Chemicals? No No No No No
Removes Heavy Metals? No No No No No
Removes Particulates (sediment, microplastics)? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Filter Pore Size 0.1 micron 0.2 microns 0.1 micron 0.1 micron 0.2 microns
Advertised Flow Rate Varies 1.75L/min 2.11 liters per min 1.7L/min 2 L/min
Dimensions 5.5 in long, 4 in diameter 9.4 x 3 in 9.05 in x 2.73 in 11 x 6 10 x 6 x 2.4 in
Filter Media or Active Ingredient Hollow Fiber Hollow fiber Hollow Fiber Hollow Fiber Pleated glassfiber
# of liters/galloons per lifetime 378,541 liters/100,000 gallons 1,500 liters/396 gallons 1000 liters/264 gallons 378,541 liters/100,000 gallons 1,500 liters/396 gallons
Water Bottle Adapter Yes No Yes No No

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.

Performance Comparison


Grabbing water from a shallow puddle on a trail run in the desert is a perfect application for the on-the-go Sawyer Mini.
Grabbing water from a shallow puddle on a trail run in the desert is a perfect application for the on-the-go Sawyer Mini.

Water Quality


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.

Eddy filters water into his hand bottle during a long run. He takes water from a pristine alpine stream.
Eddy filters water into his hand bottle during a long run. He takes water from a pristine alpine stream.

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.
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.

Maintenance is relatively easy but frequent with the Sawyer Mini and back flushing with the provided syringe is required every few days.
Maintenance is relatively easy but frequent with the Sawyer Mini and back flushing with the provided syringe is required every few days.

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.

It's in these situations where we squeeze the bag hard to get some water flow and the bag bursts at the seam. Be careful when squeezing  and exercise patience.
It's in these situations where we squeeze the bag hard to get some water flow and the bag bursts at the seam. Be careful when squeezing, and exercise patience.

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.

Bring the syringe along with you to avoid clogged or slow-flowing filtration systems. Don't leave it at home!

Treatment Time


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.

The Sawyer Mini can get much harder to use once it gets a bit clogged.
The Sawyer Mini is a great choice for a personal filtration system in the backcountry.

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.

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.
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.

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.

Drinking through this award winner  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.
Drinking through this award winner, 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.

Value


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.

Jo squeeze filters her water while coming down off an August decent high in the mountains. The Sawyer Micro proved to be perfect for this clear  cool summer ski backpacking adventure.
Jo squeeze filters her water while coming down off an August decent high in the mountains. The Sawyer Micro proved to be perfect for this clear, cool summer ski backpacking adventure.

Conclusion


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.

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.
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.


Amber King