Monday, July 21, 2014

Gear Review: Sawyer Mini Water Filter

Sawyer Mini Water Filter Review

To be honest, I didn’t necessarily need the Sawyer Mini Water Filter. I had happily been using the Sawyer Personal Water Bottle Filter, though I frequently just used the included filter without the bottle. The Mini uses the same filter type but in a smaller, lighter form factor. What prompted me to pick one up, however, was the brilliant idea to include threads on the housing so that you can attach the Mini directly to many store-bought “disposable” water bottles. This feature, in combination with the several other ways to use the filter (I’ll get into those below) made the Sawyer Mini an irresistible addition to my backpacking kit because it is just so practical and versatile. Its light weight and small size only served to seal the deal.


According to my scale, the entire Sawyer Mini kit weighs in at 4.4 oz., though that might include some residual water in the filter. Here’s the entire contents of the product and the weights determined by my scale:

Filter: 2.2 oz. (again, might have residual water)
Back Flush Syringe (Cleaning Plunger): 1.2 oz.
16 oz. Squeeze Pouch: .8 oz.
Straw: .2 oz.

Full kit, Sawyer Mini Water Filter

The ability to back flush and clean this filter with the included syringe is another reason I really like this filter (this is also a feature on the other Sawyer model I own.) Sawyer claims the Mini is good for up to 100,000 gallons. Barring an apocalyptic meltdown whereby this filter would be used for a small village of survivalists, I don’t expect to get to 100,000 gallons in my lifetime. I’ve taken the Mini out for a couple of overnighters and didn’t bother to bring the syringe. For longer trips, though, I probably will given it only weighs 1.2 oz. and offers some security if I ever find myself having to filter from some especially mucked up water source.

Sawyer Mini Water Filter threaded on bottle.
The Sawyer Mini can be threaded onto "disposable" water bottles as well as many consumer bottles like the 1-Liter Platypus soft bottle seen here.
Versatility is the primary reason I decided to pick up the Mini. The design is brilliant because it can be used with most “disposable” water bottles thanks to the threaded housing. However, this little filter can also be used with the included squeeze pouch (either to transfer to another container or just to drink directly); it can be used in-line with a bladder by simply cutting the hose and attaching to either end (I haven’t tried this); or one could use the included straw to simply hunch over a stream, creek, etc. and drink directly. The flow of the Mini is fast enough that it could also be used in a gravity system.

As mentioned, I’ve only used the Mini on a couple of overnight backpack trips. It performed well and was easy to use. I used mine to transfer water to my 2.5 liter bladder with the included squeeze pouch. If you gently roll the pouch down (like a tube of toothpaste), the filtering process is pretty quick. I’ve also used it with a Platypus soft bottle, but the squeeze pouch is faster and easier for transferring to another container. The trade-off for the convenience of the squeeze pouch thread size matching consumer water bottles is that the opening is a bit small for shallow water sources. Ideally you could hold the pouch under a stream of water pouring between rocks, but this isn’t always an option. In still water, I found blowing the pouch open and “scooping” along the top of the water worked best. 

Thus far, I love the Sawyer Mini Water Filter. My old Sawyer Personal Water Bottle filter will probably be reserved more for day hikes, and this one will take over for backpacking trips. The combination of low weight, small size, exceptional versatility, and the ability to back flush the filter make this a smartly designed product. Given it can be had for under $25, it’s a no brainer in my opinion. The only caveat I would add is that I cannot yet speak to its long term durability. I will update this review as needed, especially if any problems arise. Also, if you know you will be hiking in spots with very shallow water sources (like desert puddles), I suppose a pump filter might be a better option. For most uses, however, I would highly recommend this filter for backcountry adventures large or small.

WHERE TO BUY (no affiliation with this site)
REI ($25); Amazon ($18.50)

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