Sawyer Water Filter Review: On-The-Go Filtration

sawyer water filter featred
Dennis Owens
Written by Dennis Owens

Water is essential—we all know that, but for those who love to get out there and wander deep into the wilderness, sometimes making sure you stay properly hydrated is more complicated than just filling up a bunch of water bottles and putting them in your bag. You need to be prepared to obtain water from a source you find along the way, and this means being prepared to make it safe to drink.

That is why we did a comprehensive Sawyer Water Filter review, to take a look at some of the ups and downs of this filtration device and let you know if it’s worth the money.

sawyer water filter next to water

So you’re out on the trail, maybe for a particularly long day hike or an overnight/multiple day’s hike-and-camp expedition and carrying all your water with you is just simply not an option. Before your initial supply runs out, you’re keeping your eyes and your ears open for a creek or a stream to replenish.

When you finally find one, you fill up your water bottle and even though it looks clean and clear and smells fine, you hesitate to just take a swig and swallow it down.

Good choice!

Who knows what could be in the water just upstream?—things like feces and dead animals leeching harmful bacteria into the water can do serious damage to your body and put a huge wrench in your wilderness plans.

Sawyer water filter

More often than not, the water is fine, but since bacteria and parasites are microscopic, you can never know for sure and it is always better to be safe rather than sorry, especially when you have ventured into the wilderness without cell phone service and without access to medical care. Having a Sawyer device in this situation could be particularly useful.

Product specifications

  • High performance filter fits in the palm of your hand; weighs just 2 ounces; 0.1 Micron absolute hollow fiber membrane inline filter.
  • Attaches to included drinking pouch, standard disposable water bottles, hydration packs, or use the straw to drink directly from your water source.
  • Removes 99.99999% of all bacteria and protozoa.
  • Filter rated up to 100,000 gallons; includes 16-ounce reusable squeeze pouch, 7-inch drinking straw, and cleaning plunger.

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Build specifications


In the package, you’ll literally find a straw that’s quite small and easy to take on a hike. The Mini version is smaller and a lot more compact than the Squeeze System from the same brand, but both options are delivered with a bag that helps you get the water from the body of water a lot easier. The Mini is also delivered with a straw and a backflow attachment.

This device can fit easily in your bag and won’t weigh you down at all. As you are surely aware, anything you need to carry must be seriously considered, but this product will be an important tool that doesn’t burden your back.

Design and durability

The design of this water purifier is based on simplicity above anything else. It’s one of the easiest systems to use because it only requires you to suck the water in order to get it clean. For environmentalists, the best part of the construction is that there aren’t any chemicals used for filtration purposes, so you can make sure you’re buying an eco-friendly product.

However, since the design is based on suction, you should give it about 5 seconds before the water starts flowing, so don’t become impatient. We love how versatile this filter is, you can use it in both an outdoors and an indoors situation, for instance, in thecase of an emergency.

Sawyer water filter installed on hydration backpack

The Mini Sawyer water filter can be used with or without the bag, but it can also be attached to hydration systems and any other tubing systems, offering filtration on the go.

This purifier is small and light, but it doesn’t require any batteries and it has no mobile parts that can damage because of prolonged use. Basically, though the construction might look flimsy, it’s actually pretty strong and lasts long enough to filter 1000 liters of water.

Value for money and guarantee

At just below $25, the Sawyer Miniis surely one product with the best quality/ price ratio. That’s because you’ll be able to get 1000 liters of clean water during its lifetime, and that’s the Sawyer guarantee.

Also, there are a lot of NGOs and satisfied customers that can attest to how well this product works. With so little money, you don’t have to fear troublesome bacteria, nor getting sick during your hiking trip. You can keep your kids safe and drink only clean water.

Sawyer water filter attached to a water bottle

The downside of this small price is that you’ll be getting a product that meets only a basic purpose: eliminating microscopic disease-carriers from dirty water on the go. So you won’t be able to:

  • Store water for a later use in bigger containers.
  • Filter out chemicals from the water.
  • Get rid of salt from marine water. This is particularly important if you’re planning a camping trip to the seaside or if you have renal issues.
  • Purify water that contains viruses. Even though most bacteria and protozoa are eliminated, viruses are a lot smaller so they can’t be properly filtrated through the membrane.
  • Get rid of heavy metals that can be found in the water nearby some chemical plants.
  • Make water taste good. Though it’s perfectly fine to use this little gizmo and drink from themuddy water, you’ll still get that earthy aroma even after the bacteria and protozoa are killed.

Filtering water with a sawyer squeeze

The Sawyer Squeeze is a bit bigger, but it can be attached directly to faucets and even a 5-gallon bucket of water. So, if you need more water filtered quicker, this is the way to go.  This system is also delivered with a bag, to use while on a hike.

Hollow fiber membrane

Inside the tube are a series of “hollow fiber membranes” that are just 0.1 microns thick. As the water goes from the source you are drinking from towards your mouth it passes through these membranes filtering out any harmful material including dirt, bacteria, and parasites.

Sawyer mini water filter hollow fiber membranes

This process is effective in that it is able to remove 99.99999% of bacteria and 99.9999% of protozoa, another type of harmful bacteria that likes to make its home in water.

Proven effectiveness

As water passes through the fibers, nearly all harmful material is removed. This will provide you with the peace of mind of knowing that the water source you are drinking from will not get you sick or do any other damage to your body. Feeling comfortable about where you get your most essential resource will make any trip or survival experience much better.

different sawyer water filters

Tested to meet or exceed health standards and used by people around the world, millions of these have been used worldwide because of its safety and reliability.

Easy use

Clean drinking water is no more than a few seconds away once you identify a good source. Simply fill the bag that comes with each system, attach the filter and enjoy some sweet, clean H2O.

using sawyer water filter

This easy to use product is likewise easy to clean. Both the Mini and Squeeze are delivered with a back flushing system that allows you to clean it after each use. Both can be cleaned indefinitely and don’t require any extra investment for this which is a very nice touch compared with other systems. The back flush system is simple to use and lightweight to carry with you.

BPA Free

All materials used in this product are completely safe to use and present no danger to your health.

By not making use of any chemicals or additives, when you drink using this device the taste of the water will remain the same. So if you are drinking from a nice, clean mountain stream, then it’s pure and fresh taste will be maintained, but the same goes for a source that perhaps doesn’t taste so good so this could also go down as one of its disadvantages.

holding and using sawyer water filter

Humanitarian Impact

Sawyer water filters are used all over the world to help third world countries to have access to clean water. This leads to a better health level of the population and development of the area.

Bottle attachment

This product is quite convenient to use. With Sawyer, you can attach it to the bag that comes with the system so you can simply fill the bag and go. Even more, the Squeeze system is versatile enough to attach it to a faucet or a bigger container.

Similar models or main competitors

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

The LifeStraw is Sawyer’s main competitor. This product has been developed in 2005, and since then it has won a number of awards because of its great humanitarian value.

Like the Sawyer, this product has been used by a lot of NGOs who aim to save the victims of droughts, earthquakes, and other natural disasters.

The LifeStraw can remove 99.9999% of the bacteria that reside in water, with a >LOG 6 reduction.Italso removes 1000 times fewer parasites than Sawyer, at a rate of just 99.9%, with a > LOG 3 reduction.

Both these products have a hollow fiber membrane, but the LifeStraw’s is twice as thick. That explains why it eliminatesfewerbacteria and protozoa, but its 0.2 microns membrane can still help you purify the same 1000 liters worth of contaminated water. Neither product uses any chemicals, and the LifeStraw also comes in a sealed bag so you can easily store it when not in use.

Sawyer is a bit more expensive than its main competitor, LifeStraw, but you are really getting a good bang for your buck. Sawyer Mini is capable of filtering up to 100,000 gallons of water, so depending on your usage and your needs, this could be the last water filtration system you buy. Besides, to use a LifeStraw filter, you will have to either lie on your stomach over a water source or fill some receptacle with water and then drink from that.

Tactical Health Survival Straw

Tactical Health Survival Straw

This Tactical Health product is another straw-shaped purifier, like the Sawyer. And just like it, its membrane is 0.1 microns thick, with the ability to remove 99.9999% of toxic substances found in the water.

This is a more expensive product, but the 50% price increase is mirrored in its decontamination abilities. Unlike the Sawyer, it purifies the water completely of viruses and chemicals.

That’s because it uses an iodine and activated carbon-based treatment, apart from a design based on microfibrous tubes and lots of filters.

So this product entails the use of chemicals,  but it helps you clean the water from heavy metals, iodine and most waterborne parasites, bacteria, and viruses. We like how simple this product is to use and to carry, and the included 40 inches of 550 cord is especially helpful in various survival situations.

Rispero Emergency Water Filter

Emergency Water Filter

This Rispero Water Filter is another good product on the market to make your water safe to drink whenever you’re outdoors.

It has small dimensions and a low weight of just a few ounces, so it’s another portable purifier that can be easily carried during long hikes without noticeably adding to the weight of your backpack.

The bacteria removal ability is 10 times smaller to that of the Sawyer purifier, at 99.9999%, and it only removes 99.9% of the waterborne parasites. However, that’s only under lab conditions, not real life circumstances, but it still beats the US EPA standard in place.

Another important distinction is that it has a longer life than the Sawyer since the Rispero promise is that it can filter 1600 liters of water. Its membrane is also smaller, reaching just 0.05 microns, so that’s a great feature when it comes to decreasing water turbidity. If the water flow is higher, this filter can get rid of 99.6% of really small particles of just 0.05 microns.

We love how fast the Rispero filter is, with an average of 200 milliliters decontaminated each minute. Plus, the membrane can be reused safely because its ultrafiltration membrane gets rid of any bacteria that might build a new habitat there. Just like the Sawyer filter, this can be used directly in a source of dirty water, and can also be used with a water bag.

The cleaning process is fairly easy, just blowing from its outlet does the trick, and it’s a highly portable item, thanks to a metal buckle that attaches to your belt for an easy reach.

Water Filter Straw

Survival Hax Water Filter Straw

The Survival Hax Straw is a reliable purifier that helps you decontaminate the water from various rivers, puddles or lakes you may encounter on your hiking trips, but it’s also amazing for cleaning questionable tap water when you’re traveling abroad.

The membrane used is as thick as that of Sawyer, reaching 0.1 microns, thatstop 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria and protozoa.

However, for a smaller price, it does offer some benefits that Sawyer has. Its main advantage is that it can be attached to bottles so you can drink more comfortably. It fits standard bottles that have a 28 mm bottleneck, but it can also be used to drink directly from the water source like the Sawyer. On the other hand, you don’t have to get your face too close to the puddle if you can’t do that, thanks to a cool extension tube.

This is another portable product, reaching just 7.5 inches in length and weighing 3 ounces, so it’s perfect for any outdoor activity. Plus it comes with a lot of cool and helpful gear like a carabiner, a signaling mirror, a whistle and a compass, as well as a tourniquet.

There are some differences in design too: apart from the multiple hollow fiber membranes, this Survival Hax product uses activated charcoal. That doesn’t contain any chemicals or BPA, but it does get rid of unpleasant water taste. It’s also better in regard to a bigger shelf life than the Sawyer, as it’s able to last for 5 years or for cleaning 1500 liters of water – whichever comes first.


The Sawyer water purifier is one of the most appreciated items on the market, and we certainly recommend it for its multiple advantages as compared to its few flaws.


  • Well received by the public, with the endorsement of millions of independent users and credible NGOs.
  • Gets rid of the majority of waterborne bacteria and parasites you commonly encounter on your trips.
  • It passes all the tests, thanks to its dense hollow fiber membrane.
  • It doesn’t use any chemicals.
  • It’s portable and easy to use.
  • It has a huge suction power.


  • The Sawyer Mini has a slower flow rate than other products.
  • It doesn’t get rid of viruses and chemicals.
  • It doesn’t improve the taste of murky water.
  • Since it doesn’t work using gravity, but the pressure you create by squeezing the bag, you may feel there is an issue when the bag is almost empty.
  • The included carry bag does seem quite small (16 ounces). So, it’s a good idea to invest in bigger bags if you plan on going on a longer trip, or simply carry a 2-liter plastic bottle.

All these characteristics render the Sawyer a great equipment in the category of survival/ emergency preparedness, seeing as itmight actually save your life if you happen to run out of clean water both outdoors or indoors.

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Do you think the Sawyer Water System is a good match for your backpacking or hiking lifestyle? Leave us a comment below to let us know what you think about this product.

Dennis Owens
Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens is a graduate of National Camping School and REI Outdoor School. He knows everything about what gear to take with you, how to plan your trip to stay safe and what to do if you get lost in the mountains. We are lucky to have Dennis with us as he is a ‘walking encyclopedia’ when it comes to the wilderness.