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Sawyer Water Filter Review: On-The-Go Filtration

Sawyer mini water filtration system
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.

So you’re out on the trail, maybe for a particularly long day hike or an overnight/multiple days 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.

Filling your bottle

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.

Safety Tips in Finding Water Sources

However, before taking a look at water filtration products and techniques, it should be pointed out that not every water source is created equal. Even if you are prepared to treat it, there are still a few general rules of thumb to follow to make sure you or no one in your party gets sick from some dirty water.

The faster the better

Avoid water that is standing still and try to only drink from sources that are moving. The more quickly the water is rushing the less likely it is to have bacteria or some other harmful substance in it. A fast-moving mountain stream would be the ideal option, but mainly just try to avoid stagnant and slow moving water.

Check the upstream

Obviously it is not worth it to spend hours hiking upstream once you find a water source, but take a minute to scan the source from where it is coming from.

Check the upstream

If you see something that looks unclean or unhealthy remember that all the nasty stuff coming from that is flowing right to where you are about to drink. Either search for another source or move yourself up ahead of whatever is in the water that is grossing you out.

Use common sense

This seems silly to mention, but there is nothing common about common sense. If the water is murky, smells bad and just overall looks gross, try to find something else. Your water filtration techniques are good, but the harder you make them have to work, the more chance you have of ingesting something dangerous to your health.

If you come across something like this and are not in a life or death situation, keep searching.

What Is The Sawyer Water Filter?

Quite literally, Sawyer Water Filter is a water filter system and you can get it in two versions: the squeeze system and the mini system. Both are quite small and easy to take on a hike, but the Mini is more recommended since it’s smaller and a lot more compact. Both systems are delivered with a bag that helps you get the water from the body of water a lot easier, but the Mini is also delivered with a straw and a backflow attachment.

Product specifications:

  • Ideal for outdoor recreation, hiking, camping, scouting, domestic and international travel and emergency preparedness
  • High performance filter fits in the palm of your hand; weighs just 2 ounces;
  • 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, such as salmonella, cholera, and E.coli; 
  • Filter rated up to 100,000 gallons; 

Buy Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration System on Amazon

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.

How to use it?

Both systems are quite easy to use and quite versatile.

Using sawyer mini water filtration system

As we already mentioned, the bigger filter can be used in both an outdoors and an indoors situation. Also, it can be used to drink directly from the water source and you can attach it to a bigger container.

The Mini Sawyer water filter can be also 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.

How does it work?

Inside the tube are a series of “hollow fiber membranes.” 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.

Mini Sawyer water filter review

This process is effective in that it is able to remove 99.999% of bacteria and 99.9% of protozoa, another type of harmful bacteria that likes to make its home in water.

Advantages of the Sawyer water filter

  • It is effective: 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.
  • Proven: 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.
  • Fast: 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.
  • Price: 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.
  • Easy Cleaning: Both the Mini Sawyer water filter and Sawyer Products PointOne Squeeze Water Filter System 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.
  • Lightweight and small: 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.
  • BPA Free: All materials used in this product are completely safe to use and present no danger to your health.
  • Protects Taste: 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.
  • Humanitarian Impact: Just like LifeStraw, 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 and we can say it beats its main competitor in this aspect. 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. 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.

Consider your needs and how often something like this could be useful, but it has a long list of advantages that could make it a useful addition to your bag for the next time you head out on the trail.

Disadvantages of the Sawyer filtration system

All in all, this product does a pretty good job of accomplishing what it was designed to do, but there are a few points worth mentioning where it falls a little short.

Limited filtration – Although this device is extremely effective in removing harmful bacteria and parasites, it is not effective against chemicals, heavy metals, salt or the taste of the water. This shouldn’t be a major issue for most backcountry hikers and campers as the sources found in these areas tend to be free of these substances, but it is something to keep in mind.

Sawyer products mini water filtration system

There are additional products offered by the same manufacturer that offer more thorough filtration if you feel as though it is needed.

Protects the Taste – As mentioned earlier, using this device will not alter the taste of the water. Bad tasting water will be clean, but will continue to taste bad.

The list of disadvantages for this piece of equipment is much smaller than its advantages, but could be significant depending on what you are hoping to use it for. Later in the article we will look at a few additional products that might accomplish what this product doesn’t.

Sawyer vs. Other Filtration Methods

People have been filtering water out on the trail without products like this for a long time, so let’s take a look at a few of them and compare advantages and disadvantages.

Boiling

Very few, if no, bacteria or parasites can live above 212 degrees Fahrenheit so this method is sure to clean the water, but it requires heat and takes time. Boiling can be a good option if you are in camp for the night and have fire making capabilities, but not very viable on the trail and in fire-sensitive environments.

Boiling water

Also, depending on the equipment you are using, the water could acquire a burnt taste from the fire. This can be quite unbearable the stronger it gets.

Chemical treatments

Iodine, chlorine or other chemicals that you can buy at most camping stores are effective in eliminating most dangers from a drinking source. Just a drop into a quart is sufficient to kill anything harmful in the water, but even just a small amount of these chemicals can make your water taste quite bad and could be harmful to your body if used extensively.

This method is a bit more portable since you can fill your bottle, drop in the chemical and then keep moving, but even so, you are still making use of chemicals. This method is good if you have no other options, but most often you cannot drink the water until an hour after you treat it, so it’s not so viable for on the trail or emergency situations.

Improvised carbon filters

If you find yourself in a dire situation and cannot find clean water, there are ways to fashion a filter using rocks, leaves, and carbon from a fire. Essentially you layer them in some sort of bottle that has a hole on the top and bottom. You pour the water in from one side and let it trickle down through the different layers until it comes out the other side.

Improvised carbon filters

It will come out black from the carbon and will be the opposite of inviting, but it will be pretty clean. This is really nothing more than a last-resort option, but it could be useful to know in case of emergencies.

Sawyer water filters in the eyes of the users

Both the Sawyer Mini and Sawyer Squeeze are quite well received by the public. Even more, many of the users who bought them run tests to make sure that the water is indeed clean after filtration. All tests were conclusive and showed that no bacteria or protozoa were in the water.

Also, users remarked that there is no problem when it comes to using the straw (delivered with the Mini system). The suction power is the same with the one you use for drinking a milkshake.

One complaint many users seem to have, is with the Sawyer Mini system and it makes reference to the slow flow rate.

Sawyer Mini system

However, considering the size, you can’t actually expect the same rate as with the Squeeze. Also, you should take into consideration that the filter doesn’t work using the gravity, but the pressure you create by squeezing the bag. You don’t have to create too much pressure, but when the bag is almost empty, you may feel there is an issue.

Finally, the bag that comes with the Mini and the Squeeze 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. You can also carry a 2-liter plastic bottle with you and use it instead of a bag. It’s cheaper, but it may be less convenient.

And The Verdict Is…

The Sawyer Water Filter does what it sets out to accomplish. It provides you with an easy way to obtain clean drinking water almost anywhere you are. The fact that this product is used even in third world countries where there are huge problems with getting clean water, should also help you feel good about the product you are buying.

Buy on Amazon

How about you? Have you tried the Sawyer Water filter? If yes, which version did you find more useful? We are looking forward to hearing your stories and adventures built around this water filter so don’t be shy! Let us know in comments.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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.