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If you’re planning to take a backpacking trip in a location where clean drinking water is hard to come by, you could do with the reassurance of having a filtering sidekick in your pack. The Sawyer MINI is one of the most popular portable water filters that can be used for filtering water on-the-go.
In this Sawyer MINI water filter review, I bought and personally tested the product, as well as rounded up information from Sawyer’s marketing materials and honest customer reviews to offer an in-depth look into this innovative personal filtration system.
💡 What’s Included
- 2 oz filter
- 16 oz pouch
- 7 inch drinking straw
- Backwash syringe
Ways to Use the Sawyer MINI Water Filtration System
While some personal filters only allow for one or two uses, the Sawyer MINI water filtration system offers the most impressive performance of all, with 4 different uses that you can choose between depending on personal preference or the situation at hand.
With the Squeeze Pouch
The Sawyer MINI comes with an included 16 oz squeeze bag, offering a fast and convenient way to filter water while you’re taking a break or setting up camp for the night.
Fill the squeeze bag with dirty water and screw the filter directly onto the pouch. You can then squeeze the bag and send water through the filter – make sure you have a container to catch the clean water. Squeezing the bag creates pressure, which sends water into the filter at a faster rate than if you used it as a gravity filter. Though the Sawyer only comes with one squeeze bag, you can buy additional bags in different sizes if you’d like to have a stock of them.
As a Straw Directly
When you come to a backcountry water source and want access to immediate clean water without the hassle of the squeeze bag, the Sawyer MINI water filter can also be used directly as a filter straw.
You’ll need to lie or crouch down to be within reach of your chosen water source, then stick one end of the straw into the source and drink straight through the other end. The sucking resistance will force the water straight through the filter and into your mouth. Some folks say this method can be a little tricky, and I see what they mean after trying it myself. Being only 7 inches long, you really have to get down low to the water source.
Screwed Onto a Water Bottle
Perhaps the most convenient option for the MINI is to screw it onto a water bottle. It fits onto the majority of standard single-use water bottles with a small opening.
You just need to fill a bottle with dirty water, then attach one end of the Sawyer MINI and drink straight through the other end. The water will get filtered before it reaches your mouth. The only gripe about this filtration method is that you can’t attach it to a wide-mouth bottle unless you do some work beforehand to adapt it for the filter. It’s likely that Sawyer Products has intentionally only allowed the MINI to fit single-use bottles as the brand also offers a separate personal water bottle that can be reused.
Inline with a Hydration Bladder
For an easy way to drink water on-the-go, the Sawyer MINI can be used as an inline filter in conjunction with your own hydration bladder.
Simply fill the hydration pack with unclean water and put it in your backpack as you usually would. Then cut your bladder’s hose, as close to the bladder as possible, and slide the filter into the tube. Then connect the cut tube to the filter’s outlet. Wrap some strong tape around each connection to keep the filter in place. You can then drink as normal through the tube whenever you’re thirsty, and the combination of the drinking pressure and gravity will enable the water to travel through the filter before reaching your mouth.
🚦 Performance & Filtration Rate
You won’t get a much better performance than the Sawyer MINI when it comes to the speed of flow rate. With the squeeze bag, it takes approximately two minutes to filter a liter of water in the filter at a consistent rate. You can expect a similar flow rate from using the sawyer as a straw or accompanying a bottle, as the sucking force will drive water through the filter relatively quickly.
Compared to other personal drinking water filters, the Sawyer MINI filter is one of the most reliable of them all. Most customers review Sawyer as being highly consistent, and the majority felt safe to take the Sawyer MINI on a hiking trip with no access to a backup supply of bottled water. I know I sure did.
🧫 Contaminants Removed
With a 0.1 micron pore size, the Sawyer MINI uses a hollow fiber membrane that filters more than 99.9% of bacteria, such as E. coli, salmonella and cholera. It also removes 100% of microplastics and more than 99.9% of protozoa, including giardia and cryptosporidium.
The hollow fiber membrane is made up of hundreds of tiny U-shaped membranes, which allow water to pass through while trapping the contaminants. Being so small in size, it’s impossible for bacteria or protozoa to get through the pores, and only tiny water particles can make their way through the filter.
Does Sawyer MINI filter viruses?
No – the MINI can’t remove viruses. However, if you’re traveling in the United States, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll come across a backcountry water source that contains viruses, so it’s not important to find a filter that can remove viruses if you don’t plan to use it overseas.
👌 Ease of Use
The Sawyer squeeze filter makes it quick and simple to access clean water whenever you are. Because it has so many different uses, you can choose the most easy-to-use option for your own filtering needs, whether you prefer to drink directly from a backcountry water source, sip filtered water on the go, or use the Sawyer squeeze filter to fill bottles while resting or camping overnight.
🏋️ Weight & Portability
Thanks to its hollow fiber membrane design, the MINI is lightweight and small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. It weighs just 2 oz and can be carried in the side pocket of a pack or in a large pant pocket.
This filter is more portable in some forms than others. On its own, the filter is obviously the easiest to store and carry. But the Sawyer squeeze bag, for instance, adds a little extra bulk, and it’s probably best to filter water into a bottle before folding the bag up to prevent it from taking up too much space. The Sawyer MINI also has a little more bulk when connected to a hydration bag, but if needed these bladders can be clipped onto your pack so don’t fill up the inside of your bag.
The Sawyer filter itself is very sturdy and should withstand the occasional knock and bump when being used on a backpacking or camping trip. It effectively removes bacteria and protozoa, like salmonella and giardia, without the need for regular filter changes.
The squeeze bag may not last as long, and it’s likely that if you rely on it regularly, it’ll become damaged or grimy over time (and it’s fairly difficult to clean because of its design). According to some Sawyer MINI water filtration system reviews, it’s a better idea to ditch the squeeze bag altogether. But if you enjoy using them, you can buy these bags separately online as and when you need to replace them.
📆 Filter Longevity & Replacement
The MINI can filter 100,000 gallons of water, and considering we need to drink around 1/2 a gallon per day, this filter should still last an entire lifetime even if you shared it with your whole family and used it on a regular basis. Compared to other portable filtration systems, the Sawyer MINI squeeze water filter has the longest lifespan I’ve come across.
You can clean and reuse the Sawyer MINI again and again – perhaps even indefinitely – without having to replace the filter cartridge. To prevent the filter from clogging up, Sawyer recommends back-flushing the filter and sanitizing it to remove the trapped contaminants and make it safe for continuous reuse.
To backflush the water filter, reserve a batch of clean water, then fill the included syringe with this batch of water. Place the tip cap of the syringe onto the Sawyer MINI’s opening and press down to push water through the filter. You want to make sure you’re sending water in the opposite direction from usual to effectively backflush it.
🔔 Pros & Cons
👍 What I Like
- 0.1-micron absolute filtration – The Sawyer MINI removes more than 99.9% of protozoa and bacteria thanks to its tiny filter pores that only allow water particles to pass through.
- Filters 100,000 gallons – You can rely on the MINI for years and years, and it’s unlikely that you’ll ever need to replace the water filter if you keep up with backwashing. This makes it a great value for money, as it cost just more than $50 – and that’s probably all you’ll ever need to pay.
- High performance – Not all portable water filters are capable of removing bacteria and protozoa from water sources as thoroughly as the MINI.
- Great versatility – As proven by the info included in this Sawyer MINI review, it’s one of the best portable filters when it comes to versatility, with four different uses.
👎 What I Don’t Like
- Doesn’t remove viruses – You shouldn’t take the MINI abroad if there’s a chance your water sources may contain viruses, as this water filter is only capable of removing bacteria, microplastics and protozoa.
- Can’t be attached to reusable bottles – While the MINI attaches onto single-use plastic water bottles, it can’t be attached to reusable bottles with a wide mouth – though you can find plenty of MINI review videos online that discuss hacks to make this possible.
- Slow gravity filtration – If you were to use the MINI exclusively as a gravity filter, you’d need to prepare for it to take longer. It’s much quicker to squeeze or suck the filter.
Check out Sawyer’s newest portable filtration system: 2021 Sawyer Tap Filtration System Review
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