Gear Review | sawyer Mini

Retail: $19

Company: Sawyer
For more than 30 years Sawyer has been making products for outdoor protection.  These guys take pride in using science and rigorous testing practices to create some of the safest and most reliable products in the industry.  Their product lines include water filtration, insect repellents, sunscreens, and first aid.  Basically all the stuff you don't want to carry but is essential for your survival in the wilderness.  Fortunately for us, Sawyer designs awesome gear that makes using them and carrying them easy and light!

the review

In this review, we will be testing and reporting on the Sawyer Mini, the most popular personal water filtration system that Sawyer makes. We have been curious about this little filter for some time and are eager to share our results.
Sawyer Mini


  • Sawyer's most popular water filter
  • Filters up to 100,000 gallons
  • Can be back washed for extended lifetime
  • Multi-award winning system
  • Removes 99.99999% of all bacteria and protezoa


  • Weight: 2 oz. (really 2.5 after one use due to water retention)
  • Filter Material: Hollow Fiber
  • Removes: Bacteria, Protozoa, E. Coli, Giardia, Vibrio cholerea, Salmonella Typhi
  • Filter Pore Size: 0.1 Microns

I have used several water filtration options in the past including the classic MSR EX Microfilter, Lifestraw, bleach, iodine tablets, gravity filters, and now the MINI. During the past few months I have used this filter in a variety of settings and in just about every method suggested. I have taken it on several hiking trips around the state and have been thoroughly impressed with how easy it is to use this thing.
Included in the package is the hollow fiber filter, a cleaning syringe, a 16 oz. reusable squeeze pouch, and a 7" drinking straw. There are a variety of ways to use this piece of equipment and I tested every way except using it inline on a bladder.  My favorite way to use the MINI is to screw it right on to a standard sized water bottle (I carry 1L Smart Water bottles) and drink straight from the filter like a squeeze bottle.  Another way to use the MINI is to simply attach the 7" straw to the end of the filter and suck water straight from a stream or other water source (like pictured above).  This is not ideal for me because I hate getting down on my belly to fetch water and is also the reason why I don't care much for the Lifestraw except as an emergency storage device.
Another way that I really liked to use the MINI was to fill up the 16 oz. reusable bag and treat it like a squeeze pouch. It screws on to the filter the same way the water bottle does. The only problem with this method was how hard it was to fill up the pouch. The opening is really small and the bag is so flat that it was a chore getting water to flow into the bag. The final way that this filter can be used is inline on a bladder. Although I didn't try this method, I'm sure it is much like drinking through the straw.
*Side note: make sure to keep your filter from freezing after use. A frozen filter can compromise the device and Sawyer will not warranty a frozen filter. Check out the FAQ's at the bottom of the page for more details.
Check out their video for more details on how to use this versatile filter.


What We Like

  1. The Price:  I don't think I've ever said this about a water filtration system other than the Lifestraw but at $20-$25 you can't beat it.
  2. The Versatility:  One of my favorite features about the MINI is the ability to be versatile with it.  I can carry the straw and suck straight from a stream.  I can carry the pouch and squeeze water through the membrane.  I can use it inline on my hydration pack or screw the filter on most water bottles.
  3. Immediate Water: I am a huge fan of carrying Aquamira or plain iodine tablets but the problem with chemical treatment is the waiting time before you get drinkable water.  With this device I can suck up water right from the stream and is immediately available.
  4. Lifespan: I don't know if I will ever have to buy another filter again.  At 100,000 gallons this thing might last a lifetime for me.  Oh, and I don't have to change the hollow membrane filter piece!
  5. Size and Weight:  Total game-changer to the water filtration industry.  The main piece is only 5 inches long and weighs less than 2 oz.  That is about as small as a personal filter can get!

What We didn't like

  1. Flow Rates: These really depend on how dirty the water is and how clean the filter is.  Altitude is also a factor (higher you get the slower it flows).  One thing that I don't like about these types of filters is how slowly the water comes out.  I always get a headache after sucking up water from a stream because of how hard I have to suck the water up.  Also, pushing water from a bottle or pouch is easy enough but the flow is more like a trickle and is hard to get a good gulp in.
  2. Collapsible Pouch: I love how compact and light this thing is but I didn't like a couple things.  First, I was afraid I was going to break a seam in it (which I've heard is pretty common if you squeeze too hard).  Secondly, it's hard to fill the dang thing up.
  3. Iron, Sulfur Taste:  I haven't had any issues with finding water that doesn't stink or taste funny but the MINI will not remove the taste of iron, sulfur, other chemicals or simple compounds.  They recommend masking the taste with Crystal Light or Gatorade which is cool but remember to clean your filter immediately after use.  This means you are going to have to carry the cleaning plunger with you if you decide to add flavorings to your water.


Seriously, this thing rocks.  It has now replaced all of my other methods of water purifying.   There are a few downsides especially if you are going to be using this for several days/weeks at time as squeezing a bottle gets old fast but it is great for day hiking and shorter trips.  It is super lightweight and incredibly easy to use.  The maintenance on the MINI is also a breeze which I really like.  There is no taking this thing apart to clean and no replacing filters. Also, no need to go to a specialty outdoors shop to buy one because they sell the MINI just about anywhere. You can purchase them on Amazon (click the link below to get one), Walmart, and other giants megastores. Oh, and did I mention it's only $20 bucks!!  Pick one up today because this might be the best 'bang for your buck' piece of equipment I own!

*Disclaimer:   Although this product was given to me complimentary for this review, it in no way influenced my testing or opinion of the product or company.

GearCameron JarmanComment