Review: Sawyer Mini Water Filter

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Sawyer Mini and Syringe Tool; Sawyer in Mineral Water Bottle

For anyone contemplating a backpacking trip, or hiking in wild land, a water filter is a pretty must do buy. True, there are some areas such as the Highlands of Scotland where the dreaded Guardia virus has not yet appeared but for much of the UK and beyond a water filter is useful thing to have around. You only have to drink dodgy water once to take them seriously! I always carry one when hiking in the UK — unless I am near the top of hills. Wherever there are animals grazing ou are best advised to filter your water.

The problem is that water filters can be very clunky and a pain to use. The Sawyer mini filter is hands-down the best water filter that I have ever used.  The Sawyer Mini is light, easy to use and exceptionally easy to clean

The Sawyer Mini can be used in (at least) four ways.

Firstly, the filter can be simply screwed into the top of plastic water or soft drink bottle (see picture on right) or into a Platypus or similar carrier (photo left).

Secondly, the Sawyer Mini can be used as an inline filter. With this arrangement you could hook up the Sawyer to a standard Platypus hose and simply filter your water as you suck. This arrangement works very well as the Sawyer takes very little effort to suck the water through.

Thirdly, you can fix a ‘dirty’ water holder to the input end and then squeeze the filtered water through into your ‘clean’ and useable water carrier. Sometimes, this task can be done by gravity which is useful when out on camp, though I haven’t tried the Sawyer in this mode.

Finally, the Sawyer can be used as a ‘drinking straw’. Simply fix the included tube to the dirty end of the filter and you can suck up water from any source. This can be very useful is water is really at a premium, for example, when you find the only real source of water might be an animal trough! (It has happened to me).

In Use

The first thing you notice about the Sawyer is how smooth the water row is. Often you have to use no effort at all. Using the filter in the manner illustrated simply requires you to squeeze your container to get a good flow of water. I don’t know how they have managed to do this but if, like me, you’ve struggled to get a good flow through your filter you will be amazed at how easy this is.

That the Sawyer can be screwed into a standard plastic bottle is a good thing. These bottles may collapse and crumble but in my experience they are very robust and never break. I recently used a Sawyer this way on a two week hike with no problems at all, save that of the vacumn created in the water bottle. A better option is to use the Platypus type system also illustrated — you don’t have to struggle to reshape your bottle before re-filling.

When water is not too much of a premium this is a good way to use the filter. Here in the UK — where water is never that far away —I simply use the filter this way.


The Sawyer utilises an ingenious cleaning system. Take the Syringe shown in the photo, fill with clean water, attach to the clean end and simply back blow the water through the filter — a very quick and easy system.

I took the Sawyer on this year’s TGO Challenge simply to test it out (you don’t really need to treat water in the Scottish Highlands). I often filled the bottle with peaty water to see how long it would take for me to notice the flow slowing down. I needed to back clean the filter once.

This squares the experience of long distance hiker Colin Ibbotson who tells me that whenever he has used the Sawyer he hasn’t had to back clean it much more than once a week, which is pretty good going. 

Obviously, , if you are drinking out of dirty water sources you will have to clean the filter more often but this is so easy with the Sawyer it is almost not worth worrying about. Cleaning other filters can be a nightmare. For years I’ve used an MS filter when in places like the Pyrenees. This has a good pumping capacity, even if the filter is heavy. Cleaning the core of this filter is a real pain though as it needs to properly dismantled and the filter element carefully cleaned.

Bulk Filtering

The Sawyer is predominantly a personal filter. There will be occasions and times when you mint want to filter a lot of water for example when you are at a good water source or have reached a water cache. You might find the Sawyer a little slow to operate for that. Sawyer make bigger systems that can process a greater quantity of water more quickly, however, the syringe cleaning system does not work with them. This might make the standard Sawyers more in line with the opposition but you still benefit from that fabulously easy water flow.


So, the Sawyer is incredibly light, very effective and efficient and ridiculously easy to clean.

It is also very cheap at around or just under £30.

The Sawyer Mini comes with a small (about .5 litre) squeezable water tank, a length of tubing to be used in in-filter mode or as a straw and, of course, it comes with the syringe.

You really can’t go wrong with this device.


  1. Andy, agree with your review. An excellent product and very much easier to use and clean than other systems about.

  2. Ditto. For me the best filter I’ve come across in quite some time. Small, light, great flow rate (though I find it’s generally better to use the Sawyer pouch than a Platypus after heavy use) and cheap! Unlike some systems out there, you can clean this too. And that’s before you consider it’s ‘shelf-life’.

  3. Totally agree; use mine in conjunction with the Travel Tap Bottle.
    Fill up the large Platypus at the water source.
    Top up the Sawyer pouch and use the gravity system inverted into the Travel tap Bottle. usually leant up against a rock, whilst I am doing something else.
    Never sit there ‘squeezing’….no need to.
    The Sawyer moves the gunk, so my Travel Tap filter has a longer life. It’s usually brown, gunky Pennine stuff with a hearty infusion of sheep nasties!!!! Yummy…

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