I’m Done With the Sawyer Mini: 18 Month Review

I ordered the Sawyer Mini back in March of 2015 with pretty high hopes, which were mostly held up.  It was an opportunity to own a lighter, cheaper version of the Sawyer way I already owned.  After a year and a half of use however, I’m ditching it and switching back to my old Sawyer 3 way filter.

Basically, the pros of the filter are clear:

  • light (weighs 2oz dry (56g))
  • cheap (mine was $15)
  • functional  (it works)
  • versatile (using both inline and on top of a smart water bottle)

However, over time the cons started to piss me off:

  • difficult to use inline with my platypus system (a total pain in the ass to connect and disconnect to the hoses, requiring a butter knife to pry the hoses off)
  • useless in a gravity system
  • clogs easily, requiring back flushing and maintenance after every single trip to keep the flow rate as high as possible (even overnighters)
  • requires a lot of effort to squeeze from a SMART water bottle, easily as much effort as just using a pump filter like my old MSR Sweetwater
  • poor flow rate, which was for me the worst of all

The poor flow rate in particular came to bite me in the ass on the hike I linked to.  Basically, you have to suck like hell sometimes to get any water to come through.  Over time, I thought I was getting more water in than I really was.  In fact I was losing the game, and became dehydrated.  This resulted in a pretty panicky moment once I realized what was happening.  It took hours to “catch up” and re hydrate.

The incident was so bad, that on my next hike on the Timberline Trail I took my old Sawyer 3 way instead.  On a long hike like that, I didn’t want to take any chances.  Problems solved.  The flow rate is quick, it didn’t clog or slow down, it is easily used in a gravity system, and connects to my platypus system with great ease.  I can’t use it on a SMART water bottle, but I can easily squeeze 3 liters through it in a fraction of the time.  I even filtered silty glacier water with it and I couldn’t tell a difference in the flow rate.

So for now, the Sawyer Mini will be relegated to the Earthquake Kit for a true emergency.  I know a lot of folks like theirs and will keep using them, but for me the problems therein weren’t worth it when I already owned something that was so much better.  Many also upgrade to the Sawyer Squeeze, a much more capable filter compared to the Mini.  I’ll also likely never have to replace the Sawyer 3 way since it has a lifetime warranty.

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