I’ve become frustrated with my pump water filter. Not only can it be a lot of work, performance degrades pretty rapidly over a weekend outing. Cleaning the ceramic filter in the field doesn’t seem real effective, and there’s the risk of contamination when cleaning it in the stream. When I saw the super simple $20 Sawyer Mini Water Filter, I thought it couldn’t hurt to give it a try.
The Mini Filter kit comes with the MINI Water Filter with Tip Cap, a 16 oz Reusable Squeeze Pouch, a 7″ Drinking Straw, and one Cleaning Plunger (Syringe). The whole kit, including the stuff sack I put it in, weighs only 4.5 ounces (130 grams), and takes up very little room in a pack. By leaving out the straw or the syringe (if you don’t need to clean the filter on a shorter outing), you can reduce the weight and volume even further.
I got to test the Sawyer Mini on a 2 night backpacking trip recently, and used it for our family of three. I headed down to the creek on our first morning, eager to put this little filter to the test. The first thing I noticed was that the little 16 oz pouch was hard to fill with water. I don’t think the water flowing into the pouch was strong enough to counter the water pressure pushing in on the pouch. I moved out to a rock in the middle of the creek where the current was much faster. This seemed to do the trick, and the pouch filled up. After screwing the filter onto the pouch, I started to filter the water into my Nalgene bottle. Before even squeezing, water was coming out the clean side using gravity alone. Nice! Squeezing the pouch and keeping a constant pressure on it easily started to fill my bottle.
Since I planned to filter a lot more water than the 16 oz pouch would easily handle, I decided to try one of my extra 2 liter Platypus soft bottles I brought along. I was happy to find that the screw-on threads were compatible. I filled up the 2 liter bottle (which filled much easier than the little pouch), and repeated the process. Once I had my bottles filled, I even carried a 2 liter bottle of creek water back to the campsite to be filtered later. This was something I really couldn’t do with my pump, and saved me additional time.
By the second morning, I noticed the filter wasn’t flowing as fast as when I first started using it. Squeezing the pouch or bottle was still a simple task though. I used the syringe to back-flush the filter a few times. I was probably too cautious when cleaning the first time, and eased the water through the filter not wanting to damage anything. Rereading the instructions when I got home though, it says to back-flush the filter with enough pressure to make sure you force the contaminants out, and not merely allow the water to take the path of least resistance. I’m looking forward to using the filter long term to see how well the water flow can be maintained.
I really like the Sawyer Mini Water Filter. It worked great for our family of three for a 2 night backpacking trip. I imagine the full size filter would be faster, but I didn’t feel under-powered on my weekend outing at all. It’s a lot less work than my pump filter, takes up less volume in my pack, and works with a number of the bottles I already have. It even works with a disposable water bottle in a pinch. I also liked that I could easily take water back to camp and filter it in a more comfortable, drier location. I thought the 1 pint pouch was a little small, and is probably better suited to emergency use when you may need the filter “just in case”. One of my 1 liter Platypus soft bottles would be more practical for personal use without any real space or weight penalty.
Not only is it great for backpacking, but it will be great for those longer hiking and biking day outings where I’m not sure if I’ll have enough water, but still want to travel light. I’ve run out of water with a few miles of uphill still to go, and one of these Minis would have made a huge difference. And for around $20, it’s hard to beat the deal!
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More information at the Sawyer website here.