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Gear Review: Everything you need to know about the 33$ Sawyer Mini water filtration system

Hi everyone!

About 5 years ago I stated to hike on a regular basis. It all started when I went on a one week camping trip to the Adirondacks in upstate New York. I literally fell in love with those trails…and those views! When I was in Lake Placid for the fist time I heard of and incredible challenge. The 46er challenge consists of hiking the 46 peaks of 4000ft of more in the Adirondacks. I already knew I wanted to become a 46er! I order to hike all those summits I would have to be in very good shape and would need to develop mental toughness.

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When I hit the trails I always bring my backpacks filled with the gear I am going to use throughout the day. I make sure to never forget my water filtration system before I leave the house. When I started my hiking career I didn’t own a water filter and since I am a guy that is constantly warm and sweats a lot especially on the warm summer days I had to carry a huge amount of water. My backpack was heavy, and it was a stain on my body.

Then… I decided to invest 30$ to purchase a Sawyer Mini water filtration system about 4 years ago! Despite its small size, the Mini does the jobs really well on my dayhikes and my 2-3 days backpacking trips. Because I carry a filter, I was able to change the modify the way I plan my hikes. I now carry between 1-2 liters of water at all time. Before I leave for my hike, I read my maps in order to identify the permanent water sources and I calculate the approximate distances between them. By doing this, I can plan how much water I need to get to the next water source without putting myself at risk of being dehydrated. When I get to a water source I take a short brake and pull out my water filter to fill up my bottles. I start by filling my water bottle directly in the water source. After, I screw the Sawyer Mini on the water bottle. The next step is to squeeze the water bottle. The water is immediately clean for drinking. Once I’m done with this step I hit the trail again. There are many ways to use he Mini. You can drink directly from the filter, pour the water into another container, make a gravity filtration system and use in inline on your water bladder hose to drink as you hike.

My backpack is much lighter than when I used to carry 4 liters of water in my beginnings 4 years ago. I can now hike the same distance and spend a lot less energy. The physiotherapist that I am also wants to remind you that carrying a light backpack decreases significantly the incidence of most of the overuse injuries that can occur when hiking.

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Sawyer mini on a water bottle

The Sawyer Mini is a small cylinder that weights 56,7 grams. It fits inside pretty much any pocket. It cam be screwed on almost all the plastic water bottles that have a regular neck. It contains a 0,1-micron membrane and according to the manufacturer, the filter can filter up to 100 000 gallons of water (378 541,18 liters) before it has to be replaced. If you do a regular backwash, when the flow starts to decrease, the filter should last you a very long time. The syringe that is required to perform the backwashes is included in the package when you purchase the Mini. The filter is efficient against Giardia. I’ve been using it over and over and have never been sick. It is said to be efficient at eliminating all the bacteria that can be found in the water in North America and Europe. Some parts of South America and Asia have some water sources that are contaminated with some viruses. Watch out! The Sawyer Mini is not efficient to treat water that contains viruses. The S2 and S3 models and Sawyer’s higher end models and have been proven to be efficient at removing viruses from water. They are more expensive though (approximately 100$ CAN).

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This is the content of the package when you purchase the Mini

Be aware that this filter should never freeze. When this happens, the leftover water that is stuck inside the pores will expand and stretch the pores of the membrane. The diameter of the pores will increase and allow the bacteria to make it through. If you think your filter might have frozen, you better stop using it and get a new one. I happened to me once. Now, I always carry it inside my pockets when I hike in sub zero temperatures. If you’re going to sleep in the backcountry in below 0°C temperatures I would recommend you store it in a plastic bag inside your sleeping bag at night. When I hike in winter, I prefer to use iodine pills to treat my water because to risk of freezing my filter are simply to high in my opinion.

One of the major downside of the Mini is that its filtration rate tends to decrease significantly when it is being used extensively. This kind of problem is well known among the Thru-Hiker community. The Sawyer Squeeze is a bigger version of the Mini. It a better option when you plan to filter water on a regular basis. Its flow rate is much more important, and it doesn’t tend to clog. Is weights 90,7 grams an it is sold for approximately 50$ (20$ more than the Mini). My friend Tommy attempted the Appalachian trail (AT) in 2017 and he had to trade his Sawyer Mini for a Sawyer Squeeze after about one month on the trail. He recommends you to by the Squeeze right away if you plan a Thru-Hike.

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Sawyer Squeeze

To sum up, the Sawyer Mini is a really good option for the occasional and regular hikers that tend to do dayhikes of short backpacking trips of one week or less. Its price (33$), its weight (56,7g) and the fact that it is rated to filter up to 100 000 gallons without replacing any part are the reasons why I love this filter so much.

**I have no affiliation with Sawyer. I just love their products! **

Happy trails,

Robin

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