Gear Review: Sawyer Mini water filter
Thru hikers are notorious for a lot of behaviors, but the most prevalent across the board one I ever noticed on the trail was this: the lack of water filtration. Sure, we all know you can get horrible, nasty illnesses from drinking contaminated water but when you’ve hiked the last 4 miles in 100-degree heat without any water and that spring trickles just enough to fill your bottle you’re going to drink it as fast as you can.
During my hike I used bleach droplets, Aquamira drops (a combination of Part A/Part B), and an MSR Sweetwater pump system on different occasions when I absolutely felt the need to purify. Bleach takes 15-30 minutes to clean water, depending on the temperature and murkiness of the water. Aquamira recommends waiting until the combination of the drops turns a bright yellow, letting you know the formula as “activated” before adding it, then waiting 15-30 minutes (again depending on the temperature and clarity) before drinking. The water pump takes up to 10 minutes just to pump and usually requires backflushing.
When I was in North Virginia, two hikers we met showed us an amazing water system: The Sawyer Squeeze. This was a bag you put water into, sloshed around, and then drank. It was guaranteed for a million gallons of water and we were shocked. Over the course of our hike we heard of one other person with that system. In 2013, nearly half of the hikers we saw at the end of the trail in Maine were carrying the Sawyer Squeeze system and nearly everyone was happy with the filter, despite the fact that the water bags failed quite often. We decided that would be our next filter.
After doing some research before starting our PCT planning we discovered the Sawyer Mini, the smallest, lightest filter on the market. This bad boy attaches to a squeeze bottle supplied by Sawyer or to a standard water bottle (Smartwater 1 liters are the bottle of choice for many hikers and it fits perfectly). You can also use this on your Camelbak or Platypus system as a sort of gravity system. This thing not only does all of these and weighs in at about 2 oz., it only costs $25.
We bought one to take with us of our hike of the Cranberry Lake 50 over Memorial Day and was one of the best decisions we’ve made to date. Bearing in mind that we are not the best about treating our water, a filter that is this small, convenient, and easy to use makes even thinking about filtering a nonissue. Given that the Cranberry Lake 50 is a low-lying trail system with several water sources being ponds teeming with beavers, filtration is super important. We were able to fill the bottle, squeeze, and have clean water nearly instantly - water that was free of both contaminates and particulates! Not only was this important for us, but it was important for our dog as well, who deserved clean water to drink just as we did.
We had absolutely no problems using the filter on our 3-day hike and carried the backflushing syringe just in case. The whole system fit into a small stuff sack and was easily thrown into an exterior pocket on a pack, making for a quick grab and go. This also made it possible to carry a smaller load of water, making packs lighter.
All in all, I’d recommend the Sawyer Mini system to anyone looking for a quick and easy way to drink clean water. It’s super affordable (even on a thru hiker budget!), lightweight, and easy to use. I think we’ll buy a second one so we both have one on hand.
This post is in no way sponsored or solicited by Sawyer. It’s all me. I’m a total fan!