When you’re trekking, hiking, backpacking, or just traveling to another country, bringing your own personal water filtration system is a wise choice. The Lifestraw and the Sawyer Mini are two affordable and reliable options.
Each of these two brands has a loyal following of outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world. Each has its perks, but you’ll only need one. And, only one is the better option, so which is the best LifeStraw Vs Sawyer Mini?
Table of Contents
- 1 Why You Need a Water Filter
- 2 Similarities Between LifeStraw and Sawyer
- 3 Differences Between LifeStraw and Sawyer
The Winner: Sawyer Mini
For those who don’t have to read the whole comparison—the clear winner of this LifeStraw vs Sawyer showdown is the Sawyer Mini. The Sawyer Mini is more efficient, more versatile, and has a much longer lifespan.
That doesn’t mean that buying the LifeStraw is a waste of money. LifeStraw is also a quality water filter that delivers on all of its promises. The LifeStraw company is famous for its humanitarian work, so you can rest assured that your money will go to a good cause if you purchase the LifeStraw.
Why You Need a Water Filter
Water is the perfect breeding ground for germs. Some of them cause waterborne illnesses, others are just smelly and unpleasant. A water filter removes germs and other harmful agents from water, making it safe to drink.
When you’re hiking or backpacking, it’s easy to run out of water, even if you bring gallons of it. Luckily, the tap water in Spain, France, and Portugal is drinkable. And, there are plenty of potable water fountains along the Camino.
But, it doesn’t hurt to be extra cautious. You might come across a “fuente” that doesn’t seem so trustworthy. And, many people are sensitive to changes in water when they visit another country, even though there’s nothing wrong with the water itself.
Considering that water filtration systems are so inexpensive, why risk it? Even though some water on the Camino might be contaminated, chances are you won’t need a water filter. But, do know that this kind of peace of mind costs less than $20 and can last you a lifetime.
- 2 oz
- 0.2 microns
- Filters up to 264 gallons of water
- Removes 99.999% of protozoan parasites
- Removes 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria
The brand’s mission is to provide aid to those without access to safe drinking water. For those reasons, they have developed the LifeStraw.
The LifeStraw doesn’t beat around the bush—it’s basic and pocket-friendly. It’s inexpensive and can literally fit in your pocket.
The LifeStraw operates by sucking force. The system is a great alternative to bulky purifies and iodine tablets. Aside from filtering out parasites and bacteria, it can also remove chemicals from the water. However, it cannot filter out viruses.
- No storage capabilities
- 3.7 oz
- 0.1 microns
- Filters up to 100,000 gallons of water
- Removes 99.9999% of protozoan parasites
- Removes 99.99999% of waterborne bacteria
Sawyer has been making water filters for outdoor enthusiasts for decades. The company has managed to create one of the most versatile personal water filters. Sawyer is a lightweight water filter that is more reliable than most other on-the-go filters.
You can count on it to filter out nasty chemicals, parasites, and bacteria from your water. It does not filter out viruses. The Sawyer functions more than well for its size and works in many configurations.
- Durable and reliable
- Fragile bag
Similarities Between LifeStraw and Sawyer
Both products are fairly similar on the surface. The LifeStraw and the Sawyer Mini are both hollow-fiber membrane filters. Neither of these models requires pumping. You’ll also never need to change them out.
It’s all thanks to the hundreds of tiny tubes that make the hollow hollow-fiber membrane filtration system. Together, those tubes create a filter matrix. These tubes resemble tiny straws.
They work by size exclusion. Both of these filters work by trapping microbial threats that lurk in the water. Aside from the technology they use, both filters are of similar size and weight.
Moreover, neither of these two filters is capable of filtering out viruses. Viruses typically aren’t a threat to hikers and backpackers who are trying to filter out dirty water from a pond somewhere in Europe or North America, but this is still something you should keep in mind.
Differences Between LifeStraw and Sawyer
We use microns (micrometers) to rate ultralight water filtration systems. Basically, this unit tells us how good a water filter is at filtering out small particles. For instance, bacteria range in size from 0.2 to 10 microns. The LifeStraw is rated at 0.2 microns while the Sawyer Mini is rated at 0.1 microns.
Even though both products use hundreds of tiny straws to filter out germs, the straws inside the Sawyer are smaller pores than the ones inside the LifeStraw. While this difference does not matter that much, we’ve got to give credit where credit is due—the Sawyer Mini is the more efficient water system.
You may be surprised, but there really is a difference between the “99.9999%” and “9.999%” claims in the specifications, it’s not just a marketing ploy. However, both products meet EPA drinking water standards, so you really shouldn’t let the difference in percentages worry you.
Versatility and Ease of Use
The LifeStraw is slower than the Sawyer Mini. You can use the LifeStraw to drink straight from the water source. You can do that with the Sawyer Mini as well, but you have to use the straw attachment (included in the package). The Sawyer Mini also comes with a cleaning plunger and a drinking pouch.
When using the LifeStraw, there is some resistance. It takes some time to filter out the water. With the Sawyer Mini, there’s virtually no resistance at all. The Sawyer Mini also filters water faster than the LifeStraw.
You can use the Sawyer Mini as a gravity filter. You can also screw it onto a standard water bottle or use it as an inline filter for your hydration bladder.
The bag that comes with the Sawyer Mini allows you to store water for later use. The LifeStraw, on the other hand, can only be used as a straw. The Sawyer Mini is by far a more versatile and convenient product than the LifeStraw.
The LifeStraw can filter up to 1,000 gallons of water. Previously, the company claimed the LifeStraw could filter only 264 gallons of water but further independent testing has shown that it indeed can filter much more. So, if you see different claims online, don’t be confused. The official number is 1,000 gallons.
But, even that number is insignificant when compared to Sawyer Mini’s capabilities. The Sawyer can filter up to 100,000 gallons of water—a huge difference. When it comes to their lifespan, the great thing about such filters is that there’s no guesswork involved. Your filter will simply stop passing through water at the end of its lifespan.
In case you’re wondering: yes, there is a category in which the LifeStraw does better than the Sawyer Mini. When it comes to humanitarian causes, the LifeStraw company really shines. According to their LifeStraw’s website, “For every product purchased, a school child receives safe water for an entire school year.”
The LifeStraw was first created as a solution for people living in developing countries without access to safe and clean drinking water. Their technology has been used in almost every major natural disaster. It’s safe to say that their humanitarian entrepreneurship approach is much more than advertising.
Cleaning and Maintenance
If you want your filter to work properly and last you a while, you need to learn how to store it and how to clean it.
Cleaning the Sawyer Mini is simple—use the cleaning plunger to backwash the filter and don’t be gentle. You need to do it forcefully if you want to do a good job. You should also sanitize your filter every now and then.
In order to sanitize it, use a standard bleach solution to backwash the filter. One cap of bleach per quart of water is all you need. Make sure to let it dry when you are done cleaning it.
If the filter gets clogged, soak it in hot water for an hour. And, if that doesn’t do the trick, soak the Sawyer Mini in vinegar for half an hour. After the time is up, flush it with hot water. You may need to repeat this step several times.
If the filter has been in storage for a while, you need to rehydrate it before using it. To do that, you need to use the plunger to push clean water from the output side. Repeat the step a couple of times. You need to protect the filter from freezing temperatures as they can damage it.
To clean the LifeStraw, simply backwash it. Make sure to blow air through the straw after each use. This will help prevent clogging. After you’re done cleaning it, remove the cap and let the filter air dry.
If your LifeStraw has been in storage for a while, make sure to rehydrate prior to use. Push clean water through the LifeStraw from the output side a couple of times in order to rehydrate it. Just like the Sawyer Mini, the LifeStraw won’t work if you let it freeze, so keep it away from freezing temperatures.
Other Water Bottle Reviews
Here is a big list of other water bottles, flasks, and water bladders we have reviewed.
LifeStraw vs Sawyer Mini: The Bottom Line
Here’s the key difference between the two: The Sawyer Mini is a versatile water filtration system. The LifeStraw is just a straw, literally. This is also the deciding factor: The Sawyer Mini is the winner.
The Sawyer Mini may cost a couple of bucks more, but it is much more convenient to use. And, since it can filter up to 100,000 gallons of water, chances are you’ll never need to replace it. But, both of these products can prove to be lifesavers if you ever find yourself in a pinch.
The LifeStraw is a pioneer in the world of water filters and the brand has done a lot to help people in developed countries gain access to safe and clean drinking water. No matter which one of these two filters you buy, you won’t be making a mistake.
I love hiking. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.