Review: Sawyer Mini Water Filter
The Sawyer Mini was our first attempt at efficient water treatment. We had tried various other methods and weren’t satisfied with any (at the time) either from a safety, or practicality point of view.
When we moved to Africa, from Nepal, we found the water drinkable, but saline in places and also prone to being a bit muddy. We felt that unlike in Kathmandu, it wasn't going to kill you, but it was not very pleasant either. It was convenient to use bottled water in Nepal all the time because the water quality was so poor, and water was available in large bottles so it was quite practical. When we arrived in Malawi, we had the choice to be able to reduce our plastic consumption, and we did so straight away.
We had a few criteria; our filtration system needed to be affordable, easy to use, cope with heavy use (we filter usually 6 plus litres per day on tour), we didn't want it to require power, and it needed to be quick (ish).
Firstly, in use, the Sawyer Mini is a great bit of kit. It is lightweight, takes up little space, and is great for carrying if you aren’t sure if you will be filtering or not. We carried it in Laos, didn't use it much, but didn't begrudge carrying it at all. I used it all through upper Mustang and filtered all of my drinking water with it; saving using bottled water, and therefore reducing environmental impact. It worked fine and took up no space in my rucksack.
Another great thing about the Sawyer Mini is that it is really versatile. It can be used in all sorts of inline configurations. It can be used to drink directly; it can be installed inline in a bladder (e.g. Platypus/Camelback type system), and I believe it can be used as part of a gravity filtration system, although I have never tried it. The Sawyer website gives details of all the nasty stuff it filters out, and more creative uses, but in my personal use, it has turned murky water into clean, and taste free drinking water. It is pretty impressive!
I love the Sawyer, but one word of warning; I was impatient once, and squeezed the bag too hard to try and hurry it up. I burst the bag and the filter was useless for me until I could get a replacement bag as I never use bladders, just ordinary water bottles.
In heavy use, such as filtering our muddy water in Malawi, it is best to clean it out after each use to improve efficiency. As the filter clogs, it becomes slower and slower to use, and takes more effort. It still works fine, but can be tiresome when dirty. We have found that with the muddy water we have filtered on tour in Africa, the filter clogs up quite quickly and a remarkable amount of muck is flushed out when it is cleaned. This is quite encouraging as it gives you an idea of what you would have been drinking.
Cleaning is really easy. Just filter one bag of water, reverse the filter, and pass 4 or more syringes of filtered water through the filter under pressure. It can take more, or less syringes depending on the cleanness of the water you have been filtering. I clean the filter into a glass, or transparent bottle, this way it is easy to see when the filter is clean. It takes literally just a couple of minutes, and is no hardship.
· Easy to use
· Efficient and effective
· Field maintainable
· Very versatile
· Care needed with bag - don't be too heavy handed like me!
· Needs cleaning regularly
· Would be tedious for large quantities of water (as would most portable filters)
The Sawyer is a great little unit, especially on trips where only occasional use is anticipated. It needs careful use with muddy water and reasonable care is needed not to damage the bag. The bag is absolutely fine, but I was careless with it, and that was the end of the unit. We have had two, and have used them for a couple of years with no problem, and despite using another system now as well (as our needs have changed), we still carry the Sawyer for occasional or light use. I must say that for the price the Sawyer is hard to fault. It simply works. If we were to lose ours, despite having a more expensive unit, I would still replace the Sawyer.
The website Sawyer.com has not only great information, but also lots of top tips and handy hints about how to get the best from the Mini.