Two of the most popular water filters for camping, disaster prep, and prepper bug out bags are the Sawyer Mini and LifeStraw.
The Clear Winner
The Sawyer Mini is the better of the two products. While they might seem very similar, the Sawyer Mini filters more water to a higher standard than the Lifestraw and is a lot more versatile and reliable.
Overview of the Sawyer Mini and LifeStraw
Both the Sawyer Mini and LifeStraw are hollow-fiber membrane water filters. This means that the water passes through a mesh-like membrane. The membrane catches bacteria, protozoa, algae, and other waterborne pathogens.
Compared to the bulky ceramic water filters of the past, the Sawyer Mini and LifeStraw are very compact. They are also straightforward to use.
No pumping is required, and you never have to change the filter.
I’m not exaggerating when I say these water filters are game changers.
When I was a kid, camping water filters were clunky, and the filters had to be constantly replaced. The Sawyer Mini and LifeStraw are often distributed in disaster-struck places (such as Haiti after their massive earthquake).
These water filters have probably saved thousands of lives by providing a cheap and easy solution for clean drinking water.
Sawyer Mini vs. LifeStraw Specs
|Filter||Micron Rating||Filter Life (Gallons)||Length||Weight||Flow Rate||Cleaning|
|0.1||100,000||5"||2oz||1 ltr \5.5 mins||Water backflushing|
LifeStraw vs Sawyer
When comparing the LifeStraw against the Sawyer Mini, you’ve got to understand that LifeStraw was designed for use in 3rd world countries. It wasn’t meant to be a backcountry solution for backpackers and survivalists. Instead, it is a cheap, disposable water filter that could be distributed to save lives.
By contrast, the Sawyer Mini was designed for backcountry use. It takes the concept of the LifeStraw and improves it tenfold. Here’s the breakdown.
Backcountry water filters are rated by microns. The rating means how small of particles can get through the filter. The smallest bacteria is 0.37 long. To ensure that all bacteria get filtered out of your water, you’d need a filter smaller than this (protozoa, algae, and other microorganisms are larger than bacteria).
Rated at 0.1 microns, the Sawyer Mini is the superior of the two filters. Some comparison posts make a big deal out of the fact that the Sawyer Mini removes 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria compared to “just” 99.9% with the LifeStraw.
Honestly, this slight difference doesn’t matter too much. Both Sawyer and LifeStraw do an excellent job of filtering water.
Remember, these water filters DO NOT treat:
- Heavy metals
In backcountry situations, you usually don’t have to worry about these threats.
Viruses, for example, only really become a threat when there has been sewage contamination (such as after flooding). Learn more about water purification systems and what they treat here.
The LifeStraw is Only a Straw
Those videos which show using the LifeStraw to drink straight from a dirty puddle are cool. In a SHTF situation, I’d be happy to have a LifeStraw (read our guide to the best survival straw filters.) However, for everyday planning and prep, there are issues with relying on a straw to filter water.
Issues with Straw Filters:
- Must squat down and stick your head close to the water to drink.
- Use a lot of mouth-suction power (especially with murky water).
- Have no way of taking filtered water with you.
- Can’t fill up a cooking pot.
Of course, you can find creative ways to eliminate these issues with the LifeStraw. For example, some people might fill a water bottle with dirty water and then use the LifeStraw to drink from the bottle.
To fill a cooking pot, you could suck water into your mouth and spit it into the pot.
Yes – these solutions will work in a pinch. But not something that I want to rely on! By contrast, the Sawyer Mini can be used in numerous ways.
*Note that LifeStraw has started making other products to address these issues. For example, the LifeStraw Family, Community, and Mission are all gravity-powered. This means you can get clean water to take with you. However, those products aren’t exactly portable solutions. (Read our reviews of the best gravity water filters.)
The Sawyer Mini is a Straw and Much More
Here is where the Sawyer Mini wins hands-down against the LifeStraw. The LifeStraw is only a straw, whereas the Sawyer Mini is very versatile.
Ways to Use the Sawyer Mini:
- Be used as a straw to drink directly from the source.
- Drink from pouch or water bottle.
- Squeeze clean water through the filter into a bottle/pot.
- Spliced into a water bladder hose.
I find the best way to use the Sawyer Mini is to keep two water bottles with you. One you fill with dirty water. Screw the Sawyer Mini onto it, squeeze, and collect the clean water in your other water bottle. Just make sure you remember which bottle is for clean and dirty!
Here’s another area where the Sawyer Mini beats the LifeStraw. You can clean the Sawyer with backflushing – just shoot some clean water through the bottom side of it. The water will push out any gunk built up in the filter.
The Sawyer Mini comes with a special syringe just for backflushing. You can also use a SmartWater bottle for backflushing.
The LifeStraw can also be backflushed. However, they recommend blowing air through the bottom end to blow out buildup. This isn’t nearly as efficient as shooting water through.
The last I checked, the Sawyer Mini costs slightly more than the LifeStraw. However, the Sawyer Mini can filter 100,000 gallons of water compared to just 4,000 gallons with the LifeStraw.
Considering how versatile and long-lasting the Sawyer Mini is, you’ll regret it if you choose the LifeStraw to save a few bucks.
The Clear Winner
The Sawyer Mini is better than the lifestraw because it has a 0.1-micron filter (vs. 0.2-micron filter) and can clean up to 100,000 gallons of water (vs. 4,000 gallons).
While the LifeStraw is also a fantastic product, it pales compared to all the Sawyer Mini can do.
No, the Sawyer Mini does not remove viruses (they are smaller than 0.1 microns in size and therefore pass through the filter)
No, the Sawyer mini does not remove chemicals or pesticides.
Yes, this bacterium will be filtered by the 0.1-micron filter.
No, both filters need to be replaced if they are wet and then get frozen.
Leave a comment
Interesting and informative. Wish I’d read this before purchasing a couple of Lifestraw’s already. Still, they’re both easy to use and they’ll both keep you alive in most disaster or wilderness situations. I’ll find some tubing to connect to the top of my Lifestraw so I can use it remotely, as a siphon, and if I buy anymore water filtration devices I will definitely look into the Sawyer…
Thanks for this informative and very useful review!
They are both great products, its just that the Sawyer is so much more versatile. Glad you found the review helpful.
I reviewed all the filter styles back in 2010 and settled on the Sawyer Point One, the full kit with filter, bag, hose, drill bit for bucket, fittings, caps, etc. It is still filtering =all= my drinking water flawlessly 7 years later. I would have spent the same amount for several straw filters in that time, but they break, plug, and get lost more easily. I bought Sawyer Minis for my entire family in other cities and they love them. Sawyer rocks.
yep its a hell of a filter!
I never have had the Lifestraw at any time because I know it is 0.2 micron and where I live, there suffers from Leptospirosis and that bacterium is 0.1 micron is diameter. I’m not sure if Sawyer’s membranes can filter them out but I know Lifestraw won’t. I’m having the Sawyer for years (blue when I first bought it).
The other thing, most of the times, Lifestraw seems to get more publicity and appears more on blog write-ups and articles. Strange!
The Sawyer is rated to 0.1 microns so should filter out the Leptospirosis bacterium.
Lifestraw is still a great product but in our opinion the Sawyer is superior in almost every respect.
Opdate: Lifestraw GO 2-stage
Both run about $19.95 at most stores in our area, but watch for them to go on sale. Sawyer tends to make rock solid gear for the money – you’ll never go wrong with their stuff. The review was fair and spot-on. I went to get a Lifestraw and got lucky that the Sawyer was hanging right next to it – I immediately grabbed the Sawyer, compared the two, and got the Sawyer. I’ve used it in the backcountry and have not been disappointed. Great review – thank you!
Yep I guess we are lucky to have two great products available. But for most purposes the Sawyer is superior. Thanks for adding your experiences which back up what we have found.
Why the Survivor filter Pro is superior to the sower and the love straw. The Survivor filter Pro filters down to .01 microns giving 10 times to filtration power of the Sawyer Mini. giving 10 times 2 filtration power of the solar mini. Like the others it also uses Hollow fiber membranes plus has a replaceable charcoal filter. This unit has actually been upgraded to water purifier because of the fineness of the filtration. They are also back flushable without the use of additional equipment. Unfortunately it is a good bit more expensive but I think well worth the money because it also removes viruses chemicals and minerals. My city water has an extremely high level of chlorine and I use the Survivor Pro just to remove that and the water tastes so amazingly good. Just Google Survivor filter Pro and you will understand what I am talking about.
Hey Gary, that is an awesome piece of kit. Well worth a look but as you say it is more expensive so depends on your budget. Click here to read the reviews on Amazon.
Why not go with a lightweight Sport Berkey? I picked one up today for $35. It removes viruses and heavy metals. The last thing you want in a SHTF or disaster scenario is diarrhea and vomiting from a virus. Using either the Sawyer or Lifestraw in this article is like playing Russian Roulette.
Looks like a good product. although a quick check of the Amazon reviews shows some shortcomings with the top straw. It can be viewed on Amazon here.
Just to note: Berkey Sport DOES NOT remove viruses. This guy is lying or misinformed. DO NOT rely on a Berkey Sport if your intention is to remove viruses.
Post needs updating: This information maybe out of date or a little too biased.
Right from the LifeStraw website:
Hollow fiber membrane filter: 0.2 micron pore size. Removes 99.999999% of bacteria, 99.999% of parasites, and 99.999% of microplastics
LifeStraw does also have product options for viruses as there is special product lines for this in particular, including LifeStraw Family and LifeStraw mission.
The more research I do the more I realise the boas on the website.
You are correct in some respects, Lifestraw have just updated their specs. It now filters down to 0.2 microns and can clean up to 4000 liters.(have updated the table to reflect this.) This is still well below what the Sawyer mini can do and that is before looking at all the other advantages which are clearly stated in the article. The other Lifestraw products you mentioned are also in the article but they are different categories of product so not a like for like comparison. We stick by our original assessment the Sawyer is the far superior product.
The Sawyer filters are 0.1 micron ABSOLUTE. This is important because Absolute micron means NO holes are larger than 0.1 microns. Truth be told, it’s probably the same innards in both since they’re both hollow fibers.
On the other hand, Sawyer is 0.1 micron vs lifestraw 0.2, so that means Sawyer filters TWICE as much as lifestraw… My sawyer has a water faucet attachment too, so I can use water from my tab too
Just a note: The holes being twice as small doesn’t mean it filters twice as much. However, it does mean it gets clogged waaayyyy faster. Unless you need to filter out viruses, 0.2 microns will handle bacteria, parasites, sediment, etc.
Doesn’t the LifeStraw come with a carbon filter? Carbon filter does first of all chemicals was the Sawyer doesnt, I believe. That’s a huge game changer depending on your type of emergency, right?
Both come with hollow-fiber membrane water filters. This is all detailed in the article.
I may be wrong but once you use either one, you can’t let them freeze, it’ll ruin them.
So you would have to protect them from that !
Yes both Sawyer and Lifestraw filters need to be replaced it they are wet and get frozen.
Are these straws filters approved for use by our military forces ?
Don’t think they are specifically approved for military use although our military have distributed them to civilians in humanitarian missions. Why do you ask?