Two of the most popular water filters for camping, disaster prep, and prepper bug out bags are the Sawyer Mini and LifeStraw.
I’ll tell you right away that the Sawyer Mini is the better of the two products. While they might seem very similar, the Sawyer Mini is a lot more versatile and reliable.
The Clear Winner – Not Even Close
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 very easy to use.
No pumping is required and you never have to change the filter.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that these water filters are game changers.
Back 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 in Haiti after their huge 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|
Why the Sawyer Mini Beats the LifeStraw
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. Rather, 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 basically 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 gets 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 definitely 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 the Sawyer and LifeStraw do an awesome 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 in situations where 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 really cool. In a SHTF situation, I’d be happy to have a LifeStraw. However, for everyday planning and prep, there are some issues with relying on a straw for filtering 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 some 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.
For filling 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 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.
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 that has built up in the filter.
The Sawyer Mini comes with a special syringe just for backflushing. According to these tips, 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 a small bit more than the LifeStraw. However, the Sawyer Mini can filter 100,000 gallons of water compared to just 264 gallons with the LifeStraw.
Considering how versatile and long-lasting the Sawyer Mini is, you’ll regret if you choose the LifeStraw just to save a few bucks.
The Clear Winner – Not Even Close
The Sawyer Mini was designed to be a versatile, effective water filter for backcountry use. It’s great for camping, hiking, Bug Out Bags, and even to have at home for boil alerts.
While the LifeStraw is also an amazing product, it pales in comparison to all that the Sawyer Mini can do.