To filter or not to filter - to some people, that is the question. Personally, I'd rather not question and just filter. I take into consideration the harmful microorganisms and gross debris you can avoid by filtering, and the small amount of effort required to filter for peace of mind. (Detailed article on water treatment here.) The bottom line for me is also not having to worry, and having great tasting water that will entice me to stay adequately hydrated during my adventures.
Over the summer, I reached out to Sawyer after hearing so much about their filters. I wanted to give theirs a try but was still skeptical about using one since I had previously used a gravity filter system that worked great for me. However, as my gear was getting lighter and more compact the Sawyer system seemed more appealing. I also had a goal to hike the Mantario trail (a difficult trail in the Whiteshell Manitoba provincial park that covers 63 rugged kilometers with incredibly varied terrain) over a short 3 days, which I failed to do in previous years; I had a lot of things to consider, including the weight of my pack to crush this goal! To my delight, after explaining the challenge I was up against on the Mantario, Sawyer sent me a Mini to try!
What I love about the Sawyer
The mini is so compact, light (only 2 oz!) and versatile. You can use it on any standard threaded pouch or bottle. Sawyer also carries a variety of adapter kits to make their products even more versatile for use with hydration bladders. They even have a nice gravity system available (I'm thinking of trying it next).
This little filter packs a lot of value - it's rated to filter up to 100,000 GALLONS of water (woaaa!!) so as long as you don't accidentally let it freeze overnight, it's going to last you a long time. It also makes your water taste great.
I loved this simple system, especially with a Smart Water bottle. It made filling up and guzzling some water on trail easy.
Since I'm a hydration bladder user, I can't wait to try the adapter kit, but made do using the Mini on my Mantario adventure by filling a water pouch up at camp and squeezing it into the top of my bladder prior to my next day of backpacking. When I wanted to drink water at camp or use filtered water for dinner, I'd fill a smart water bottle (drinking straight from the bottle with the Sawyer screwed on). It allowed me to easily filter water into my cook pot.
Essentially, I carried a 3 L water bag wrapped around the Mini and backflush plunger, then a Smart Water bottle in my backpack's side pouch, and it's all I needed for convenient hydration. I also carried a bladder - my preferred way to hydrate while on trail. The Smart Water bottle wasn't necessary since I had the 3 L water bag, I just preferred the sturdiness of drinking from a bottle at camp!
What I'd change about the Sawyer Mini
In my opinion the biggest downside to the Mini is the flow rate. Filling my 2L bladder or even cook pot by squeezing from a water bag was a bit of a pain that took some patience and hand power. In addition, the water bag included with the Sawyer Mini was a bit useless for a multi-day trip (it was only about 16 oz). I purchased a separate 3 L water bag. However, these things were minor to me - I still enjoy the filter.
Overall, I'm really enjoying the Sawyer mini and have been bringing it in my backpack for every adventure. Thanks for the opportunity Sawyer - I look forward to trying more of your products!
P.S. - I crushed my 3 day Mantario goal!!