Sawyer Water Filter Review
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Sawyer is an innovative company that’s well-known for its incredible high-tech water filters. The company makes compact, light, handheld-style water filtration systems that are popular with outdoor enthusiasts.
Sawyer MINI SP105 Water Filter
- Very effective at removing bacteria and protozoa
- It also removes microplastics and sediments
- The filter is tough and has a long lifespan
- Offers multiple ways of using the filter
- Very lightweight and compact design
- Comes with a limited lifetime warranty
- Does not filter out viruses, chemicals, and heavy metals
- No change in the taste and odor of water
- O-ring and cap break easily and tend to fall off
- The included pouch has a very small capacity
- Slow flow rate and filter requires frequent cleaning
The Sawyer MINI SP105 is a pretty impressive little handheld filter that’s very simplistic in design. The filter itself is about palm-sized and ultralight, weighing just 2 ounces.
The entire kit, including the squeeze pouch, cleaning plunger, and drinking straw, can easily fit in a small/medium pocket of a pack or day bag – it’s a highly portable kit ideal for backpacking, camping, hiking, traveling, and any other outdoor activity.
The filter is available in black, blue, orange, camo, green, pick, or a multi-pack. The build quality appears to be good and since it has fewer parts compared to similar filters, there are minimal moving parts to possibly break down.
However, the o-ring/gasket that’s used to create a seal between the pouch and the filter seems a bit flimsy and not durable. We noted many reports that it breaks easily and often tends to fall out of the tube causing unfiltered water to leak out into the reservoir.
The cap which is meant to prevent cross-contamination is also not secured well and easily breaks or falls off when uncapping the filter. Some users did mention too that the tip of the cleaning plunger/syringe tends to break off quickly with frequent use.
Moreover, although the hollow fibers of the filter are tough, they can get broken easily by freezing water when you are winter camping or when you use the filter in snow temperatures.
The Sawyer MINI features a filtration system that’s quite reliable for cleaning water from backcountry sources like lakes, streams, and rivers.
The filter utilizes Sawyer’s 0.1-micron hollow fiber membrane which does a great job of eliminating all types of bacteria and protozoa present in the water. It’s capable of removing over 99.9% of all bacteria (like E.coli, cholera, salmonella), and also 99.9 % of all protozoa (including cryptosporidium and giardia).
The filter equally clears out 100% of microplastics as well as any particulates or sediments that are suspended in the water. The membrane is completely encased and sealed to keep the fibers protected from physical damage which is essential in preventing harmful pathogens from passing through.
Unfortunately, this hollow fiber membrane does not remove chlorine, chemical pollutants, heavy metals, or bad tastes resulting from sulfur and other simple compounds. It does nothing to improve the taste and odor of the water. If it smells swampy before filtering, then it will likely taste swampy afterward.
The filter also fails to remove viruses. However, viruses are rare in backcountry water sources, especially in the US, so this shouldn’t be much of a worry.
Capacity and Use
The filter of the Sawyer MINI SP105 has the capacity to filter up to 100, 000 gallons of water, which is certainly remarkable considering its size. It will last for a very long time and the reason for this is because it can be backwashed regularly which restores it back up to 98.5% effectiveness – you won’t need replacement filter cartridges like is the case with most filters.
The other advantage of this unit is that it provides multiple ways of using it.
The kit comes with a squeeze pouch that’s suitable for collecting water from streams. You just fill it up with water, screw it onto the filter, and then squeeze the water through the filter into a water bottle, hydration bladder, or even drink it directly.
The pouch is pretty small though – it holds only 16 ounce of water which is good for trail runs or just a single person. If you are going for backpacking trips with big groups, you definitely need to get some spare pouches. Another problem is that filling the pouch is quite tricky especially when the water source is not deep or when dealing with still water like a lake or creek.
Many found it to be stiff and flat such that it creates a vacuum once you dip it into the water making it difficult for water to go in. Besides that, the opening is too small to let water in hence making it even more difficult to get the pouch completely filled with water.
Another downside is that squeezing the pouch tends to put a strain on the connection point near the threading which can sometimes cause it to leak the unfiltered water into the newly filtered water.
Attach to a Water Bottle
The MINI also offers an option to drink straight from a water bottle. You simply fill up the bottle with water, screw the filter right onto the bottle, and then suck/sip clean filtered water through the filter. The filter can screw onto bottles or any container with a standard threaded top (28mm thread).
Inline with a Bladder
You can attach the MINI filter inline on the tube of a hydration bladder. You have to cut the tube to place the filter in-between, fill the bladder with water, and then suck the clean water through the filter. This does require effort to use just like the water bottle since you have to suck a bit harder to draw water straight through the filter.
Used as a Drinking Straw
Sawyer has included a straw that attaches to the filter allowing you to put it into a water source and drink directly from it. It’s a quick and convenient option but like the inline bladder and the water bottle, sucking water through the filter is very tedious as it takes a lot of effort. Plus, you have to lay down in the dirt and you can’t carry the clean water with you for later.
The filtration process is not particularly fast. Many people complained that it’s slow getting the filtered water to come out when using the squeeze method. It can take around 3 minutes to fill a 1-liter bottle. You can use the unit as a gravity filter by hanging the pouch from a suitable tree, but the flow rate is even slower with this method.
Set up and Maintenance
Setting up the MINI SP105 is a straightforward process as it’s easy to attach the filter to the pouch, bottle, or the tube of a hydration bladder. Maintaining it is simple too but it appears to clog quickly hence it requires more frequent back-flushing using the included syringe to keep it operating efficiently.
Should you buy the Sawyer Mini SP105 water filter?
The Sawyer MINI is worth considering if you’re a solo hiker traveling light or you are just looking for a handheld water filter that’s ideal for any backpacking trip like upcountry camping. It’s highly portable and effective at filtering out bacteria, protozoa, and particles from water.
Sawyer also offers an almost similar model to this, known as the Dual Threaded MINI which includes a slightly large squeeze pouch (32 ounces) and a filter that’s threaded on both sides.