Lifestraw vs Sawyer Mini: Which Portable Water Filter Should You Buy?

| Updated: January 17, 2019
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A lack of clean water can cut a fun trip short. If you need a personal filtering system to take with you, check out the Lifestraw vs Sawyer Mini for your next trip.

Spending time out in the wild areas of the world can be an exciting way to explore the unknown. But you likely won’t be able to carry gallons of water with you in your backpack.

So, how do you stay hydrated without access to clean water? By using a portable filtering system.

These handy devices can help you drink water almost anywhere, filtering out the bacteria and other microorganisms that could make you sick.

The two most popular models are the Lifestraw vs Sawyer Mini. To see each models benefits and flaws, check out our reviews below.

LifeStraw vs Sawyer Mini

Product

Lifestraw

Sawyer Mini

Filter Life1,000 gallons100,000 gallons
Micron Rating0.2 microns0.1 microns
Dimensions9 x 1 inches4 x 3 inches
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Water Filter Technologies

To learn about the different technologies used to clean the water for drinking, first, you need to look at the different filtration systems. These are water filters and water purifiers.

Water filters use cartridges, which have microscopic pores in them. These pores strain out any microorganisms that are too big to fit through them. But though they stop protozoa and bacteria, they can’t protect against viruses.

Lifestraw vs Sawyer Mini

Water purifiers use a few different technologies to filter out the unwanted things in the water. These include chemicals, UV light, or tiny fibers woven together.

They are a bit safer to use than the water filters because along with the protozoa and bacteria, they also trap the viruses, giving your water a more thorough cleaning.

When you look at Lifestraw vs Sawyer Mini, you’ll notice that both of these are water filters, removing bacteria and protozoa, as well as microplastics and other unwanted pollutants. But their filters are a bit different.

The Lifestraw filtration straw has a hollow fiber membrane which does the filtering.

The Sawyer Mini filter is made of tiny U-shaped microtubes. Water enters the core through the micropores, which catch the bacteria and other nasties.

Types of Water Filters

There are a few different types of water filters to choose from.

Straw filters.  First are the straw filters, which you’ll get if you buy a Lifestraw or Sawyer Mini filter.

These look like fat straws and are used in the same way, with the filter inside to clean the water.

Pump filters. There are also pump filters, which are a bit bigger. They are connected to the water source on one end and a water catcher on the other. Then you use a small hand pump to draw water through the line. These types of pumps use different types of filtering technologies, depending on which one you buy.

Bottle filters. These filters are pretty handy, having a dual purpose.

You can fill the water bottle with contaminated water, then put in the filter, which cleans it as you drink from the bottle.

If the water you’re drinking is already clean, you use the bottle as you would any other water bottle, without the filter.

Usually bottle filters use the same cartridge filters found in the straw filters.

UV filters. They aren’t the most convenient types of water filters out there. UV filters are the only type to run on batteries but are the most effective at getting rid of bacteria and parasites in the water.

Gravity filters. These types of filters use two containers, one placed higher than the other.

The water is poured into the top container. Then it passes down through the filter into the bottom container.

Usually gravity filters use a combination of ceramic and activated carbon for the filters, making them one of the best types for cleaning out pretty much all contaminants.

They are also pretty large, with multiple parts to deal with.

What to Look for in a Portable Water Filter

There are a few different things you should consider before you buy your water filtration systems to ensure you have the right one to meet your needs.

First, the size and weight are important. If you only have limited space, you don’t want one that takes up most of it. And if you’re carrying it in a pack or a pocket, the lighter the better.

The filtration speed is also something to look at. Each portable model will remove those contaminants at a certain rate. The faster it filters the water, the more people you can hydrate, and the more time you have to spend on enjoying yourself.

The filter capacity is also something to look at. If your portable filter can only last a few days, it won’t be good for a week-long trip. But there are some out there that can clean up to 100,000 gallons of water. If you do a lot of backcountry traveling, these longer-lasting filters may be a better option.

The best portable water filter should also be easy to use and to clean. You don’t want to exert yourself trying to suck in the water. And if the filter system is dirty, you won’t want to use it.

So, check out both of these features. There are also many different types and sizes of filters, all with a range of prices. Find on that fits your budget.

The Lifestraw parent company, Vestergaard, created their very first filter in 1994. It was made for the Carter Center to remove Guinea worm larvae. The original design used a cloth filter, but 5 years later evolved into a pipe.

After the success of these original filters, Vestergaard decided to create a new product, which would filter out as much of the microbiological contaminants in the water as possible. T

he original straw filter was introduced in 2005, aimed at those in developing countries who had little to no access to clean water.

New products soon followed, for in-home use, camping trips, and even those for schools and other institutions. Lifestraw products are now used in 64 countries around the world.

Efficacy

When you’re comparing Lifestraw vs Sawyer Mini water filter, the first thing you need to look at is how well it works.

The Lifestraw water filter removes 99.999999% of the waterborne bacteria. This includes salmonella and E. coli, for safer drinking water.

It also removes 99.999% of waterborne protozoa, which includes Cryptosporidium and Giardia, plus microplastics that could contaminate the water you want to drink.

In fact, it filters down to 0.2 microns, so anything bigger than this won’t go through it.

The Lifestraw also has a high flow rate, so it filters these unwanted contaminants out quickly so you can quench your thirst and stay hydrated no matter where you are.

Uses

The uses for the Lifestraw are limited, which is one downside of this product. To drink from it, you just place one end into the water you want to filter. This can be in a puddle, lake, or river, or you can scoop some up in a cup or bowl if you like.

Then you suck on the other end. The contaminated water goes through the Lifestraw personal water filter, which cleans it before it reaches your mouth.

Alternativly, although not an ideal method, you can also fill up your bottles for later and use the Lifestraw by placing it in your bottle whenever needed.

Because of its compact size, you can take the Lifestraw with you anywhere. This makes it handy for campers and backpackers.

Those traveling to undeveloped countries can also take the Lifestraw with them to ensure they are drinking clean water. And because it can filter up to 1000 gallons of water, it will last through countless trips.

Cleaning

Cleaning the Lifestraw filter is extremely easy. It doesn’t require any special tools or equipment, either, just your own breath. All you need to do is backflush the Lifestraw.

To do this, blow into the mouthpiece. This will purge any water still trapped in the filter and the straw, blowing it back out through the end. You should do this after every single use.

If you have some clean water available, you can suck some of it into the filter and then blow it back out again. This will help clear out any excess dirt.

Of course, you won’t always have clean water available to do this step. Either way, shake it out. Don’t cap the ends. Leave it to air dry at room temperature.

Once it is completely dry inside, cap the ends and store your Lifestraw away until you need it again.

Value

The original Lifestraw is quite cheap when you consider how much water you can actually suck through it. It can be used to clean up to 1000 gallons of water, so it could last for years.

And the price is under $20.00, which is far cheaper than the bottled water you would be buying to drink without it.

The Lifestraw also comes with end caps to keep it clean when you aren’t using it.

There is also an attachable lanyard, so you can hang it around your neck or from your backpack to keep it close at hand while you travel. Plus, it has no shelf life, so it can be stored for as long as you need it.

Shop The Lifestraw Water Filter

Advantages & Disadvantages of the Lifestraw

There are a few benefits and flaws in getting yourself a Lifestraw.

Advantages:

  • It is lightweight and compact
  • The material contains no BPA’s or chemicals
  • There is no aftertaste
  • It filters down to 0.2 microns
  • The Lifestraw removes virtually all bacteria and protozoa
  • It reduces muddiness

Disadvantages:

  • It does not remove viruses, chemicals, or heavy metals
  • You can’t use it to fill a cooking pot or to take water with you
  • It takes a lot of suction

Tech Specs

Dimensions: 9 x 1 inches

Weight:  2 oz

Micron Rating: 0.2 microns

Filter Life: 1000 gallons

Flow Rate: N/A

Cleaning: Air backflushing

Sawyer Products has been in business since 1984. Their prime concerns are eliminating contaminated water and preventing mosquito bites, which are two of the most common causes of death around the world.

In 1999, Sawyer bought Coulston products. This company helped develop permethrin, which is an insect repellent that is used to treat clothing. This process helped to protect U.S. troops and other outdoor enthusiasts from deadly mosquito bites.

They also adapted the permethrin so it could be used on mosquito nets, which are now used in Africa to save millions of people’s lives.

Sawyer has also developed a variety of point-of-use water filters to clean contaminated water, making it safer to drink than even bottled water.

They began the process by using advanced kidney dialysis filtration technology to create their hollow fiber membrane filters. These new filters are compact and easy to take with you anywhere.

Sawyer has also added sunscreens and first aid products to their list, increasing their safety technology to keep as many people as healthy as possible.

Efficacy

When comparing Lifestraw vs Sawyer Mini, the first main difference is their filtration capabilities.

The Sawyer water filter is a bit better, with 0.1 micron filtration. This means nothing larger than 0.1 microns in size can squeeze through the pores in the filter.

The Sawyer Mini removes 99.99999% of bacteria and 99.9999% of protozoa from the contaminated water. This includes E. coli, Giardia, Salmonella, Vibrio cholerea, and Leptospirosis.

And each filter can be used to clean up to 100,000 gallons of water, so it could potentially last a lifetime.

Uses

Unlike the water filter by Lifestraw, there are a number of different ways you can use the Sawyer Mini, making it a convenient addition to your travel gear.

You can use the Sawyer filter to drink directly from the contaminated water source, similar to how you would use the Lifestraw.

But you can also fill the included drinking pouch with water, then attach the Mini water filter to it and drink from that instead. Or you can squeeze water from the pouch through the filter to fill up a cooking pot or other handy receptacle.

You can also fill up any standard water or soda bottles and screw the Sawyer Mini onto the top of the bottle.

Another handy way to use the Sawyer straw filter is with a hydration pack. It can be attached to the tubing, filtering the water as you suck it through.

This way, you can fill your hydration pack as needed during your trip, with the filter creating clean water to drink no matter where you are.

Cleaning

Another difference when comparing the Lifestraw vs Sawyer Mini water filters is how to clean them. The Sawyer Mini is cleaned using water backflushing and even comes with a handy syringe for this process.

To clean it properly, fill the syringe with clean water. Then shoot the water through the end of the filter.

The water will help to dislodge any dirt and debris that may be clogged in the filter, washing it free.

It is recommended that you backwash and sanitize your Sawyer Mini after every outing, to ensure it is as clean as possible. Then let it air dry before reattaching the end caps for storage.

Value

When you compare the prices of Lifestraw vs Sawyer Mini, the latter water filter is a bit more expensive, but only by about $5.00.

For this price, you get the filter, a 16-ounce water pouch, a drinking straw, and the cleaning plunger. Though all these are handy, there is a bit more that the Sawyer filter offers.

First, it is smaller in size than the Lifestraw, so it can fit into any pocket or backpack without forcing you to sacrifice other gear.

It also filters out about 100,000 gallons of water, which is a huge amount. This means the Sawyer Mini could potentially last a lifetime, making it well worth the price.

The Sawyer Mini water filtration system for camping, backpacking, or overseas travel even comes in 6 stylish colors, so you can pick your favorite or match it to your other hydration gear.

Shop The Sawyer Mini Water Filter

Advantages & Disadvantages of the Sawyer Mini

The Sawyer Mini has a variety of advantages, and a few flaws worth noting.

Advantages:

  • You can use it to drink directly from the water source
  • It can be attached to a bottle or a hydration sleeve
  • You can use it to fill up a cooking pot or other container
  • It can clean up to 100,000 gallons of water
  • It is rated at 0.1 microns
  • It is easy to clean
  • The Sawyer Mini is compact and comes with everything you need

Disadvantages:

  • This filter doesn’t remove viruses or chemicals

Tech Specs

Dimensions: 4 x 3 inches

Weight:  2 oz

Micron Rating: 0.1 microns

Filter Life: 100,000 gallons

Flow Rate: 1 liters \ 5.5 mins

Cleaning: Water backflushing

personal water filters for clean water

Lifestraw Vs. Sawyer Mini: Is There A Clear Winner?

Though both of the water filtration devices in our Lifestraw vs Sawyer Mini reviews are decent products that do exactly what they are meant for, one product clearly comes out on top.

This is the Sawyer Mini, for numerous reasons.

The Lifestraw has a great low price and allows you to drink from pretty much any water source directly, but it isn’t nearly as versatile as the Sawyer Mini.

It also has a lower micron rating at only 0.2, though this is still a decent amount for clearing out those contaminants. The Lifestraw is longer than the Sawyer product as well, making it a bit less compact.

Another downside to the Lifestraw is its capacity. It can filter out 1000 gallons of water, and though this is an impressive amount, it is only a fraction of what the Sawyer Mini can do.

As for the Sawyer Mini, it has 0.1 microns of filtration and a 100,000-gallon filtering capacity, outshining the Lifestraw with just those two features. But it is also shorter, making it a more compact filter to carry.

The Sawyer Mini can be used in a variety of ways, including as a straw, in a disposable bottle, with its included pouch, and with a hydration sleeve.

This means you can drink right through it or use it to fill up other containers, which isn’t really possible with the Lifestraw. And though its price is a bit higher, it will last you far longer than the alternative, making it well worth the extra cost.