As we saw in our article on the best portable water filters, having a reliable water filter is a must for outdoor excursions and emergency preparedness. After all, you cannot always rely on carrying enough water for your hiking, backpacking or foreign travel trip.
Straw type water filters are a perfect option as portable water filters in most conditions. In this article, we compare two of the most popular types of portable straw filters – the LifeStraw water filter and the Sawyer Mini water filter and suggest our preferred choice. Both these filters are established products for outdoor excursions, international travel, survival kits and bug out bags.
So without much delay, let us jump right into the comparison of these two popular personal straw filters. For some more details and other options, do not forget to check out our detailed article on the best portable water filters!
Specifications of Sawyer Mini Water Filter
The key specifications of the Sawyer Mini portable water filter are listed below:
- Type: Straw-type filter removes bacteria, protozoa and sedimentation.
- Construction: Food-grade BPA-free plastic tube with a 0.1-micron hollow fiber membrane filter.
- Filtration Performance: The hollow membrane that removes 99.99999% (7 LOG) of all bacteria and 99.9999% (6 LOG) of all protozoa from water.
- Filter Life: Lasts for 100,000 gallons (375,000 liters) of water.
- Flow rate: 7 liter/min.
- Size and Weight: 2 ounces, 5-inch long
- Compliance: Exceeds EPA Compliance standards
- Accessories: Comes with a 16 oz. water pouch, drinking straw and a cleaning syringe.
Specifications of LifeStraw Water Filter
The key specifications of the LifeStraw portable water filter are listed below:
- Type: Straw-type filter removes bacteria, protozoa and sedimentation.
- Construction: Food-grade BPA-free plastic tube with a hollow fiber membrane filter.
- Filtration Performance: 2-micron hollow membrane that removes 99.9999% (6 LOG) of all bacteria and 99.9% (3 LOG) of all protozoa from water.
- Filter Life**: Lasts for 1000 gallons (4000 liters) of water.
- Flow rate: 1 -1.2 liter/min
- Size and Weight: 2 ounces, 9-inch long
- Compliance: Exceeds EPA Compliance standards
- Accessories: Sealed storage bag for transportation
** LifeStraw filters were initially advertised to filter up to 1000 liter (264 gallons of water). Latest tests and probably some improvements now mark them suitable for up to 4000 liters (1000 gallons). You can read more about this in the FAQ section here.
LifeStraw vs Sawyer Mini: Which portable water filter works the best?
Before we discuss Sawyer Mini Vs LifeStraw and list out the main differences between these personal water filters, it is worthwhile to mention that both these portable systems are essentially water filters only.
What that means is that they can remove dissolved impurities, bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella and protozoa such as Cryptosporidium. They do not provide protection against viruses such as rotavirus and Hepatitis A virus. If you are looking for a water purification system that can provide protection against viruses, dissolved metals, and chemicals, you would need to opt for a water purifier.
Bacteria and protozoa are the most common pathogens you would find in water in the US, Canada, and most European countries. So a water filter is sufficient to carry in these regions. If you are considering international travel, you can check out MappingMegan’s article on tap water quality in different countries for more information.
Without digressing further, let us look at the major comparison points between the Sawyer Mini and LifeStraw.
Size and Portability
Both Sawyer Mini and LifeStraw are straw-type portable water filters. Both are pretty compact and have roughly the same diameter. Both filters are also pretty lightweight and weigh only 2 ounces. Now that is truly ultralight!
The Sawyer Mini straw is only 5-inches in length and even with the accessories (pouch, straw and backflushing syringe), more compact than the LifeStraw, which has a 9-inch self-contained straw. The Sawyer Mini is so small and portable that some ultralight backpackers and survivalists like to tie it around their neck by using a paracord bracelet. It can also be carried in the pocket.
On the other hand, the LifeStraw has to be carried around in the backpack, though it does come with a secure carrying pouch to keep the filter secure.
Winner: Sawyer Mini
As mentioned in the specifications, both LifeStraw and Sawyer Mini use a hollow fiber membrane filter to remove the dissolved sediments, bacteria and protozoa. The filtering technology used by these filters is termed as the Absolute Micron Filtering Technology, wherein the water runs through micro-tubes and the impurities are trapped by the pores in the tubes, while the water is passed through.
The Sawyer Mini uses a finer, 0.1-micron hollow fiber membrane that is superior to the 0.2-micron membrane used in the LifeStraw.
Considering the fact that the smallest bacteria is reported to be around 0.3 microns in size, the slight difference does not matter much and you can consider both filters to be excellent at filtering the water you would encounter in backcountry or emergency situations. Both the filters have been declared as exceeding the EPA filtering standards.
Still, theoretically, the Sawyer Mini can filter out more bacteria and protozoa from water than the LifeStraw.
The Sawyer Mini is advertised to remove 99.99999% (7 LOG) of all bacteria and 99.9999% (6 LOG) of all protozoa from water. On the other hand, the LifeStraw is rated to remove 99.9999% (6 LOG) of all bacteria and 99.9% (3 LOG) of all protozoa from water.
Winner: Both, though Sawyer Mini is rated better.
The filter life is one of the most important criteria wherein the Sawyer Mini scores big over the LifeStraw.
The Sawyer Mini can filter up to 100,000 gallons of water. That’s a whopping 375,000 liters of water. On the other hand, the LifeStraw is now advertised to last for up to 1000 gallons or about 4000 liters of water(Initial evaluations mentioned an even lower 264 gallons or 1000 liters of water).
Clearly, the Sawyer Mini can last a lot longer than the LifeStraw when it comes to filtering water – about 100 times longer!
Winner: Sawyer Mini by a wide margin.
Filter Usage and Versatility
Filter usage and versatility is another area wherein the Sawyer Mini easily beats out the LifeStraw.
The LifeStraw was designed to be a true straw-filter, meaning, it is primarily meant for drinking through the water source by immersing the straw in water and sucking it from the other end. The 1.1 – 1.7 liter per minute flow rate means that you would get a decent flow of water, though you may have to apply some suction while drinking from it. If you are seeking more versatility, you would have to get a LifeStraw Go water bottle.
The Sawyer Mini, on the other hand, is a true multi-purpose portable straw filter. It comes with a collapsible pouch and a drinking tube that allows it to be used to drink directly from the source. In addition, you can also attach it to the standard water bottles, hydration packs or the included drinking pouch. You do not need any special adapters to attach it to the hydration packs or bottles.
To put things in perspective, the thinner 7-inch drinking straw that comes with Sawyer Mini can produce a flow rate of only 0.6-0.7 liters per minute, so you are better off using it with bottles rather than drinking through the source.
Winner: Sawyer Mini, except LifeStraw for drinking directly from the water source.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Since both LifeStraw and Sawyer Mini are straw-type hollow membrane filters, cleaning the filters periodically can prolong their life and maintain the flow rate.
Sawyer Mini comes with a cleaning plunger or syringe that can be used to back-flush the filter by running clean water through it. The LifeStraw is advertised to use air backflushing, by blowing through the straw. You could, also run it through some clean water through it and then blow it dry.
Moreover, since both LifeStraw and Sawyer Mini use a hollow membrane filter, they do not have an expiry date and can be stored for a long time when not in use (though we would recommend getting a new one if you have not used one for over five years).
Winner: Both, though Sawyer Mini comes with the cleaning syringe.
There are a couple of ways in which you can look at the costs associated with the Sawyer Mini and LifeStraw water filters.
If you just consider the initial investment, you would generally find the LifeStraw cheaper than the Sawyer Mini by a small margin, though both these filters are advertised to cost around 20 bucks (there is almost always a discount of the LifeStraw and it comes to cost around 15 bucks as opposed to 18+ bucks for Sawyer Mini)
However, if you consider the small accessories and the running cost per liter of water, the Sawyer Mini would turn out to be a lot more cheaper.
So, if you are only going to use the filter infrequently or just need to add it to a bug out bag, then getting the LifeStraw makes sense.
Winner: LifeStraw for the initial investment, Sawyer Mini otherwise.
In addition to the major comparison criteria listed above, there are a couple of additional factors that can sweeten the deal.
One such factor is the accessories that come with the filter. Sawyer Mini comes with a collapsible pouch, drinking straw and a cleaning plunger. On the other hand, the LifeStraw comes with only a carrying pouch. Even if you discard the need of the drinking straw in the LifeStraw filter, having a cleaning plunger to clean up the filter in the wilderness or a backup drinking pouch make the Sawyer Mini a better choice.
Another small factor is the looks and color combinations. While the LifeStraw has long been available in the standard sky blue shade, the Sawyer Mini is available in a bunch of options – Green, Blue, Orange, even Camo. So if you are looking for some style with your water filter, you have some more options with the Sawyer Mini.
Winner: Sawyer Mini.
These major factors of comparison are summarized in the table below:
|Size & Weight||5-inch, 2 ounces||9-inch straw, 2 ounces|
|Filter Performance||0.1-micron hollow membrane filter can remove 99.99999% (7 LOG) of all bacteria and 99.9999% (6 LOG) of all protozoa||0.2-micron hollow membrane filter can remove 99.9999% (6 LOG) of all bacteria and 99.9% (3 LOG) of all protozoa|
|Filter Life||100,000 gallons (375,000 liters) of water||1000 gallons (4000 liters) of water|
|Usage and Versatility||Can be used for direct drinking, or with standard water bottles and hydration packs||Can only be used to drink directly from the source|
|Cleaning||Easy to clean by backflushing. Comes with a Cleaning Syringe||Easy to clean with air back-flushing|
|Cost||Costlier initial investment. Cheaper running cost||Cheaper initial investment. But higher running costs per liter because of shorter filter life|
|Accessories||Comes with 16 oz. drinking pouch, cleaning plunger, 7-inch drinking straw||Comes with a storage case|
|Additional Factors||Available in multiple colors – Green, Blue, Orange, Camo etc||Available in the standard sky blue color|
The verdict on Sawyer Mini Vs LifeStraw
Based on the detailed analysis of LifeStraw and Sawyer Mini Water filter, we consider the Sawyer Mini as the clear winner as the best personal water filter for most outdoor activities. It is more versatile, better performing and longer lasting than the LifeStraw water filter.
The Winner – Sawyer Mini Water Filter
Use Sawyer Mini for:
- Ultralight hiking and backpacking.
- International travel.
The only situations where you might prefer a LifeStraw water filter is you are on a budget and want to save some upfront cost or are looking for a filter to add to your bug out bag or survival kit for occasional, less frequent usage.
Final thoughts on Sawyer Mini Vs LifeStraw
A portable water filter is a must for outdoor trips, international travel or emergency preparedness. There are a lot of high-quality and reliable personal straw water filters available in the market. These water filters are a perfect addition to your backpack, survival kit or bug out bag.
In this article, we compared two of the most popular personal water filters – the LifeStraw water filter and the Sawyer Mini water filter. Both of these filters are established names in the industry and hugely popular portable water filters for camping, backpacking, survival and disaster preparedness. Based on our analysis, we picked the Sawyer Mini water filter as our preferred option. Hopefully, you would agree with our choice and pick it as your next personal water filter!
Please feel free to share your experiences, feedback or any queries through the comments section below. And if you are looking for a family water filter or a purifier, check out our article on the best portable water filters.