When it comes down to personal filtration systems for outdoor enthusiasts, there are two popular options: the Sawyer Mini and the Lifestraw personal water filter (original).
Both have proven to be top quality products and each has their own avid following. If you are new to these brands, it can be tricky to decide which one to purchase.
While both filters are obviously excellent products, they have some differences that could mean the difference between you having a great experience or disappointing one.
Before getting into reasons why you may or may not want either product, let’s get the basics for each out of the way.
Sawyer is one brand that definitely isn’t new to the art of creating water filters for outdoorsmen. They are a very respected company and have a number of popular/successful products, from personal filters to larger filters capable of supplying safe water for a group.
The Sawyer Mini is one of their best filters for a few reasons. It is compact, lightweight, does what it’s supposed to and is priced perfectly. Here is a summary of what you need to know.
The Sawyer Mini comes is really a great little filter. A nice touch is that is comes in a 5 different colors – black, blue, green, pink and orange. It seems to be a trivial feature but having the option of a bright orange is nice in the backcountry for better visibility if dropped or misplaced.
Lifestraw is a newer company that was created to help provide aid for those without access to safe drinking water. It is perfect for emergencies, with it’s small size being ideal for stowing in a SHTF kit or even in your car. The design also works well for hiking, backpacking and camping. It is a fairly unique straw-like design that you quite literally dip into the water source for direct drinking.
If you really just want the most basic and budget-friendly water filter you can find, the Lifestraw is probably going to work well for you. Here are the specs of this device.
There isn’t really a lot to say about the Lifestraw, simply because it’s a fairly basic product. It is a disposable design, meaning there is no field cleaning possible. You simply use it until you reach it’s lifespan then throw it away, replacing with a brand new one.
It has a durable case and the filter lifespace is decent for most people. Typically casual backpackers or campers will get the most use from this device since it can only be used in one way.
With the details out of the way of both filters, here is how they stack up against each other.
There are really only two major differences between the Sawyer Mini and the Lifestraw:
Both the Mini and the Lifestraw filtration systems are great and deliver safe drinking water from most sources, but there is a difference in pore size. The Sawyer Mini is a slightly better filter since it has a smaller pore size. As mentioned earlier, the Mini will remove 99.99999% of all bacteria and 99.9999% of all protozoa.
The Lifestraw removes 99.9999% of bacteria and 99.9% of Coli Giardia. Giardia is only one type and the only protozoa the Lifestraw removes. The Mini removes a few types including giardia and cryptosporidium.
When it comes down to it, the Lifestraw was designed to function as an emergency water filtration system for those unable to access safe water. It has a decent filtration lifespan but was made to be disposable. In this capacity the Lifestraw works exactly as it should. However, outdoor enthusiasts popularized the product and it quickly started being recommended for this application.
There is no doubt the Lifestraw does work well for outdoor activities but it’s downfall is versatility. Simply put, the Lifestraw doesn’t have any versatility. It is just a simple filtration drinking device that you put directly into dirty water, appropriate for drinking water.
There is no way to filter water for storage in a reservoir or fill a bottle. If you are camping you will end up having to waste fuel boiling water for cooking or cleaning rather than being able to filter water in advance.
The Sawyer Mini is specifically designed for hikers, backpackers and campers, so naturally it is a superior option for these activities. When it comes to versatility it blows the Lifestraw out of the water.
Sawyer designed this product to work with a number of systems – you can attach the filter to a collapsible bottle/pouch, set it up inline with your hydration reservoir, filter from a plain plastic bottle or use it as a straw for direct drinking. There just is no content between the two when it comes to versatility.
When it comes down to a simple Mini vs Lifestraw comparison, the Sawyer Mini available here comes out on top.
The main selling points of a filter should be a combination of three things:
The Sawyer Mini has more powerful filtration. Not to mention it is field cleanable and will filter roughly 100,000 gallons (better flow rate). It has proven to be reliable and overall usability is high since it is versatile in how it can be used.
The Lifestraw may be the most simple – simply put the end in the water and drink – but lacks versatility.
When it comes to price the Sawyer Mini is more, retailing for $24.95 (check this listing for the latest live prices) from most stores. The Lifestraw typically retails for $19.95 (check this listing for the latest live prices). However a closer look will show that the Mini is still a better buy.
The Lifestraw only filters 1,000 liters or 264 gallons before it needs to be replaced versus the 100,000 gallons you’ll get with the Mini. It really is no content when it comes to value.
Bottom Line: With all that being said, the Lifestraw is still a good option for some applications. If all you want is the simplest device possible to drink directly from natural water sources, the Lifestraw may be a good fit. But if you want the option of filling your bottle or reservoir with clean water and if you know you’ll be using the device often, go with the Mini here. All in all, the Mini does everything the Lifestraw can do but better.
Sam Hardy is an outdoor enthusiast with a penchant for survival prepping. He writes about the great outdoors and his favorite equipment here.