When you’re deep out there and streams, ponds, or muddy puddles are the only source of water around, water filtration is the key to survival. There are loads of different forms of treatment, but the Sawyer Mini and Lifestraw are two widely known names in the water filtration world. Here, we will put them head-to-head and see which comes out on top.
The Sawyer Mini is an incredibly lightweight, versatile, affordable water filtration system that gives you the freedom to treat water in a multitude of different ways, and do it quick. With the ability to treat up to 100,000 gallons in its lifetime, this can stay on trail with you into old age.
The Lifestraw is a unique system that is an all-in-one filtration system that brings water straight from the source into your mouth. It enters on end untreated, but you are drinking clean water by the time it reaches you.
Water treatments all have their own pros and cons. Some people hate the taste of chlorine drops, some hate doing the work of a filter. Both the Sawyer Mini and Lifestraw excel in certain areas where the other doesn’t. Let’s take a look a bit closer at each area you want to examine before making the potentially life-saving purchase.
The Sawyer Mini uses a hollow fiber membrane filter that blocks out bacteria and protozoa such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia with a 0.1 micron pore size. This filter doesn’t filter out viruses and can be prone to clogging when filtering murky or cloudy water. It does come with a syringe that makes cleaning the filter much easier, bringing it back to the prime water quality.
The 0.2 micron filter pores in the Lifestraw still can filter out both bacteria and protozoa like Cryptosporidium and Giardia. The hollow fiber filtration cartridge isn’t effective against viruses, but still can perform well in murky water. Using this in murkier water is going to work but decrease the lifespan.
Winner: For the most optimal water quality, both the Sawyer Mini and Lifestraw will effectively treat the most commonly found water-born bacteria and protozoa. Other than the Sawyer Mini getting clogged in murky water (and this isn’t the maintenance portion), this one is a draw. Both of these will get you clean water of a high quality.
Weight and Packability
The entire Sawyer Mini setup weighs a meager 3.7 ounces, the filter alone being only 1.7 ounces. This is one of the lighter weight options out of all treatment systems out there. It does however have several different parts that need to be kept track of. A small mesh bag or ziploc will work great to keep organization on point, but losing a piece can be a huge bummer.
The Lifestraw weighs in at a total of 1.75 ounces. As one of the lightest systems out there, the Lifestraw packs away easily due to its slender profile that is shaped like…a straw. It will slide into water bottle pockets and stay put easily, or can be worn around the neck with the cord attached.
Winner: In the weight and packability arena, Lifestraw comes out on top. It is a one-piece system, so you won’t be out of luck by losing a smaller piece of the whole system. The filter itself is slightly heavier than the Sawyer Mini, but remember that the Sawyer Mini also requires you to carry more parts, upping the weight.
Ease of Use
When using the Sawyer Mini, it can be as easy as putting it to your lips and straight into a water source for quick access to water. This product is also incredibly versatile as it comes with a bag that can be filled, attached to the filter, and squeezed to filter water straight into a bottle, your mouth, a friend’s mouth, or anywhere you need quick, clean water. The other options however do require more assembly, finding different parts, and filling the bag from a possibly limited source. It can be a bit more work.
The Lifestraw is exactly what it claims to be, a straw. We use straws all the time and this motion is rather well-known to us. Put one end in water, the other in your mouth, and suck. Other than turning it upside down, there isn’t a real way to mess this one up. The only issue is that the Lifestraw is only designed to filter directly into your mouth. If you want to drink water while hiking you have to use the straw into a bottle with untreated water. There’s no way to put it, treated, into your bottle for the day.
Winner: While the Lifestraw is easy to use, it’s not all that easy to use for more than one thing. The Sawyer Mini wins this category due not only to its ability to be used in the same manner as the Lifestraw, but also its versatility to make carrying treated water a breeze.
The syringe that comes with the Sawyer Mini makes its maintenance simple and allows for you to take care of the system to then last up to 100,000 gallons. That’s an insane amount of water that should last hundreds of trips. The filter can tend to get clogged and needs to be backflushed with the syringe, but this process is rather easy, just required.
The Lifestraw’s construction is housed in a long plastic tube that makes the filter inaccessible, so any maintenance of the system is virtually impossible. True, it can be flushed out by sucking water in and then blowing to force it backwards, but this is difficult and not very time-efficient. The only true maintenance of the Lifestraw is to get to the store and buy another one. They are set to last up to 1,000 gallons, and we think this is due to its lack of capacity to perform any maintenance.
Winner: The Sawyer Mini is going to last a lifetime if it is taken care of. It is an incredibly small system which makes it durable and less likely for the filter to snap. The included syringe flushes the filter quickly, it just needs to be done.
As this system is capable of going straight to your mouth, the Sawyer Mini’s treatment time can be instantaneous. However, this isn’t really the preferred method as it is a shorter style that would require being incredibly up close and personal with a muddy puddle or at risk of toppling into the stream. In reality, the assembly and squeezing process can take up to 15 minutes stopped on trail to get a liter filled.
Lifestraw is made to be instant treatment. The initial drawing of water into the filter can be exhausting on the mouth, but once it is flowing, the clean water goes straight in. There is no middle man, no required assembly, no waiting for the chemical treatment to take effect. It’s as fast as possible.
Winner: The Lifestraw is the most instant treatment there is. It takes in untreated water, and puts clean, pure water straight into your mouth. There’s not really much debate here as the treatment time is almost nothing.
Almost priced at the lowest of all the competitors, the Sawyer Mini gives a great value for what it offers. It boasts an amazing amount of versatility and truly comes out on top in most performance categories of water filtration.
The Lifestraw is possibly one of the cheapest options on the market for water filtration. It is an all-in-one filter that goes straight from source to mouth and doesn’t cost a fortune. It has a good price to quality value, but quality doesn’t quite stand up to other brands.
Winner: The Sawyer Mini’s value is hard to beat. The price difference between it and the Lifestraw is miniscule and the Sawyer Mini’s quality is higher. Therefore, the award for best value goes to the Sawyer Mini.
In the end, the Sawyer Mini is our pick for the best water filtration system between it and the Lifestraw. It is so incredibly versatile that it can do exactly what the Lifestraw does, and more. Yes, you need to maintain it and carry more parts, but this is what makes it so incredible. It will last for a lifetime and give you options. Everyone loves options. This time though, your choice should be the Sawyer Mini.