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  1. #1

    Default Sawyer Mini Alternative

    Hi everyone,

    On a recent thru hike attempt, I used a Sawyer Mini, but was discouraged by the amount of effort it took to produce a little water. Unfortunately, I had to abort my thru hike after 200 miles for reasons of illness/injury, but I plan to pick up again next year and want to improve my purification methods. The Sawyer Mini worked okay, but I found that I drank less water than I should have because it was a hassle to squeeze water all the time. Going into the hike, everyone told me that the Sawyer Mini was the best thing ever invented. The next time, however, I would prefer something that delivers a better effort to volume ratio, even if it weighs more. Apparently, the original Sawyer Squeeze provides a higher flow rate than the Mini, so that may be an option. I have never used pump filters before (Katadyn, etc.), and everyone seems to be down on those, but they do seem to produce a lot of water without squeezing. I have used Aqua tablets before, but I am not thrilled about the waiting period. I tend to need A LOT of water when I hike. Any recommendations?

  2. #2
    Registered User Cotton Terry's Avatar
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    Use the regular Sawyer

  3. #3

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    I have a regular Sawyer, a Sawyer mini, and a Katadyn pump filter. Pump filters take a lot of pumping, so don't think they are effortless. A regular Sawyer also takes squeezing, unless you set it up as gravity feed. But then, you might as well use a Mini, set up as gravity feed (which is what I do). No muss, no fuss, no effort. Mine filters two liters in a few minutes as I'm getting out a snack, setting up camp, enjoying a view, whatever.

    Neither the regular Sawyer nor the Mini will work well indefinitely unless you back-flush them at least occasionally.
    [I]ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: ... Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit....[/I]. Numbers 35

    [url]www.MeetUp.com/NashvilleBackpacker[/url]

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  4. #4
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    I have the mini with 32 oz bags and can easily fill up a liter bottle. But I have noticed it almost filters itself so I plan to experiment with some extra tubing. From what I have been reading you should be able to gravity feed without squeezing if you have a longer tube past the filter. then it become very easy to filter as you set up camp.

  5. #5
    Hiker bigcranky's Avatar
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    We used the mini for a couple of years - not fun. Just replaced it with the regular Sawyer, and that thing can put out some water. It's not much heavier, too.
    Ken B
    'Big Cranky'
    Our Long Trail journal

  6. #6

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    One ounce heavier for the Squeeze. Much better flow rate than the mini.

  7. #7
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    The Sawyer Squeeze filter is MUCH better than the mini. Much much much much much better.

    The Sawyer 3-way filter is even better than the Squeeze in terms of flow rate, though it could be called overkill. I prefer the 3-way though because the filter housing includes quick disconnect fittings. Adding those on to the Squeeze makes it heavier than the 3-way.

    I have all three, so here's a picture comparing them:

    IMG_0847.jpg

    Here's my whole setup:

    IMG_0842.jpg

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Casey & Gina View Post
    The Sawyer Squeeze filter is MUCH better than the mini. Much much much much much better.

    The Sawyer 3-way filter is even better than the Squeeze in terms of flow rate, though it could be called overkill. I prefer the 3-way though because the filter housing includes quick disconnect fittings. Adding those on to the Squeeze makes it heavier than the 3-way.

    I have all three, so here's a picture comparing them:

    IMG_0847.jpg

    Here's my whole setup:

    IMG_0842.jpg
    Is it mainly the flow rate & clogging problems you dislike with the mini? I've used it plenty of times (don't even back-flush it that often) and it seems fine to me. I've had it clog once or twice, but that's easily sorted out.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by GreenBlaze View Post
    Is it mainly the flow rate & clogging problems you dislike with the mini? I've used it plenty of times (don't even back-flush it that often) and it seems fine to me. I've had it clog once or twice, but that's easily sorted out.
    Clogging, poor flow rate, virtually impossible to use as a gravity filter, extreme sensitivity to air in the line on the input side, etc. It ends up taking a very long time to filter water with the mini - if I had to rely on it on an extended trip, I would just stop filtering water altogether because of the time and hassle. In addition, I don't like the smooth hose fittings on the ends - with how hard you have to end up squeezing the dirty bag to get water to trickle through the mini at all, if your dirty bag doesn't explode, the hose inevitably pops off of the fitting and dirty water shoots everywhere. Maybe the mini works out okay if you screw it onto a plastic bottle instead, but it sucks hardcore in the ways I've tried to use it.

    Check this out, if you want a very light Sawyer filter that works way better than the mini without adding the very small amount of weight a bigger filter like the Squeeze or 3-way would add:


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    duplicate.

  11. #11
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    I have an MSR Miniworks and I love that thing.

  12. #12
    Registered User lonehiker's Avatar
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    I've used the mini on multiple week trips (primarily as gravity feed) and have had good success with it. However, I backflush it regularly. This process only takes a couple of minutes. I ran into a guy on the PCT who was really cussing his mini. I asked him when he had backflushed it last, I knew the answer by the look on his face...

    All this being said, I more often than not take the original filter. But again I backflush it regularly as well. If you take care of your equipment, it will take care of you.
    Lonehiker (MRT '22)

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by lonehiker View Post
    I've used the mini on multiple week trips (primarily as gravity feed) and have had good success with it. However, I backflush it regularly. This process only takes a couple of minutes. I ran into a guy on the PCT who was really cussing his mini. I asked him when he had backflushed it last, I knew the answer by the look on his face...

    All this being said, I more often than not take the original filter. But again I backflush it regularly as well. If you take care of your equipment, it will take care of you.
    Backflushing is not an issue for me - if you look at the picture of my complete setup, I filter from a dirty bag into a clean bag. Then I transfer water from the clean bag into the bladder without taking it out of my pack via the use of quick disconnect fittings. Every time I have filtered adequate water, before disconnecting the clean bag from the filter, I sit on it or give it a good hard squeeze to backflush the filter. I also use a faucet adapter to blast water through backwards at higher pressure when I get home or to some place with a faucet. Also, run a little bleach-water when you get home to prevent microbial growth in the filter (most people don't do this and would be astonished to see what the inside of their filters look like).

    Likewise the guy who made the video I shared above backflushed regularly and stated as such in his video. If you compare the filters in side-by-side tests, you will get a lot better performance out of the larger Sawyer filters than the mini. If you never backflush them, they will clog up too until you do, but they are much less hassle overall. For an extra ounce or two, you get at least 10 times less hassle. Seems very worth it to me.

    Here are the weights of all 3 filters, when recently-used (so wet) but shaken out as much as possible, representing actual "trail weight":

    Mini: 52.8g
    Squeeze: 93.7g
    3-way: 109.0g

    The two fittings for the squeeze (blue and grey screw in/on pieces) weigh an additional 12.3g bringing the Squeeze weight up to 106g, and then there’s the weight of quick-disconnect fittings and short pieces of tubing if you want to add that functionality that I’m not even counting, which is already built-in to the 3-way. The 3-way weighs about double what the mini does, but is such a massive difference in performance it is well worth it. 109 grams is less than 4 ounces. Until recent years, backpackers commonly carried filters that weight upwards of a pound - some still do. I really don't think that when you have a very good option that weighs less than a quarter pound, that you need to worry about shaving off half of that and ending up with a problematic system you will not want to use. The Squeeze is a good filter, and more commonly available in retail outlets. The 3-way is even better.

    All use the same fundamental design but have varying amounts of porous tube surface area inside the filter. One of the biggest issues with these filters is when you have an air bubble stuck on the intake side - it can be pushed through but it is difficult - the filter allows water to pass a lot more easily than air. You can make improvements over the guy in the above video by letting air out of the tubes and then holding them pinched before attaching them to the filter, etc. but no matter what, you're going to end up with some amount of air to deal with. The larger the filter's porous surface area, the less of an issue that is, or more precisely, the faster it can be dealt with. Beyond that, there is the simple matter of how fast water can pass through the filter given the same amount of force (whether by gravity or squeezing). Also the mini's narrower housing seems to have more of an impact than the simple size difference would imply. I could speculate as to why but really won't know for sure unless one day I crack the filters open to compare the insides.

  14. #14
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    Here is why you want to bleach your filter per the Sawyer instructions after every trip:




  15. #15
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    I agree with Casey on the 3in1, fast and last a long time between backflushes. It's really great for 3 or more people. I did just get StS Ultra-sil folding bucket that holds 10 liters and weights 23 grams. My gravity set up is currently a modified MSR 4 liter bag. I am planning to punch a hole in the bottom of the StS and use a 1/4" threaded adapter to connect to the silicone tubing.

    If it works, it will save about 3.5 ounces over my system and add 4-5 liters of more capacity.

  16. #16
    Registered User lonehiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Casey & Gina View Post
    Backflushing is not an issue for me - if you look at the picture of my complete setup, I filter from a dirty bag into a clean bag. Then I transfer water from the clean bag into the bladder without taking it out of my pack via the use of quick disconnect fittings. Every time I have filtered adequate water, before disconnecting the clean bag from the filter, I sit on it or give it a good hard squeeze to backflush the filter. I also use a faucet adapter to blast water through backwards at higher pressure when I get home or to some place with a faucet. Also, run a little bleach-water when you get home to prevent microbial growth in the filter (most people don't do this and would be astonished to see what the inside of their filters look like).

    Likewise the guy who made the video I shared above backflushed regularly and stated as such in his video. If you compare the filters in side-by-side tests, you will get a lot better performance out of the larger Sawyer filters than the mini. If you never backflush them, they will clog up too until you do, but they are much less hassle overall. For an extra ounce or two, you get at least 10 times less hassle. Seems very worth it to me.

    Here are the weights of all 3 filters, when recently-used (so wet) but shaken out as much as possible, representing actual "trail weight":

    Mini: 52.8g
    Squeeze: 93.7g
    3-way: 109.0g

    The two fittings for the squeeze (blue and grey screw in/on pieces) weigh an additional 12.3g bringing the Squeeze weight up to 106g, and then thereís the weight of quick-disconnect fittings and short pieces of tubing if you want to add that functionality that Iím not even counting, which is already built-in to the 3-way. The 3-way weighs about double what the mini does, but is such a massive difference in performance it is well worth it. 109 grams is less than 4 ounces. Until recent years, backpackers commonly carried filters that weight upwards of a pound - some still do. I really don't think that when you have a very good option that weighs less than a quarter pound, that you need to worry about shaving off half of that and ending up with a problematic system you will not want to use. The Squeeze is a good filter, and more commonly available in retail outlets. The 3-way is even better.

    All use the same fundamental design but have varying amounts of porous tube surface area inside the filter. One of the biggest issues with these filters is when you have an air bubble stuck on the intake side - it can be pushed through but it is difficult - the filter allows water to pass a lot more easily than air. You can make improvements over the guy in the above video by letting air out of the tubes and then holding them pinched before attaching them to the filter, etc. but no matter what, you're going to end up with some amount of air to deal with. The larger the filter's porous surface area, the less of an issue that is, or more precisely, the faster it can be dealt with. Beyond that, there is the simple matter of how fast water can pass through the filter given the same amount of force (whether by gravity or squeezing). Also the mini's narrower housing seems to have more of an impact than the simple size difference would imply. I could speculate as to why but really won't know for sure unless one day I crack the filters open to compare the insides.
    It appears that you have a system that works for you. I am satisfied with the results that I get whether it is the mini or the "original" squeeze. I have been using both since their respective introductions. The flow rate is actually fairly low on my list of concerns for a filter. I use both as gravity filter and am not too concerned about a couple of minutes. Most important point for me is that I have purchased 2 filters that have a million gallon and a 100,00 gallon guarantee. I expect each filter to last the rest of my hiking days (barring allowing them to freeze).

    I prefer to backflush with the syringe as I feel that I get a much more forceful flush using it.

    Reference the bleach post. Sawyer recommends putting a bit through the filter prior to prolonged storage.

    Tip: If any of their filters start to have a slower flow rate you may have a calcium build-up. To solve this soak, and backflush, with hot (below 165d if I remember right) tap water/vinegar solution.
    Lonehiker (MRT '22)

  17. #17

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    Thanks for all the great input! I will likely switch over to the Sawyer Squeeze, through the 3-way looks better for an inline system which I am also considering. The flow rate on the Mini is just such a pain to deal with. If the Squeeze offers better flow rate, the modest weight increase is well worth it in my mind.

    Casey & Gina, have you ever tried drinking directly through the 3-way filter from a dirty bag? I'm wondering if you have to labor much to suck water from it. It seems that I could collect water and get back on the trail much quicker if I just filled a bag and drank straight through the filter, assuming the water is not total gunk.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Casey & Gina View Post
    The Sawyer Squeeze filter is MUCH better than the mini. Much much much much much better.

    The Sawyer 3-way filter is even better than the Squeeze in terms of flow rate, though it could be called overkill. I prefer the 3-way though because the filter housing includes quick disconnect fittings. Adding those on to the Squeeze makes it heavier than the 3-way.

    I have all three, so here's a picture comparing them:

    IMG_0847.jpg

    Here's my whole setup:

    IMG_0842.jpg

    Hey,

    How long is the silicone hose below the dirty bag to the filter connection. My setup is different, no clean bag, I just filter into 1l plastic bottles or a cookpot. The MSR system came with a plastic clip that shuts off the short "clean" line below the filter. My dirty incoming line is probably 48" or so, I have been hesitant to trim it down and lose head pressure into the filter.

    The 3in1 runs like a faucet and is worth a few extra grams.

  19. #19
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    I'm using the Sawyer Mini and while I do admit that it takes a good amount of muscle power in the hands to get the water through, I wouldn't say that I have a problem with it. I carry a 3L Osprey bladder in my Osprey Atmos 65 pack, and use the Camelbak Quick-Disconnect system, so I don't need to take the bladder out of the pack to refill - however - if there is a lot of gear pushing against the bladder while you are trying to refill it, the effort required to squeeze the water through the Mini will be significantly greater. For that reason, I usually remove the bladder from the pack (along with enough other stuff to allow it to slip back in easily when full) when I refill. Being that it's 3L, I don't have to refill more than once per day, except when it's really warm, or I use filtered water for washing myself ( I always use filtered water for washing cooking and eating gear, but not always for bathing).
    I bought the Evernew 2L bag, which screws onto the input of the Mini, because I read that the Sawyer bags were prone to bursting at the seams. I am very happy with the Evernew bag, but I also carry the Sawyer as a backup.

    When squeezing water from the bag, I always eliminate the air before attaching it to the filter. Then, I only use my hands to squeeze. I don't recommend sitting on the bag, but I think that practice should be OK once the bag is nearly empty and you just want to squeeze out the last drops.

    I do back-flush the Mini regularly, but I have never used bleach. I think I'm going to do that right now, as I have a trek coming up in 2 weeks.

    So in all, I am very happy with the Sawyer Mini, but I think that I will still purchase a bottle of purification tablets to save me just in case the filter breaks.

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by SkeeterPee View Post
    I have the mini with 32 oz bags and can easily fill up a liter bottle. But I have noticed it almost filters itself so I plan to experiment with some extra tubing. From what I have been reading you should be able to gravity feed without squeezing if you have a longer tube past the filter. then it become very easy to filter as you set up camp.
    Super easy to use the mini in a gravity setup.

    IMG_20160617_183445.jpg

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