What water treatment system do you need?
I remember the first time I stood in an REI with an associate trying to decide what kind of water treatment system I needed. I was wide-eyed at the enormity of the water purification selection in front of me.
Choosing the right water purification product can be overwhelming, but it ultimately boils down to your needs. One of the leading companies in water filtration products, Sawyer, has two popular filtration systems with similar but slightly different functions and capabilities: the Mini and the Squeeze. Let’s take a look.
Sawyer filtration technology
The critical component to Sawyer’s filters is their Absolute Micron Filtering Technology. This uses tiny U-shaped micro-tubes that allow water to enter into micro-pores while other harmful particles are unable to enter (check out their YouTube overview here as well).
Both the Mini and the Squeeze technology are rated to 0.1 micron pore size and remove 99.99999% of all bacteria, such as salmonella, cholera, and E.coli, and 99.9999% of all protozoa, such as giardia and cryptosporidium.
The filters go well above and beyond EPA standards.
Does the Sawyer Mini Last Longer than the Squeeze?
The Mini is rated to last up to 100,000 gallons. Though the company does not give longevity ratings on the Squeeze, many users report several years (at least four) before they find that filtration slows down and sometimes becomes unusable.
The long life is due to its ability to stand up under heavy backflushing.
Is the Sawyer Mini smaller than the Sawyer Squeeze?
Both products are small and backpacker-friendly, but unsurprisingly, the Mini is the smaller of the two at 5 inches long by 2 inches wide; the Squeeze is 5 inches long by 3 inches wide.
Both the Mini and Squeeze have practically the same versatility. Both come with collapsible pouches (16 oz. and 32 oz. respectively), and the filter can be attached to the pouch for drinking.
Additionally, the pouch and filter can be used to squeeze water into another container. They can also be screwed directly onto a bottle of water.
Lastly, both filters can be used as in-lines for hydration packs or as pre-filters (see “Pro tips” below).
The primary difference between the two filters is that the Mini includes an attachable straw which allows you to drink directly from a separate water bottle.
Also, the Squeeze comes with larger pouches which may be more useful (although the pouch of the Mini simply needs to be refilled once in order to equal the size of the Squeeze pouch; this is hardly an inconvenience).
The most glaring difference between Sawyer’s Squeeze and its newer Mini (and what has made the Mini a more popular product) is the price.
Cleaning the Sawyer Water Filters
Both products should be backflushed after each use. Backflush the product with the cleaning plunger that is included (watch here), and use filtered water for the backflush.
Though filters don’t typically need to be cleaned in the field, the cleaning plunger is easily portable if it becomes necessary.
What they don’t do
The Mini and Squeeze are good at filtering out biological contaminants and are effective in most every natural body of water in North America.
However, they don’t filter viruses (found more commonly in developing nations) or water tainted by dissolvable substances (metals, chemicals, etc.).
So, if there is a threat of these other forms of contamination, the Mini and the Squeeze would not be the primary products for you.
Pro tips for Sawyer Mini & Sawyer Squeeze
- Don’t let your filter freeze. If you’re hiking in freezing temperatures, you’ll still want to make sure that the filter stays warm enough so that water does not freeze to the fiber and crack it.
- As mentioned above, though both of these filtration systems are great, they don’t filter everything. Many backpackers use the Mini or the Squeeze as a pre-filter and bring along other filters with absorbent mediums that trap dissolvable substances. You can greatly increase the longevity of those other filters by pre-filtering with systems like the Mini and the Squeeze which work as in-lines.
- Look through other products by Sawyer if your specific needs aren’t met by the Mini or the Squeeze. Their Point ZeroTwo filters available in some of their products also remove 99.997% of viruses. It’s hard to beat the ultra-lightweight component of the Mini and the Squeeze, but certain trips might demand more advanced filtration methods or versatility.
- Always have a backup. It can be a nightmare getting caught without some sort of backup in case your original breaks, stops functioning, or somehow goes missing. Even unpopular iodine tablets can be great to pack along in case of an emergency.
Sawyer Mini vs Squeeze?
With nearly the same specs and functions, the newer Sawyer Mini tends to be the more attractive choice. However, both are good products and are an excellent choice for an ultra-light water treatment system.