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Sawyer Mini Water Filter or Sawyer Squeeze: How to Choose

Sawyer Squeeze and Sawyer Mini Water Filters
Sawyer Squeeze Point One and the Sawyer Mini Water Filters

The Sawyer Squeeze Point One and Sawyer Mini Water Filters are the most popular water treatment and purification systems used by backpackers today (approximately 40% use them according to a recent survey).

  • The Sawyer Squeeze Water Treatment System (which includes 2 x 32 oz. water reservoirs, a cleaning syringe, etc.) comes with the fatter Sawyer Point One water filter, so-named because it has a 0.1 micron absolute hollow fiber membrane filter that removes 7 log (99.99999 percent) of all bacteria like salmonella, cholera and E. coli, and 6 log (99.9999 percent) of all Protozoa such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium.
  • The Sawyer Mini Water Treatment System (which include a 16 oz. water reservoir, a cleaning syringe, etc.) comes with the thinner Sawyer Mini water filter, also a 0.1 micron absolute hollow fiber membrane filter, with the same filter bacteria and protozoa removal efficacy rates as the Sawyer Point One, listed above.

How can you decide between the two? It really depends on how you intend to use them: as an inline filter with a reservoir, as a gravity filter, in a squeeze system, or directly attached to a bottle.

Many hikers replace the Sawyer reservoirs with transparent ones because its easier to see how full they are.
Many hikers replace the Sawyer reservoirs with transparent ones because it’s easier to see how full they are.

I’ve used both of these Sawyer filters for years, on hundreds of day hikes and backpacking trips, and recommend the following:

  1. If you want an inline filter on a reservoir hose, use the Sawyer Mini Water Filter. In this configuration, you put “dirty” water in your reservoir and suck it through through the inline filter, spliced into your hose. The Sawyer Mini has hose compatible connectors on the two ends that make this configuration possible.
  2. The same holds for a gravity filter configuration, where you’d position the Sawyer Mini on a hose between a “dirty” reservoir and a “clean” reservoir.
  3. If you carry water bottles or a reservoir and want to refill them with “clean water”, use the Sawyer Squeeze water filter. In this configuration, fill a reservoir with “dirty water”, screw on the filter, and squeeze the water through the filter into your “clean” bottles or reservoir. The flow rate of the Sawyer Point One is much faster than the Mini because it has a bigger diameter and more surface area. It also needs to be back-flushed less frequently to improve the flow rate.
  4. Sawyer provides a mouthpiece and a cap to protect the cleanliness of the Sawyer Point One filter and the Sawyer Mini filters, so you can screw the filters onto a reservoir or water bottle and suck on them directly to get a mouthful of water. But, I’ve never found the caps to stay on reliably, increasing the risk of cross-contamination. Your mileage may vary.

My preferred method is #3, squeezing water from a “dirty” reservoir to “clean” water bottles. For this, I prefer using the Sawyer Point One filter.

Disclosure: The author purchased the products discussed in this article with his own funds. 

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  1. I have been using the Sawyer Squeeze filter (the fat one) exclusively for about 7 years backpacking. I also own the 4L system that is used when we canoe camp, which employs a similar filter. Never a problem with either of them. Basic use of the Squeeze filter is as you describe in scenario #3 above. I always have the filter on my person when the temperatures get towards freezing due to the problems others have told me about when the filter freezes. I had many problems with the original “dirty water” bags Sawyer provided with the filter originally, and found as you have, that Evernew ones work better. I carry a small Evernew bag for extra water and to use with a Smart bottle sport cap to back flush when needed. In regards to the Mini, I saw many of them on different trips, but it seemed like a good number of individuals who were filtering into a container (again #3 above), ended up replacing them with the Squeeze model due to slow flow. If either of my Sawyer filters ever fail, I will replace them with another. IMHO I have not seen anything better come on the market with the versatility of this filter.

  2. I disagree with your assertions regarding the Sawyer Mini. I have used it in all of the configurations you mentioned and all I can say is your better have good “suckage” to use as an inline filter on a bladder (I have not tried the Squeeze in this configuration). I tried both filters in a gravity configuration and neither worked well (Sawyer has a gravity system with a different filter and that works very well.) Therefore, I recommend using these filters only as squeeze filters. In my opinion, the Sawyer Squeeze is superior to the Mini in that squeezing water through the Mini is much more difficult than the Squeeze. The Squeeze is worth the extra cost and slight weight penalty. Plus, the longer usefull life on the Squeeze justifies the higher cost.

  3. 100% of bikers that started the PCT with a mini dropped it in a hiker box or in the trash and bought a full sized squeeze. The reason? Flowrate.

    • I agree, that’s why I stopped using mine. The flow rate can be atrocious, even after using the syringe. It led to my dehydration on one trip. Its now been retired to the emergency earthquake kit.

    • I have the mini. It works fine if you drink directly through the filter. I’m not a fan of the Sawyer supplied bags though. I’ve had them break on me. Turned upside down, you can easily suck the water directly out through the mini and it works great. My friends doesn’t like to use it this way though and insists on filtering the water into a clean bottle. I agree that refilling clean bottles with it is a chore, so for larger groups I use the gravityworks water filter. You just hang it up and it does the work for you.

  4. I exclusively use the Sawyer Point One in the following ways:

    * As a squeeze filter into my smart water bottle or my hydration bladder when we have to stop and filter during the day.

    * As a gravity filter, using a tornado tube to connect the Sawyer to my smart water bottle. That way I can let it filter away while I setup camp at the end of the day.

  5. I bought the larger Sawyer and then saw the Mini and bought it also. I’ve been using the Mini for several years and have had no problems whatsoever with it. I rigged up a gravity filter setup with 5′ of vinyl hose. I drilled a hole in a soft drink bottle cap and forced the hose through it. I screwed in onto my dirty bag and hung it in a tree or laid it up on a rock. At the other end, I plugged in the Mini and let it filter into clean containers while I did camp chores. For me, it filters at a rather reasonable rate, much better than I get by squeezing the bag with my arthritic hands. Recently, I changed out the vinyl hose for a silicone one since the vinyl gets so stiff in cooler temps.

    I store my Mini in a snack Ziploc and keep it in a pocket and in my sleeping bag in cold weather to prevent freezing.

    I’ve used it to filter Rio Grande River water and water from algae encrusted ponds. I had to backflush the filter about every two liters of the river water to get all the sediment out but that only took seconds. I prefiltered the algae from one dirty bag to another by pouring the water through a cheap plastic Coleman fuel filter. When the filter clogged, I’d pull the algae strings out and continue the prefiltering. I then ran the prefiltered water through the Mini’s gravity filter and it all worked just fine.

    When I’m hiking, I also carry chlorine dioxide tablets as a backup system so that if my filter quits working, I’m OK. On longer or larger expeditions, my hiking parter(s) will also have a Mini, since I have several of them.

  6. I have only tried the Squeeze, on a overnighter two weekends ago. The flow was awful, but I realized that I had tried it at home and perhaps it was waterlogged or something akin to that. Fortunately, I was also trying Aqua Mira drops for the first time and therefore had backup. Upon returning home, I backflushed the Squeeze after which it worked very well. I will try the combination again in April on a section hike of the Ozark Highlands Trail in Arkansas — making sure to check out the Squeeze beforehand.

    • I’d be interested in joining you for a hike on the Ouachita Trail. I live in Conway and have been a backpacker for over 40 years. Currently training for the AT. Look me up on backpackingArkansas, 2old2learn.

  7. I have both a Mini and a “full” Squeeze, and use the larger one almost all the time. It was relatively easy to put together a gravity system (based off an article from here, actually), and that gives about 1L/minute. I still use the Sawyer bags (64 oz plus some 32 and 16). I’m usually filtering for part of a larger group (Boy Scouts), so the Mini doesn’t make sense. Backflushing I use the Smartwater Sport top. My backup is Aqua Mira.

  8. I use the Sawyer Point One and screw on the Cleaning Coupling between the bag and the bottle. I then use it as a gravity filter, using just the coupling and no other hoses, etc. which works well. I read where others were using the Tornado Tube and thought I would try the Coupling since I had it on hand. It cannot be screwed on too tight or it restricts the flow, but it does work well as a gravity filter in the same manner as a Tornado Tube.

  9. I’ve only used the Mini. I have a 6 oz gravity rig built with an old 3l platypus, food-grade silicone hose, pinch valve and bottle cap adapter. Since all of my use has been in either SoCal or the Sierras, I have not had to deal with muddy water, and I get about 1l/minute flow from a 6-ft head. I have backflushed the filter a couple times, probably didn’t need it, but I just felt like I should do it.

  10. I use the Sawyer Squeeze and have used it to filter into bottles and rigged as a gravity filter. I reinforced and punched holes in the corners of a large Sawyer bag and added a line to facilitate hanging as the dirty water bag, and set up their in-line adapter for the water to filter into my Platy big zip reservoir. It works great.

    I haven’t had a problem with the Sawyer bags (so far), but have read numerous complaints about them leaking. I can see how they might be prone to spring a leak if people are trying to squeeze the water through too aggressively.

    • I did the same using that adapter and 1/4 ” tubing as a water line. You just need to bleed out air before plugging in the Sawyer and use enough tubing to get a decent head for gravity to feed the system.

  11. I find the Mini bag difficult to fill and a royal pain to squeeze. I bring a Platy GravityWorks on most hikes despite the weight penalty. You can’t beat the flow, backwash, ease of filling and carrying capacity

  12. Hiked the Colorado trail last year, used the Sawyer One, without need to backflush once for the entire month @ about 5 to 6 L/day. It helped that I inserted a 75 micron nylon screen prefilter under the inlet gasket. Connected the outlet via tornado tube to receiving bag. If you have to refill the squeeze bag when the collection bag is half full, it’s a PITA if you want to avoid spills of both clean and dirty water. There is probably a snap-type connector on the market, designed for a different application in liquid handling, that would solve that problem. I found that collecting water to filter with the squeeze bag is a PITA, especially in shallow collection spots, but not something that a 1 gal ziploc bag can’t fix.

    The mini was popular too, but many commented when they saw my flowrate vs. theirs that the 1 oz weight penalty would have been worth it

  13. I have 1 of each the Sawyer squeeze and the mini, the flow rate is double on the mini over the Squeeze, I know backwards right ? I’ve back flushed countless times and only ever really used clear snow runoff clear water nothing dirty.
    Is it possible the larger squeeze is just a dud or did anyone else have this problem also ? I think it’s one of the first ones to come out, I got it years ago when they were virtually unknown.

  14. I use the mini. Yes it takes time but it’s at the end of my day so it doesn’t matter. I keep it clean so the flow is good. just my take on it.

  15. I have used the Sawyer mini and the Point one . Both in gravity systems and in pack bladder systems. I gave up on the pack bladder system as there is no way to now when water is gone , till the sucking through a straw at the bottom of a milk shake sound occurs.

    Squeezing can be a hassle and time consuming . especially with arthritis issues

    I really like the Point one in a gravity system which I use to fill Smart water bottles . I start with a 3L Platypus Zip full of dirty water ( 2 of us hiking ) hang the bag about 4-5 ft from a tree , and let Sir Isaac Newton do the rest . I can empty the 3 L bladder in 2 minutes . Ah – no more squeezing , more time for the break, or more trail miles . Whats not to love . The weight difference is worth the ease of use .

  16. I have replaced my Sawyer Mini with a Katadyn BeFree filter. Flow rate is much better, whether sucking or squeezing, and cleaning the filter is much easier; just a shake or two after filling the bottle with dirty water, no back flushing or syringe required.

    I use my BeFree in several configurations. While hiking I keep it in the Katadyn bottle that comes with the filter, and drink directly from the filter. If the trail section has limited water sources, I fill an additional Platypus collapsible flask by squeezing from the BeFree flask. In camp I attach the BeFree filter to a Hydrapak Seeker 3-liter collapsible container and use it as a gravity flow filter. There are adapters available for in-line with a reservoir.

  17. I have only used the mini and always use it in a gravity set up. I have filtered peat bog water with it and as long as you back flush regularly you should have no problems. Like Ray H. I let it go to work while I set up camp.

  18. I have the Mini, but after reading Philip’s post and the comments here, today I ordered the Squeeze, an Evernew 2 liter water carrier, some 75 micron nylon screen, and the blue back-flush connector for a direct connection between the water carrier and a Smart Water bottle. Great site, I’m always learning something new here.

  19. The Mini is fine if you are in wetter climates where carrying two bottles is the max you need. I filter and treat my water, so I give the bottle I fill a rest for the treatment to do it’s thing. If you are in dryer places where filling multiple bottles are required, the Squeeze might be the better way to go, but the Mini is more the adequate for just a couple of refilling breaks a day along the trail. Filling and treating one bottle only takes a few minutes to do.

  20. I used the Squeeze for several years, with a quick disconnect fitting that allowed me to fill a 3L Osprey bladder through the drinking hose. Could also fill 1-liter bottles when I needed to carry it that way. The only negative was the difficulty of filling the squeeze bags through that tiny hole in anything but fast-flowing water. What worked for me was to dip with my 1L cook pot and pour into the squeeze bag. Last summer decided to try the mini, inline in the drinking hose from a Platypus zip. Refilling was fast and easy, but as others have reported it took a lot of suck to get any water through the filter. And, backflushing was a bit of a hassle as it required undoing the hose connection at the filter outlet. Probably going back to the Squeeze this year.

    • To fill the itty-bitty Sawyer bag hole, ut the top half off if a cheap grocery store water bottle and use it as a scoop. Pinch the open top a bit to make a sort of spout. Weighs almost nothing.

    • Mike, can you share how you rigged the setup to fill the bladder directly through the drinking hose? I have an opsrey pack as well and this is what I’ve been looking for.

  21. I use the Mini with a DIY gravity set up. 4 min per liter. Evernew 2 liter bag, filter, a bit of cordage, and a Smart Water bottle. The cordage has a taught line hitch on the filter and a noose for the water bottle neck. You can pull the bottle aside and put the cap on to stop the flow between bottles.

  22. Have any of you commenters or Phillip ever had trouble with keeping your Sawyer filters clean? I had a Squeeze that I apparently didn’t dry out enough after a hike and the next time I used it the water tasted musty and obviously the filter had mold in it. I tried vinegar, bleach, the directions on the Sawyer website, and nothing cleaned it out so I retired the Squeeze and got a mini. Now the mini is clogged even though I’ve barely used it and I can’t find the syringe though I’m sure I will locate it soon, but I’m worried that once again the filter is moldy. Since there’s no way to open this filter, how in the world do you clean mold out of it, since flushing it with bleach doesn’t work??

    It’s pretty much soured me on this type of filter, I gotta say.

    • Liz – We hike in the same places and I’ve NEVER, EVER had a problem keeping a Sawyer clean. A trick – after you’ve filtered with it, blow into the mouthpiece (no need to touch it with your lips) which will backflush it and dry out the filter so it doesn’t drip all over your pack.

      I also never bother drying my filter so it’s often damp between trips. I’ve never experienced any problems with mold and even if I did, the filter should remove it. But if you want to kill mold (anyway), I would suggest soaking it instead. A bleach solution, efferdent (yeah really), aqua mira treated water – they should all work.

      • That’s so weird. I found the syringe and backflushed the mini and it has the same disgusting musty moldy taste as the regular squeeze. I’m so disappointed. I will try denture cleaner and aqua mira as you suggested and get back to you, but why would I have trouble with this when you don’t? I don’t get it.

        Anyway, thanks for the cleaning suggestions. Hope they work, but if bleach doesn’t I don’t know why they would. :-/

    • Still gross inside. I give up. Mostly because taste-testing the water is REALLY disgusting. Thanks anyway.

  23. I’ve used my Sawyer Mini (inline and gravity) for several years on short backpacking trips and have never had throughput issues serving one person. However, use has mainly been in the Sierra and I use fairly clear and flowing water whenever possible. Inline configuration while on the trail and gravity filter once at camp are facilitated by a quick connect between the filter and raw water reservoir and another on the mouthpiece–these allow me to easily remove the mouthpiece to convert to gravity service at camp, and to remove and stow the mini filter during freezing nights. I’d recommend storing reservoir in a light but durable drysack or similar to avoid reservoir punctures when hanging, lying the bag streamside, etc. Happy trails.

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