In Gear

Introduction

Being out of water is the worst thing that can happen on any trip. Whether you are traveling to another country or taking a long backpacking trip, safe drinking water is crucial for survival. You don’t have to watch Discovery Channel or Animal Planet (or join the military – though there’s nothing wrong with that!) to realize this.

You are not going to have a clean potable water source on hand always. Also, carrying a lot of water is out of the question.

You should consider investing in a personal water filtration system that allows you to drink from natural water sources. Camping water filters let you drink from any water source, including lakes and streams without falling sick.

Two of the most popular clean water filters for survival are Lifestraw vs. Sawyer.

Why Is It Important to Carry a Reliable Water Filter?

Everyone’s been there – you bring gallons of drinking water on your hiking trip, only to run out. The worst part is that all your camping friends run out of water as well. You are thirsty and the sun is really hot with no human habitat around for miles. The only option left is the natural stream running next to you. But, how safe is that water?

Experienced backpackers know that the first rule of survival is to ensure that the water you drink is safe. This can be pretty difficult in the wild. You can never be sure that the water is free from harmful bacteria even if the river or stream appears to be clean. Then, there is always the problem of harmful toxins that dissolve completely in water.

Cholera, Salmonella, and E. coli are few of the harmful bacteria living in natural water that can be life-threatening when ingested. The same goes for micro-plastic and protozoa, like cryptosporidium and giardia. All these things can get you running for the nearest hospital within hours of ingestion.

Don’t gamble when it comes to your life for something as easy as clean drinking water. Look for a reliable water filter that can be carried on your trips. Lifestraw and Sawyer water filters purify water to remove most harmful agents and bacteria. You can drink purified rainwater through these filters and it would not harm your health.

However, you need to keep in mind that neither of these water filters can keep out viruses. So, you need to look for natural water sources that appear clean. Don’t go dipping your water bottle or filter in filthy cesspools even if waterborne viruses are pretty rare in North America.

Sawyer Mini Water Filter Specifications

Sawyer has been in the filtration industry for a long time. This brand is definitely not new to outdoors people. Sawyer is a highly respected company and has numerous successful products up its sleeve. This includes portable personal water filters to larger units that can supply safe drinking water for an entire group.

Sawyer Mini Specifications:

  • Created specifically for travel, emergency preparedness, and outdoor recreational use
  • Removes 99.9999% of protozoa
  • Removes 99.99999% of harmful bacteria
  • Super compact size that fits easily in the hand
  • Filters to 0.1 micron
  • 100,000 gallons filtration life
  • Weighs just 2 oz.

Sawyer Mini is one of the best water filters on the market for being lightweight, compact, and priced perfectly. Also, it does a tremendous job of purifying water quickly.

A nice touch to this product is the 5 different colors it comes in. You can take your pick from black, blue, green, pink and orange.

The color may seem a trivial feature, but orange tends to stand out pretty well when you lose your filter in the backcountry. Pick a color that best supports the place where you are going.

Sawyer Mini can also be used for a really long time as compared to other filters on the market. You can get 100,000 gallons of water from a single filter. This is partly due to the filter’s capability of being cleaned after each use. It comes with an included plunger that helps push water through the filter in the other direction.

Lifestraw Water Filter Specifications

lifestraw-water-filter-logoWhen you compare Sawyer Mini vs. Lifestraw, the first fact is that Lifestraw is not as old as Sawyer. It was recently created to provide aid to third world countries where there is limited or no access to safe drinking water. Lifestraw is a perfect size to be stowed away in an SHTF kit or your car.

It can be the best partner for your survival bag since the design works great for camping, hiking, and backpacking. Lifestraw has a unique straw-shaped design. You can directly dip this straw into the water source and drink.

Lifestraw Personal Water Filter Specifications

  • Only 9-inch-long with a 1-inch diameter
  • Removes 99.999% of protozoan
  • Removes 99.9999% waterborne bacteria
  • Removes 99.999% of micro-plastics
  • Weighs just 2 oz.
  • 1056 gallons filtration life

Lifestraw is going to work for you if you are looking for the most budget-friendly and basic water filter.

Lifestraw is a fairly basic product and there is not much to say about it. The design is disposable but you cannot field clean it. You can only use it till you reach its lifespan and then discard it for a new one.

The water filter comes in a durable case with a lifespan that is decent for most people. One Lifestraw should easily last 6 months for a group of 6 people in the open. That is a good lifespan for a basic straw-shaped design.

However, campers or backpackers may be the only ones to use Lifestraw to the fullest since the filter can only be used in one way.

Sawyer vs. Lifestraw – Features Comparison

Before comparing Lifestraw vs. Sawyer, it is important to understand that Lifestraw was primarily designed to make it easy for third world countries to gain access to safe drinking water.

It was never created to be a backcountry solution for backpackers or survivalists. However, it has gained popularity as a survivalist’s water filter for being cheap and disposable.

In contrast, the Sawyer Mini filtration system is specifically designed for backcountry use. It basically improves upon the concept of Lifestraw tenfold. Here’s how Lifestraw vs. Sawyer Mini fare against each other.

Total Lifespan

When it comes to the number of times these water filters can be used, Sawyer Mini is the outright champion. The company claims that a single unit with the same filter can provide 100,000 gallons of clean drinking water. You can expect to get approximately 1,000 gallons from Lifestraw.

However, when you really get down to the math, you would know that Lifestraw would last 5.5 years if you use it every single day for half a gallon of water. You would need to clean it after each use though. And, this comes at a price point of just $20.

You would just as sooner replace your water filter than wait for 5.5 years. Experts claim that 100,000 gallons claimed by Sawyer are too good to be true. However, there is no data to support or refute this point, making Sawyer Mini the clear winner in this section.

It’s essential to clean and maintain these water filters if you want them to be useful for a long time. Without proper cleaning, both would hardly give you 200 gallons of clear water. Sawyer Mini comes with a handy cleaning plunger which allows the filter to be easily maintained. You can back-flush and sanitize the filter after every outing.

Microns

It is important to consider microns when comparing Sawyer Mini vs. Lifestraw filtration systems. Lifestraw features a 0.2-micron filter whereas Sawyer Mini comes equipped with a 0.1-micron filter.

You would think that Sawyer Mini was better, but 0.1 and 0.2-micron filters are almost the same in terms of pore size. Neither water filters are going to allow bacteria to slip through. At the same time, both water filters will not be able to filter out viruses.

However, 0.1 micron does give Sawyer Mini a slight advantage since it reduces the chance of the odd bacteria from slipping through. Also, prolonged use makes the pores grow bigger. It may be best to start with a 0.1-micron filter than a 0.2 filter for this reason. The difference is practically negligible when comparing a brand new, out of the box filter.

Based on results from an independent research lab, Sawyer Mini is capable of removing 99.99999% of all bacteria, including the very harmful salmonella, cholera, and E.coli. At the same time, Lifestraw can filter out 99.9999% of bacteria. Where protozoa are concerned, Sawyer Mini can remove 99.9999% while Lifestraw can filter out 99.999%.

When you compare Sawyer vs. Lifestraw, both meet EPA standards. This is the reason why most backpackers don’t care about the minimal difference.

Cost

When you are looking for a new water filter, the price factor is almost as important as reliability, usability, portability, and lifespan. A unit that is too expensive is just not worth taking out on a trip. There is no point in buying the best, lightest, most efficient filter if it is going to cost you the month’s rent.

The good news is that both Sawyer Mini and Lifestraw are affordably priced. They are both priced around $20. Lifestraw would cost you just $17.47 while Sawyer Mini is priced at $19.97.

The real difference starts when you look at the packs and bundles. Lifestraw offers a better deal here since a pack of three will only set you back by about $42.31. You would get a 2-pack Sawyer Mini if you pay $45.39. There are no 3-packs where Sawyer Mini is concerned. You won’t even get value for money if you purchase their bulk 4-pack which costs around $83.30.

If budget is what you are looking for Lifestraw is probably the better deal of the two.

Speed & Efficiency

Another purchase consideration is the speed and efficiency with which your water filter works. It’s pretty basic to find a filter that works fast. You cannot be expected to wait long when you have been thirsty for hours and you stumble upon a water source. This is where Sawyer Mini is the clear winner.

It works both as a filter and a straw. You don’t have to wait around for a long time for the filter to do its job. Also, there is no resistance with Sawyer Mini when you are sucking. It is just as efficient as using as a gravity filter.

Lifestraw, on the other hand, was designed to work specifically like a straw filter. It works slower. You would also experience slight resistance when you are sucking on it. The water takes a while to filter.

How to Choose Portable Water Filters?

Potable WaterFilter Life

Sawyer – 5

Lifestraw – 3

Every filter cartridge has a limited lifespan with some models lasting longer than others. Some water filters cannot last for more than a few days without proper cleaning. You need to find a high-quality portable water filter that employs long-lasting filter cartridges.

Lifespan is important when you are planning to stay out in the backcountry for a long time. You do not want your reliable water filter dying on you out of nowhere. Generally, there is no option for carrying a spare due to lack of space.

This is why survivalists always choose filters that can be cleaned on the field. This helps in increasing the life span.

Speed

Sawyer – 5

Lifestraw – 4

How patient do you think you can be when sawdust-like thirst is clawing your throat? You have gone hours without water and you suddenly stumble upon a stream. Do you think you can wait minutes for the water filter to do its job? You need to find a water filter that is speedy and efficient. You also need to consider the number of people relying on the same water filter to drink.

All portable water filters are capable of removing contaminants from water. However, they do their job at different rates.

Some water filters can produce only a few ounces of clean water per minute, while others can produce as much as 20 ounces of clean water in a minute. Using a unit that allows you to filter water quickly or at least suck it without resistance can be helpful when you are out traveling or camping.

Convenience

Sawyer – 5

Lifestraw – 4

Portable water filters are designed to be small and compact. However, they are not always easy to use. When it comes to surviving you don’t want to be hampered by your water filter. You want a unit that is easy to use.

Some filters come with detailed instructions while others just let you figure it out on your own. For single person use, it is best to find a simple design that doesn’t leave much room for error.

Reliability

Sawyer – 5

Lifestraw – 5

How reliable is your water filter? Can you trust it to remove all bacteria, protozoa, and other harmful toxins? Can you trust the water filter to give you safe drinking water so that you don’t fall sick? Look at the micron strength when making a purchase decision. What is the pore size? It should be small enough to get rid of at least 99.9% bacteria and protozoa.

Size and Weight

Sawyer – 5

Lifestraw – 4

Weight is an important factor when you are making a long-distance or an exerting trip. Water filters may look small and compact, but every ounce counts. Sometimes, there is a trade-off between speed of filtering and weight of the filter. Generally, smaller and lighter filters take more time to filter water.

You shouldn’t invest in a water filter if it is uncomfortable or too bulky to carry around. Always consider the weight before making a purchase decision. While most portable water filters are lightweight, the design can cause them to be uncomfortable to carry.

The Winner: Sawyer Mini Water Filter

The Sawyer Mini is better in every single category except the price. However, it is still value for money and gives a lot at that price point. You need to know that Sawyer Mini was designed specifically for backpackers and campers, while Lifestraw was made for third world countries.

Sawyer Mini is especially convenient to use. You can simply attach it to your hydration bladder, water bottle or use it as a straw to drink straight from the water source. You can even attach the filter to the hose of your hydration pack so that you get filtered water without using your hands.

Sawyer Mini also wins when it comes to ease of use and portability. It is smaller than Lifestraw and is much easier to carry anywhere. There are many issues when it comes to using a straw filter for everyday planning and preparation. Lifestraw at the end of the day is just a straw and comes with the following issues:

  • You would need to stick your head close to a water source or squat down when you want a drink
  • Needs a lot of mouth suction especially when you are drinking out of a murky water pool
  • Cannot fill a cooking pot
  • Cannot carry filtered water with you

These reasons make Sawyer Mini a better option.

A Key Asset

It’s necessary to gain access to safe and clean drinking water while in the wilderness. Therefore, a careful comparison between Lifestraw vs. Sawyer is vital before you make a decision.

An affordable and reliable water filter like the Sawyer Mini is the best way for you to ensure that you are never without potable water. You can get a quick, easy, and compact access to drinking water at all times.

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