We trialled the Sawyer Mini water filter to see if it could make dirty water good enough to drink.
On a hike, I carry the bare essentials, but even when using just purification tablets I’ve succumbed to tummy bugs once too often, so my essentials now include several days’ worth of water.
That much liquid weighs a lot so, in a quest to shave excess baggage, I bought a Sawyer Mini water filter. It’s just 62g and very easy to use: fill the reusable bag with water, screw on the filter and squeeze. You’ll have just under half a litre of drinkable water within 70 seconds.
The quickest, easiest method is to roll the bag up to gently force water through the filter. If you split the bag (unlikely, as it’s made of strong plastic), a soft drink bottle can substitute as the coupling is a perfect match. I also tried drinking directly from a puddle with the supplied straw (hard work), and hanging the bag up for gravity to take over (a slow process).
Sawyer has independently accredited tests that show the Mini removes 99.99999% of all bacteria and protozoa. We haven't conducted independent lab tests to verify Sawyer’s claims but we have studied the documents it provides on its website. The company also has a long history of providing water filtration systems such as this in the United States and internationally, with no evidence of the products failing to meet the performance standards claimed.
I also did my own my own informal test where I fetched water from a nearby stream, filtered it, and used a store-bought bacteria test kit to see if any obvious nasties were still lurking in the clean sample. Nothing showed up so I persuaded a few colleagues to take a sip. The consensus? It tasted fine. Most importantly, no one got sick.
A workmate, meanwhile, has been using his for a couple of years on bike trips to the back of beyond, where he’s drunk from “all sorts of horrible streams and ponds” yet never fallen ill. However, he never drinks from anything that once contained unfiltered water – advice I’ll remember when I go off-grid this summer.
It might be a cliché that “good things come in small packages”, but I like the Mini so much I’ve added one to my earthquake kit and given another to a mate heading overseas, confident in the knowledge that in an emergency, dirty water will be the least of our worries.