If asked about survival necessities, the first word that comes to mind is usually “water.” And why wouldn’t it? Humans can last 21 days without food, but only three to five days without water. It’s easy to think, “I can get water anywhere!” In theory, that’s certainly a true statement, especially with options like rainwater collection and natural bodies of water.
However, there are lots of nasty things floating around in untreated water, like Escherichia coli (E. coli,) cholera, typhoid fever, and bacillary dysentery. This is why it is vital to consider hydration when preparing for a backpacking trip, an excursion abroad, or even a home emergency preparedness kit.
A top recommendation is the Sawyer Mini water filter. This tiny tool comes in at a grand total of 2.4 ounces if you include the straw attachment and the 16 oz. soft bottle that comes with the filter. Unlike the LifeStraw, which can only be used as a straw, the Mini can be used to drink directly from a source. It can also be screwed onto a small-mouthed bottle (like a standard 20 oz. water bottle) or be attached inline to a hydration bladder hose.
The Mini utilizes hollow fibers to filter bacteria, protozoa, E. coli, Giardia, Salmonella Typhi, and pretty much any other matter that’s larger than .1 microns. That surpasses the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines for home tap water filters1. The Mini is also a very lasting piece of gear, able to filter a whopping 100,000 gallons. To put that into perspective, if a person drinks a gallon of water every day through the Mini, he or she will have over 270 years of clean water.
The one true downside to such a powerful filter is clogging. While infrequent, the water flow rate eventually drops and the filter needs to be cleaned out. This is done with the included plunger by “backwashing,” or putting water through the tube from the drinking end, with potable water.
Clogging isn’t the only pitfall the Mini is susceptible to. After the first use, it is possible for the fibers in the filter to freeze and become damaged in cold weather. To prevent this, Sawyer advises keeping the Mini in a pocket or somewhere it will be kept above freezing.
The incredible versatility and light weight make it an excellent choice for those on the go or for backpackers who must make the most of every inch and ounce. With superior filtration and packability for only $25, it is one of the most affordable filters around.
It is important to note that while the Sawyer Mini filters bacteria and protozoa, it does not filter viruses. However, Sawyer does make a 4 Liter Gravity Water Purification System, which filters to .02 microns, and is able to physically remove viruses.