Portable water filters are incredibly handy to have when you find yourself in the middle of nowhere with an empty water bottle or CamelBak. Whether you’re in the midst of an emergency situation, out on a particularly long hike, or camping, they can help prevent dehydration and water-borne illnesses. Portable water filters purify your water by eliminating pathogens and toxic compounds, leaving behind clean drinkable water. Arguably, the two most popular filters on the market are the Sawyer Mini and the LifeStraw. But which one should you choose? Here’s how they match up:
On the surface, these two products appear very similar. For example, they’re both easy to use hollow-fiber membrane filters, as opposed to mammoth ceramic water filters. As the water pours through the filter, the membrane catches pathogens, algae, bacteria, and other unwelcome elements. The best thing about this style of filter is that you never have to change it out. Another plus is that there is no pumping required. These key factors make both ideal for distribution in catastrophic situations, such as hurricanes and earthquakes, and they’ve provided a cheap and easy solution for many people.
Now, here’s where they begin to differ: the Sawyer Mini and the LifeStraw, while made with similar materials, were designed with different purposes in mind. LifeStraw was made with 3rd world countries in mind, as cheap, convenient, and disposable water filters that can quickly be distributed to save lives. The Sawyer Mini was made for backcountry use: camping, backpacking, climbing, and so on. It improves upon the basic concept that the LifeStraw was developed from.
A key difference between them is in the amount of microns that are removed by the individual filters. This is rated by the size of the particles that can get through the filter (the smaller the number, the better). The Sawyer Mini wins this battle at 0.1 microns, compared to LifeStraw’s 0.2 microns. Essentially, the Sawyer Mini is said to remove 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria, while LifeStraw is said to remove 99.9%. This number doesn’t make much of a difference to me, personally, but a lot of people consider this to be an important factor in their decision.
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Here is the biggest deciding factor: the LifeStraw is literally just a straw, while the Sawyer Mini is much more versatile. With the Sawyer Mini, you can use it as a straw to drink directly from the water source if you choose to, but you can also use it to drink from a bottle or other container, connect it to a water bladder in your backpack, or squeeze water through it into any receptacle. In comparison, with the LifeStraw, you will likely have to get down on the ground, put the straw into the water source, and drink through it like that, which is much less convenient. You can’t take the filtered water, fill up any containers, and it’s a lot more work to suck through a straw while you kneel on the ground with your face up to a murky puddle or stream. This alone makes the Sawyer Mini a clear winner to me.
Ultimately, both the Sawyer Mini and the LifeStraw will help you in a pinch. But when it comes down to convenience and ease of use, the Sawyer Mini is the clear winner. It may cost a bit more than the LifeStraw, but I think the convenience of being able to filter water and carry it with you is well worth the trade-off. Also, the Sawyer Mini will filter 100,000 gallons of water before you have to replace it, while the LifeStraw will only filter 264. You should take the versatility and longer life over the small savings any day.
The only true way for you to know which is going to be best for you is to buy both and give them a try! You should never wait until you absolutely need a water filter to make sure it’s going to work for you. Try them early and often.
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