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The Sawyer Mini is our favorite, compact, ultralight water filter for backpacking, hiking, and camping in the backcountry. Our trail-tested review.

Backcountry water sources are plentiful on many of our favorite trails in the South, and we’ve packed pump-style water filters on our backpacking adventures for over a decade. Most pump filters are heavy, though, and require expensive replacement cartridges. Several years ago, we started packing the ultralight Sawyer Mini, and have been solidly impressed by its performance, ease of use, and tiny size. And comparatively, these water filters are a great value, too.

Sawyer Mini water filter: our favorite, ultralight water filter for hiking, camping and backpacking in the South

To save weight on longer adventures, we’re usually fans of purifying water on the trail, instead of carrying multiple-day supplies of heavy, sloshing water in our backpacks, and leaving room for our favorite backpacking gear. Read more about how to choose a filter, their effectiveness, and the importance of filtering water in this great water filtration guide by REI. (Even if that crystalline stream looks as pure as bottled water, it might contain microscopic pathogens that can do some nasty damage to your body.)

Our Sawyer Mini Water Filter review

This water filter kit comes packaged with the filter, a lightweight water pouch, straw, and a syringe for back-flushing the filter. The filter kit is compact and light: it offers considerable weight savings versus a pump filter, weighing only 2oz. The cost of the Sawyer Mini Filter is around 1/3 of traditional pump filters, and according to Sawyer, the filter lasts considerably longer, too: it filters up to 100,000 gallons, 30 times more than comparable filters.

Sawyer Mini water filter review: our favorite, lightweight filter for backpacking adventures in the South

And that’s where the included syringe becomes useful: backflushing the filter extends its effective life. We occasionally use the syringe to force treated water backward through the filter, discharging particulate buildup and maximizing the filter’s flow rates.

Our favorite backcountry water filter for hiking and camping: the Sawyer Mini Water Filter

The filter offers four options for treating water:

    1. Fill the pouch with water to be treated, attach the filter, and squeeze the filtered water into a bottle or hydration pack (our usual method)


    1. Fill the pouch with water to be treated, attach the filter and straw, and drink directly from the straw


    1. Fill a standard, supermarket-size water bottle (like a 20oz plastic soda bottle) with water to be treated, and use either method above


  1. Skip the bottles and pouch, and use the filter and straw to drink directly from the stream


According to Sawyer Products, the Mini filters more effectively than many other backpacking water filters, removing 99.99999% of all bacteria, such as salmonella, cholera and E.coli, and 99.9999% of all protozoa, such as giardia and cryptosporidium. Learn more on Sawyer’s website.

Sawyer Mini: review wrap-up

This is the easiest, lightest and most effective water filter we’ve used. It lasts longer and outperforms most other backpacking water filters available. And it’s priced at a fraction of the competitor’s costs. It’ll be joining us on many backcountry hikes to come.

So where can I find them?

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Eric Champlin

Eric Champlin is a writer and photographer who loves to hike, run, backpack, kayak and cycle the southeast. He’s the editor and founder of Atlanta Trails, Asheville Trails, and Trailful, digital magazines that highlight the South’s best outdoor adventures and top Southern-worthy outdoor gear. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.