At a certain point, backpacking and hiking are all about the weight you have to carry on your back.
You need to find a way to slot all your necessities and niceties into your backpack without overwhelming yourself so much that your trip becomes a slog. If you want to save on weight and space by bringing along a portable filter instead of gallon jugs of heavy water, then you need to figure out which filter fits into your life the best.
The Sawyer Mini and the Sawyer Squeeze are some of the best on the market right now, so if you’re stuck between either of those two, we’re here to help you break the tie!
In a hurry? Here’s the test winner after 17 hours of research:
Sawyer Mini vs Squeeze – Which is The Best Water Filter? – Overview
Functionally it’s hard to distinguish between the Sawyer Mini and the Sawyer Squeeze. They both employ the use of a 0.1-micron filter, and they’re both pretty easy to deploy, transport, and clean. If you’re looking strictly at specs, you’re looking at two almost identical water filters.
They both come paired with a syringe for easy backwashing. Backwashing should become a regular part of your water routine. Clearing your filters often is going to give you better tasting water as well as faster flow times. This is especially important with the Mini since you’re dealing with a slightly slower flow time.
They’re both perfectly suited for use with Sawyer’s water pouches, allowing you to filter water much more quickly than similar water filters like the Lifestraw will allow you to. The pouches also allow you to set up a gravity filtration setup without having to bring along a ton of string or rubber bands.
They’re both incredibly easy to use. You don’t have to thread together several parts or remember to bring along a manual every time you pack up your Sawyer filters. Just point them at a body of water and get filtering; you’ll have water in no time flat.
The details are where you’re going to start running into the biggest differences. This is where your preferences and backpacking style are going to decide which of the Sawyer filters is really best for you. The Sawyer Squeeze is obviously much larger than the Sawyer Mini.
It’s by no means prohibitively large, you’re going to be able to fit it into a backpack that’s been stuffed pretty tightly, but it’s important to consider since space usually comes at such a premium. The extra ounce isn’t exactly going to push you over a weight limit or anything, but it becomes a little bit harder to find a reasonable home in your bag for the Sawyer Squeeze.
It’s about the size of a 7.5 ounce can of soda. Not huge, but it needs a little bit of dedicated space. The Sawyer Mini has the advantage of just fitting wherever it’s needed. A key omission from the Sawyer Squeeze is its lifetime. We know that the Sawyer Mini will last for 3,780,000 liters of water.
That’s not only an impressive amount of water, it’s a great piece of information that gives us peace of mind. The Sawyer Squeeze can be assumed to last through a similar amount of water, but the notable lack of information and the increased size means that we can never truly be positive.
The Squeeze makes up for its space needs by being a much quicker filter. The Sawyer Mini filters about a liter a minute. It’s a respectable speed, especially if you’re just using it in your bottle or drinking directly from a water source. If you’re using the bags or setting up a gravity system, you’re going to hit a speed bottleneck when you’re relying on the Mini.
The Sawyer Squeeze, however, filters at a blistering 2 liters per minute. You have to be constantly engaged with it to get the maximum filtration speed out of it, but it’s well worth the effort and you won’t be at it for long. Experienced hikers tend to gravitate towards the Squeeze for its speed and the maximum capacity of the reusable reservoirs.
It’s also the perfect filter for groups of hikers because of this. The Mini is a much smaller and more popular portable water filter than the Squeeze. That means that production is cheaper on two fronts, so you’re going to be getting a much better deal on the Mini than on the Squeeze.
Again, this isn’t something that’s a massive difference, but it’s something that may come into the equation when deciding on the best filter for you. There’s also something to be said about the difference in form factor between the two.
The Sawyer Squeeze and the Sawyer Mini are both well built from plastics that are long-lasting and they feel sturdy when you’re holding them in your hands. The Sawyer Squeeze is a little bulky when you compare it to the Sawyer Mini.
The Sawyer Squeeze can be used as an in-line filter on top of your water bottles just like the Mini, but it’s just large enough to be a little awkward. That means after a couple of trips out with the Squeeze, you’re probably going to start wishing you have gone for something more comfortable in the first place.
The Sawyer Mini
- Ideal for outdoor recreation, hiking, camping, scouting, domestic and International travel, and emergency preparedness
The Sawyer Mini is like the Swiss Army knife of portable water filtration systems. It’s an incredibly versatile piece of equipment that you can slip into even the tightest hiking packs, and it’ll slot into nearly every single situation you can imagine.
It’s great for in-line filtration, gravity systems, or as a straw that allows you to pull water straight from the source if you’re truly feeling parched. It’s simple to wield and long-lasting if you clean and maintain it regularly. This is the kind of water filtration system you don’t want to be caught out in the wild without.
The Sawyer Mini weighs in at a modest 1.3 ounces. If you’ve ever measured out beans for coffee at home, then you’ll know that this weighs in at about the amount of beans you’ll need for a good strong cup of coffee. In other words, it’s extremely light.
It’s a negligible amount of weight if you’re concerned about over-packing your bags when you’re hitting the trail, then the Sawyer Mini is one of the last things you’d ever consider cutting. This filter works with the help of a 0.1-micron filter. Filters are rated by how small their pores are, and let’s just say that 0.1-microns is the width you’re looking for.
These are pores that are effectively invisible to your eyes. This is perfect because the things you’re trying to filter out of your water while you’re out on the trail are also microscopic. A filter this tight will pull all sorts of contaminants out of your water, leaving it clean and safe to drink.
This filter is rated to remove bacteria, protozoa, cysts, and microplastics. These are the most common wild water contaminants. They’re also the things that will make you pretty sick if you don’t get them out of your water before taking a big swig from your bottle.
The Sawyer Mini is the perfect filter to ensure you’re getting good clean water while outdoors. If you’re trying to save on room and weight by harvesting water from the world around you, then this 2-ounce juggernaut will do the dirty work for about 3,780,000 liters of water. That’s nearly a hundred thousand gallons if you’re unfamiliar with the metric system.
In the Field
A good water filter is only as good as its performance in the field. We’re happy to say that the Sawyer Mini shines when you put it to the test. Everything it promises to do does well. It’s rugged and dependable as well as being incredibly versatile.
Starting with their filters, which confidently meet, and in some cases, exceed the guidelines laid out by the EPA, the Sawyer Mini is something that you can feel confident in using. It’s nice knowing that once you’ve started filtering water through this device that you’re not leaving your fate up to the whims of a dice roll.
The filter the Sawyer Mini is equipped with is excellent at its job. The Sawyer Mini’s versatility is incredibly impressive. You can use it as a straw, pulling your water directly from the source in a pinch or on a whim. It’s always easy to deploy this filter. For example, if you’re not in the mood to belly up to a body of water, you can just slot the Sawyer Mini onto your water bottles or onto the head of a faucet to create an in-line filter.
The Sawyer Mini can also be laced up and attached to the pouches Sawyer sells to create a gravity filtration system, so you can continue filtering water over long periods of time in order to create a stockpile if you’re planning on taking a path that won’t be taking you near any bodies of water for a while.
The longevity of your water filter is tied pretty directly to how easy it is to maintain it. If you neglect to regularly clean your filter you’ll lose out on key aspects of performance like the rate of water flow or its filtration ability. The Sawyer Mini knocks it out of the park in this respect. They pair your Sawyer Mini with a simple syringe that you can use to backwash your filter. This just involves forcing water through the filter in the opposite direction.
This clears out obstructions, preserving its filtration capabilities. Once you’ve backwashed the filter just sanitize it and you’re back in business with what is effectively a brand new water filter. This ease of cleaning is how the Sawyer Mini is able to last through thousands of gallon’s worth of water. This is a key reason we say that Sawyer makes some of the best filters out there right now.
The Sawyer Squeeze
- Lightweight, easy to use portable water filter removes harmful bacteria, protozoa, cysts, sediment, and 100% of microplastics; Perfect for outdoor adventures, travel, or emergency preparedness
The Sawyer Squeeze is a slightly larger water filtration system when you compare it to the Mini, but it still comes in at a pretty modest weight. The Sawyer Squeeze weighs in at about 3.25 ounces, so you’re looking at double the weight, but in the grand scheme of things an extra ounce isn’t what’s going to make or break a good hike.
The extra weight comes paired with extra mass, of course. It’s about double the width of the Sawyer Mini, matching the double weight, but it still fits well into a backpack. The Sawyer Squeeze comes with a pair of reusable 32 oz. water reservoirs and a cleaning syringe.
The water filter it comes with is pretty much exactly the same specifications. It’s another 0.1-micron absolute hollow fiber membrane filter. These narrow hollow fibers are perfectly suited for yanking all of the gunk out of your water before drinking it. The filter works well even in this model that’s designed for speed and efficiency.
In the Field
The Sawyer Squeeze is much more specialized when compared to the Sawyer Mini. It’s not going to work as an in-line filter or as a direct-from-the-source straw. The strength of the Sawyer Squeeze lies entirely in its speed of filtration.
The Squeeze is meant to be used pretty much exclusively with the included reusable reservoirs. You’ll be filling your squeeze bags with water and using them to punch water through the Sawyer Squeeze. The increased size makes this filter much faster than the Sawyer Mini.
If you’re not a huge fan of hunching over the water while you’re waiting for your filter to do its thing, then the Sawyer Squeeze is probably the exact thing you’re looking for. The flow speed of the Sawyer Squeeze is much higher than the Sawyer Mini. You’re going to get about 2 liters per minute of the Sawyer Squeeze. This filter is pretty directly designed to get you back on the trail much faster than its miniature counterpart.
Cleaning the Sawyer Squeeze is simple, just like with the Sawyer Mini. You’re just going to need to use the included syringe to backwash it, clear the filter of stubborn debris, then apply a little sanitation to it. The Sawyer Squeeze is meant to clear way more water at a time than the Sawyer Mini, so you’re naturally going to have to clean this one more often than the Mini.
A good habit to get into while using the Sawyer Squeeze is to just backwash it before every use. This is going to ensure that your flow speed is constantly as high as it can be. This filter is designed to get you going as quickly as possible, so you might as well do what you can to keep it in tip-top shape while you’re on the trail.
Which One Is For You?
The Sawyer Mini, hands down, is useful in far more situations than the Sawyer Squeeze will ever be. This is a rare case where being the Jack of All Trades makes the Sawyer Mini the master of all of them. We have to admit, the flow rate of the Sawyer Squeeze is impressive.
It’s nice to save time by blasting your lake water through the hearty veins of the Sawyer Squeeze, but that’s really the only advantage the Squeeze has over the Sawyer Mini. You’re probably trying to save space and weight when you’re considering a portable water filter, so the ability to filter twice as much water in the same amount of time is only useful if you’re planning to get yourself set up with more water than you can comfortably carry.
Every single thing you can use the Sawyer Squeeze for can be just as competently done by the Sawyer Mini, and then the Sawyer Mini goes the extra mile by allowing you to take your drinks directly from the source. From a purely technical standpoint, the Sawyer Mini is just more useful in a broader range of scenarios, making it difficult to suggest the Squeeze over the Mini.
Of course, that’s not to say that the Sawyer Squeeze isn’t going to work out for anybody at all. If you’re looking to cut down on even more space or you just know that you love having a dedicated squeeze filtration system or the form factor of the Sawyer Squeeze speaks to you, then by all means opt for the Sawyer Squeeze.
The Sawyer Mini is perfect for the backpacker that needs to be ready for every single situation. It’s a piece of equipment that’s upfront about its capabilities. It’s reliable, long-lasting, and extremely competent when put to the test, making it easy to recommend.
Bonus tip: This video teaching you all about the mechanics of filtering water will give you a greater appreciation of the hard work your Sawyer filter is doing behind the scenes!