Can’t decide between the LifeStraw and Sawyer water filters? Don’t worry, we’re here to help. You will find out everything you need to know about the two water filters in this detailed comparison, including which one is the better option.
One was designed to bring clean water to people in third world countries, and the other was designed to help the avid backpacker have clean water wherever he goes.
But when it comes down to features like portability, easy of use, speed, efficiency and carrying convenience, there can only be one winner. Read more to find out who that winner is!
We’ve all been there – you brought gallons of water on your hiking trip, and you ran out. What’s worse, all of your friends ran out as well, and you’re all really thirsty. You don’t really have an option other than to drink from a natural water source. But how can you be sure that it’s safe?
Hardcore backpackers know that it can be pretty difficult to come by a source of clean water. Even if you spot a stream or a river that appears to be entirely clean, you can never be sure that there are no harmful toxins or harmful bacteria in the water.
E. Choli, Salmonella and Cholera are bacteria that live in water and that can be life-threatening if ingested. The same goes for protoza like giardia and cryptosporidium, as well as micro-plastics – all of these things can put you in the hospital if you ingest them. So, don’t gamble with your health and bring a water filter whenever you go backpacking.
Both of these backpacking water filters work in a similar way – they purify the water, remove bacteria and other harmful agents, and make virtually any water entirely safe to drink. This means that you could technically drink rainwater and it wouldn’t harm your health. But it will not taste well.
Also, keep in mind that neither of these filters will keep out viruses. So, even when you’re using a water filter, try to be careful with the water source – viruses are pretty rare in North America, but pay attention if you’re traveling elsewhere. Go with those that already appear clean, and not like a cesspool.
Anyway, now we’ve established why you need one, let’s talk about the features of these two water filters, and try to figure out which one is the better choice. I will compare all of their basic features, including efficiency, lifespan, speed, and portability. In the end, one will prevail.
Before we get into details about the features of the water filters, let’s compare their basic specs first:
Based on the specs alone, the Sawyer Mini already seems to be in the lead. It has a slightly better filter, and it is smaller and lighter than the LifeStraw. Keep reading to find out if it will stay in the lead when we start to compare the features that matter most!
If you’re actually going to buy a water filter and carry it everywhere, then it needs to be very portable. And the Sawyer Mini is just that – it weighs a mere 2 ounces and it’s only 5” long, so it can easily fit into the palm of your hand.
You can stuff it in the side pocket of your backpack or in the pocket of your pants – it won’t get in the way, and you won’t feel it at all. This means that there’s never going to be a reason not to bring it on your trip since there’s always going to be enough space for it.
The weight is also really important when you consider that you’re going to carry it attached to a water bottle and drink from it. And the good news is that the Sawyer is super lightweight, and it’s never going to feel annoyingly heavy when it’s attached to your hydration bladder.
The LifeStraw is just as lightweight, but it’s much longer. At around 9”, you can’t really stash it in the pocket of your jeans while you’re packing for the trip. It’s still neither bulky nor heavy, so I dare say that it is pretty convenient to carry around. But I can’t deny that the Sawyer is more convenient.
It’s pretty important for your water filter to work fast – if you’ve been without water for hours and you stumble upon a source, you need it immediately. And that’s why we love the Sawyer – since it works both as straw and as a filter, it purifies water pretty fast. There’s virtually no resistance when you’re sucking, and it is just as efficient when you’re using it as a gravity filter.
On the other hand, I can’t say the same for LifeStraw. Here’s the thing – it was designed to act specifically as a straw filter, so it does work slower. You will feel some resistance when you’re sucking, as it takes a while to filter the water. But the end result is always the same – clean water, which is completely safe to drink.
There are several different ways how you can use both these water filters. You can use them both as straws – just submerge one end into unfiltered water, and suck out clean water out the other end. You can drink directly from a pond, from a water bottle, a glass, a hydration bladder – it really doesn’t matter.
However, the Sawyer is the more versatile option, as it comes with a squeezable pouch, it can be attached to nearly all disposable water bottles and most hydration packs. Which pretty much means that you can fill your hydration pack with any kind of water you can get your hands on, attach the Sawyer to the opening and drink clean, filtered water.
You can even attach it to the hose of your hydration pack, if you buy the necessary accessories. Meaning that you can drink water out of the pack while it is still in your backpack, which is insanely convenient.
The LifeStraw doesn’t work in the exact same way. It’s much longer than the Sawyer, and you can’t really attach it to a bottle or a hydration pack. Instead, you can try to insert it through the opening – this is much less convenient since there’s always a possibility that some water will spill.
And you would need to carry it in your hand the entire time since you can’t put it away with the filter inside. Or remove and insert the filter whenever you want a sip – yup, pretty tedious.
The Sawyer Mini also comes with a 7” drinking straw, which makes it so much easier to drink from the filter. In general, it is definitely the clear winner when it comes to ease and convenience of use.
The Sawyer Mini appears to be the champion here – they claim that you can get 100,000 gallons of clean water from a single filters. With the LifeStraw, you can only get a 1000 gallons.
But is that really such a big deal? If you use the LifeStraw every single day, for an average of let’s say 2 liters a day (half a gallon), it will last you for about 5.5 years. And that’s if you properly clean it after each use.
Five and half years is still a really long lifespan for a $20 water filter. That’s amazing value for money, and you would probably replace either one much sooner anyway. The 100,000 of the Sawyer sound too good to be true, honestly. But if the water filter does have such a long lifespan as they claim, then there’s no doubt that it’s the winner in this section.
The Sawyer Mini is equipped with an 0.1 micron filter, and the LifeStraw features an 0.2 micron filter. So, which is better?
Here’s the thing, 0.1 and 0.2 micron filters are almost exactly the same when it comes to pore size. Neither will let bacteria go through, and neither will be able to filter out any viruses. But the 0.1 micron filter does have a slight advantage, since the chance of the odd bacteria going through is slightly reduced.
In addition to that, keep in mind that pores do get slightly bigger with use, so it’s better to start out with an 0.1 than an 0.2 micron filter. But when you’re comparing brand new, out of the box filter, the difference is practically negligible.
The price of a water filter is just as important as all of its other features. What good is it if the best, lightest filter in the world if it costs your month’s rent?
Well, the good news is that it doesn’t. Both of these water filters are very affordable and priced around $20. In fact, if you start looking at the packs and bundles, the LifeStraw is actually the better deal – a pack of three filters will set you back only about $53. Sawyer Mini is not available in a pack of three, but it is in a pack of four. And that bundle will set you back over $80 – it would be cheaper to purchase four individual filters than the bundle.
But you will hardly need them unless you want to surprise your friends as well. And if we’re looking at the price of a single water filter, the truth is both of them cost pretty much the same and are excellent value for money.
You need to properly maintain and clean these filters if you want to use them for a long time. Otherwise, you’ll barely be able to get 200 gallons of clear water out of either one of them.
The Sawyer comes with a cleaning plunger, so it should be fairly easy to maintain. If you want to be able to use it for a long time, you should backflush and sanitize it after every outing. If you plan to store it for a while, make sure to thoroughly clean it and let it dry entirely.
The same goes for the LifeStraw – clean it properly after every use, and let it air dry. You should also blow air into it every now and then, to ensure that the filter does not get clogged.
The Sawyer Mini filter performed better in every single category we compared. So, it’s the obvious choice.
But here’s the thing you need to know – Sawyer was designed specifically with backpackers and hikers in mind. LifeStraw, on the other hand, was designed in order to provide clean water to people in third world countries, where most water sources are polluted. Hence the focus on straw-like use and reusable filters.
So, it’s not really fair to say that Sawyer is the better option in every single scenario. But, since we’re focusing on backpacking and similar activities here, it is fair to say that the Sawyer Mini is the better option in that particular scenario.
Especially because it is so remarkably convenient to use – you can attach it to your water bottle, hydration bladder, or use it to drink straight out of the source. And you can even attach it to the hose of the hydration pack, so that you can drink filtered water without even using your hands. Plus, Sawyer also wins when you look at portability and carrying convenience – it’s much smaller than LifeStraw, therefore much easier to carry anywhere.
For all of those reasons, we recommend the Sawyer Mini to all backpackers, hikers, and outdoor lovers alike.
Head over to Amazon to see the prices of both these water filters. And go check out our related posts, and get yourself a water bottle compatible with the Sawyer Mini water filter!