Mom Goes Camping

Tips for Using the Sawyer Mini Water Filter

tips for sawyer mini

When I bought the Sawyer Mini water filter 3 years ago, it was because of 3 main features…

  • The Sawyer Mini is lightweight and small
  • There’s no need to ever buy any replacement filters
  • It is cheap

Even though the Sawyer Mini has its faults, I’m still really happy with my purchase (see my review of the Sawyer Mini here for the complete list of pros and cons).

For anyone who is just starting to use the Sawyer Mini, here are some tips I’ve picked up on the way.


The Pouch Is Going to Break…

The Sawyer Mini comes with a small pouch that screws onto the filter.  This makes it possible to squeeze water through the filter so you can fill up your water bottles.

The pouch seams WILL break.  It is just a matter of WHEN they will burst open.

You don’t want the pouch to burst open during the middle of your trip, leaving you with no way to filter water.   So…

  • Use a Plastic Bottle Instead of the Pouch: Instead of using the pouch, use a plastic bottle designated for dirty water (remember not to drink from bottles which had dirty water in them!). Just screw the Sawyer Mini onto the bottle and squeeze the bottle to filter the water. This method isn’t perfect.  The plastic bottle will get deformed.  You’ll have to unscrew/rescrew the filter from the bottle to keep water going as you squeeze.  Just remember that the Sawyer is only compatible with STANDARD THREAD bottles.  Don’t accidentally bring a wide-mouth bottle!
  • Buy Back Up Pouches: The Sawyer pouches are a bit pricy. I went to Amazon and found “collapsible water bottles” with screw heads for ridiculously cheap.  These will also eventually burst, but it was cheaper than the Sawyer pouches.

I bought these pouches for very cheap (pictured below).

cheap sawyer mini alternative pouches

You can see the pouch in this pic. This cheap pouch has lasted me 4 trips and still hasn't burst.

You can see the pouch in this pic. This cheap pouch has lasted me 4 trips and still hasn’t burst.

Instead of a pouch, you can just use a plastic bottle. It will get deformed like this one though.

Instead of a pouch, you can just use a plastic bottle. It will get deformed like this one though.


Use Flavor Packets to Mask Bad-Tasting Water

Water filters like the Sawyer Mini will remove bacteria, parasites and other common backcountry pathogens, but the filter won’t remove the bad taste.

In mountainous areas, this isn’t really an issue and I didn’t even think about it.

Then I went to Albania.

The water at our beach bungalows was unfit for drinking, so I used the Sawyer Mini on it.  The water tasted DISGUSTING.  Then I came up with a solution.

I went to the local store and bought some “cherry flavor mix” and also some lemons.  They masked the bad taste so we could actually drink the filtered water without cringing.

flavor packets for water


Filtering Takes a LOONNNNNGGGG Time!

One annoying thing about the Sawyer Mini is that is has a very slow flow rate of 1 liter per 5.5 minutes. I personally don’t mind this so much.  I kind of enjoy filtering the water each morning as I cook our camp breakfast.

Because filtering does take so long though, I’d recommend getting one Sawyer Mini for each person in your group.  They are cheap and lightweight, and each person can be responsible for filtering their own water.


Consider getting the Sawyer Squeeze instead.  It is slightly bulkier (2.5oz versus 1.9oz), but has a good flow rate of 1 liter per 2 minutes.

*Just keep the Sawyer Mini screwed on a plastic bottle filled with dirty water and drink through the Sawyer.  This way you don’t have to filter that water in advance.

Filtering water with the Sawyer Mini. I'm using a plastic bottle instead of the pouch.

Filtering water with the Sawyer Mini. It takes a long time to filter. 🙁


Blow Into the Pouch before Filling

The Sawyer Mini comes with a 16 ounce pouch.  And, when you dunk it into a stream or lake, it usually doesn’t come close to getting filled up.

That means you’ve got to constantly dunk the pouch to fill it for filtering.  On cold mornings, this is not much fun. L

One trick is to simply blow into the pouch before you dunk it.  That way the pouch will get more filled with water.


Get a Bigger Pouch

As I said above, it is really annoying to have to constantly refill the pouch with dirty water for filtering.  A better solution is to buy a bigger-sized pouch for the Sawyer Mini.

*The old Platypus bags are compatible with the Sawyer Mini.  The new ones aren’t though.  However, I’ve heard reports of the Platy bags leaking dirty water into the clean water.  So, I’m sticking with my cheap pouches, even if they are small in size.


You’ll Need a Scoop for Shallow Water

Filling up the Sawyer pouch or your dirty-water bottle is tough in shallow water sources.   As talked about in this forum, there are all sorts of things that people use to scoop shallow water into their Sawyer pouch. Here are some ideas:

  • SmartWater bottle: These are thinner, so they are easier to fill in shallow water sources
  • ZipLock Bag: Cut the corner off of one and you can use it to fill your pouch easily
  • Homemade Scooper: Cut the top off of a soda bottle and you can use it as a scooper for water. It doesn’t fold up, but it is lightweight and you can put gear inside of it.
  • Use Your Cook Pot: It will get sanitized when you cook with it.


Use a SmartWater Flip Top Bottle for Backwashing

When the water source is dirty (think pond scum), you’ll have to backwash the Sawyer Mini fairly often to keep it flowing.

The Sawyer Mini comes with a syringe specifically for this purpose, but it is really big – which kind of defeats the whole “lightweight” feature of the filter!

Instead, use a flip top bottle for backwashing like the SmartWater bottle shown below.

smartwater flip cap


Know Your Water Threats!

Don’t forget that the Sawyer Mini does NOT threat viruses.  Usually, viruses are not a concern in backcountry because sunlight kills viruses, and most viruses don’t survive/reproduce in water anyway (the main exceptions being polio and cholera).

If you are in an area where viruses might be a threat, such as in a developing country with poor sewage systems, then the Sawyer Mini won’t be enough.  Your options are 1) boiling, 2) UV water purifiers, or 3) water treatment tablets.

Sawyer also makes a filter called the Point Zero Two which removes viruses. At 1 liter per minute, the Zero Point Two flow rate is even better than the Sawyer Mini.

Do you use the Sawyer Mini? What tips can you share?


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About the author /

Diane Vukovic grew up camping and backpacking in upstate New York. Now, she takes her own daughters on wilderness adventures so they can connect with nature and learn resiliency. With dozens of trips under her belt, Diane is an expert in minimalist camping, going lightweight, planning, and keeping her kids entertained without screens.

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