Such is our obsession, and the manufacturer’s with the feather light that it is only a matter of time before the latest offering is superseded by something that weighs less, or is improved.
Such is the case with Sawyer and their Mini Water Filtration System, the SP128 although the previous Squeeze system, the SP129, is still available (you can read my review here).
So why bring out the Mini? I’ll attempt to answer that later. First, let’s take a look.
Sawyer have stormed the outdoor market in recent years with, in my opinion, an unbeatable mix of lightweight, durable, compact, efficient and versatile filters. The SP129 is sheer genius and the Mini continues that trend.
The pack comes with the filter itself – 38 gr / 1.3 ounces (dry weight), the syringe for back flushing – 33 gr / 1.2 ounces, a drinking straw – 7 gr / 0.25 ounces, and a 1/2 litre / 16 fl. ounce squeeze bag – 24 gr / 0.85 ounces. Total weight is 102 gr / 3.6 ounces. These are weights on my scales.
I don’t think there’s anyone who would be prepared to put up an argument with that weight. Remember, this isn’t just the filter, it’s the complete system.
You could do without the straw which attaches to a nipple on the filter bottom and dips into the water source as you suck through the other end but I kind of like it, it will only save you 7 grs. Some people do without the syringe but I’m a stickler for using it. Simply filter water, then suck this treated water into the syringe, attach to the drinking end of the filter and squeeze through. I do this every day when I hike, it takes a minute at best and will keep the Mini at peak performance.
I am always dubious of any piece of gear that is either electric, or has moving parts. I don’t trust either. Of course I can’t escape using a head torch or a battery pack but if I can do without moving parts then I’m happy. My Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike was a classic example of being let down by gear with moving parts and they were all filters. I started the hike with an MSR Hyperflow filter which, frankly, was sheer rubbish and gave up after a week. Changing to a Katadyn Vario Microfilter, I couldn’t believe it when the seal started to leak after a week and finally, the Katadyn Hiker Pro Micro Filter just about saw me through to the end. The only thing moving in the Mini is the water.
If you look after the Mini, which essentially means back flushing when in the field regularly and not letting it freeze then there is no reason why it shouldn’t last your entire life.
That’s some claim but look at the figures. Sawyer claim the it will last for 100,000 gallons / 378540 litres. If you are lucky enough to find yourself hiking every day for the rest of your life and treating 5 litres of water every day, which is about average for me, then the Mini will last for 208 years.
Look after your Mini – Backflush regularly
Well it’s silly small really. With the syringe, filter and straw all rolled up in the bag it will fit in the palm of your hand. You could, depending on your pack, fit everything in a hip pocket. This is just to give you an example of the size, remember to keep contaminated areas such as the outside of the bag after you have dipped it in water away from parts that come in contact with your mouth.
OK, so the flow rate is not as good as the SP129 which makes it slightly slower. This is an area that doesn’t really bother me because it’s still faster than any of those pump filters I’ve owned. It’s the same argument as with cooking on alcohol fuel stoves – yes, they are slower but if you’re hiking, are you in a hurry to be somewhere?
The majority of the time I attach my Mini to a water bottle and keep it outside the pack in an external side pocket. When I reach a water source I simply reach round, grab it, remove the filter, fill it up, screw the filter back on and away I go. It’s the most efficient and easiest method I know of. If it’s really hot, I may down a litre first and then re-fill with another litre to go.
Sawyer claim that the 0.1 micron absolute hollow fibre membrane filter will remove 99.99999% of all harmful bacteria including e-coli, salmonella and bacteria which causes cholera and typhoid. It also removes 99.9999% of protozoa such as cryptosporidium and giardia.
It’s also versatile. You can use it direct from source with the straw, attach it to a mineral water bottle or other suitable containers with matching threads and suck through. Screw it onto the bag and squeeze through clean water and use it in-line by cutting your feed tube and placing the Mini in-between. Crikey, you can even hang the bag from a suitable tree and use it as a gravity filter.
Drink direct from the source or . . .
Attach the squeeze bag
So, have Sawyer shot themselves in the foot? It does beg the question of whether Sawyer are still selling any of the SP129 units. The SP129 does have a million gallon guarantee, in layman’s terms that’s over 2000 years assuming, as above, you use it every day to treat 5 litres of water. It’s a great selling point but not exactly relevant to anyone. Yes, the flow rate is slightly faster but not greatly so.
I can’t really see how anyone would buy the SP129 when they could get the Mini. It’s lighter, smaller, just as durable, more versatile and just as efficient. The nail in the coffin is that it’s nearly half the price. The Mini sells for £29.95 inc. VAT, the SP129 is £55.95 inc. VAT (prices as per Sawyers website). That’s nearly half the price and for what it offers, super cheap.
It’s also testament to the Mini that most of the outdoor bloggers seem to have one as their water treatment unit of choice. Every time I see a gear list posted by someone just before they go on a trip, there it is:
Water treatment – Sawyer Mini Filter.
Mini – £29.95 (inc VAT)
SP129- £55.95 (inc VAT)
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