LifeStraw vs Sawyer Mini Water Filter – Which is better for Survival?

We need water to survive but the water that we encounter while out in the bush can be contaminated with bacteria and protozoa that will ruin a trip real quick. If in a survival situation  then the versatility and functionality of our water filter becomes a matter of life and death.

Sawyer Mini Water Filter vs LifeStraw

With so many water filters to choose from it is difficult to find the right one. I personally own both of these filters but by the end of this comparison you will see that there is a clear winner in this showdown which is why only one of them is my go to filter system.

Both the LifeStraw and the Sawyer mini are hollow fiber membrane filters and they share a lot in common and both do the job of filtering water to render it safe to drink. While they both perform well with their intended tasks the differences between these filters force them into specific roles and leave only one of them the preferred choice.

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  • Can drink straight out of the water source or use the included water bag
  • Filter end is threaded to screw onto a standard water or soda bottle
  • Lightweight and small size
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  • Glass-filled Nylon handle with TPV overmold
  • A smaller cord cutter/skinner is also included
  • Lightweight
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LifeStraw vs Sawyer Mini: Overall Review

Sawyer Mini FilterLifeStraw Filter
– Filter is 5.5” long and 1.5” in diameter
– Weight – 2 ounces
– Filters 99.9999% of bacteria and protozoa
– Filters 100% of micro plastics
– Good for 100,000 gallon
– Pores in membrane are 0.1 Microns
– Can be back flushed and sanitized
– Filter is 9” by 1” in diameter
– Weight – 2 ounces
– Filters 99.9999% of bacteria and 99.9% of protozoa
– Filters 99% of micro plastics
– Good for 1000 gallons
– Pores in membrane are 0.2 Microns
– No ability to back flush
– Can drink straight out of the water source or use the included water bag
– Filter end is threaded to screw onto a standard water or soda bottle
– Filters out 99.9999% of bacteria and protozoa plus 100% of micro-plastics
– Able to be back flushed to extend filters lifespan almost indefinitely
– Able to be used inline with hydration bladders (accessory sold separately)
– Lightweight and small size
– Lightweight
– Can drink directly from the water source
– Filters 99.9999% of bacteria
– Does not filter viruses, chemicals or heavy metals
– Can not ever be frozen if filter is filled with water
– Difficult to fill water bag unless it is completely submerged
– Slow flow rate
– Requires priming before water will flow easily
– Only filters 1000 gallons
– Can not be frozen if there is any water inside the filter.
– Can not be used as an inline filter or to fill bottles
– Does not filter viruses, heavy metals, and chemicals
What Customers SayWhat Customers Say
Customer reviews are overwhelmingly positive however there are a few complaints in regards to the slow flow rate and some minor quality control issuesCustomer reviews are generally positive and the only complaints seem to be in regards to the filter clogging or failing to work in the field after it has been tested at home.
Hands-On ReviewHands-On Review
Sawyer Mini ReviewLifestraw Filter Review

Sawyer vs LifeStraw: Features Comparison

The Sawyer Mini and the LifeStraw are both hollow fibre membrane filters which have pores in the walls of the hollow fibres that do not allow anything larger than the pore size through. This is why these filters have such a long lifespan because they do not require any filter media to purify water. This comes with the drawback of not filtering viruses, chemicals or heavy metals but will block most bacteria and protozoa from continuing through to the clean end of the filter.

The feature of being able to drink straight out of the potentially contaminated water sources is a big selling point with both of these filter options. The option of drinking from any source while on the move is beneficial because you do not have to wait for your water to either boil or work its way through a gravity filter or being pumped through the usual filter systems that you’ll often see while on the trail. Either of these filters would be good for a tactical or bug out situation where getting water at any and every source would be key.

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The Sawyer is able to not only drink from the water source by sucking water through the filter but it has been designed with a threaded end that will allow, not only the provided water bag to be screwed on to the filter end, but also most disposable soda and water bottles as well. An included back flushing syringe is a good feature because it allows the user to take clean water and force it back through the clean end of the filter which blows water and debris out of the threaded dirty end. This essentially extends the life of this filter to indefinite as long as the majority of the debris and dirt is back flushed out of the pores in the hollow membrane. This filter is rated to filter 100,000 gallons of water over its lifetime which at a gallon of water a day is almost 274 years of filtering life, so if cared for it will last a lifetime.

One important note is that if this filter has water inside of it it can not be allowed to freeze because the water inside will expand and potentially rupture the hollow fibres inside the filter rendering it useless. If there is any possibility that the filter has been subjected to freezing temperatures the filter should be disposed of immediately, because there is no sure fire way to determine if the filter has been rendered ineffective.

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter Features

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter for Hiking, Camping, Travel, and Emergency...

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LifeStraw is designed to be very simple to operate and is built around a similar method of filtration as the Sawyer Mini and operates in basically the same way. Dirty water is drawn through the hollow fibre membrane and only clean water and anything smaller than 0.2 microns is able to make it through to the clean side of the filter. The LifeStraw is not able to fill containers because it is designed to be used as a straw, however, you could fill a container with dirty water and drink through the LifeStraw as a method of filtering your water.

The filter is rated to filter 1,000 gallons of water but has no official way of back flushing like the Sawyer. To operate the LifeStraw one needs to forcefully suck water up through the filter repeatedly until the filter is primed by wetting all the hollow membranes. After this initial priming the filter can be used just like a normal straw just with a noticeably slower flow rate. After using the LifeStraw it is good practice to blow air back through the straw to clear out any dirty water.

If the LifeStraw has ever been used then it too must never be allowed to freeze. Since it has the same hollow fibre membrane system that the Sawyer Mini does it will react the same if frozen whit water inside the filter.

Differences Between Sawyer vs LifeStraw

The main differences between these two filters comes down to service life, pore size and functionality. While they both allow you to drink directly from a water source only the Sawyer Mini can also be used with hydration bladders, the included water bag, and disposable water bottles.

Sawyer MiniLifeStraw
– Pore Size 0.1 Micron
– Can use water bottles or the included water bag to
squeeze water through the filter into containers
– Rated for 100,000 Gallons
– Can be backflushed
– Filters out 99.9999% of Bacteria and Protozoa
– Filters 100% of microplastics
– Pore size 0.2 Micron
– Not able to fill containers
– Rated for 1000 Gallons
– No method for back flushing
– Filters 99.9% of protozoa
– Filters 99% of micro plastics


The clear winner in this showdown between the Lifestraw vs Sawyer Mini is the No products found..

The Sawyer Mini can do everything that the LifeStraw can do but, it filters more out of the water, lasts longer, needs no priming, can be cleaned, and packs down into a more convenient and less obtrusive size for stowing in a pack or pocket. The ability to attach inline with hydration bladders and to screw on a disposable water bottle is such a handy feature that the Sawyer Mini absolutely decimates the LifeStraw in a head to head showdown.

Add in that the Sawyer Mini pore size is half the size of the LifeStraw and although it seems like splitting hairs the Sawyer Mini will block bugs that are half the size of the ones the LifeStraw will block. The LifeStraw is still a fine filter that has its place, and I like to carry one for situations where I do not expect to need a water filter, but if I find myself in a survival situation, it will be there and provide me the water I require. The LifeStraw is a good filter for giving to children for their day packs or bug out bags since it is very simple to operate and just as lightweight as the Sawyer Mini. For longer trips or when I’m way out in the woods I carry the Sawyer Mini as my primary and the LifeStraw as a backup which makes for a pretty good combo.

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  • Can drink straight out of the water source or use the included water bag
  • Filter end is threaded to screw onto a standard water or soda bottle
  • Lightweight and small size
Check Price on
  • Glass-filled Nylon handle with TPV overmold
  • A smaller cord cutter/skinner is also included
  • Lightweight
Check Price at
Check Price on

Written by Michael Major

Michael is a survivalist, traditional bowhunter, student of traditional and primitive skills, as well as a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces. He is also a husband and father and makes his home in British Columbia, Canada. Read his full interview here. Read more of Michael's articles.

1 thought on “LifeStraw vs Sawyer Mini Water Filter – Which is better for Survival?”

  1. Another way in which the Sawyer Mini is better is the fact that you don't have to strongly suck on it to get water. Sounds like no big deal, but what if you have a tooth ache, are already dehydrated or worse, a broken jaw, it's potentially quite painful! As well, what if you're trying to give water to someone incapacitated; ever try sucking down water when you're laying flat on your back? Without choking! Isn't the Life Straw basically a one-person filter since once used it probably has some of your saliva on/in it? In the era of Covid, isn't this a potentially dangerous thing? One question I do have is whether back washing (?) with your breath is a good thing since some of your saliva will go into it, or would say a bicycle pump be safer and do a better job of back washing. Maybe if only one person is using it, the point is mote, but for a group, maybe so! Finally, I carry 3 Sawyer Minis in my BOB because anything can break and it makes a great trade item!


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