We assume most North Americans just drink the clean municipal tap water available freely everywhere. Then you learn that 50 billion water bottles were consumed last year in the US alone. So obviously some people have concerns about the quality of their water, You add to this travellers, campers and preppers.
Regardless of why you want clean water, there are hundreds of options. Over the last 10 years, I have tested several dozen and have spoken to scientists & survival experts about their preferences. Thats when I learned about the Sawyer water filters.
The Sawyer mini weighs in at a paltry 1.4 ounces and can filter 100,000 gallons (from any freshwater source). This is an unheard price-usage ratio.
Reliability is critical when you are talking about water filters. A single drop of contaminated water can ruin a vacation and make you horribly sick. With a 0.1 micron hollow fiber membrane, this little wonder filter removes 99.99999% of all bacteria, such as salmonella, cholera and E.coli; removes 99.9999% of all protozoa, such as giardia and cryptosporidium. All of this without any moving parts, no batteries, and no chemicals.
I recently spoke to a water quality engineer for a major US city and he confirmed that during his tests, the Sawyer water filters (the mini and its older bigger brother) performed exactly as advertised. Who am I to argue with science.
It's important to note that the Sawyer mini does not remove chemicals, heavy metals or virus. Virus' aren't a concern in North America but can be if traveling to countries with bad sanitation. If virus' are an issue where you are going, you will need a different type of filter (like the sawyer SP-194 0.02 micron filter or a Steripen UV Sanitizer).
For multi-day use, the only maintenance you have to perform is to periodically back-flush the filter (using the provided syringe) with clean water.
The other important fact about the Sawyer mini is it's ease of use. You can attach the straw extension and drink from a stream (like you would on a LifeStraw).
The mini's input side has a standard water bottle threaded screw which means you can use it with most commercial plastic water bottles.
The filter comes with a foldable flexible plastic flexible roll-up water (16 oz) bottle. You can use this to carry water with you and you can then squeeze water from the bottle to a canteen or you can drink straight from the clean end of the filter.
The third option is to use the Sawyer mini inline with a backpack water bladder. To use this technique, you cut the drinking hose of the bladder and insert the mini between the drinking sout and the cut hose. Using this technique means you are in survival mode because you are introducing contaminated water into the bladder which means you are always committing to use it with the Sawyer mini (not the best choice but options are good).
Some filters introduce a delay between wanting water and being able to drink. You have to either pump until your arm falls off. You have to chemically treat your water with tablets. Or you have to use one of the larger gravity feed systems. With the Sawyer mini, you simply attach and drink. No waiting, which is great while sweating. Plus typically water from a moving stream is cool so drinking it immediately mean it is also refreshing.
After everything is said an done, I now carry a Sawyer mini and Steripen anytime I travel and the Sawyer actually stays in my Everyday Carry bag. It is cheap ($25), effective 99.9999% against bacteria, fast, easy and reliable. When travelling to questionable locales, I'll fill a canteen up from the Sawyer then zap it with my Steripen for added piece of mind (to ensure there are no virus').
The only filter I want to test but haven't yet is the Grayl Water filter. The Sawyer mini get's 2 thumbs up.