Sawyer vs. Sand

When constructed properly and maintained, sand filters are very reliable. They are also very heavy, very slow, and take up a lot of room. A quick look at how they stack up to Sawyer filters:


Sawyer Filters


Sand Filters


4-inches by 2-inches.

A large container filled with sand, anywhere from 0.5 meters to 5+ meters in diameter with a minimum depth of 2 meters of sand.


Weighs < 8 ounces.

Anywhere from 100 to 140+ pounds.

Flow Rates:

Average flow rate is about 1.0 liter per minute.

Depends on the size of the Sand Filter. Flow rate is claimed to be as high as 0.6 liter per minute.

Removal Rates:

Constant 0.1 micron that never varies.

Varies depending upon the quality of the sand and the age of the bio-film. Testing needs to be preformed after every cleaning to ensure proper removal rates.

Ease of Set-up:

Simple instructions that anyone can understand. Potable water in less than a few minutes.

Set up requires skilled personnel. Biological layer needs 2 weeks to form.

Skill Level to Operate:

Simple enough for a child to operate.

Requires complex training in cleaning and maintenance.


True barrier filtration will not fail regardless of water temperature or water content.

Several factors play into the growth of the bio-layer. Cold temperature will inhibit its growth and performance; also a lack of nutrients in the water will reduce its effectiveness. And without constant water, the bio-layer will dry out and die.


Use included syringe to backwash filter; takes less than 2 minutes.

Must be cleaned regularly, and top layer of fine sand replaced after several cleanings. After cleaning, bio-layer needs several days to re-grow.


Capable of lasting 10+ years.

Depends on the materials available.

Will work if dried out?



Will work in cold weather?


Not always. Cold temperatures can inhibit the growth of the bio-layer.

How many can fit in a suitcase?

Over 100