When I first started using the Katadyn BeFree I thought to myself, “By the beard of Zeus! This thing is absolutely amazing. I can’t understand how it hasn’t already driven all other lightweight water filters out of business. What was I doing not using this thing before?” However, after a month of use, my enthusiasm began to fade as I realized that the Katadyn BeFree was not the divine water filter that I had so badly wished it would be.
The Katadyn BeFree is an incredibly fast, hollow fiber water filter that removes bacteria, protozoa, and sediment from water sources. But as alluded to above, it comes with a couple of caveats.
It’s only guaranteed for 1,000 liters, it’s only compatible with 42 mm Hydrapak water bottles, and that impressive flow rate does not last forever. That being said, it is still worth looking into as an option for making your cow-poop-filled water safe to drink.
Ease Of Use
Incredibly fast flow rate (in the beginning) Very lightweight Removes bacteria, protozoa, and floaties/sediment in water Easy to use and quick to get/filter water Easy to clean (although the effectiveness of the clean is debatable)
Flow rate diminishes considerably over time Only compatible with Hydrapak water bottles Off-the-shelf, bottle+filter combos aren’t very durable. Does not remove viruses Can freeze in cold weather
- Filter Type: Bottle
- Filter Medium: Hollow fiber
- Removes/Destroys: Bacteria and protozoa
- Output: 2 liters per minute
- Housing Material: Thermoplastic polyurethane
- Field Cleanable: Yes
- Thread size: 42 mm
- Dimensions: 11.3 x 3.5 x 2.8 in / 28.7 x 8.9 x 7.1 cm
- Weight: 2.3 oz / 65 g
- Colors: Blue/White
- MSRP: $25.95 (filter only)
- Easy to use; filters up to 2 liters of water per minute
- Easy to clean (in theory)
- 0.1 micron microfilter removes bacteria and protozoa
- Compatible with 43mm wide-mouth bottles
- Cap over drink nozzle keeps dirt out
- Tested to 1,000 liters
THE FLOW RATE | The reason I purchased the Katadyn BeFree in the first place was that I was blown away by how quickly it filtered water. It can literally pump out clean water faster than I can drink it (that is, when it’s new – more on that below). Out of the box, it far outperforms any other filter I’ve ever used in terms of water filtered per minute.
THE WEIGHT | The weight of the Katadyn BeFree is something of a controversial point. If you’re going strictly by the filter alone, it weighs only 1.2 oz / 34 g – the lightest water filter around. However, you must also have a water bottle compatible with this filter to filter. The lightest bottle (that I could find) that’s compatible with this filter makes the whole set 3 oz / 85 g.
THE BOTTLE OPTIONS | The Katadyn BeFree is only compatible (that is, you can only use it) with a collapsable Hydrapak water bottle with a 42 mm screw top. This means that your days of screwing your water filter onto your store-bought water bottle are over (and no, wide mouth Gatorade/Powerade bottles will not work because they aren’t collapsable and because the threads don’t match).
THE DURABILITY | I originally bought the one-liter version of the BeFree and despite caring delicately for my bottle, I managed to get multiple small punctures (which meant every time I filtered I had someone saying to me, “Hey, did you know your filter is leaking?”). I would recommend getting the BeFree filter alone and then buying a two or three-liter Hydrapak bottle since these appear to be more durable than the kit bottles that come with the BeFree.
THE LONGEVITY | The BeFree filter has a promised lifetime of 1,000 liters. That might sound good, but it actually falls short of many other options available (the Sawyer Squeeze has a lifetime guarantee – whatever that means). For example, if you’re wanting to use this for an entire Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike, assuming you take 130 days to finish and average five liters of filtered water per day, there goes 70% of the BeFree. If you do end up using the BeFree filter for an entire 1,000 liters (before your flow rate diminishes to nothing), a replacement filter is $25.
THE FREEZING | Like all hollow fiber water filters, the Katadyn BeFree can freeze if left out in cold temperatures – this essentially breaks the filter. There is no way to tell if your filter has been compromised or not. The breakage is a result of residual water in the filter freezing and expanding, thus breaking the hollow fiber membrane. The only time this cannot happen is before you have used the filter for the first time (because presumably there will not be any water in the filter at that time).
THE CLEANING | The instructions for cleaning the Katadyn BeFree are quite simple: either swish it around in some water or shake your bottle with some water in it while the BeFree is attached. Although it’s true that this can dislodge some gunk from the filter, it will not be able to keep up with the speed at which the filter gets clogged. Don’t expect that awesome flow rate you had, in the beginning, to last forever.
Who Is It For?
The Katadyn BeFre is a great option for anyone venturing into the backcountry (where viruses need not be worried about).
The ideal environment for the BeFree would be somewhere that you would not have to worry about the filter freezing and where you would not be filtering incredibly filthy water (because the filter will begin to clog, and at a certain point, no amount of swishing will return it to its former self).
Check out the Katadyn BeFree here.
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