The Katadyn BeFree ($39.95) is an ultra-lightweight and compact/collapsilbe water bottle with an integrated microfilter that allows you to filter water for drinking. It is, in fact, water filtration at its most nascent and basic core: Just fill the bottle with water and drink. As you drink, the filter filters the invisible fluvial zoo that is lake and river water.

I used the Katadyn BeFree on a multi-day hiking trip in Scotland this past summer, as well as a few day hikes since and on a week-long trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. It’s now the end of October and I have yet to be admitted to the ER with “intestinal discomfort” from Cryptosporidium, Giardia, E-Coli and SalmonellaYay Katadyn BeFree!

What I liked

  • Simple and fast to use. Just unscrew the cap, dip the bottle into a lake or river, re-screw the cap and drink. The filtration process takes place with each suck or blast and filters up to one liter of water per minute. Cleaning is very simple, too. If you have a clog, just give it a good shake to unplug the filter.
  • Bottle is soft and pliable. It packs down to the size of its own water filter when empty so an empty Katadyn BeFree takes up hardly any space in your pack or pocket.
  • Long filter life. According to Katadyn, the “BeFree will deliver 1,000 liters of filtered water before needing a replacement.” I haven’t had it long enough to replace the filter yet but they cost $24.95 and baffle me. I can find them at REI but not on Katadyn’s website.
  • Good water flow. Its wide mouth makes it a fast and easy way to stay hydrated while hiking.
  • Lightweight. It weighs in at a svelte 2.05 ounces

Limitations of which to aware 

  • Its size may not be practical in every hiking situation. At 0.6 liters, I was pretty much stopping at every water source for a refill. In Scotland, water sources were all around me so it wasn’t an issue. But if I was on a multi-day hike in a more arid region, I would need to carry a full-sized hydration bladder in my pack (and a Hiker Pro Microfilter).
  • The 0.1-micron “EZ-Clean hollow-fiber filter” removes the nastiness found in North American (and Scottish) backcountry water. But according to Katadyn, it doesn’t remove anything smaller than .1 microns—which means you’ll probably be ingesting viruses. If virus contamination is a concern where you’re traveling, you’ll need an actual water purifier.

Overall thoughts/final verdict

I prefer filter systems over non-filter treatment systems. Filter systems filter sediment, require less fiddling, they’re aster, they don’t reek of chlorine.

Do I think the Katadyn BeFree is worth the $39.95 outlay of cash despite its size? Most definitely. Katadyn products are like the breed standard when it comes to water filtration. I have an old Hiker Pro that celebrated its 15th birthday this past summer and it’s still filtering water and keeping me out of emergency rooms (I know it’s 15 years old because I purchased it right before a trip to Mt. Katahdin in Maine)

If you’re still not convinced, Just Google “long-term effects of drinking untreated lake/river water”.

Happy slurpage!

  • KATADYN
    Katadyn MyBottle is the only EPA-registered bottle purification system available. . Simply fill the bottle with water, insert the purification system and drink from virtually any water source. It removes all viruses, bacteria, cysts from water. The integral carbon cartridge reduces chemicals and makes water taste better. Each MyBottle includes a drinking straw to use as your everyday bottle if the source water is already safe to drink. Holds 24 oz. of water after cartridge displacement. Purifies up to 26 gallons of water depending on initial water quality. Weighs 8 oz.
    $59.95  from Eastern Mountain Sports
  • KATADYN
    Katadyn MyBottle is the only EPA-registered bottle purification system available. . Simply fill the bottle with water, insert the purification system and drink from virtually any water source. It removes all viruses, bacteria, cysts from water. The integral carbon cartridge reduces chemicals and makes water taste better. Each MyBottle includes a drinking straw to use as your everyday bottle if the source water is already safe to drink. Holds 24 oz. of water after cartridge displacement. Purifies up to 26 gallons of water depending on initial water quality. Weighs 8 oz.
    $59.95  from Eastern Mountain Sports
  •  
    The Katadyn VARIO Offers Three Distinct Filtering Element:A Silver Impregnated Ceramic Disk PreFilterA Pleated GlassFiber Primary FilterA Replaceable Carbon Granulate CoreThe Katadyn VARIOs Dual-Mode filtering design lets you select between FAST FLOW mode using the 0.3-micron carbon/pleated glass fiber filter by itself (removes waterbourne bacteria and cysts and also improves the water taste) . This mode bypasses the ceramic prefilter. When in areas where the water is mostly free of suspended solids, the pleated/carbon element can work quickly without fear of clogging.In this mode, output is a LIGHTNING FAST 2 quarts per minute, or you can choose the LONGER LIFE mode. Switching between the two modes is simple and straight forward: just twist to separated the top half of the filter to exposed the ceramic disk, then just turn the disk arrow to select longer life or faster flow mode.In the VARIOs Long Life mode (ceramic filter engaged) water passes through all three filtering elements (SILVER impregnated ceramic disk, pleated glass fiber element, and carbon core) . The ceramic disk, which is cleanable & replaceable, prefilters dirty or silt laden water so as to extend the life of the carbon/pleated filter element. In the long life mode, the Katadyn VARIO still outputs up to a respectable 1 quart per minute. The Varios secondary ceramic disk filter can be engaged or disengaged with a simple twist of the inner ceramic disk.VARIO Key Features:MULTI-STAGE Filtration System A simple twist configures the filter for longer life in dirty water or maximum flow in normal conditions. (3 Stages: Inlet prefilter, Ceramic Disk and 0.3 Micron Microfilter) FAST WATER FLOW Produces up to 2 Quarts per minute in FASTER FLOW mode and 1 Quart per minute in LONGER LIFE mode. CARBON CORE Replaceable carbon granulate keeps water tasting fresh. Reduces chemicals, odors and toxins. DUAL ACTION PUMP Easy to operate dual piston technology provides continuous output with minimum effort. WATER BOTTLE ADAPTOR BASE Attaches directly to Nalgene water bottles & hydration paks or output hose can be used to fill other hydration systems or larger containers.One thing we really liked when testing the VARIO MICROFILTER is that it produces filtered water FASTER than any other filter out there (thanks to its dual-piston pump design) . The dual-piston provides filtered water on the up-swing and down-swing when pumping the handle (kind-of-like a stair-step treadmill) , which greatly minimizes the effort required to pump water through the filter. Women and children will greatly appreciate this feature. The filter handle is extra beefy and nearly indestructible which should provide years of faithful service.Another feature we liked is, within the pleated filter element, is an inner core of replaceable carbon. This money saving feature can save you a bundle in unnecessary filter changes. The carbon granulate can easily be replaced when needed (usually after about 6 months of use or after 50 gallons which ever comes first) . This ensures that your filtered drinking water keeps tasting fresh in addition to reducing chemicals, toxins and odors. No needlessly having to change the pleated filter element which can last up to 10x longer that the carbon core! The Vario has been made to meet strict industry standards for reduction of bacteria (6 log, 99.9999% Klebsiella terrigena) and protozan cysts (99.9% Giardia and Crytosoridium) .Technology: Cleanable ceramic disk lengthens life of the primary microfilter. The 0.3 Micron high surface area pleated glassfiber microfilter removes waterbourne bacteria and cysts. Replaceable carbon granulate inner-core reduces chemicals, pesticides and bad taste in water. Output: 2 quarts per min. in faster flow mode Cartridge Capacity: Up to 500 gallons (depending on water quality) Cartridge & inner-carbon granulate are replaceable. Weight: Aprox. 15 oz Size:
    $94.95  from Nitro-Pak