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 Salmonella. Yay 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”.