Gear Review – Katadyn Befree Filter

posted in: ADVICE & TIPS, GEAR | 0

You’ve been hiking for hours. The hot sun looks down on you in merciless fashion as you reach for your empty Nalgene. No luck. The bottle is still empty. “Maybe I can squeeze a few drops out of some moss…” you think as you gaze in desperation at the passing tree trunks. Then you hear it. At first, only a whisper, until you round the corner. Water!

The stream sings its siren song, beckoning you forth. Within seconds, you are wrestling your water filter out of your bag, fighting the entangled hoses like a three-headed hydra. Finally, you lower your filter’s intake hose into the water. You begin to pump. Nothing. Your filter is clogged.

Hi, Mac here.

When I’m not ghost-writing for Stephen King or working at Outter Limits, I’m trying to get the most out of my gear. Usually, I’m looking for no-fuss options that let me focus on enjoying being outside, and not worrying about my equipment.  If you’re tired of your old heavy water filter, I have a great recommendation for you today!

Enter, the Katadyn BeFree.

The Katadyn BeFree water filter is about as light and simple as filtration options come. No hoses, no moving parts, and the easiest “backflushing” method I’ve seen make this my personal gold standard for one to two-person trips. This has been my primary filter for over three years now. Keep reading to the bottom for some of my personal tips!

Just how simple is it?

The BeFree has only three parts:

  1. 1-Litre collapsible Hydrapak® Softflask™
  2. Screw-on filter cartridge
  3. Stay Clean Drink Nozzle (basically a flip-top sport cap)

That’s it! You scoop water into the softflask, screw on the filter cartridge, flip open the cap, and squeeze. Either into your water bottle or into your mouth, whatever suits you. You’re in the backcountry.

Sounds good, but give me some details!

Filter Type: 0.1 micron hollow core

Filter Lifetime: up to 1,000 Litres

Flow rate: up to 2L/min (see comments below)

Weight: 2 ounces

Cost: $60

The filter is a 0.1 micron hollow core fibre model, comparable to many other filters on the market, like the Platypus GravityFilter or the MSR Hyperflow. That’ll clear out 99.9999% of bacteria and protozoa. Like with most filters, it won’t handle viruses, which typically require some sort of chemical treatment (Aquatabs) or a heavy-duty purifier (MSR Guardian). Thankfully, viruses aren’t typically a concern in northern Saskatchewan or the Canadian Rockies. Hence, the prevalence of these hollow core models.

The filter cartridge will clean up to 1,000L, so I’m confident that I’ll get my money’s worth out of this thing. You can also replace the filter cartridge when it’s run its course for $30!

Personally, I find the 2L/minute flow rate debatable. If I was just running warm tap water through my BeFree, 2L/minute sounds about right. When I’m in the woods, I get more like 1L/minute, especially when you have to take the lid off and refill the flask.

It’s lightweight, coming in at a svelte 2 ounces, and packs down tiny. You could put it in your pocket.

What if it gets clogged? How do I clean it?

Put a bit of clean(ish) water in the flask, close, and shake. A lot. A bunch of the sediment and other debris clogging the filter will come out. Dump that nastiness, and get back to business. This is much simpler than backflushing instructions for other models. For best results, warm up a bit of water in your pot (NOT BOILING, think warm tap water) and that will help release more debris from the filter when you give it a shake.

Mac’s Tips:

  • Before the Trip: Rinse and run a litre of warm tap water through your filter BEFORE you head out on a trip. This can get the fibres “primed” and optimize performance on the trail.
  • On the Trail: When I’ve filtered about two thirds of the water, I unscrew the filter to let some air into the flask. This makes it “full” again, and is easier for me to squeeze out those last couple hundred mils. I only have the 0.6L model, so this is especially helpful since I need to refill the flask more often.
  • After the Trip: Rinse it out with warm tap water! Don’t let that debris dry, harden, and stick inside of the filter. If it’s super clogged, try letting the filter cartridge soak in a hot water and vinegar bath for a few hours at home.
  • Better safe than sorry: No filter system is infallible or invincible. I always pack some Aquatabs in my first aid kit, just in case.

If you’ve been looking to streamline your water filter system, check out the BeFree!

Happy trails!

-Mac