The feeling of freedom is why we love backpacking. With the Katadyn BeFree water filter, you’ll feel light and free knowing you always have safe drinking water!
A quality water filter is an essential piece of backpacking gear. Fortunately, there are so many lightweight options out there today and many of them don’t require a minimum of 20 minutes of tiring “pumping” to fill a one-liter Nalgene.
Over the years, I’ve used a variety of different water filtration systems from top brands like MSR, LifeStraw, and Sawyer Products. The Katadyn BeFree 3-liter filtration system is one of my favorites because it’s easy to use and 3offers a better flow rate than many other gravity-fed filtration systems.
I’ve been using this Katadyn system for a little over three years now. In that time, I’ve taken it on multiple backpacking trips and overnight paddle adventures. But it has also come in handy when car camping with larger groups or guiding overnight hikes for my local guide outfit here in the Tahoe area.
Throughout these trips, I’ve been evaluating this filter for flow rate, ease of use, and overall effectiveness. The last of these criteria is only really measured on whether or not I’ve suffered from the ill effects of giardia or cryptosporidium after drinking water from this filtration system, and I’m very happy to report that this has never been the case!
Features – 8/10
This water filtration system offers a three-liter capacity. Throughout my testing, I found the flow rate to be about two liters per minute. The filter medium uses hollow fibers to remove protozoa and bacteria from your drinking water and the bladder has a convenient loop handle on top.
I typically use this loop handle to hang it from a small tree branch in order to more easily filter into my drinking bottle. But it can also be transported using this handle and I’ve also used it to strap the bladder to the outside of my pack when hiking in climates with minimal clean water sources.
The filter membrane itself is easy to clean and maintain. The process simply involves filling the bladder with clean water, screwing the filter in place, and vigorously swishing the bladder to move clean water through the filter fibers and remove any bacteria, protozoa, or debris leftover from your previous filtering efforts.
Additionally, the 0.1-micron microfilter is tested to EPA standards and rated to remove up to 99.99% of protozoa and up to 99.9999% of bacteria. And if you’re ever in a position where you have to fill from slower moving water rather than a fast-moving stream, the 43-millimeter wide mouth makes it easier to drag the bladder through the water two or three times to fill it completely.
Durability – 9/10
The bladder that comes with the Katadyn BeFree is made of thermoplastic urethane. This material is thick enough to be durable while still being super lightweight. It also has UV-resistant properties to help it hold up for long-term use.
The microfilter itself is rated for up to 1,000 uses, but the longevity of this filter will ultimately depend on the water quality you use it with and how well you maintain it. It will undoubtedly last longer if you clean it after every trip and tend to use it in cleaner alpine lakes over more stagnant ponds or streams.
Functionality – 9/10
While you might not need a three-liter filter for a longer backpacking trip, this selection weighs only 3.5 ounces. So it won’t add a whole bunch of weight to your ultralight hiking set up and it will fit seamlessly in one of the best lightweight backpacking packs. It has dimensions measuring 15.2” x 9.1” when laid out fully, but it collapses down significantly smaller when you’re not using it.
If you’re anything like me and you’re tired of having to get an upper body workout to pump water every time you’re empty, I can personally vouch for the easy-to-use style of this gravity-fed system. And for group camping, the BeFree makes it super easy to set up a water station for everyone to refill their bottles with ease when needed.
Value – 10/10
The Katadyn BeFree is a great value. In terms of your bottom line, it’s right in line with other lightweight filtration systems but it also has a minimal amount of added components. While these components sometimes sound great in theory, they also create more opportunities for breaks or malfunctions that render your filtration system useless.
The BeFree is field-cleanable and BPA-free as well. And from experience, you can reach out to Katadyn directly to get a new microfilter or reservoir if just one of those two components is compromised. This allows you to only replace what’s absolutely necessary rather than having to completely purchase a new filtration system.
In my experience, I haven’t found many water filtration systems that are easier to use than the Katadyn BeFree 3-liter filtration system. And even if you don’t quite require this capacity, you can always opt for the smaller, one-liter Katadyn BeFree!