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Katadyn BeFree Gravity Water Filter System – 3 Liter Review

The BeFree 3.0L Gravity Filter is great for filter water is great for rapidly filter water for backpacking trips or groups
The BeFree 3.0L Gravity Filter is great for rapidly filtering water on backpacking trips or for small groups.

Katadyn BeFree 3L Gravity Water Filter

Reliability
Weight
Treatment Capacity
Speed
Ease of Use

Excellent

The Katadyn BeFree 3L Gravity Filter is easy to use and filters water very quickly making it idea for couples of groups. Hang the bottle or squeeze it for effortless water filtration.

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The Katadyn BeFree Water Filter is now available with three different soft bottles capacities: 0.6L (20 oz.), 1.0L (33.8 oz.), and the latest, a 3.0L (101 oz.) bottle. I think the 3.0L size is perfect for backpacking because it can be used to haul additional water for camping or to get through an area where water is scarce. I always like to have a 5 liter maximum water carrying capacity when I backpack for this purpose. The smaller size bottles are better for trail running or day hiking when you don’t usually need to haul extra water or filter for a group.

Specs at a Glance

  • Filtration speed: up to 2 liters per minute
  • Filter size:  0.1-micron microfilter is tested to remove protozoa (99.99%) and bacteria (99.9999%)
  • Weight: 3.4 oz dry, 4.6 oz. wet
  • Lifetime: 1,000 liters

If you’re not familiar with the BeFree Water Filter, it’s a 0.1 micron hollow-fiber style filter that filters up to 2 liters per minute, over twice as fast as the Sawyer Squeeze. It also doesn’t require backflushing with a syringe to clean. Instead, you just shake it while attached to a partially filled soft bottle. While it does have a proprietary-sized soft bottle that can only be used with the BeFree Filter, the speed of the filtering makes that an easy limitation to ignore.

The BeFree filer element has a flip top plastic cap (top). If you ever lose it or it breaks, you can replace it with a regular soda bottle cap (bottom) which fits on the top threads.
The BeFree filer element has a flip top plastic cap (top). If you ever lose it or it breaks, you can replace it with a regular soda bottle cap (bottom) which fits on the top threads.

The new 3.0L soft bottle included with the Gravity Filter version has graduated markings printed on the outside of the bag as well as a plastic grey handle at the threaded end which makes it easy to scoop water from a stream or pond. The other end of the bag has a blue handle, as well as holes, so you can attach cord if you want to hang it from a tree. When not needed, the entire unit rolls up and is easy to tuck away, and won’t leak in your pack if the flip top cap. If you ever lose that cap or it breaks, a regular soda bottle cap fits the same threads and will seal the top.

Katadyn BeFree 3L Gravity Water Filter
The Katadyn BeFree 3L soft bottle has graduated volume markings and a handle.

While Katadyn calls the 3.0L BeFree a gravity filter, I think it’s more convenient to hold horizontally and squeeze to force water through the filter, like the Sawyer Squeeze. While you could suspend the bottle from a tree with cord, the BeFree filters water so fast that there’s simply no need to do this. You’ll also have a hard time controlling the flow if you do hang it since there’s no stopcock mechanism to regulate the flow of water, a feature found on other gravity filter products like the 10L Katadyn Base Camp Pro or the 12L Lifestraw Mission Gravity Filter, which are designed for filtering water in basecamp for larger groups of people. There’s also no way to add water to the top of the BeFree 3.0L bottle (when it’s hanging), so you don’t have to take it down each time you want to refill it.

Squeezing the 3L BeFree filters water super fast and gives you a lot of control over the flow rate. To stop filtering, simple turn the bottle upright.
Squeezing the 3L BeFree filters water super fast and gives you a lot of control over the flow rate. To stop filtering, simple turn the bottle upright.

Whichever way you do decide to orient it, vertically or sideways, there’s no denying that the 3.0L version of the BeFree Water Filter system is super fast and convenient to use. Capable of filtering up to 1000 liters of water, it filters out particles down to .1 microns in size with a protozoa removal rate of 99.99% and a bacteria removal rate of 99.9999% when tested with EPAs water filter standards.

This one is a keeper. Highly recommended.

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Disclosure: Katadyn provided the author with a sample product for this review.

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36 comments

  1. The problem I see with this filter is the percentages: 99,99% protozoa and 99,9999% bacteria. And filters only “up to” 1000L.

    While Sawyer squeeze filters 99.9999% (100 times better) of protozoa, which means in theory katadyn lets through hundreds while Sawyer only a few. Also bacteria filtering in sawyer is ten times more effective.

    At least that is how I understand these percentages work. Please correct me if I’m wrong!

    Sawyer claims its filter is good up to hundreds of thousands of liters, while this katadyn is basically disposable becsuse it can filter only “up to” 1000 liters before you need to toss it?

    So either Sawyer is lying or their product is clearly superior to this in every way. Theirs even work with regular threaded bottles. Are people really willing to sacrifice everything else for “speed” (a minute or two less)? Of course the answer is yes in today’s world.. why I’m even writing this post?!

    • The sawyer guarantee that they’re filter can process a million gallons is marketing bullshit. I think they were forced to drop it from their packaging. But bottle compatibility is a strength of the Sawyer product. In my experience, it is trumped by speed considerations. Hikers want ease of use more.

    • You are correct in your understanding of the number but may be missing some things in real life applications and the microbiological particulars for what we aim to remove from the water. I would have no problem using this filter myself, just looking at numbers. It’s perfectly adequate. Yes, Sawyer is bunk. They are bunk in many ways across several of their products and you should never look to them for solid technical data or opinion – they have good products however. There are no regulations about lifespan and other things in water purification, unfortunately, but Sawyer caved to pressure from a major advertising organization and bumped their claims back down to a still ridiculous 100,000. You should count on replacing it much earlier than that even with good care. Sawyer was the first company to break out of the solid scientific and practical advice that other companies have given for years. The “low” numbers of 1,000 give or take are more realistic for most filter media types and with hollow fiber membranes you have to judge based on flow rate, the care you’ve given it, and possibly taste. Bio-film buildup is the main hazard after ruptured tubes and you cannot effectively prevent or remove it, made all the more difficult in an opaque housing like the Sawyer filters use. It is irritating that Sawyer is a company who shills marketing over facts and standard practices but it doesn’t look like they are going to stop doing that.

  2. If someone already had the original BeFree with the smaller “bottle”, you could just buy a Hydrapak Seeker soft bottle in either 2 or 3 liters and use it with their filter. You don’t get the handle or graduated lines, but buying a 3L Hydrapak bag for $15 on Amazon and using it with your existing BeFree filter element saves a lot of money.

    The real issue is the filter’s removal efficiency. As noted in the previous comment, the Sawyer has a higher removal efficiency than the BeFree. Whether this makes a real world difference really depends on the water source, and only an individual can weigh the risk/reward of ease of use vs. effectiveness. I’ve worked professionally in water quality for 35 years and don’t find the Sawyer squeeze all that slow or frustrating.-Personally, I don’t see a compelling reason to go with a filter that doesn’t perform as well for a minor increase in flow rate. After all, if I wanted the fastest flow, I could just use a bandanna…

    • I really dislike hydrapack’s brown bottles. It’s hard to know when you have to clean them because you can’t see into them. You could have guppies living in one and never know it.
      https://www.rei.com/product/115832/hydrapak-seeker-2l-collapsible-water-container-2-liters
      I also think you’re overlooking the fact that you don’t have to backflush the BeFree with a syringe. The sawyer is notorious for clogging in silty water and slowing to a trickle. The easy of cleaning the BeFree by shaking is a tangible benefit.

      • Ease of use is important, but the purpose of a filter is to filter. Your review talks about the relative ease of use compared to a Sawyer but omits the fact that it’s simply not as effective a filter as the Sawyer. Unless a reader did their own research, it would be easy to come away from this piece with the impression that the removal efficiency of the two filters is equivalent, which is simply not the case. Whether this difference is meaningful to a consumer is up to the consumer, not the reviewer. Unless the intent was to be an advertorial for the product (and it certainly comes off as such), you really should have pointed this out. The more technical aspects of a product do matter, especially where it can directly affect health and safety.

        BTW – If I was filtering water that was so questionable as to make me not want to use a hydrapack Seeker container, this is not the filter I’d be using.

      • John, I think you’ve been a reader long enough to know that I put the trust of my readers first rather than shilling product for manufacturers. I value your comments and contribution to the discussion but I still believe this is a good product that overcomes many of the issues that people have with other popular filters on the market today. I referred to the Sawyer filters in this review because they are the most popular product on the market today, after the lifestraw of course (don’t get me started). But this was not meant to be a comparison piece between the two products. I’m sorry if I gave that impression by mentioning the Sawyer. I think a comparison of methods, including chlorine dioxide drops, is beyond the scope of this article but worth a much more detailed review of the options in the future. That said, I think the Katadyn is a very useful and easy to use product, especially for day hikers who want a water filter for camping, longer day hikes, and overnights. That does not preclude the need for readers to do their own due diligence when evaluating filtering efficacy.

      • Great discussion! But I think the fact that a 3L bottle is now available has gotten lost in this debate over decimal points, boys. I agree with Philip when he says that the larger size bottle finally makes the BeFree useful for backpackers because it can be used to haul water and filter more water at once. That was sorely lacking with the smaller bottle sizes.

      • I like clear over brown also but if you are waiting until you can see something before you clean the container then you have waited too long. Better to just get in the habit of regular cleaning even if it doesn’t “need” it, IMO.

      • The wider-mouth HyrdraPak Stash (https://hydrapak [dot] com/shop/water-bottles/stash-1) eliminates the visibility problem of their narrow-mouth version. Easy enough to glance down through the top opening to see what’s going on in there. I like to carry one or two of these in addition to the stiff-walled bottles to have some extra capacity in camp at the end of the day. When they aren’t needed, they collapse down to about the size of a hockey puck.

      • There is no narrow mouth version. The hydra pack and the katadyn bottles have the same size openings in all sizes (otherwise the filter wouldn’t fit).

  3. Great review! Love my BeFree water filter and will never go back to the Sawyer Squeeze or mini. Have tried both and they’re too slow. Wish BeFree would sell a standalone 3L bottle so I can upgrade my 0.6L one. I guess that will come out eventually.

  4. A 1000 liters is 200-250 backpacking days, more than enough to finish an AT or PCT thru-hike. I think the BeFree durability is fine. Because this filter is so fast, it really is a viable option for filter water for couples and groups, something that the Sawyer is woefully slow and inadequate for. Still there are pluses and minuses for each product. Thanks for articulating the differences Philip. As usual, reader comments are most useful.

  5. how does it compare to filling in standing water which you said you didn’t like with the 3L seeker bottle? any problems with it collapsing

    • The added grey handle makes it very easy to scoop standing water to fill it. It lets you essential create an artificial current and highlights the benefit of having a wide mouth bottle over a narrow one. But really only works so well because of the grey handle around the bottle neck.

      • Not only can you scoop easily with that handle, but you can use a tent guyline or whatever to lower it into a well or over the bank of a creek, saving you from having to wade out in water (or risk falling in). :)

  6. So, a while back I bought the BeeFree filter and teamed with the Hydrapack Seeker 3 liter water sack (BTW, I really like the Hydrapack sack). The first time I took the system to the field, on a week long trip to the BWCAW, the filter failed. When filling the reservoir, I was careful not to include any sediment, and I was filtering almost crystal clear water. The filter worked fine on day one, started to slow down on day two and was, basically, unusable by day three. We had a three person group, and it was hot, so I was filtering a lot of water. I tried the swishing method to clear (quite frankly, I swished the hell out of the thing), and it seemed to have no effect on the flow. I opted not to send the unit back for a replacement, since I had lost faith in the product. Maybe it was just a lemon, but I’m wondering if anybody else has had this issue?

    • Bigfoot (He has a Youtube channel) used the Befree product and also experienced reduced speed after filtering “x” (I cannot remember the amount, but it wasn’t much) amount of water. If I remember correctly, he still favored the product, but had to accept a slower filtering rate. Philip, have you noticed a reduction in the filtering rate? BTW, Rex, Bigfoot was along the Superior Hiking Trail when he used it, maybe there is something going on with the water up there in God’s country? :)

      • Nothing noticeable. Perhaps squeezing the bigger 3l bag is just faster because there’s more force behind it.

      • I hike the SHT a lot and the water up there is awful. Other than the major rivers, its mostly from bogs and beaver ponds and nasty. What puzzles me was that I was filtering up further north in the BWCAW in a particularly clear lake. I probably just got a bad filter.

    • Interesting. I saw Bigfoot on YouTube had a similar experience, at least a great reduction in flow. His bladder looked dirty in the video so maybe he was filtering dirty water or maybe the texture of the bladder hangs on to dirt more than others do.

      • He must have been using a smaller volume bottle. The 3L is pretty new.

      • I actually met BigFoot on the Superior Hiking Trail in Crosby Manitou State Park when he was making his attempt. He did have a smaller volume bottle (I believe it was only 1 liter) but from what I understand, the filter is the same for all size bottles. He only got water once from the fast flowing clean Manitou River when he was with me but the reduction in flow rate was obvious already (and the technique they suggested to clean the filter clearly did not work). I usually try to avoid getting water from beaver ponds as there are plenty of nice streams on that trail (except around a few campsites).

    • I used the Hydrapak 3L with the BeFree filter during an overnight on the Escalante River, and on a four-day trip in the Maroon Bells. The BeFree filter started slowing at Escalante. That water was only slightly silty despite the desert environment. Water at Maroon Bells was quite clear.

      I found the Hydrapak difficult to hold and squeeze, and I was exhausted forcing 3L through it, especially as the filter slowed. I swished and swished and swished, and it never improved.

      I gave up on using be BeFree as a camp filter and went back to my jury-rigged MSR Gravity system with a Sawyer Squeeze filter, and an MSR bomber-proof dromedary. I hang it and come back in 20 minutes and the 4L dromedary is full.

      I still like using the BeFree with the 0.6L bottle, which is much easier to squeeze. It also fits in my pants pocket nicely, making it easy to carry and refill on the fly.

      But I think perhaps the BeFree filter has clogging issues that still need to be resolved. I would like to hear from people who have used it long term, and whether they’ve been able to clean it adequately in the field (or even at home).

      Sawyer notes that you need to seriously backflush the Squeeze to force out the buildup, namely by attaching it to a sink or hose bib and blasting it with backflush pressure! I guess I’m skeptical that you can really clean the BeFree by swishing.

  7. Since the threads on the outflow end are standard, could you use a “tornado” adapter and a smart water bottle to actually backflush this filter? It seems to me that the added pressure of this method might help release some clogging that swishing alone would not.

    • Same thing I was thinking…

      Those couplers are also good for building a tarp/fly/hammock water collector, just cut the top off a pop (“soda” to you weirdos) bottle and punch some holes in the edges, tie it to the corner of the tarp and water runs into your bottle.

  8. I’m wondering if the bag will hold up. My Katadyn .6L bottle leaked the first time I used it, Luckily I had the Hydropack 1L with me.

  9. Phil, I have to admire your ability to turn the other cheak when your credibility is attacked on your own blog. Keep doing what you’re doing man. Your gear recommendations have never let me down! Can’t say that about backpacker magazine or most other backpacking bloggers though. The sponsored hikers are the worst schils out there.

  10. I really loved the speed & ease of cleaning of the BeFree filter; unfortunately, the 0.6L bottle catastrophically failed on me (the soft portion of the bottle separated from the firmer material at the top — I have photos). I’d only used it lightly for 4 days and moderately for an additional 2.5 days. Hopefully the 3L container proves more robust, but I’m not keen to take a chance at this point and am going back to Sawyer.

    (Note: I’ve also had two Ultimate Direction branded Hydrapak bottles fail on me this year, at a different point of construction and after a lot more use; Hydrapak was great at replacing those. Katadyn, otoh, demands that you return to the retailer from which you bought it, in my case that was Amazon. It was past the 30 day normal return window, and Amazon made an “exception” for me for returning — they didn’t acknowledge the warranty return at all).

  11. I believe the Platypus Hoser has the same size threads. Could the Platy tube be coupled with this?

  12. If you use a tornado adapter on your full size sawyer you can backflush with it or use a sports cap like the smart water bottles to force water thru the filter.

    My biggest concern is bladder/ bag failure. If your a solo hiker or you’re the only one in your group with a BeFree you don’t have a backup besides using a buddy’s filter. Maybe a failure is not likely if you don’t have to squeeze the bag hard to get the water to psss thru but it or a puncture/ cut could happen.

    I’m still interested but I’m holding out for now. Thanks for the review.

  13. How do you effectively clean the bladder?
    Thanks

    • Just like you would any bottle. Fill with water and soap and shake violently. Or add efferent tablets and water. I honestly never clean my bladders because the filter removes anything I should drink, but then again most of the water I filter is pretty clear.

  14. What about RapidPure?

  15. I ended up pulling the trigger on a 3L system since it was on sale at REI. I used it this weekend on an overnighter and it worked fine. I filtered 12-15 L of clean water and it worked great. I think I’m going to replace the cap with a pull cap and cover the ones that come with the sawyer. The one it comes with is the same as a smart water bottle sports cap and has a bit of a sharp edge to it. I’m afraid could possibly cut into the bag if stored away and something bumps into it.

    I do wish the system included a cap you could put on the bag for water storage when you don’t want the filter attached. like in cold weather when you want to protect the filter without dumping all your water out. I guess I’ll continue to take platypus bags along for extra water storage etc. Maybe I’ll eventually buy a hydrapack bag and or maybe someone knows of a compatible lid to the hydrapack bags?

    I like the system but it’s not perfect. I’ll continue to use it and my standard size Sawyer and tornado adapter system until one really starts to stand out. For now the Sawyer is still my preferred system, but the BeFree is a close second.

  16. I have used the sawyer until now.
    The BeFree is not back-flushable and some lakes in the Sierras clog filters even though they look quite clear (i was told it was because of mica in the water). But I realized that a second BeFree filter could be carried and held in reserve (backup). At about 1.6 ox and $25, having a spare will give me the confidence to switch from Sawyer.
    Since I am ditching the sawyer back-flushing syringe and my prior backup (Aquamira @ 3oz), the BeFree system will be lighter, simpler, and still be reasonably affordable.

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