The Katadyn BeFree Water Filter is a hollow-fiber water filter, like the filter included in the Sawyer Squeeze and Sawyer Mini Water Filter Systems, but with a MUCH FASTER flow rate. How fast? I can filter a liter of water in 30 seconds with it, so real fast.
While the BeFree Water Filter can be purchased as a standalone unit, most people buy it as part of the integrated Katadyn BeFree Collapsible Water Filter Bottle System which includes the filter and a 0.6L squeeze-style soft bottle made by Hydrapak. While this small bottle system is good for occasional use by day hikers, trail runners, mountain bikers, or fishermen, I wanted to see how the BeFree Water Filter stacks up against the Sawyer Filters for filtering the larger amounts of water carried and consumed by backpackers.
Specs and Usage
The Katadyn BeFree filter is a 0.1 micron absolute hollow-fiber water filter that is 99.99% effective for removing protozoa, including Giardia and Cryptosporidium, and 99.9999% effective for removing bacteria. It is rated for 1000 liters of use which might sound limited, but is the equivalent of 200 days of use at 5 liters per day, so adequate for a considerable amount of use.
However, the BeFree is only compatible with squeeze bottles that have a 42 mm diameter screw-on cap, Who makes those? Only Hydrapak. The BeFree Water Filter isn’t compatible with wide mouth Nalgene reservoirs, or Platypus or CamelBak reservoirs, or standard soda/water bottles that have a 28 mm opening. So if you want to use the BeFree Water Filter with a larger squeeze bottle, you’re limited to using it with the HydraPak 2L or 3L Seeker Soft Bottles.
The BeFree Filter comes with a sports cap that flips up over the top (much like the flip top on a Smartwater 20 bottle). While the flip cap protects the “spout” from casual contact with dirt, it is not watertight so don’t count on it to keep the spout purified if it comes in contact with unfiltered backcountry water. When using the sports cap, it’s best to spray the water into your mouth rather than to suck on the spout directly.
If you happen to lose the flip cap or you want to remove it to increase the amount of water that can be flow through the filter, it can be twisted off and replaced with a plastic cap from a regular soda bottle. This also ensures that dirty water can’t contaminate the end of the filter that is supposed to remain clean, which could happen if dirty water were to flow back through the sports cap (say you drop the BeFree in a backcountry water source accidentally.)
The BeFree Water Filter cannot be backflushed like other hollow fiber water filters using a syringe and one is not included with the filter or water bottle system. Instead, you swish the filter in clean water. This will noticeably improve the flow rate if you can see particulates adhering to the outside of the filter, but it is the reason the BeFree is limited to a 1000 liter lifetime.
If you’re used to filtering water with a Sawyer Mini or Sawyer Point One filter in a “squeeze” or gravity filter configuration, the BeFree Water filter’s flow rate will make your jaw drop and knock your socks off. As I mention above, I can filter a liter of water through the BeFree filter in 30 seconds, provided it’s clear. The flow rate slows down markedly if you need to filter water with particulates or sediment in it, but that’s true of any hollow fiber filter without a pre-filter.
The Katadyn BeFree Water Filter is a hollow fiber water filter designed to remove protozoa and bacteria from backcountry water sources. It has a very high flow rate when used to filter clear water sources without suspended particulates and sediment.
While the BeFree has a relatively short 1000 liter lifetime limit compared to Sawyer’s filters, it is an attractive alternative for long distance backpacking, provided you “batch” filter water into separate drinking containers. My primary hesitation in recommending it outright is that the BeFree is not compatible with the vast majority of water reservoirs, Nalgene bottles, or soda bottles used by backpackers today. For example, if you lose or damage your Hydrapak squeeze bottle, it would be impossible to use your water filter since its 42 mm opening is not compatible with other commonly used containers that have a 28 mm opening. It’s not like you can walk into any gas station or small town and buy a replacement Hydrapak bottle…
If on the other hand the BeFree Water Filter was offered with an adapter to make it compatible with squeeze bottles from any manufacturer or even plastic water bottles, I could recommend it as a viable Sawyer alternative. Hopefully Katadyn will see the logic of making the BeFree Water Filter compatible with the large universe of 28 mm sized squeeze bottles instead of limiting its use to Hydrapak source reservoirs.
Disclosure: The author purchased this product with his own funds
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