Home / Gear-Manufacturers / Katadyn / Katadyn BeFree Water Filter Review

Katadyn BeFree Water Filter Review

manufactured by:
Philip Werner
Version:
1
Price:
24.95

Reviewed by:
Rating:
5
On March 7, 2017
Last modified:March 7, 2017

Summary:

The Katadyn BeFree Water Filter (also sold as the "BeFree Replacement 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, but is only compatible with squeeze water bottles that have a 43 mm opening sold by Hydrapak. 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.

Katadyn BeFree Water Filter
Katadyn BeFree Water Filter

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.

The BeFree Water Filter is only compatible with Hydrapak water bottles which have a 43 mm screw-on top
The BeFree Water Filter is only compatible with Hydrapak water bottles which have a 42 mm screw-on top

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. 

Component Weights:

  • Katadyn BeFree Filter (dry) 1.2 ounces
  • Hydrapak Seeker 3L Soft Bottle: 3.1 ounces
  • Hydrapak Seeker 2L Soft Bottle: 2.7 ounces

The BeFree Filter comes with a sports cap that flips up over the top. 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 comes with a sports spout and flip-cap. If you break it, lose it, or choose to remove it, you can replace it with a regular soda bottle bottle cap to keep the clean side of the filter element uncontaminated.
The BeFree Water Filter comes with a sports spout and flip-cap. If you break it, lose it, or choose to remove it, you can replace it with a regular soda bottle bottle cap to keep the clean side of the filter element “uncontaminated.”

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.

Flow Rate

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 Flowrate of the BeFree Water filter is pretty phenomenal, as in 30 seconds to filter 1 liter of clear water in a squeeze configuration with a 3L Hydrapak Seeker bottle, without without the sports cap. Gravity filter configuration and detail hollow fiber filter detail, also shown.
The Flow Fate of the BeFree Water filter is pretty phenomenal, as in 30 seconds to filter 1 liter of clear water in a squeeze configuration with a 3L Hydrapak Seeker bottle, without or without the sports cap. Gravity filter configuration and interior hollow fiber filter detail, also shown.

Assessment

The Katadyn BeFree Water Filter (also sold as the “BeFree Replacement 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, but is only compatible with squeeze water bottles that have a 42 mm opening sold by Hydrapak.

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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35 comments

  1. The inability to use it with say a Smart Water bottle is a deal breaker for me. I will stick with the Sawyer.

  2. Very interesting. Ease of use is very important to a long-distance hiker like me. Cost is good depending in what the soft bottles cost. The only question you didn’t bring up is the all important, real world,honest weight of the filter and bags. This will never make it in my pack unless it us lighter than the Sawyer.

    • On my scale, my weights are:

      34.6g filter
      34.8 1 liter Seeker bladder

      I cannot overemphasize how fast this filter works compared to my Sawyer or Sawyer Mini filters. It’s really fast. My son and I estimate we spent 45 minutes a day filtering through our Sawyer on the JMT. I’d rather use that time hiking or relaxing.

      Also the larger mouth of the Seeker bag fills much faster than a Sawyer/Evernew bladder. And the daisychain patches on the side of the bladder make it easy to hold on to while dipping.

      My conclusion is this is a superior system. I’m slightly nervous about the proprietary size of system but if you have a hiking partner who carries one and some backup Aquamira it seems low risk to me.

  3. Great review, this filter looks really cool! Flow rate is not such a big deal when in camp, but a slow filter can be tedious when stopping for a quick fill-up. The fact that you need the Hydrapack reservoir does not concern me as i rarely filter from a Smartwater type bottle, but use an Evernew bladder with my Sawyer Squeeze.

  4. Do you know the weight of the 2L and 3L bottles as well as the filter itself? I am not familiar with the bottles, do they seem sturdy?

    • I’ve annotated the article to include the weights of the Filter, 2L, ad 3L bottles.

    • As to bottle sturdiness. I wouldn’t take the hydrapak seeker to a foreign country or a backcountry location where replacement would take days via federal express, if they delivered at all.

      They’re also not as tough and thick as an MSR Dromedary or Platypus Bottle.

  5. Thanks for reviewing! This looks interesting. My wife and I shared a sawyer squeeze for the first 900 or so miles of the PCT. I was extremely/comically excited that ‘I was the pump’ and that I therefore did not not need to carry one. It turned out to be a miserable experience, however. For one person it probably would have been fine, but routinely having to filter 10 liters at some crappy desert water source with crummy sawyer bags was in no way a good time. We switched to a Katadyn pump after Tahoe and were ecstatic to carry the extra weight for the speed/utility it brought. If the flowrate of this befree is at least 2-3 times that of the sawyer squeeze then I would seriously consider going back to a squeeze system, albeit with a more realistic perspective on the benefits/drawbacks…

    • Did your Katadyn pump filter have a pre-filter. I’d want that for crappy desert water sources and cow tanks.

      • Just the plastic screen on the inlet tube that is stock on the Katadyn Hiker. In all fairness the Hiker pump would probably have been killed by a cow tank in a single use. We opted to never filter water from a cow tank, however. And to be fair, in order to maintain 1L/min flow rates out of our pump we replaced the cartridge once every 700 miles or so, which is clearly pricey compared to just struggle-busing it with a single Sawyer. But given the opportunity cost of a thruhike (lost wages alone are $40k or so), an extra $100 bucks wasn’t even on the radar. And I’m not claiming the Katadyn Hiker is the bees knees — it is heavy and relatively expensive. Most generally, while I am content with a good bit of my PCT kit, it seems that finding an ideal water filtration method will be a quest for the ages (given the variability of water sources it is probably an impossible quest). All I know for sure is that I was super-stoked on the Sawyer squeeze at the start, and within only a few hundred miles I was 100% over it, and there were a non-trivial number of other hikers with a similar opinion.

  6. I also find this interesting. I wonder if the wider opening in the reservoir might help scoop water from shallow sources a bit easier than the smaller threads. A couple questions. What are the 2L and 3L reservoirs made of? The pictures both here and on Amazon make it hard to tell. They almost look like some kind of fabric. Are they plastic? I also wonder how well they collapse when empty. Are they similar to the Platypus and Evernew models in that way? Finally, the Amazon description says “the 42mm cap fits most water filters,” making it sound like there are multiple options for this threading. Is this exaggeration? You mention in the article that Hydrapak is the only squeeze bottle that makes this threading. Do you know if there are other filters, accessories or systems that are compatible? Thanks for this review.

    • The bottles are very soft and ungainly. I’ve tried scooping with the 3L and gave up quickly. I just use a cook pot for scooping when necessary or a cut down platy or a zip lock baggie. The 2L and 3L bottles must be purchased separately. They’re made of HDPE. It feels like fabric. They roll up small. Much thinner than an evernew, platy, or sawyer soft bottle. Wouldn’t trust them near thorns.

      That amazon description is a farce. I searched far and wide for compatible filters and the befree is the only one. You’re locked into the combination if you buy them. For me, I far prefer using a water filter like the sawyer which is compatible with almost all other soft bottles and soda bottles. Heck, need a replacement? You can find them discarded by the side of most paved roads.

    • I find the 1 liter Seeker to be very easy to fill from a stream. Much easier than a Sawyer bladder.

  7. Alpine Pedestrian

    The REI website has a short video showing how to fill, use, swish and clean, and collapse it. Plus, I learned how to pronounce Katadyn.
    https://www.rei.com/product/100537/katadyn-befree-collapsible-water-filter-bottle

  8. I very interested in one of these but as mentioned, I don’t want to be restricted to using it on the Seeker bottles. If I could find out about the cap diameter and threading characteristics of the MSR DromLite 4L bag, I’d print out an adapter with a 3D printer. I can’t seem to find that info without just buying the DromLite bag.

    I used a Sawyer One for a gravity-fed filter system this last year and was pretty happy with it but the BeFree would be even better and would allow visual inspection and easy cleaning of the dirty side of the filter fibers.

  9. I like the Sawyer Point One as it is compatible with so many different container/reservoirs.

  10. Enticing concept but if Katadyn is going to insist on limiting their filtration system to only their own hydrapacks, at least make them out of sturdier material such as Evernew or Platypus containers.

  11. I got one of these to try out and find the flip top mouth piece is nothing but a pain in the ass to lock into place. Not real happy, looking into a Sawyer filter.

  12. I absolutely love my BeFree system. While hiking during the day I use the 0.6L flask that comes with the filter, plus a platypus collapsible 1L flask filled from the filter bottle if the trail section is dry. Filling a 1L flask by squeezing takes under a minute. My typical water stop goes like this: Fill the .6L flask and chug it down directly from the filter, then top off the bottle and optionally fill a iL Platy for the next section of trail.

    At camp I use the Hydrapak Seeker 3L as a gravity system. The corner tie-down patches on the Seeker bags make it easy to hang when used as a gravity system. The Seeker bags come with a stuff sac that makes for a very small package in your pack.

    Since my hiking partners have all converted to the BeFree, there are no worries about not having a bottle with a 42mm opening if a bottle should fail. So my Pro/Con list looks like this:

    Pros:
    Great flow rate
    Easy cleaning, no syringe to carry
    Wider mouth bottles make water collection easier
    Works great whether drinking directly from the filter, as a squeeze filter, or in a gravity flow scenario
    Inexpensive

    Cons:
    Limited to 42mm bottle openings
    1000 liter limit

  13. I recently got 3 BeFree filters with 0.6L soft bottles and Hydrapak Seeker 2L’s for a group backpacking trip. Being the type who always reads the manual, and after running the requisite 2L or so through the filters initially, I followed their instructions to test the integrity of the filters before taking them out for the first time.

    The integrity test is basically:
    1. Squeeze (at least) 0.6L of water through the filter.
    2. Try to blow into the filter from the sports cap, with the filter in a filled soft bottle so you can see if any air makes it back through by the bubbles. If you can blow air back through it is considered to be compromised.

    All three new filters failed their integrity test. Two only allow a small but regular bubbles to come through. One allowed much larger and quicker bubbles through.

    Thinking maybe this was a fluke with new filters I squeezed 2-3L of water through each filter and retested, with the same results. Then I retested one of them a third time — same results.

    I’ve contacted Katadyn about this and they have asked me to mail the filters back to them for testing.

    I do wonder if the integrity test itself could have damaged the filters. Maybe the instructions should have read “blow very lightly” or something similar, though I didn’t blow especially hard during the test. I know there has been some confusion from Katadyn regarding back flushing of the BeFree filters, with the printed instructions showing how to do it, but their support people saying back flushing could damage the filter. The printed instructions do warn against holding the filter sideways under a faucet due to possible damage. If the filters are really so delicate I would be leery about relying on them, though I would guess such warnings are more for legal liability.

    Has anybody else done the integrity test on their BeFree filters?

  14. Coming from the Sawyer Squeeze, the amount of water filtered is amazing. I just used one unit to filter water for four on a two day backpacking trip and it worked great. I also liked the reduced packability compared to the Sawyer Squeeze, particularly if like me you carried the back flashing syringe.

  15. Alpine Pedestrian

    Katadyn finally responded to all the feedback and now also sells the BeFree with a 1 liter bottle. This is a good weekend to get one with all the Memorial Weekend gear sales going on. REI is selling the filter and 1 liter bottle for $44.95, minus the current 20% discount. https://www.rei.com/product/116364/katadyn-befree-collapsible-water-filter-bottle-338-fl-oz

  16. James Schifferns

    Couple of things:

    1) I, too, read the directions and have done the integrity test (many times in fact). I have not experienced a failure of the filter.

    2) I’ve searched high and low for a hydrapak seeker 1liter bottle and can’t find one anywhere.

    3) I have a hydrapak collapsible stash bottle (750 ml) that is compatible with the BeFree system.

    4) The instruction manual for the original BeFree shows backflushing as an acceptable method of cleaning the filter. The new model with the 1 liter bottle does not include backflushing as an acceptable method for cleaning the filter.

    5. I took a BeFree along as a backup for my Sawyer Squeeze on a one week trip into Hell’s Canyon. As it turns out the Sawyer never got wet. Even with the itty bitty .6 liter back this system is so much faster and more convenient to use. The included bottle, the stash bottle, and the seeker are all much easier to fill than is the sawyer bottle.

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