Product name: Katadyn BeFree water filter
Basic summary: A super-lightweight and compact water filtration system that allows you to pull water from natural sources for refueling in the backcountry. The BeFree meets filtration standards of systems that are twice as large and cost twice as much, and its simplicity and ease of use are virtually unmatched.
- Length: (flask plus valve) 11 in
- Width: 3 in
- Weight: 59g
- Output: 2 L/min
- Filter: hollow fiber; 0.1 micron (0.0001 mm)
- Filtration capacity: Up to 1,000 L
- Flask material: Hydrapak SoftFlask TPU, 100% PVC and BPA free
- Flask fluid capacity: 0.6L (20 oz)
- 42 mm flask opening
- EZ-Clean membrane clears filter by shaking
In our category review of water treatment systems for our April 2016 issue, we placed a premium on systems that were easily portable, functionally versatile, and easy to use. Katadyn’s BeFree wasn’t on the market for inclusion in that review, but it affirmatively meets all of those key criteria – in fact, it’s probably the simplest and most convenient means of rehydrating from natural sources that we’ve tested this year.
When it’s empty, the soft flask compresses down to roughly the size of a compact headlamp, making for easy storage in a pocket, and its light weight assures that you’ll barely notice it when it’s stowed away. The soft flask is made by Hydrapak, who are the industry standard for strength and durability in their reservoir construction, so crumpling it up or scratching it isn’t a risk to its integrity.
Using the filter is virtually idiot proof; all you have to do is dip the flask in a lake or stream, and then screw on the cap with the hollow filter attached. You can then drink directly from the flask, or squeeze the filtered water into a larger reservoir for mixing with electrolyte powders. The drink valve has a very fast flow rate – up to 2 liters per minute – so you can completely top off a 2L reservoir in a minute or two. If you choose to drink directly from the flask, it fits nicely into most front-side hydration pack pockets that normally accommodate bottles or flasks.
Speed and convenience don’t come at the expense of safety, as the BeFree filtration specs are comparable to standard backcountry gear; the pore size of 0.1 micron effectively removes bacteria, cysts and sediment from the source water, and the system is effective for up to 1000L of filtration.
Best of all is the convenience of cleaning the filter. You don’t have to worry about reversing any valves or backflushing water through the system. Instead, here’s what you do: submerge the filter in a bit of water, and swish it back and forth a couple of times. That’s it. Cleaning doesn’t get any simpler than that.
After your adventure is over, the flask can be easily rinsed with soap and water and left to air dry. One design tweak we’d like to see is some sort of hanging loop at the bottom end of the flask, but until then the bag balances fairly well upside down with the valve opening resting on a drying rack.
The Katadyn BeFree is an incredibly easy and effective way to acquire safe drinking water on the go, and allows you to significantly extend the parameters of your adventure runs. It has earned our highest recommendation as a must-have piece of equipment for ensuring your safety when drinking from natural water sources.