By Jason Boyle
Water Filtration has come a long way since I started backpacking in the days of iodine tablets and Polar Pure. Even the days of pumps might be long gone. Katadyn has introduced the hand held water filtration called the BeFree. I am fortunate to be reviewing this cool new water filtration device over the next few months.
Katadyn is a Switzerland based company that produces water treatment systems for the outdoor and marine industries. They have a number of products including traditional style pumps, Micropur water purification tablets and Desalinators. Their website is easy to use and features a drop down menu where you can specify group size, how often the product will be used, method of travel, cleanliness of water, and what the user needs to be protected against. By selecting the various boxes in the categories, the website recommends a product to fit the user’s needs.
The Katadyn BeFree is the latest evolution in personal water filtration systems. It features a hollow fiber filter inside of a Hydrapak soft sided flask. The filter features their “EZ clean Membrane” and “Free Flow Channels” for faster flow. The filter unit screws into the bottle and has an attached flip top drinking cap. It is a fairly simple set up. Using the filter is also simple; unscrew the drinking cap filter combo; being careful not to squeeze the filter media, dip the water bottle in a water source and carefully screw the lid back on. Drink directly from the soft sided flask or squeeze clean water into another container.
The included instructions guide features a bevy of warnings, operation tips, and proper storage guidance. The first thing I want to point out is that the filter does not filter viruses, but does remove bacteria, cysts, and sediment. So it is important to choose a water source wisely. They also go on to say to not touch the filter membrane with a tool, fingers or sideways running water as it may damage the filter. They include a handy way to tell if the membrane is working; blow into the drinking cap. If you cannot blow into the cap, the filter works, if you can blow into the cap the membrane needs to be replaced. They implore the user to be careful not to get contaminated water on the drinking cap. There are numerous reminders that this filter is for fresh water only, not brackish or salt water. To operate the filter, it is as simple as I already explained. However if the flow of the water is getting slow, Katadyn recommends swishing the filter around in the bottle or in a water source. This should unclog the membrane. For long term storage, they recommend filling the flask with a Micropur tablet or 4 drops of bleach and water. Then squeeze the solution through the filter and let the filter dry completely before reassembling. Katadyn says the user can expect about 1000 liters of use before needing to replace the filter.
I am excited to review this item. In addition to backpacking, I trail run and here in the south it gets hot. Races have aid stations, but on long training runs the only aid station is the one I bring with me. I am hopeful that this can help reduce the amount of water I need to run with. The soft flask is a little larger than the ones I normally run with, but I think these will fit nicely in my running vest.
I will evaluate the BeFree on the following characteristics – durability and ease of use. I am hard on gear, so I am interested to see how well these stand up to abuse while hiking and running. Also the water in many of the streams in the south have tannins that turn the water brown. I am interested to see if this affects the filter. For ease of use, I wonder if it is really as easy to use as they say it is. Will I worry about fumbling with the cap and getting contaminated water on it? These are just a few of my thoughts. Check back in a month or so to see how the BeFree has performed.
Thanks to 4alloutdoors.org and Katadyn for supplying the product for this review.