Among the crucial things to have for long operations is a water-filter system, not wanting to carry even more weight, lugging around several litres of water. There are a lot of filter systems available with Katadyn’s BeFree water filter system being one of the lightest available.
Katadyn knows how to produce water-filters, because they, in my opinion, make the hands-down best water filter system available: the Katadyn POCKET. Since the POCKET comes at a weight (and certainly a price!), I was very curious what the much more affordable and much lighter BeFree has to offer.
The BeFree System is for clear or slightly murky water, otherwise the filter clogs up. It consists of the filter and a collapsable Hydrapak bottle with a 42mm screw top. My 1l version of the BeFree weighs in at an incredible 83g, being 27x7,5 6cm filled/unfolded, and 11x7,5x 6cm folded. There is a 0,6l version available as well.
The filter itself is screwed into the bottle, so the water is filtered while you drink. Being a 0,1 micron hollow fibre micro filter, it removes bacteria, protozoa and sediment, but no viruses. The BeFree filter can be bought separately, but as far as I know, it does not fit on any other bottle other than the 42mm Hydrapak bottle. The flow rate is 2l per minute and the filter can be cleaned easily in the field (which is important!) by just swishing it in clean water. It should be replaced after 1,000l have been filtered.
After several months of use I can honestly say that the BeFree is great for its intended use: filtering clean and slightly murky water!
Using this filter system is very easy, too! Unscrew the filter from the bottle, fill it, screw it back on again and you‘re ready to go. You do not have to suck hard or squeeze the bottle. The water flows easily. So far I did not have any problems after drinking from it.
The high flow rate gets less very quickly, though, but this is no problem, as the water still pours out faster than I was able to drink it. If you would need to filter water for several people or for a camp, everyone will still be able to have a drink.
However, you have to be picky where you get the water from, because the filter does not remove viruses. So to be safe, do not use contaminated water. If you absolutely have to, drop a few Katadyn Micropur Forte in it, or, if you do not like the taste or the time they take, you could use a second device that kills viruses like the SteriPen Traveller.
You have to be careful with the filter system if you use it in sub zero temperatures, because if any water left in the filter freezes, it makes it useless.
There are two downsides to this otherwise amazing drinking solution: the 1,000l lifespan seems a lot, but in reality that‘s just 3l a day for a year. Which isn‘t that much. But a new filter can be bought at around €30,- for another 1,000 litres. The other downside is that the bottle does not stand up by itself. Maybe it‘s just me, but that drives me nuts.
When researching the bottle online, there is a small amount of people that complain about the collapsable bottle not being sturdy. Well, first of all: Duh! How can a 60g collapsable bottle be anywhere near as robust as a, e.g. CamelBak/Nalgene bottle? This ultra lightweight piece of gear brings a huge advantage in size and weight. If you handle the bottle with the appropriate care and do not over-squeeze it when drinking it will last. Don‘t have unrealistic expectations of gear and equipment!
I did not have any problems so far with the bottle. And even if I encounter any in the near future: that still makes the BeFree water filter my go to system. It does exactlt what it markets it can do.
9 out of 10. MONCh Gear Box approved.