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Katadyn BeFree Review

A great lightweight choice for drinking water for one on long day excursions like trail running or fishing.
Katadyn BeFree
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Price:  $40 List | $39.95 at REI
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Pros:  Lightweight, compact, instant drinking water
Cons:  Not good for groups, bottle springs small leaks easily, cap can leak
Manufacturer:   Katadyn
By Jessica Haist ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 23, 2018
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73
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#11 of 20
  • Reliability - 25% 5
  • Weight - 20% 10
  • Treatment Capacity - 20% 6
  • Speed - 15% 8
  • Ease of Use - 20% 8

The Skinny

This is one of the lightest and most compact filters you can carry. It fits into a small pocket or pouch and weighs about half of an iPhone. It's ideal for big days when you know you will cross streams. For hiking and biking, it allows you to carry a lot less water with you. The only lighter options are chemicals which don't work as quickly and can change the taste of the water.

We bring this with us when mountain biking, fishing and on long day hikes and trail runs. The catch is you need to be near water, which is preferably deep enough or running to fill the bottle. The challenge with the Katadyn BeFree is its limited treatment capacity and delicate Hydraflask bottle. We have sprung in a leak in all three bottles we have tested. The leaks are annoying but they are small enough to keep the bottle functioning. If you are obsessed with saving every last ounce and are ok with the durability, get the BeFree. If you are ok with a slightly bulkier package and a few more ounces, go with the Lifestraw Flex. The Flex gives more filtering options, is more durable, and has only a slight weight penalty.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

Take this pocket-sized filter with you anywhere from fishing at the creek to running 50K's. We love how light and compact the BeFree is and bring it along on many day trip adventures and takes our Top Pick Award for Best Trail Running Filter. It saves us carrying heavy liters of water and allows for more freedom of movement — this product truly does allow us to Be Free!

Performance Comparison


Scoring top marks in our weight category, the BeFree is the best pocket-sized filter for on-the-go use. It scores just under the Sawyer Mini but we think it is more compact and appropriate for day trip use than the Mini, and takes our Top Pick Award for that reason.

The BeFree filters out any scary microorganisms that may be in your water source along the way.
The BeFree filters out any scary microorganisms that may be in your water source along the way.

Reliability / Effectiveness


The BeFree protects against bacteria and protozoa however it does not remove viruses. It should be adequate for most USA, Canada steams.


We have read reports that the BeFree's Hydrapak bottle ripping around the rigid top collar piece after only a few uses. We have not experienced this but can imagine it happening as the flask material does seem quite delicate. We have experienced leaking at the collar. We have tested four BeFree filters and every single one eventually springs tiny pin-prick leaks. These don't really lower the effectiveness, but they are annoying. It's especially annoying when this once happened on the first use!

The area where the bottle attaches to the neck or collar area is prone to ripping.
The area where the bottle attaches to the neck or collar area is prone to ripping.

Keep in mind that the BeFree and other water filters of this design are hard to thaw out once frozen as you can see below. This ice chunk took over an hour in the sun and 50 degreen temps to thaw out enough to drink from.
The BeFree is susceptible to freezing at the filter. Once frozen  it takes a very long time to thaw. We recommend emptying the bottle at night.
The BeFree is susceptible to freezing at the filter. Once frozen, it takes a very long time to thaw. We recommend emptying the bottle at night.

Ease of Use


This is one of the easier filters to use. You just scoop up water and attach the cap. It's much easier to use than a filter where you must bend over and drink straight from the source. It also lets you refill your other bottles and your friend's bottles, something that devices like the TrailShot do not let you do. Unlike many filters that require backflushing, the BeFree is intuitive to use and maintain. When it starts getting a little clogged up, you just swish water around to unclog it.


One downside is that its hard to scoop water from very tiny streams and shallow water sources. This is where the TrailShot and LifeStraw Flex pull ahead.

Providing instant drinking BeFree needs a bit of air in the bottle to squeeze out all the water.
Providing instant drinking BeFree needs a bit of air in the bottle to squeeze out all the water.

The BeFree's wide mouth makes fill-ups easy  except when the water is shallow and/or slow moving.
The BeFree's wide mouth makes fill-ups easy, except when the water is shallow and/or slow moving.

Treatment Capacity


As we've eluded to in the previous metrics, the BeFree is a great choice for a solo hiker or adventurer. We tested the 20-ounce version, but it now also comes in a 1 liter for more water storage if you choose to carry your water with you. However, this is still not a ton of capacity and if you are trying to fill up a group's water bottles for the day it is not the best or quickest option.


With a 1000 liter capacity, the BeFree is right in the middle as most filters treat 750 to 2000 liters. We usually use it 2 or 3 times on a day hike, so it last for about 500 outings before you need to replace the filter.

On long hikes and trail runs it's easy to fill up the BeFree at the nearby stream and have instant drinking water.
On long hikes and trail runs it's easy to fill up the BeFree at the nearby stream and have instant drinking water.

The filter with the largest filter life in this review is the Sawyer 4L Water Filtration System with an impressive "1 Million Gallon Guarantee". This is a gravity filter and a great choice for group filtration and long backpacking trips but it is much bulkier and heavier than the BeFree. If you are looking for a product to filter larger volumes of water for groups we also like the MSR AutoFlow, it is an easy to use reliable product that has a 1500 liter filter life.

The BeFree is a great choice for a day out where you don't want to carry a lot of water.
The BeFree is a great choice for a day out where you don't want to carry a lot of water.

Speed


This is one of the fastest filters in this review if you are solo. Just scoop some water out of a stream and keep walking while sipping. Or, if you want to pause and fill up a water bottle, it takes about 30 seconds.


The BeFree's hollow fiber filter unit is very small and light.
The BeFree's hollow fiber filter unit is very small and light.

Weight


Weighing in at 2.3 oz the BeFree is the lightest filter that includes a bottle in the bunch. The Sawyer Mini is a close second at 2.5 ounces including its bottle. The BeFree is also the most compact unit we tested. The heaviest and bulkiest filter in this review is the Guardian.


Best Applications


This bottle is for anyone that wants to travel as light as possible. We use it mountain biking, backpacking, hiking and trail running. It's much less bulky than its competition and easily fits in the back of a bike jersey, a pocket, or in the mesh outside of a backpack. We take it on just about every outing as it weighs next to nothing.

Value


At $40, the BeFree is a decent value. However, the durability issues require you to be very careful with it if you want to get the full 1000 uses out of it. The Best Buy Sawyer Mini is much more durable and only costs $25. However, it is also more bulky, heavy, and not as easy to use.

Conclusion


This used to be our Top Pick for lightweight travel. That award now goes to the Lifestraw Flex which is more durable and versatile. However, the flex is also heavier and bulkier. If weight is your primary concern, and you don't mind the delicate bottle that is prone to puncture, the BeFree is likely the best option.

Make sure you fill up upstream of evident contaminants! The author drinks from the BeFree.
Make sure you fill up upstream of evident contaminants! The author drinks from the BeFree.


Jessica Haist