Gear Review: Be Free!
The hiker inside of me grew up on the Appalachian Trail over a decade ago. With few dependable options and firsthand reports of its dependability, I firmly believed the MSR Miniworks was the best water filter for all occasions. I’ve tested other purification systems over the years, but I haven’t often left my old faithful.
Flash forward to 2022. I am departing for the Wind River Range in Wyoming. Attempting to go lighter and branch out, I purchased the Katadyn Be Free filter. This is an ultralight, hollow fiber filter that screws onto any 42mm screw-top bottle. That means you can pair it with a collapsible Hydrapak bottle (my choice), a Be Free bottle, or a CNOC bottle. The filter element hides inside of the squeezable bottle, revealing only the drink spout. With a firm squeeze, the water is drinkable straight from the otherwise contaminated bottle, keeping you safe from particulates and bacteria that would otherwise have you curled in a ball crying for a clean diaper.
Want to carry more water? No problem. I carried a Nalgene and squeezed out a clean liter without ever removing my pack. My Hyperlite bottle holder was my extra set of hands and kept my water available at all times. This bottle holder clips to my harness and is a MUST add to your kit if it’s compatible. This filter is crazy fast and crazy light! Here are the stats:
Speed: 30 seconds per liter
Weight: 2.2 ounces
Things to consider for this to be your best option:
- Is water readily available? The Be Free allowed me to get water and go super quick. But if I was filling more than one liter or stopping to remove a bladder, I would have lost time. On this trip I never carried more than one liter of water.
- How many people are using the filter? Each hiker in my group had their own water treatment solution. If you are carrying one filter for a large group, you may want to consider another option. The BeFree is ideal for independent travelers.
- Do you have a dependable squeeze bag? My issue with Sawyer filters is the hard-to-fill and undependable squeeze bag. Get yourself a CNOC water container or Hydrapak bottle that you can count on. A three-dimensional bag fills way easier! Dunk it in a stream or lake or hold under a water flow and you’re in business!
- Filtering super dirty water is a challenge. Cleaning this system requires a vigorous shake that doesn’t fully restore filter speed. Clean, flowing water from glaciers wasn’t a problem, though.
- It doesn’t last forever. While being one of the quickest and easiest systems, it has a short lifespan of 1,000 liters. This should be about 250 trail days, or one and a half AT thru-hikes. Replacement filter cartridges are available, and fairly inexpensive.
- Not ideal for winter use. The nature of the filter sitting in freezing water would render any filter useless.
I will 100% use this filter again! This was the easiest and lightest system I’ve ever used! Free yourself of bulk and weight and Be Free!
by: Bryan Wolf