“Water, water everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink”
While neither Coleridge nor the Ancient Mariner were bikepackers, the problem was the same. If you are out in the wild, or far from home and in need of a drink, what do you do? Ultra distance rider Nigel is no stranger to this problem so we let him loose with the Katadyn BeFree water filtration system.
There is a school of thought that questions the need to carry water at all on ride, whatever the distance. The theory goes a little like this:
Why add to the weight of a light bike with water? If you need a drink, go to a shop (not always possible). Alternatively, use something like the Refill app or resort to natural water sources. The latter isn’t always a viable option, particularly in the flatlands where ‘industrial agriculture’ has turned the area into a green desert. This was an ideal test for Nigel, so we sent him out in the heat to see how he got on.
Katadyn BeFree Water Filtration System
The first thing to note about the 0.6L filtration system, is the weight. The packaging claims 59g, our scales say 74g, a whole gram less than a generic 500ml bidon!
The BeFree is a filter membrane attached to a “sports-cap” arrangement such as you might find on a bottle of mineral water. The reservoir is a Hydrapak Softflask, essentially a flexible plastic bag that can easily be rolled up when empty (it fits into a 450ml mug).
The BeFree is a doddle to use. Unscrew the cap and fill the flask. Screw the cap back on, then squeeze the bag to get the water flowing. The flow rate is comparable to a normal bottle despite passing through a filter.
The BeFree is as good to use as a normal bottle. Unlike tabs, you don’t have to wait 30 minutes before the water is safe to drink. Pretty impressive.
The hydrapak will not fit in a standard bottle cage but it does slot into a jersey pocket or a frame bag. Obviously, this automatically increases you water carrying capacity if your cages are already maxed out. When you find a reliable water source, simply fill the BeFree with clean water and rinse the filter.
A quick word on the filter’s effectiveness, I have to concede that any review will be purely on practicality and convenience. The reasons are as follows:
- We only tested the filter on water that was clear of obvious impurities.
- We can’t tell you that if we had just consumed the same water untreated whether it posed a risk or not.
- Katadyn have been making water filtration equipment for 80 years and have a reputation for making quality products.
Based on the light weight, ease of use and packable form factor, I think the BeFree is a game-changer for me. As long as where you are riding has a water source, the meagre weight/pack-size makes it practically ideal.
It has definitely found itself a place in my frame bag!
Last modified: 1st August 2018