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A Water Filtration System Sir Isaac Newton Would Love!

Ron Breault
June 13, 2024
Last Updated: June 13, 2024

Review of The Katadyn Gravity BeFree 3L Water Filtration System

Katadyn BeFree at Campsite

I have been an avid user of water filtration systems for the majority of my outdoor life.  Through the years I’ve purchased and used many different brands and am always eager to try the latest & greatest crop of filtration systems as new technologies come to market. 

A common theme amongst all the water filters I have owned has been the “physical effort” required to use them: pumping a lever or handle, pushing a cylinder, squeezing a container, or sucking water from a tube.  While most of these are relatively easy, the time spent performing the action can get tedious with repeated use.  For this reason, I was excited when I received a Katadyn Gravity BeFree Water 3L Filtration System. The only effort required to use this system is filling a bag with water and hanging it up; gravity does the rest.  Sir Isaac Newton would applaud this immediately!

Inside the Box

When you open the box on the BeFree Gravity 3L system, you’ll find:

1. A BeFree Filter cartridge.
2. A lightweight, translucent thermoplastic bag that holds the water to be filtered.  This bag comes with a strap and clips to hang the bag above the ground to enable gravity to do its work.
3. A surgical tubing style hose that clips into the filter to deliver the filtered water, including an easy to use “on/off” water flow clamp mechanism.
4. A tough carrying bag that everything easily fits into for safe storage while traveling.

Katadyn BeFree - In the Box

Katadyn BeFree - What's In the Box

Katadyn BeFree Shut Off Clamp

Katadyn BeFree Shut Off Clamp

Easy to Use

Using the system is incredibly easy: you fill the bag with the water you want to filter (from a lake, river, pond, etc.), then hang it up by the strap. You then clip in the hose (if you haven’t already) and then open the hose clamp to release the filtered water. That’s it! There’s no waiting, no extra steps, no other effort involved; it’s like an apple falling from a tree!

You soon begin to think of the bag and hose like the faucet on a sink rather than a water filter.  The water’s just there, ready when you need it.

Per Katadyn, the flow rate on the BeFree Gravity 3L Filter is 2 litres of water per minute.  This was plenty fast for me; it’s not like a garden hose on full blast, but it fills my pots and Nalgene bottles before I get tired of watching it. 

It’s easily as fast as the “manual effort” type of systems, but since all you have to do is turn on the flow and watch, it feels faster.

When I took the BeFree 3L Gravity with me on a trip to Algonquin with my family, the filter quickly became a big hit. Everyone liked having filtered water readily available at the push of a button.  Whoever ended up emptying it was responsible to refill it and hang it back up.  No training required!

Katadyn BeFree Hung on Tree
Katadyn BeFree Ready to Use

Double Duty Filter Cartridge

Clean, filtered water from Katadyn BeFree Filter

Clean, clear water - who's thirsty?

While this filter system is new to me, I’ve been using the small, “squeezable” 1L BeFree for a couple of years now.  It’s great for use in a canoe, as it’s easily filled, lightweight, and packs into a small pocket when portaging.  After getting the BeFree Gravity 3L system, I learned that both the 1L and the 3L use the same sized filter cartridge!  This is a big plus for me as I like having redundancy on my trips:  if either filter is somehow damaged or clogged, I can use the other for both bags; very handy.

Speaking of clogging, the BeFree cartridge is rated for filtering 1000L of water.  If I were to filter a full bag, 3L of water, three times per day, that would mean a fresh filter cartridge would last me more than 100 days. I get out tripping quite a bit, but I don’t think I will hit 100 days in a single year anytime soon (and remain married)!  I have used the BeFree 3L Gravity over at least 25 camping days this summer/fall and it hasn’t let me down yet.

Cleaning The Filter

If you find the flow rate of the filter decreasing, Katadyn includes instructions on how to rinse the filter and gently agitate it to loosen accumulated debris. This is a feature of the “EZ-Clean Membrane” surrounding the filter’s internal fibres.

I do this occasionally when refilling the bag just to be proactive.

I’ll mention a tip here that others may find useful to extend the life of their filter cartridges (whichever brand or system you use): Sometimes you may find yourself in a body of water with an excess of sediment; leaves, gravel or something else. Two separate lakes I camped on this summer had so many baby “Water Striders” in them that you couldn’t fill a container without seeing literally hundreds of the little flea sized guys swimming in it!  Rather than pouring all of that into my bag for filtering, I put a bandana over the mouth of the bag when filling it. That acts like a simple “pre filter” to keep out the larger “chunks”, thereby putting less strain on the real filter and extending its life.

The Brown's Bushcraft Canvas Filter Bag is designed specifically as a pre-filter bag if you find yourself having to use water sources with high levels of silt, debris sediment or organic matter. I’ve been doing pre-filtering for years with all my water filters. Is it strictly necessary?  No, but it’s simple, prolongs filter life and is worth the effort in my humble opinion.

Katadyn BeFree EZ-Clean Water Filter

Katadyn's EZ-Clean Hollow Fibre Water Filter Cartridge

Carrying Bag

Is there anything you didn’t like about the 3L BeFree Gravity?” you may ask.

One possible weakness springs to mind.  The 3L bag that holds your water is very flexible and fairly thin. That makes it pack quickly and easily and keeps it lightweight. On the flip side, if you aren’t careful with the bag, e.g. packing it with something sharp or pointy, or dragging it when full across jagged rocks, you could puncture or tear it. As Sir Isaac said, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”!  With that in mind, recognizing a risk is the first step towards mitigating it. Take care of your filter and it will take care of you! I travel with mine in the bag it came with and that has kept it safe.

This filter hits the sweet spot for me and my needs.  It will be with me on all my trips going forward, hanging somewhere in camp, ready for use.

Katadyn BeFree Water Filter Packed for Next Adventure

Katadyn BeFree packed and ready for the next adventure!

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Ron Breault

Ron spent most of his life in the Montreal-Toronto-Ottawa corridor, providing him with great access to some of Canada's finest paddling destinations. A lifelong photographer, Ron's favourite subjects are landscapes, wildlife, and anything involving paddling, camping, or backpacking. He recently purchased his second Swift Canoe, which resulted in his nickname, Swifty Paddler. In 2021, Ron stepped away from a senior management position in the software industry to pursue photography full time. He's now working at growing his practice. Ron is married to the love of his life, has two adult daughters, and resides in Ottawa, Ontario.
Ron Breault
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