Is the BeFree a better filter than the Saywer?


EDIT: In a recent trip, the BeFree totally stopped filtering even though it was clean and well taken care of. I cannot endorse this filter, as a few others have had this same problem, so I know it’s not just me.

Long story short, maybe in the next iteration.

I recently purchased two Katadyn BeFree filters from REI when they were on sale, thinking that hey, they might be cool and they are only $20 at the time.


I have been a fan of gravity filters for a while due to the set it and forget it factor, but the flow of cheap ones left me with something to be desired for quick stops, and the high cost of the Platypus Gravity left me saying no thanks.  So I have been using the BeFree, modified pretty heavily, but it works soo well. EDIT: No it doesn’t.

First some practicalities.

  • The BeFree filters do not use standard threading like the Sawyer line does. I dislike this. The bottle openings are much bigger and allow for a high flow rate to but the filter, enhancing its already amazing flow rate, but it can’t use any other bottles than the soft bottle it comes with. So you can either use this with the soft bottle, or try to find something that the filter portion can fit on. I didn’t find anything, and I went to King Soopers one day to just try it out. NOTHING fit. And I tried everything, even pancake mix bottles. So that is an issue if you are wanting to hook it up to some smart water bottles or to use it as an inline filter. If that’s the case, you should just stick with the Sawyer which fits nearly everything. EDIT: it fits on a Hydrapak Seeker Water Bottle. Which is an issue because if the bottle pops, leaks or is damaged in any way you are hosed until you can order a new one.
  • The next issue is that damn soft bottle. I get that it’s supposed to be easier to carry, and it can pack down small but I just hate them. They are good on some running vests where they need to conform to a certain shape that doesn’t work for a rigid bottle. But for backpacking, I hate them.
  • Third I don’t really get the idea here. When on a run there aren’t really times when I need to stop to refill my water supply, and for most trail runners I imagine this is true. Ultra Runners might need it to go light and just refill as needed, but even then a bladder would work better I think. If you are running 50 miles unsupported and on your own, most runners carry what they need.

Why I like the BeFree:

  • Using the BeFree after the Squeeze is night and day. It’s like just pouring water from the bottle.
  • When it’s dirty just put some clean water in the bag and shake it. BAM! It’s clean again. So the need to back flush is gone. Thus no need to carry a syringe. There really is no need anyway, just use a Smartwater bottle cap. The blue one with the flip lid.
  • The entire filter is exposed to the water, verses just the end in a Sawyer. This makes it able to filter faster due to the greater surface area and easier to clean as well.

So I modified it this way:

  • I cut the hard top of the soft bottle off and set it aside.
  • I had a dry sack from Mountain Hardware that is now discontinued (but this will work) and I cut a 1.5” line in the bottom.
  • Then I pulled the bag through the hard top of the bottle and screwed the filter on.

It works so well.

EDIT: It worked well until I tried it with some lake water. It didn’t perform then. The filter clogged and wouldn’t let more than a trickle out. It was filtering much slower than the Sawyer.



2017 Appalachian Ultralight Thru-Hiker’s Pack

As many of you may know, we were recently sponsored by Appalachian Ultralight, a maker of a few different kinds of ultralight gear.  We got to chatting, and Cody ended up sending me a prototype for his 2017         Thru-Hiker’s pack. There are going to be a few differences between mine and the finished version, but only in fabric. and I think it’s the right way to go. The Robic is stronger, although a little heavier. As a result the finished model will be around 0.5 OZ heavier than the one I have which comes in at 14.33 oz for a large 45 liter, but will be more durable.Thru-Hiker's pack

The total weight for the Final Robic should be 14.8 oz or so for a size large 45L.
The Thru-Hiker’s pack is available in 30 and 45 Liters, and the 2017 Thru-Hiker’s pack will be offered in the same sizes. I asked for a 45 Liter size Large pack, and it fits really well.

Thru-Hiker's pack
The 2017 Thru-Hiker’s pack will have a bucket bottom.

The new 2017 Thru-Hiker’s pack has a bucket bottom, designed to help to protect the mesh of the water bottle pockets. The 2016 model’s pockets were flush with the bottom, which could result in the mesh tearing when the pack is set down and either scrapes or gets caught on something.

Thru-Hiker's packOne 1.5L Bottle

Also the new pockets are taller. Now they can fit a 1.5 L Smart Water bottle, or 2 of the 700mL per pocket.

The new roll top system is a now a compression system. The line-loks are compressed by Lash-It pull downs sewn into the bottom of the pockets.

Thru-Hiker's packTwo 700Ml bottles

The back pad of the 2017 Thru-Hiker’s pack is actually supplied by you. The Gossamer Gear SitLite pad is just a bit too small, but a Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Mattress will fit perfectly. Everything is held rather securely by a series of straps on the back of the 2017 Thru-Hiker’s pack.

Thru-Hiker's packThe 2017 Thru-Hiker’s pack uses straps to hold the hiker’s sleeping pad as a frame.

Another thing that has changed is the zig-zag webbing under the back pocket. It now uses three shock cords attached to three clipping line-loks on the top, and lark’s headed to the bottom three attach points. The three shock cord attachment points are for your wet gear or a quick stow point for what ever you need.

Thru-Hiker's pack
Grid attachment points for your wet gear, and the back pocket for daily use items.

The back pocket is pretty ample, in there are my cook kit (the red bag) my funnel, first aid, gravity filter system and a stake bag.

Thru-Hiker's pack
The shoulder straps have two daisy chains, and the sternum strap is a knotted string and mitten hook.

The shoulder straps are nice and wide, with two daisy chains down either side. I really like the shoulder straps even though the padding is a little thin. I wore this thing without the waist straps for about a mile today and it never got uncomfortable. Surprisingly the sternum strap is rather robust, and holds the straps tight across my chest.

Thru-Hiker's packThe waist strap .

As 45L packs go, The 2017 Thru-Hiker’s pack is big and light. The pack is close to the 54L CDT that I had custom made with a roll top. The main reason is that The 2017 Thru-Hiker’s pack adds up to a 40L main body, the pockets added to that makes the pack I got closer to 50L than 45L. To be totally honest, I am pretty happy about it. The CDT can handle my winter gear with room to spare,  and The 2017 Thru-Hiker’s pack weighs close to 10 OZ less!!

Thru-Hiker's pack

Thru-Hiker's pack

  • It’s very light for it’s size.
  • Cody makes great use of minimalist design throughout the pack.
  • The pockets are deep and big.
  • The shoulder straps are very comfortable.
  • There is no hole for a water bladder.


  • Due to the nature of the compression roll top Line-Loks, you can’t use this like a traditional roll top.
  • The Lash-it used in the compression roll top is in the pocket, and it can get in the way.
  • The mitten hook sternum strap is awkward to use, even though it works well.

Mile Hike Guys is sponsored by Appalachian Ultralight, but we are under no obligation to give their items glowing reviews. All the opinions contained in this review are those of Ricky and no one else.