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BeFree Filter Update: Bad News, 3 Days on the Trail with 5 People


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Home Forums Gear Forums Gear (General) BeFree Filter Update: Bad News, 3 Days on the Trail with 5 People

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  • #3494464
    Tony Wong
    BPL Member

    @valshar

    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    Well, my hopes are sadly and disappointingly dashed for the BeFree Filter.

    Just returned from a three day weekend with my 75 yr old father, 72 yr old Uncle, younger brother, and nephew from the Emigrant Wilderness.

    Went to Chewing Gum Lake and Y Meadow Lakes from the Gianelli Trail Head.

    We had the same 2 BeFree water filters that I had just previously used for the first time over the Labor Day Weekend on a 4 day, 36 mile backpacking trip in the Emigrant Wilderness….which went well and I wrote a glowing review with suggestions for improvements on the filter.

    Chewing Gum Lake is a lake that does not have any in flow of water at this time of year.

    The water in the lake was brownish in color, but the water was clear when scooped up in my Platypus.

    Used the Hydropak Seeker 2L and 3L water bottles and connected the BeFree to them to filter water.

    Made it through about 4-5 Liters with a slowly diminishing rate of flow to the point that at the end of the 5th liter, the flow was a trickle that was slower than my Sawyer mini.

    Filled up the Hydropak 2L Seeker with water and began to vigorously shake the water in the bottle with the BeFree attached to attempt to clear the filter.

    No luck, even after a minute or two of shaking.

    Attached the send BeFree filter to filter some more water, but that one quickly was reduced to a trickle even when applying a lot of pressure.

    The water simply was full of small organic material was was clogging up the filter.

    At one point, I even removed my added sport bottle top and put cleaned water in the output area and put my mouth over the output and blew air/water back through the filter in a somewhat desperate attempt to clear the filter.

    No luck…both filters were essentially useless…though, a small trickle was coming out.

    Fortunately, I was following BPL guidelines and carried proven backup filters that I could rely upon when testing out new gear.

    In this case, I had two Sawyer mini’s…one new and one that I had been using for a few years.

    Was able to filter water at a much faster rate than the clogged BeFree water filters, but was painfully reminded of how slow the Saywer mini was in comparison to the joy that the BeFree gave me when it was new.

    (Well, 2nd trip out would still qualify as new right???)

    Moving the 2nd day to Y Meadow Lakes, the water was similar to Chewing Gum….dark brown when looking at the bottom of the lake, but clear when in the Platypus bottle.

    To be fair, I had to back flush the Sawyer mini multiple times for the remainder of the trip to provide water for everyone.

    As I was the leader of this group and only my 72 year old Uncle had any prior backpacking experience (granted, he last backpacked in the 1970’s), I was a bit distressed by the failure of my two Primary water filters and had to fall back on my Mini to save us.

    A lot of time was spent at the Lake sure with my Uncle and I filtering water….me slowly squeezing the Platypus 1L bottle while he held the 2L or 3L Seek water bottle to catch all the filtered water.

    This was repeated at night, preparing water for our final day with a 6.2 mile hike out with really no good water resupplies on the way out, sitting by the fire and squeezing water through the Saywer mini.

    The mini saved the day, but I am going to buy the larger Sawyer Squeeze for a better flow rate.

    I REALLY wanted to love the BeFree and my major concern before I bought them was the inability to back flush the filter.

    Unfortunately, my fear/concerns materialized.

    Last night, after getting home, I pushed warm/hot water through the BeFree filters and restored the flow rate to both of them…oddly, one of them much more than the other.

    Note: I did notice a very tiny pin hole water leak in the included thin walled 1 L water bottle that came with the BeFree, but this was when I was applying a lot of pressure on the bag to force water through the filter….think squeezing a balloon so hard that it starts to deform….that is the forced that I needed to help push water through the filter to restore some of the flow.

    Going to try vinegar tonight to see if that improves the situation…..perhaps water with a few drops of bleach.

    Not sure if this will damage the BeFree, but I don’t have much to lose here.

    Welcome any thoughts and advice on how to restore the BeFree’s flow rate.

    So in conclusion, trying to be positive about my experience:

    • I still WANT to carry the BeFree, but I WILL bring a Sawyer Squeeze as a backup
    • The BeFree should be used selectively in that I will ONLY chose to filter clear, moving water….like pitching a tent, site selection is key. For the BeFree, chose your water source carefully to try to preserve the rate of flow
    • The BeFree really needs to modified so that it can be back flushed in the field to restore the rate of flow. The inability to do this currently is a major oversight that could be dangerous to someone if this was their only means of filtering water.

    I might be willing to spend $25 to buy another one, knowing that I have to be very careful about water sources that I chose to filter.

    I really love the speed of filtering water that the BeFree offers, when it works….and that alone might justify my willing to give it another shot.

    However, I am VERY disappointed by the failure of 2 of these “new” filters out on their 2nd trip to the back country.

    P.S. As a side note, I am debating if I “should” return the BeFree to REI for a refund or exchange. I am hesitant to do so as I have used the filter and the water quality was not great. Then again, the filter has not come even close to living up to the claim of 1,000 Liters *depending on water quality. I am not one to abuse REI’s return policy, but I am pretty disappointed at spending $90 on filters and $40 on Seeker bottles to go with the BeFree water filters.

    Tony

    #3494466
    Tony Wong
    BPL Member

    @valshar

    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
    #3494472
    Kenneth Keating
    Spectator

    @kkkeating

    Locale: Sacramento, Calif

    Back in August we did 75 miles from Sonora Pass to Tuolumne Meadows with 3 of us using one Befree filter, and no diminishing issues with water flow, but all water sources were clear.  Two years ago we did Sonora Pass to Tahoe with the Sawyer Squeeze, but the water sources were definitely not as clear and by the end of the trip the Squeeze was painfully slow, such that I would never bring one again.  I started to use the standard Sawyer with gravity feed and that worked great.

    I’ve always assumed that for any filter there must be a  type of water source with X amount of impurities that would clog the filter in a short amount of time.    The brown water source must of  have had a lot of organics just at the right amount and size to clog up the filter.   I wonder if a prefilter, say 1 micron, would help out with maintaining water flow.

    #3494491
    Ben H.
    BPL Member

    @bzhayes

    Locale: No. Alabama

    I have heard some people say (a) backflushing damages the befree and some say (b) backflushing is not included in the instructions because a system to do it is not included with the filter.  If option (b) is the reality then I think it is a good idea to develop a system to backflush the filter.

    As I learned on another thread here, the Sawyer adapter fits on the threads where the cap is attached.  Since many people have complained about the cap failing, this kills two birds with one stone.  I have but the adapter on my befree.  Now I just have to get a receiving bottle to enable backflushing.

    #3494494
    J-L
    BPL Member

    @johnnyh88

    That is disappointing to hear, Tony. My BeFree filter also clogged. And my friend’s BeFree filter clogged, but it lasted about 30 person days of use (luckily, it clogged near the end of our long trip. I used a different treatment method). The BeFree would be a great filter if it could be backflushed effectively in the field – the swishing doesn’t do anything.

    I don’t see an issue with returning it to REI. It did not meet your (reasonable) expectations. It doesn’t sound like the filter was mis-used at all. And REI says they stand behind everything they sell. Katadyn needs to realize this is a problem and provide a fix.

    #3494496
    JCH
    BPL Member

    @pastyj-2-2

    Katadyn needs to realize this is a problem and provide a fix.

    This is key…katadyn is whom I would make certain knows about your experience.  REI might solve your immediate problem, but there are too many reported performance problems for the short time the BeFree has been available for me to trust it.  I’m not saying the Sawyer Squeeze is without issues, but it is well proven, as is the “black filter” from the SP140 water bottle.

    As always…HYOH.

    #3494499
    Tony Wong
    BPL Member

    @valshar

    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    Appreciate people’s feedback….keep them coming.

    Would like to hear other people’s experiences….especially if they have had any luck with restoring/clearing the clogged BeFree filters.

    Just to let everyone know, I have emailed copies of my original review and this most recent one, to Katadyn for Constructive Criticism as well as suggestions for improvement.

    To their credit, a lady from Katadyn replied to my original email and thanked me for my suggestions and promised to forward the email to their headquarters in Switzerland.

    While I cannot say that I am mad at Katadyn, as I want to encourage them to make a better product, I am disappointed at my experience.

    I am also puzzled why they did not incorporate into their design a way to back flush their filter.

    I suspect that the membrane that they are using inside the filter that separates the hollow fibers from the output collection chamber is the limitation.

    I agree, the shaking the filter does very little to clear clogs.

    Regarding the Sawyer filter…yes, it can clog, I have done it.

    HOWEVER, the key difference is that they have an effective and easy way to back flush their filter that will allow you to continue with full function.

    Anyway, hope this helps people.

    Will add comments as I get time to see what else might help restore the filter.

    Tony

    #3494582
    Alex Wallace
    BPL Member

    @feetfirst

    Locale: Sierra Nevada North

    Darn. I have 14 days, 3 backpacking trips, of use with a BeFree and it seems fine, but now I don’t fully trust it.

    I’m curious how you cleaned & stored it between trips?

    #3494586
    Tony Wong
    BPL Member

    @valshar

    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    Update on trying to clear the BeFree Filter:

    Last night I filled half the 1L bottle with a solution of warm water with maybe 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup of vinegar and let it soak for a hour.

    Then I pushed about half the solution through the filter.

    Really did not notice a significant improvement.

    I did a blow test on the BeFree filters…..only few drops of water were pushed back from the collection chamber back to the 1L bag….no air bubbles or easy flood of air going through, so think that the filter is fine and undamaged from the solution.

    One of the BeFree filters is probably about 70% to 60% of the original rate of flow.

    The 2nd one is probably about 50% of the original rate of flow.

    Still better than the Sawyer Mini, so I will continue to use it, but with a keen on water source selection.

    Will be upgrading from the Sawyer Mini to the Full Sized Sawyer Squeeze as my back up.

    Not UL, but I am making the choice to take on the extra weight of the BeFree for the convenience of fast filtering….though I will have to see how they compare to the Squeeze in their reduced state.

    Tony

    #3494587
    Lester Moore
    BPL Member

    @satori

    Locale: Olympic Peninsula, WA

    After two dozen nights and several day trips worth of solo use with mostly clear mountain streams, the BeFree I got in the Spring is still working fine. I’ll continue to trust it for solo trips with clean water sources but will bring Aquamira as a backup for trips with scummy water sources or on longer trips. Every filter clogs given the right set of conditions – glacier silt seems to clog every filter I’ve owned. For an extra ounce of weight, three days worth of Aquamira stored in micro squirt bottles is fairly lightweight insurance against filter failure.

    #3494588
    Tony Wong
    BPL Member

    @valshar

    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    @Alex

    I don’t want you to be fearful about the BeFree….I really like it and want it to be my go to filter.

    I am not just more aware of its limitations and that I need to be careful about what water sources I put through it…..like setting up a tarp or tarptent….site selection for wind cover/natural wind breaks.

    Even with my Sawyer, I have carried chlorine dioxide tablets as a back up, just in case.

    That a said, I have been using the Sawyer in one form or another since 2008 and it has never failed me.

    To answer your question about my storage of the BeFree:

    After flushing with clean water…I remove it the filter from the bottle and shake any excess water from it and then let it air dry for two days.

    If I can suck any water from the filter, I will do that to help it dry out faster.

    After my 1st trip with the BeFree, where the filter was stored for about 2-3 weeks, the night before this last trip, I filled up the water bottle to soak/wet the BeFree filter to prime it for use.

    Tony

    #3494591
    Alex Wallace
    BPL Member

    @feetfirst

    Locale: Sierra Nevada North

    I appreciate you sharing your experiences, Tony. I guess I just really want the BeFree to be the one so I can stop trying different options. A couple of years ago it was a Sawyer Squeeze. Then a Steripen. Always CL02 tablets as backup. I just want something quick, light, and dependable. I’ll continue to use the BeFree for now, but if it gives me problems I’m going back to the Steripen.

    Between trips I run a liter of tap water with a tablespoon of bleach in it to prohibit the growth of scum.

    #3494601
    Don Burton
    Spectator

    @surfcam310

    Locale: City of Angels

    I’m on my second BeFree filter. I returned the first one after it slowed to less than a mini Sawyer. The second one is just as bad. I’ve used it on a JMT thru hike (13 days) and a SoSHR they hike (8 days). Both times it slowed considerably after about 4 days. After 7 days it was so slow I was ready to just not filter at all.

    I swish cleaned it every time. When I came home I back flushed it with my Sawyer syringe and it works fine again. I going to just bring the syringe next time. I don’t see how it can damage it though. No science behind that statement though.

    I may just get a full sized Sawyer. I really like my 1L Seeker bottle I use with my BeFree though.

     

    #3494604
    Geoff Caplan
    BPL Member

    @geoffcaplan

    Locale: Lake District, Cumbria

    For some reason I never see anyone mention the Seychelle filters (branded as TravelTap in the UK).

    Flow isn’t quite as good as the BeFree, but good enough. I’ve used them for hundreds of days with all kinds of water and no issues.

    Affordable. Long lasting. No need to backflush. Seems to be a hidden gem.

    #3494606
    JCH
    BPL Member

    @pastyj-2-2

    Geoff – have you got a link to the particular filter you are using?.

    #3494612
    Tony Wong
    BPL Member

    @valshar

    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    @Don

    So you were able to back flush the BeFree with the Sawyer filter syringe without damaging the filter?

    How did you back flush the BeFree?

    Where you using one of the Sawyer inline filter adaptors on the output, replacing the flip top spout and then using tubing to connect to the syringe?

    Curious because yours would be the first time I have heard of someone back flushing the BeFree successfully.

    Tony

    #3494636
    Ben H.
    BPL Member

    @bzhayes

    Locale: No. Alabama

    ….When I came home I back flushed it with my Sawyer syringe and it works fine again. I going to just bring the syringe next time. I don’t see how it can damage it though. No science behind that statement though….

    BeFree has an integrity check.  Did you perform it?  Just filter some water (membrane must be wet) and then attempt to blow air back through the filter.  Air should not be able to go back through.

     

    #3494639
    Geoff Caplan
    BPL Member

    @geoffcaplan

    Locale: Lake District, Cumbria

    @JCH

    I don’t use a bladder so I just use their standard bottle filter:

    https://www.seychelle.com/store/24-oz.-pull-top-bottle-standard-/99bd1a62-94c7-4e84-a78a-dad295f1c9a4?category=filtration%20bottles

    They do a very lightweight inline filter too.

    It’s been extensively tested by a number of civilian and military labs and performs as well as anything else in the weight class.

    Not the absolute lightest, but affordable, reliable and simple to use – just fill and go. Never had it block on me, though I pre-filter through layers of fabric if the water is murky.

    I can see that the BeFree would appeal to runners because the exceptional flow would make it easy to use on the move. But for solo walking the Seychelle flow is as good as I find I need. The bottle has a waist making it easy to hang from my walking pole straps so I can reach down steep banks, and although it’s a bit heavy it’s very robust.

    Gradually closes itself down at end of life. You should get 100 gallons / 450 litres per replaceable filter.

    I’m on my second one – I trust it and haven’t seen anything yet that would tempt me to change. Tried a Sawyer but gave it away – I find the Seychelle easier all round and no need to backflush.

     

    #3494657
    Alex H
    BPL Member

    @abhitt

    Locale: southern appalachians or desert SW

    @geoffcaplan

    Does it really weigh a pound like the website says?

    #3494675
    Ben H.
    BPL Member

    @bzhayes

    Locale: No. Alabama

    Geoff,  That Seychelle looks interesting.  I have some questions.  Could you start another thread so this thread (about the BeFree Filter) doesn’t get derailed?

    #3494687
    Don Burton
    Spectator

    @surfcam310

    Locale: City of Angels

    <p style=”text-align: left;”>No special adapter to use the syringe. I just hold it in place. It’s not perfect because if it slips a bit water squirts off to the side. I always see a lot of debris come out. I just keep flushing it until I don’t see anymore. It sounds ridiculous when compared to doing the same thing with a mini but I’ve done this after 2 trips (8 and 13 days) and flushed it about 20 x’s each before I stopped seeing debris.</p>
    Yes, I performed the “breath test” and it passed. The more I hike, the more I get closer to not filtering. If this keeps up it may push me over the edge.

    A lot of my other UL ways have been motivated by efficiency (laziness) so this may fall into the same category.

    #3494781
    Tony Wong
    BPL Member

    @valshar

    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    @Don

    Thanks for the suggestion…..I was able to back flush the BeFree filter using a syringe and an old Platypus filter link that screwed onto the BeFree filter…..the Sawyer inline filter links should do the same thing.

    I connected to the filter link using some tubing and connected the syringe to the tube and was able to get a good seal between the filter and syringe.

    Pushed two or three rounds of water through the filter with no apparent damage….slow, steady pressure.

    Glad that I was able to do that, but no noticeable improvement over what I have already done.

    Still, good to know that this can be done and could be done in the field.

    Strange this is that despite being able to back flush the filter, I am still no where near the rate of flow from when the filter was new.

    I would guess that I am 70% of where the filter was when new.

    That said, I am satisfied with the result and appreciate everyone’s input and help.

    Definitely been a learning experience and i am going to buy the Sawyer Squeeze and compare its rate of flow vs. my now “used” BeFree.

    Tony

    #3495419
    Yoyo
    Spectator

    @dgposton

    Locale: NYC metro

    HI Tony,

    It’s disappointing to hear about your troubles with the BeFree, especially after I gave it so much praise. :)

    I would say that while using my BeFree on the Colorado trail this summer, the flow rate slowed to about 70% of normal.  But it was still noticeably faster than my hiking companions’ Sawyer Squeeze, which seemed to be the mainstay for most on the trail.  I ended up returning mine to REI and got another one because water was leaking slightly through the threads (where you screw the filter on).  This is really a slight nitpick as the leakage may have simply been due to the fact that I removed the blue rubber ring to save weight and thus couldn’t get as good a purchase on the filter so I didn’t screw it in too tight.

    I still plan on using my BeFree (the new one) next year as I resume my CT hike (didn’t finish).  I haven’t found anything else that is as easy to use.  Mine didn’t clog, but perhaps that’s because most all the water sources on the CT are clear (for the most part–I didn’t make it far enough into the trail where water sources become sketchy).  Perhaps you can hike back to the spot where your filters clogged and do a scientific test using a Mini and Squeeze to see if they clog, too? :)

    By the way, did you say whether you had a 0.6 L version or 1.0 L version?  If I recall correctly, you said that one of your bladders sprung a small leak…I’m curious if it’s the 0.6 L or the 1.0 L.  (Not sure if that matters, but just curious).

    #3495455
    John Vance
    BPL Member

    @servingko

    Locale: Intermountain West

    I have put a little over 75 liters through my BeFree with only a slight loss of flow.  No special cleaning, just rinsed it when I got home.  Sources were clear water with no tannins or debris.

    #3495480
    Finnegan McBrisket
    BPL Member

    @joephish-2

    Locale: SF Bay Area

    @valshar

    Hi Tony,

    I have the same filter and am now a bit concerned about your experience. I visited the same lakes in August with my brand new BeFree, but didn’t experience the same amount of clogging. I was careful to fill away from swampy looking shorelines, as there were some mucky areas in both of those lakes. I assume you did the same. Perhaps I will start to prefilter the water going into the Hydropak bag with a bandana.

    I used the same filter this past week in the marble mountains, and while I can tell the flow rate has slowed, I can’t make an accurate measurement. It is faster than the Sawyer Squeeze still.

    Regarding the leaky 1L bottle, everything I’ve read so far says to avoid the bottle’s that come with the filter. I purchased the 2L Hydropak and I’m pretty happy with it. I wish I got the 3L, as I would need less visits to the lake.

     

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