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Reviews > Water Treatment > Filters > Katadyn Backcountry Camp Filter > Test Report by Mike Curry

KATADYN BASE CAMP FILTER
TEST SERIES BY MIKE CURRY
Initial Report: July 20, 2007
Field Report: September 29, 2007
Long-Term Report: December 1, 2007

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Mike Curry
EMAIL: thefishguyAThotmailDOTcom
AGE: 37
LOCATION: Aberdeen, Washington
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 11" (1.80 m)
WEIGHT: 205 lb (93.00 kg)

I've been backpacking, climbing, ski-packing, bushwhacking, and snowshoeing throughout the mountains of Oregon and Washington for the last 25 years. I'm an all-season, all terrain, off-trail kind of guy, but these days (having small kids) most of my trips run on the shorter side of things, and tend to be in the temperate rainforest. While I've carried packs (with winter climbing gear) in excess of 70 pounds (32 kilos), the older I get the more minimalist I become.


INITIAL REPORT
July 20, 2007

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Katadyn Products AG
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website: www.katadyn.com
MSRP: US $64.95 (price listed at manufacturer's online store)
Listed Weight: 13 oz (369 g)
Measured Weight: 13.9 oz (394 g)

Additional Information: The Katadyn Base Camp filter is a gravity feed filter system that utilizes a bag that is filled with unfiltered water, hung, and allows gravity to feed the water through the filter media into a water container. It is one of Katadyn's Backcountry Series of filters.

IMAGE 1
Filter After Assembly

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The Katadyn Base Camp filter arrived at my home packaged in an attractive display box. The box contained the filter bag, filter cartridge, lock ring for filter cartridge, hose, hose valve, and a small plastic bag containing the instruction book, a small tube of silicone lubricant, and a sponge.

My initial impression of the product, based solely on its appearance and packaging, was that it seemed to be an attractive and well-designed unit. The bag is similar in construction to a dry bag (a nylon material coated on the inside, with a top that rolls down and buckles to close). The bag has a plastic insert at the bottom to accept the filter. I find the bright blue color to be attractive, and feel it strikes a good balance between being unobtrusive during an outdoor experience, yet still bright enough that I'm unlikely to lose it by not noticing I left it in camp. A close examination of the bag revealed what appears to me to be soundly welded seams in the bag, good stitching where the straps and buckles are located, and a well-constructed unit.

The filter itself is a pleated material (much like an air filter in a car) mounted in an otherwise plastic cylinder. The manufacturer's website describes this filter material as a glass fiber. Over the pleated surface was wrapped what the manufacturer refers to as a filter protector (a very fine mesh screen) that is held on by a cylinder of plastic mesh. The filter and filter protector seem to be constructed in keeping with the simple design of the unit as a whole.

The shutoff valve is a simple plastic clip that slides over the discharge hose, and can be pinched to stop the flow, or released to allow filtration.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

The instruction manual was very straightforward, with good line drawings and text explanations. There are two omissions I noticed. First was the lack of an explanation surrounding the installation and operation of the hose valve, though I found this to be self-explanatory. The second omission was any explanation of the purpose of the sponge provided, though I have been told it is for cleaning the filter protector. Instructions were included in English and French, and covered product set-up, normal operation, field performance tips, long-term storage, cartridge capacity, replacement cartridge installation, product registration, and warranty information (along with basic information on water filtration).

In the field performance tips section the manual describes how to temporarily clean the filter cartridge in the field should it become clogged, a process I hope to try out while testing this product.

In addition to the manual, there is a label titled "Important Field Tips" sewn to the top of the bag that provides 6 line drawings that explain how to assemble and use the filter.

At the manufacturer's website additional information is found in the Frequently Asked Questions section. In this section I found several helpful tips, including allowing sediment to settle out of water in another container prior to filtering it, and wrapping a bandana or similar item around the filter cartridge to extend its life when filtering very dirty water.

TRYING IT OUT

I found assembly of the filter to be fairly straightforward. While at first I didn't think I would need to use the silicone lubricant to insert the cartridge into the plastic insert in the bag, I quickly realized I would need to. After lubricating the o-ring, the cartridge slid in with moderate effort. Insertion of the hose onto the filter barb took a couple of tries, as the filter barb is recessed into the base of the filter between four flanges, and I have big fingers. I found the silicone lubricant to be helpful here as well. Once these tasks were completed, I simply threaded the plastic lock ring (that prevents the filter from simply falling out) onto the flange and slipped on the hose valve and the filter was ready for use.

One note on assembly is that there is a warning in the instructions not to grasp the cartridge around the pleated surface or it could become damaged. This warning made me wonder how much caution will be required in my pack, as the filter cartridge is essentially unprotected from crushing. This is something I will monitor during field testing.

Once the filter was assembled, I decided to try it out in my kitchen. The first thing I realized was that filling the bag isn't as easy as I thought it would be with one person. Even at my sink, trying to hold the bag with one hand and fill with the other was a challenge. The bag flipped closed at one point, causing the water to flow down the front of my pants. Once I figured out how to hold it to prevent that from happening, I realized the bag gets pretty heavy as it fills. I plan to try filling the filter on the ground during field testing to see if that is easier. I also wonder how realistic it will be to fill the bag directly from, for example, a lake while keeping the discharge hose out of the unfiltered water, at least by myself.

The next challenge became finding a place to hang the filter, for which I chose the back of a chair. Due to the bag being barely above the outlet end of the hose the flow was very slow, but it did confirm the operation of the filter and confirmed there were no leaks. The flow valve was easy to close and seemed to lock very securely. The valve released okay, but my big fingers made releasing a little more difficult.

I followed the instructions to filter 2 L (2.1 qt) of water to flush the filter of carbon. While the instructions noted that this water might be discolored, I wasn't expecting the first flow to be black. The carbon quickly cleared, however.

The water filtered after this initial flush was clear. I conducted a side-by-side taste test between my unfiltered tap water and the filtered tap water. There was a slight, but detectable, improvement in the filtered water's taste, which I suspect was the result of the carbon in the filter absorbing residual chlorine from my tap water.

TESTING STRATEGY

I plan to test the filter by using it to filter all my water for the trips I take during the test period, save what I carry in at the trailhead. I am a heavy consumer of water while backpacking. Since I will be providing water for up to four people on many of my trips, this filter will see a great deal of use during the test period, likely filtering in excess of 50 gallons (189 L) of water from a broad variety of sources.

Throughout the testing I will work to evaluate the following areas:

*Ease of use - Is the filter easy to operate? Is maintenance easy to perform? Is it easy to fill the bag? Are closures easy to operate? Is it convenient to use? What kind of flow rate can I expect under varying real-world conditions? Does the output speed decline as the filters begin to clog? Is it easy to hang?

*Design - Does the filter work well with my usual combination of hydration bladder and bottles? Does it fit well in my pack? Are the hoses long enough to use easily where I'm able to find a place to hang it? Does it seal in the water being filtered well, or does it leak? Does the buckle and top closure seem secure? Does the hose valve work well? Does the material seem to hold up well, or does it fade or become brittle with use? Does the color of the bag tend to absorb solar heat, making the water too warm for drinking? Does the filter clog when used with nasty-looking water? Does sediment or slime from the water build up in the bag, and if so, how easy is it to clean?

*Quality of Filtration - Do I notice any off tastes in the water? Is the water at all cloudy? Can it make tannin filled water (which is bitter-tasting from all the vegetable matter steeped in it) along the Washington coast palatable?

*Component Quality and Reliability - Can the filter stand up to my typical use? Are there any areas prone to wear or failure? Does it reliably provide me with safe drinking water, or is it prone to failure, leaving me to resort to a chemical treatment backup? If I encounter freezing temperatures do basic precautions such as draining the filter prevent damage?

SUMMARY

Overall the Katadyn Base Camp filter appears to be a well-constructed, well-designed filter. I look forward to evaluating its performance under real-world conditions.

Thank you very much to Katadyn and backpackgeartest.org for this testing opportunity.

This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report will be amended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information.


FIELD REPORT
September 29, 2007

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I have used the Katadyn Base Camp filter on a variety of overnight and multi-night trips so far during the test period. All trips to date have been in the Olympic Mountains of Western Washington, with a mix of on-trail and off-trail destinations. Weather has included everything from sunny skies and warm temperatures (up to about 80 F, 27 C), to torrential rain and 50 F (10 C).
IMAGE 1
Katadyn Base Camp Hard at Work

Water used with this filter has come from mountain lakes and streams. The lakes have ranged from crystal clear to murky. Stream water used with the filter has included both relatively clear to those with a moderate amount of rock flour. I don't carry a thermometer with me, but most water temperatures seemed to range from near 32 F (0 C) to approximately 60 F (16 C). I would estimate is has filtered approximately 20 US gal (76 L) to date.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

All in all, I've been pleasantly surprised with the performance of this filter. The following details my experiences with the filter to date:

*Ease of use - I can't imagine anything being much simpler than filling with water and waiting. In most cases I've filled the bag directly from the water source, and have found it relatively simple to keep the hose out of the water (to prevent contamination). The closures are easy to use and hold well. The flow rate is much better than I expected. Though I don't carry a watch, counting off I've found it will fill my 1 qt (1 l) water bottle in just under one minute under ideal conditions (the bag full and hung high enough to allow the hose to extend fully). I've not yet had to clean the filter cartridge, and have noticed no change in flow rate over its use so far. The only problem I've encountered regarding ease of use is finding a suitable location to hang it, specifically a convenient tree with a limb the right height. My compromise under less than ideal conditions has been to use a piece of cord to tie the filter to limbs that would be otherwise too high, or to prop the filter up on a rock ledge or large log. Neither of these solutions has fully satisfied me. Hanging the filter with cord maintains the flow rate, but requires I carry some extra cord, thus adding to my pack weight. Propping the filter up doesn't require any additional materials be carried, but does require some significant effort to wedge it into a secure position (I've found rocks and/or big sticks work best for this) and the flow rate is slower, often significantly slower depending upon the available locations. Despite this, the filter works under these conditions. In all, I'd say under ideal conditions it's the easiest filter I've ever used, and under less than ideal conditions it's certainly no more difficult or inconvenient than other filters I've used. The difference is simply that this filter has different challenges and inconveniences associated with it than other styles I've used.

IMAGE 2
Another View Showing Almost Ideal Limb Height


*Design - Overall, the design meets my expectations. It works better with my usual combination of a hydration bladder and water bottles than other filters have, because one hand is always free, and in many cases both hands can be, allowing for much easier filling of my containers. The hose length seems to strike a good balance between being long enough to allow placement under a variety of circumstances, yet short enough to not get in the way. I've not noted any leaks or seepage around the filter, and the closures and hose valve all work well. The hose valve has particularly impressed me in that I can operate it in total darkness by feel alone. Another thing that impressed me is that when the filter is down to the last bit of water, it drains completely (if hanging, not always if propped up). When it's time to hit the trail, emptying the bag is a cinch (just undo the clips and invert). The bag doesn't seem to absorb enough solar heat to warm the water significantly, but I have had it in generally shady locations. While most of the water I've used has been relatively clean, I've not noticed any change whatsoever in flow rates. The only aspect of the design I don't care for is its size and shape in my pack . . . it takes up slightly more space than other filters I've used, and rolled up takes on an odd shape that doesn't always fit in my pack well.

*Quality of Filtration - The quality of filtration that I've experienced so far has been excellent. Even water from streams milky with glacial runoff has come out crystal clear. Water from stagnant lakes has been palatable, if not downright tasty.

*Component Quality and Reliability - So far, the filter has held up well to my use, with no signs of wear other than normal soiling and scuffing.

SUMMARY

Overall, I'm very pleased with the Katadyn Base Camp filter so far. The problems I have had are rather minor.

Positive Observations:

*Simple, reliable design
*Good filtration
*Easy to operate

Negative Observations:

*Can be difficult to find suitable location to hang
*Shape and size in pack

TESTING STRATEGY

As I continue my testing, I will have the opportunity to better assess many features of the filter, and will have the opportunity to use less and less desirable water sources for filtering. In addition to continuing to assess performance based upon the criteria reviewed so far, the following key questions remain to be answered during long-term testing:

*Ease of Use - Is maintenance easy to perform? Does the output speed decline as the filters begin to clog?

*Design - Does the material seem to hold up well, or does it fade or become brittle with use? Does the filter clog when used with nasty-looking water? Does sediment or slime from the water build up in the bag, and if so, how easy is it to clean?

*Quality of Filtration - Can it make tannin filled water (which is bitter-tasting from all the vegetable matter steeped in it) along the Washington coast palatable?

*Component Quality and Reliability - Are there any areas prone to wear or failure? Does it reliably provide me with safe drinking water, or is it prone to failure, leaving me to resort to a chemical treatment backup? If I encounter freezing temperatures do basic precautions such as draining the filter prevent damage?

This concludes my Field Report. The Long-Term Report should be completed by December 4, 2007. Please check back then for further information.


LONG-TERM REPORT
December 1, 2007

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Long-term testing occurred along the coastal strip of Washington State, including backcountry beaches and along coastal streams and rivers. Elevations ranged from sea level to approximately 800 ft (244 m). Temperatures ranged from highs near 65 F (18 C), and lows right around 32 F (0 C). Weather conditions ranged from clear skies to windy, rainy weather. The filter was used as the only filter on solo trips, and trips with 1, 2, and 3 companions.

Water sources during long-term testing were exclusively coastal streams and rivers, many of which had a great deal of fine, silty sediment suspended in them. Tannin stained water was also filtered. I would estimate water temperatures to have been mostly around 40 F (4 C).

I estimate I have filtered approximately 40-45 gallons (150-170 L) of water with this filter to date.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The Katadyn Base Camp filter has continued to perform well during long-term testing. This period of testing provided opportunities to use the filter with water that was dirtier than I encountered during initial field testing.

IMAGE 1
The image to the left shows the filter filled with water stained dark from tannins leached from woody debris and decaying vegetation. The filter element is barely visible under only about 2 in (5 cm) of water. This sort of water is common along the Washington coast, and though the tannins themselves pose no health threat, the water has a bitter, astringent taste. While the filter did not clear the water completely (it came out looking like tea), it did do a very good job of improving the taste of the water. It was palatable even without the addition of flavoring (something that I usually find necessary to drink any quantity of tannin-stained water). In the area of taste, I've never encountered a filter that outperformed the Katadyn Base Camp in improving the taste of our coastal stream water.

The filter itself I found to be remarkably easy to clean after my trips. I used nothing but warm water and the sponge included with the filter, and have encountered no staining or buildup on the inside of the filter bag. After a quick wipe-down and rinse, I hang the filter bag upside-down, and it is usually dry enough for storage after hanging overnight. The filter protector has discolored somewhat, but this does not seem to impact its performance. The materials have held up well, with no fading or wear outside of minor scuffing.

Regarding maintenance of the filter element itself, it has required cleaning several times, but still produces adequate flow. After use in one particularly sediment-choked stream, the filter's flow dropped to a slow trickle. While I was initially worried that I might have to resort to chemical treatment as a backup, I found a field solution, I emptied the bag, turned it inside-out, and rinsed the filter element off with water I'd already filtered. I then used my cooking pan to dip water for the filter, letting the sediment settle out for several minutes before filling the filter. This restored the flow enough I was able to use it, but not until I was able to gently scrub the filter with the sponge when I got home was I able to gain a flow rate I was happy with (there was a lot of fine sediment that adhered to the surface of the filter that was easily wiped off). Despite repeated cleanings, the flow has slowed now to where it takes about 2 1/4 minutes to filter 1 qt (.95 l) of water. I plan to replace the element before using the filter again to improve the flow rate.

I used this filter on several day hikes in addition to overnight trips, and was surprised with the results. I found it to be no less inconvenient or cumbersome to use than other filters, though it is rather bulky in a pack.

One area I was unable to fully evaluate the filter was its performance in freezing temperatures. I did encounter a few mornings with light frost, but nothing that allowed me to truly evaluate its performance below freezing.

SUMMARY

In all, I am very satisfied with the Katadyn Base Camp filter, and would consider the following its main strengths and weaknesses:

Strengths:

*Simple design
*Gravity does most of the work
*Easy to operate shutoff valve
*Good flow rate with clean filter

Weaknesses:

*Bulky in pack
*Heavy when full
*Can be difficult to find a suitable location for hanging

CONTINUED USE

I anticipate that I will continue to use the Katadyn Base Camp filter for quite a few of my future trips. When I have a trip where camp will remain in one location for more than a night, there will be trees with suitable limbs for hanging, and space in my pack won't be at a premium, it will be my first choice. For trips where camp moves every night, trees are scarce, or where pack space is at a premium, I will probably use a more conventional filter or chemical treatment. For trips with my kids, it will probably be my first choice, since it is easy for them to use (once I have filled and hung the filter).

THOUGHTS FOR IMPROVEMENT

This filter has performed admirably during testing, but its bulky size in my pack and rather heavy weight weren't to my liking. As a hiking buddy of mine and I were looking at it one day on the coast, he turned to me and said, "You know, if they just made that smaller, it would be the perfect filter."

I realized when he said this that the only weaknesses I see, other than finding a place to hang it sometimes, would be solved with a smaller version. This filter worked great when hiking with two or three other people, but its size was overkill for my solo trips. While alone, I simply didn't fill the bag as full as I normally would, but as I looked at the filter, I realized I'd like to have one half its size for my normal use.

What I would like is a filter bag half this size, and a filter element that was exactly the same, only in a "stubby" configuration, about half the length of this filter. Even without a stubby filter, I would still like a filter bag half the size of this one for solo trips, and those with only one companion.

That said, the Katadyn Base Camp filter is a good, solid filter that I will continue to use, especially when hiking with larger groups (like my family).

This concludes my report. I would like to thank Katadyn and BackpackGearTest for the opportunity to test this filter.



This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

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