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Reviews > Water Treatment > Filters > Katadyn Vario Filter > Test Report by Jennifer Koles

Katadyn Vario Water Microfilter

Test Series by Jennifer Koles

Long Term Report- December 4, 2007

Skip to my Initial Report- July 20, 2007
Skip to my Field Report- September 30, 2007
Skip to my Long Term Report- December 4, 2007

Personal Information

Name:  Jennifer Koles
Age:  32
Gender:  Female
Height:  5 ft 5 in (1.65 m)
Weight: 140 lb (64 kg)
Email address: jennksnowy at yahoo dot com
City, State, and Country:  Salt Lake City, Utah, United States

Backpacking Background

I started taking overnight backpacking trips four years ago in the Uinta Mountain Range in Utah. I found myself taking entirely too much gear. I am finding out slowly how to minimize my needs and not require extra luxuries. My previous outdoor experiences consisted of 4-wheel-drive camping in primitive areas and day hiking. I use a four season convertible tent or a three season tent for my shelter. I plan to take more trips, increase my duration, and reduce my two to three day backpack base weight down from 17 lb (8 kg).

Initial Report

July 20, 2007

Product Information

Manufacturer: Katadyn Products AG
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer Website: www.katadyn.com
MSRP: $79.95 USD (found on the manufacturer's website at the Katadyn store)

Weight Listed on Website: 15 oz (425 g)
Actual Weight (storage sack, filter system, hoses, weight, float, intake filter) : 1 lb 1.85 oz (0.51 kg)

Measurements Listed on Website: 7.5 x 4.0 in (19 x 10 cm)
Actual Measurements:
Filter unit: 7.5 x 4.0 in (19 x 10 cm) This measurement is the highest and widest point.
Intake and outlet hose (each): 36 in (91 cm) long with a 0.28 in (7 mm) outer diameter.

Manufacturer's Stated Output: Up to 2 L (68 fl oz) per minute (depending on the setting).

Warranty: One year against defects in materials and workmanship.

Vario filter

Body of Vario filter

Product Description

The Katadyn Vario Microfilter is part of the backcountry series filter line. The manufacturer indicates this filter line is good for all round use. The manufacturer claims that this filter meets the industry standards for reduction of bacteria (99.9999% Klebsiella terrigena) and protozoan cysts (99.9 % Giardia and Cryptosporidium).

The system uses a dual action pump that uses dual pistons. The manufacturer claims that this technology provides continuous output with minimum effort.

The Vario filter comes with the ceramic prefilter disc, 0.3 Micron pleated glassfiber filter with a carbon core, storage sack, seven o-rings (two 1.18 in (3 cm), four 1.5 in (3.81 cm), one 2.25 in (5.72 cm)), lubricant 0.11 oz (3 g), one intake and one output hose, bottle clip, strainer, weight, hose float, and a 4.75 x 3 in (12.07 x 7.62 cm) filter cleaning pad.

Hoses, intake system, and maintenance kit.

The Vario uses a two mode system that is adjustable for different water conditions. This enables pumping for longer life and faster flow. The longer life option allows the water to flow through the ceramic prefilter disc before passing through the pleated glassfiber filter. The faster flow option allows water to bypass the ceramic disc and flow directly through the pleated glassfiber filter. The Vario filter is preset on the longer life position. It is recommended to only use the faster flow option when the water is clear.

The carbon (activated charcoal) in the pleated glassfiber filter can be refilled. The manufacturer indicates that the carbon aides in helping to keep the water tasting fresh. This carbon core is intended to reduce chemicals and pesticides in the filtered water.

The filter components can also be replaced. It is recommended by the manufacturer to clean the ceramic prefilter with the filter cleaning pad. The manufacturer also suggests to replace the ceramic filter when it is worn and the carbon in the pleated filter after six months of continuous use or after pumping 200 L (53 US gal) of water. The suggestion is to replace the pleated filter when the output becomes slow or after pumping 1,875 L (500 US gal).

The Vario Microfilter can be used to fill bottles or containers using the bottle clip (to stabilize the output hose). It can also be used to directly fill hydration bladders by connecting the hydration bladder hose to the output barb on the bottom of the filter. This output barb is located beneath a rubber cap on the bottom of the filter. There is a cut away opening at the bottom of the filter housing to ease the removal of the cap. When the cap is positioned correctly there is a hole to place the output hose through to the output barb. This is to allow the cap to remain in place while using the output hose in this manner. The cap can also be completely removed and used without the house threaded on a wide-mouth Nalgene bottle. This enables direct filling of these bottle types without the need for using a hose.

Replaceable o-rings are located in several places in this filtering system. They are located near the piston component, on the top and the base of the pleated glass filter, and below the threads on the plastic housing.

First Use

By twisting the pump head to the right I was able to remove it to view the ceramic pre-filter and the output control. There is an arrow printed in white at the base of the ceramic disc housing. The disc housing is easily rotated to line the arrow above the words "longer life" or "faster flow". The ceramic disc housing is removed by just pulling up on the housing. This is easily done. This then exposes the top of the pleated filter. I found it easiest to remove the pleated filter by exposing the top, removing the bottom filter cap and pressing on the output barb. To replace the filter I lined up the cut outs in the pleated filter top with the notches in the housing and I pushed it inside of the housing. I was able to easily replace the pump head by placing it on top of the ceramic filter and twisting it to the left.

Getting the Vario ready to use the first time was relatively easy. I inserted the prefilter strainer through the larger (bottom) opening of the weight so that the prefilter barb is through the top of the weight. The manufacturer suggested putting a small amount of the lubricant on the strainer barb to more easily insert it into the input hose. After applying the lubricant to the barb I inserted it into one end of the input hose. I then slid the float onto the hose. The red cap on the input barb must be removed before use. The manufacturer suggests saving this cap to place on the barb when the input hose is removed and for storage purposes. I attached the other end of the input house on the barb. I still needed to attach the output hose to the output barb. This was done by removing the bottom cap of the filter and sliding the hose though the hole in the cap and then sliding it on the barb. I then replaced the bottom cap. This was all a very simple procedure.

The manufacturer suggests in the directions to flush the system prior to using the filter. This is done by pumping approximately 1 L (34 oz) of water through the filter to remove the carbon dust. So I flushed out the system with tap water. I found the pumping action to be easy and not strenuous. So now I am ready to use my filter in the field. I will be using it tomorrow morning in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah.

 

Field Report

September 30, 2007

Field Testing Locations

During the past two months I used the Vario in several locations in the state of Utah. The filter was used on day hikes and mountain bike trips during seven outings in the Wasatch Mountain Range. The air temperatures ranged from the low 80's F (27 C) to 37 F (3 C). It was sunny most of the time, but there was some rain and snow on one of the days. In this geographic location the filter was used primarily in clear running creek and stream water.

I took the Vario on a two day backpacking trip in the Uinta Mountain Range in Utah. During this trip lake water and creek water was filtered through the Vario. The lake water was not the clearest. There was some green film on the surface of the water in some places. The water temperature was cold; I would say around 45 F (7 C). The temperatures during this trip were in the low 70's (21 C) during the day and around 45 F (7 C) at night. The lake was located at an elevation of 10,450 ft (3,185 m). The weather was not ideal. There were rain sprinkles to down pours with lightening.

The Vario was also used in American Fork Canyon in Utah in the Wasatch Mountain Range. The starting elevation was 6,910 ft (2,106 m) for this trip. It was a very warm day in the mid 80's F (27 C) with sunny skies. There was not much water on this trail to Mt. Timpanogos. The streams were the driest I have ever seen them. However, I was able to use the Vario at a lake located at 10,380 ft (3,164 m).

Performance in the Field

I must say this filter is the easiest to pump and the fastest I have ever used. After using this filter the first time I gave my old PUR Voyager to a friend of mine that was in need of a water filter. However, they did see how easy it was for me to filter water with the Vario on a day hike. My friend made a comment on the performance of the Vario.

I took a Nalgene bottle with me on a few day hikes and screwed the base of the Vario to the top of the Nalgene bottle so I did not need to mess with an outlet hose. This worked very well even with a splash guard placed in the mouth of the bottle. The splash guard remained in place and was not dislodged while the steam of filtered water was entering the bottle.

I also used the Vario with my hydration system. I use a Camelbak hydration reservoir while hiking, backpacking, and mountain biking. After the bite valve and the regulator are removed, the hose of my hydration system fits on the output barb of the Vario without any extra attachments. This was a convenient way for me to get my filtered water into my hydration bladder.

I love the handle design and the way my hand is positioned while pumping the unit. There was no hand fatigue or wrist pain experienced while using this filter. I did not even get any shoulder pain. In the past I found that I got so fatigued from pumping water. With the Vario once I begin pumping there is a strong steady flow with each pump.

On the faster flow filtering option I can comfortably pump 32 oz (0.95 L) of water in 28 seconds at a normal pumping speed. On the longer life setting I can comfortably pump 32 oz (0.95 L) of water in 44 seconds. This timed test was completed by filtering clean running stream water from a tiny pool in the stream.

I was very surprised how clean the ceramic filter remains after pumping some dirty, icky lake water. I figured that the ceramic filter would have some icky film on it, but it only had a few black spots. I cleaned the black spots the best I could with the scrub pad that was included with the filter. A few tiny spots remained on the ceramic filter even after I scrubbed it with some elbow grease.

On two occasions when I was pumping the water on the faster flow option some water started to seep out of the housing. This was not just a little bit of seepage this was quite a bit of water trickling out. I am not certain at this point if I did not have the housing screwed tightly to the top of the unit or if this was pressure build up. But, on one of the occasions that this happened I unscrewed the housing and I heard a pop sound. It sounded to me like pressure build up. Excess water poured out of the top of the housing when I unscrewed it.

The water that I filtered using the Vario tasted pretty good. On one occasion when I filtered water from an icky lake with green film on the surface it tasted slightly nasty, but that was to be expected. This water was filtered first on the faster flow option. When I filtered the same water again on the longer life option the water had a slightly better taste.

 

Long Term Report

December 4, 2007

Field Testing Locations

During the past two months I continued testing the Katadyn Vario in the state of Utah. The Vario was used to filter water from the Virgin River for an overnight trip in Southern Utah. The elevation was approximately 4,500 ft (1,372 m). The water was filtered for the start of the overnight trip and towards the end of the trip. The daytime temperatures were in the low 70 F (21 c) range. I also filtered water from small streams on this trip.

The Vario was also used in Canyonlands National Park Utah during a three-day trip. The water filtered in this location was from the Colorado and the Green Rivers. The elevation was around 3,900 ft (1,189 m) at both river locations and the daytime temperatures were between 55 F (13 C) to 60 F (16 C). The nighttime lows reached 27 F (-3 C).

Performance in the Field

I used the Vario on two separate trips during the long term report period. Both of these trips were to Southern Utah.

I am quite impressed with the Vario filter. I filtered water from the silty Colorado River and the picture in the right is the filtered water from this water source. There were two ways that I filtered water from the river. First was by letting the water sit overnight so the sediment would not clog the filter. Second was by filtering directly from the river. The picture on the right is water filtered directly from the river.

On this trip I was with a large group. Some of the group members used the Katadyn Base Camp Filter. I filtered water with the Vario for those that did not have a filter. The park ranger suggested letting the water from the Colorado River sit overnight because of the high amount of sediment in the water. The water was not the dirtiest that I have seen it, but it was not crystal clear either.

When I let the water sit overnight there was definitely quite a bit of sediment at the bottom of my friend's large camp bucket. The overnight temperature was below freezing (0 C) in the morning. The water was not frozen just very cold. Since the water was not clear the filter was used on the longer life setting. I was able to pump the water quickly and I was very surprised how clear the water was. There were no complications filtering the cold water or from the cold air temperature.

clear filtered water

Crystal Clear Water From The Colorado River

The next day I decided to be brave and filter water directly from the Colorado River. I used the longer life setting. As I was pumping I could see some particles in the intake strainer. The filter started to clog after pumping almost 110 oz (3.25 L). I opened up the housing and rinsed the ceramic disc and the pleated filter with filtered water to clean some of the particles off. I also used the scrub pad to clean the disc. I was actually surprised that the ceramic disc and the filter were so dirty. I still had lots of water to pump so when the filter became clogged I just rinsed and scrubbed the ceramic disc and rinsed the filter with clean water. I used the bottle clip to fill the bottle in the picture above. I found the clip to be very handy and easy to use.

I was very impressed how clear the filtered water was pumped directly from the Colorado River. My friends were quite impressed as well. I thought I would have some arm, neck, shoulder, and hand pain since I pumped hundreds of ounces (and many liters) of water on this trip, but, I did not have any pain.

The third day I filtered water from the Green River. The water in this river was clearer than the Colorado River. So I decided that I should use the faster flow setting. I pumped about 50 oz (1.48 L) of water and water began to spurt out the housing. I had to open up the housing to relieve the pressure build up and stop the water from seeping out. This also happened during my field report testing. I am still awaiting a response from the manufacturer as to why the water squirts out of the housing.

When I filtered water from the Virgin River is was a little bit muddy. I set the filter on the longer life setting. On this trip I was pumping small amounts of water and I did not experience clogging.

All the water tasted good that was filtered during the long term testing period. I am still very impressed with how fast I can pump water and how clear the filtered water is.

Things I Like:

  • How quickly I can get fresh filtered water
  • The ergonomic design of the handle
  • The taste of the filtered water
  • It is easy to clean

Things I Do Not Like:

  • Sometimes water seeps out of the housing
  • The filter is on the heavy side

Summary

I found the Vario water filter to be the fastest way to get fresh filtered water in the field. It is easy to use and does not cause me any hand, wrist, or shoulder discomfort while pumping. I also like the fact that I can use the Vario with my hydration system without any extra attachments. I am concerned about the water that squirts out of the housing on the faster flow setting. I am uncertain if it is a pressure build up or an issue with the filter.

Remarks

This concludes my testing on the Katadyn Vario. Thank you Katadyn and backpackgeartest.org for providing me with the opportunity to test the Vario Water Microfilter.

 



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Reviews > Water Treatment > Filters > Katadyn Vario Filter > Test Report by Jennifer Koles



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