- The convenient (and lazy) way for safe potable drinking water – just fill and hang
- No pumping required – ideal for camping, backpacking, canoeing, paddling, etc.
- Produces up to 2.5 gallons of treated water in just 15 minutes
- Uses field cleanable Hiker PRO cartridge
- Filters 200+ gallons of water (more when using Filter Protector)
The best water system for base camps, family and group camping. Perfect when large volumes of water are needed.From Backpackgeartest.org
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.
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.
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?
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.
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