KATADYN POCKET WATER FILTER

The most rugged, longest lasting, and priciest portable water filter on the market, the Katadyn Pocket is one of the best (and sadly underused) gems in my gear. Hopefully this review will justify the filters price.

My Story (of no real significance to review)

I had relied solely on water purification tablets and boiling to treat water on camping and canoe trips around and in the relatively clean lake waters of Ontario. On shorter and less strenuous day or overnight trips i would sometimes just lug my water needs with me. However, preparing to lead an 8 persons (with zero experience), 3-day canoe trip with multiple portages one summer gave me the excuse and budget i needed to finally shop for and try out a water filter. The plan was to buy and try the fabled Katadyn Pocket out for the trip and sell it off on eBay once i got back on concrete and pavement. Plans like this never works out because i would inevitably grow attached to the gear in question, especially when this filter performed so well!

(Yes, that's a full size cooking pan in the picture and yes, that's an glass siphon coffee maker in the corner... one of the campers also brought a huge sac of potatoes that he insisted on lugging over the portage routes to make hash-browns)

History/Brand (of little significance to review)

Katadyn is a Swiss water treatment company now known for their portable water treatment systems as well as portable sea-water desalinators. The history of Katadyn Group is an interesting one that started with treating water with silver ions in the 30s that evolved into full municipal water treatment management through UV radiation. After the acquisition of PUR Outdoor and Exstream in 2001, Katadyn became the largest supplier of portable water treatment systems in the world (i think). Their portable water treatment line now includes endurance, light weight, and back country orientated filters. Though particular models (especially some of the all plastic light weight ones) do draw negative user feedback, Katadyn has largely maintained the highly regarded Swiss-made quality through great reviews by enthusiasts.

(image pulled from Katadyn's official site www.katadyn.com)

Technical Summary

• Filter capacity: 13,000 gal (50,000 L)
• Dimensions: 10 x 2.4 inches (24 x 6 cm)
• Output rate: ~ 1 quart/min (~ 1 L/min)
• Weight: 20 oz (550 g)
• Filter material: 0.2 micron ceramic depth filter
• Included accessories: pouch, output hose pouch, spare o-ring, 2 rubber caps, o ring lubricant, filter size-check clip, 2 filter scrubs

Impression/Construction:

The name "pocket" does nothing to offset the weight felt when fist picking up the Katadyn Pocket. The heft might put off the light-weight inclined backpackers but the weight subconsciously felt like a justification of the price. The stainless steel parts looks and feels quite sturdy and there is very little wiggle room in the pump even when fully extended. Though i suppose dropping the tube will eventually and invariably mar the steel's finish, scratch the plastic, and disable the filter, but the Pocket feels like miniature battering ram that will out last me.

Innards:

The tail end unscrews from the ceramic filter to release the plastic shell and expose the light-clay-coloured filter. The tail end is where the water intake opening is and contains 2 small bearings that opens and closes as the pump is moved. These are the only 2 moving parts in the filter aside from the pump. The actual ceramic filter can not be detached from the steel water outlet head-section. A replacement of the filter elemente (230 g weight) will basically replace more than 1/2 of the whole Katadyn Pocket, but luckily the 50,000 litre capacity of the filter doesn't exactly require frequent replacement. The included filter size gauge will give an indication of filter life; if the ceramic wears to allow the clip to slip past, it's time to lighten the wallet and buy a new element (and give yourself a pat on the back for what must be a wealth of adventures had with the filter!). The head section does have a cap that unscrews to release the pump handle. The pump shaft is well oiled and should remain free of water in operation.

Operation:

The pumping action is quite smooth. Water flows through the filter in a very logical design, in from the bottom and out the top. In relatively clear Ontario lake waters the output rate is actually quite close to the advertised 1 L/min. I can easily fill a 1 litre bottle under a minute and a half with slow and steady ~2 sec long pumps. The intake hose is long enough to reach half a foot under my footing to get to the water while i'm kneeling, and the float on top of the intake filter can be adjusted to let the hose down deeper when operating from a canoe. Squatting really, is the only way one person can easily use the filter on land without setting anything on the ground; one hand holding the bottle, one hand working the pump, and the filter between the knees. I quickly learned to rely on the bottle clip attached to the outlet hose. Even with the bottle on the ground it's easier to have the filter between the knees when pumping due to its weight (the guys tend to avoid being seen with the between the knees pumping action though ;) ). Between 8 campers the task of filtering water for our 3 day canoe trip using the sole filter not an issue at all. The only complaint i heard was that the filtered lake water still took on a slightly yellow colour and tasted lightly of metals. Removing metals is unfortunately not a function of the Pocket as it does not include any active carbons.

Maintenance:

The streamlined design on the pocket demands minimal maintenance and virtually no need for trouble shooting. In all fairness, while the 2 micron pores of ceramic filter will stop nearly all water-born pathogens save for select bacterial species and viruses, the pores do get clogged and restrict water flow eventually like every other filter when used on anything less than pure clean water. How long until a cleaning is necessary is obviously water dependent. I will say that i only cleaned the filter once at the end of a 3 day trip providing for a group of 8. Cleaning consisted of a gentle scrub to remove enough of the ceramic to get rid of any clogged gunk followed by pumping clean water through the unit. General maintenance involves only oiling the pump o-ring and letting the filter dry after cleaning.

(The outlet hose specific bag was a good touch by Katadyn to keep the filter water free from contamination)

Summary:

There are 3 main drawbacks for Katadyn Pocket: weight, lack of active carbon to filter out metals, and price. The weight is undeniable. If lightweight is an issue, then to include the pocket means a lot of sacrifices elsewhere. The lack of active carbon on the other hand is a give and take. Without the carbon option, which wears out fast, the pocket requires no replacement parts aside from its durable ceramic filter, and the space saved is used to up the ceramic filter's size and therefore output rate and life. If carbon is a must then the Katadyn Combi is the alternative, but i find that a piece of charcoal in the water bottle does just as well. Lastly, the ~$300.00 USD price-tag. The way i see it (and explained to my girlfriend) is that the Pocket is actually the cheapest water filter around when considering its capacity. Smaller portable Katadyns get roughly 3 litres per dollar spent on the filter, MSR filters top out at ~20 litres per dollar, and Brita filter cartridges at home ~35 litres. Even at $300 for the whole filter, the Pocket outputs 160+ litres of filtered water per dollar spent, that's more than 250 litres per dollar when considering only the cost of the filter element. The Pocket can be considered more than 6 times cheaper than any other filter even outside of the portable class! All i'm saying is there's no reason to sell mine ;)
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