Katadyn Vario Review

Katadyn is one of the major manufacturers of water filters for backpacking, expeditions, and emergency and medical workers. One thing that is important to point out with Katadyn is that they have a wide range of filters to meet various needs and capacities for filtration from personal pumps to a 10L Base Camp Bag.

For virus protection, Katadyn offers a great value for what you get no matter what level of pump you are getting from them. Far too many assume that all water filters get rid of everything and that is simply not true and a dangerous assumption to make at that.

The Katadyn Vario is a quality pump style water filter with a primary filter that boasts a life of at least 500 gallons making it last twice as long as the MSR Sweetwater. I was amazed at how little this filter costs for the value you get. A lot of other filters that are substantially more don’t offer the benefits of this Katadyn.

Cost: $68 On Amazon

Fast Filter Mode offers up to 2 quarts a minute but Katadyn says that if you pump at a slower 1 quart per minute, the filter will last longer in the Longer Life Mode. It is nice to have the option so when you can you can take a little extra time to increase the life of your filter overall.

Triple Stage Filtration You Can Count On

  1. Ceramic depth filter 0,2 micron
  2. Activated carbon
  3. AntiClog Technology with 0,2 micron glass fiber
Diagram of the internal parts of the Katadyn Vario

1. Ceramic Pre Filter

You have the option of not using the ceramic pre filter if the water you are pumping is relatively sediment free. If water is dirtier then you make a quick turn at the top of the pump and that engages the ceramic filter for use. This significantly extends the life of your main filter so you get the most out of your water pump.

The ceramic prefilter can be cleaned for longer use and will likely not need to be replaced as often as the pleated glass fiber filter but it still may be a good idea to just replace everything at once when the time comes. When in doubt, replace.

Cost: $16.18

2. Pleated Glass Fiber Filter

When water conditions are normal and not filled with sediment you can opt for just using the pleated glass filter which gets rid of microorganisms, chemicals, and viruses. It was surprising to me that this little filter could take care of so many problems. I did not expect that it would eliminate viruses at the price point it is at.

This is a glass fiber filter so it cannot take a lot of abuse when outside of the housing. Make sure if you take apart your filter that you are very careful with the surface of the main filter.

Cost: $28.77

3. Charcoal Filters Out Bad Tastes & Chemicals

Who has drank some filtered water only to discover that although it was good enough to ensure you didn’t get sick, it still tasted terrible or at the very least, “off”? Well, Katadyn has taken on this problem with the use of activated charcoal, which you can easily replace using their brand in a convenient packet.

You might be able to find a less expensive source of activated charcoal but I have not tried other. Water tastes clean and fresh rather than muddy or chlorine like in some cases.

Cost: $12 for Replacement Charcoal

Best Uses For Katadyn Vario

The Vario gets major points for affordable protection that covers the whole range of contaminants and taste issues that you very well may run into in even a minor emergency. It is a major step up from my MSR Sweetwater because the Katadyn is faster to pump and has a longer life. It is lightweight enough that you will barely notice it in a pack which means it has potential for a fabulous bug out bag pump at an approachable price. In fact, you can have an extra filter on hand and buy the pump for less than what a lot of other hand pumps run.

With filters as cheap as they are, it is a viable alternative to a Lifestraw. The first time you replace everything, your cost is $0.12 per gallon which is a bit high because your ceramic prefilter might last longer.

The Lifestraw averages about $0.08 per gallon but is far less convenient no matter if you are in a group or not which counts for a lot. It is pretty hard to share a Lifestraw among 3 people! Durability also comes into play because the Katadyn is built to have a longer life.

Group Situations

The high flow rate and superior protection offered by the Vario means that while it might not be ideal since it has to be pumped, it could keep a larger family in clean and drinkable water for awhile. The big factor with a pump style filter in a family situation is just delineating out the work load. Also not everyone would be able to share this burden.

Users report about 40 pumps per liter of water is about what you can expect in terms of work load.

I imagine that those with arthritis or other health concerns may find it difficult or basically impossible to use a pump style filter. When I am reviewing a filter, I am always trying to think about different situations. There is no one-size-fits-all solution that works the best for everyone. Often, a combination of different solutions is best overall.

Other reviewers have commented that by pumping into Camel Backs and bottles that it performed fabulously for a 3 day backpacking trip with 6 adults. There are also plenty that have kept this for use in the home during power outages and other short term emergencies. No having to go to the store for bottled water.

My big hope is that by talking about different situations you will be adequately able to assess your own and that of those closest to you in order to make the best decision and increase your chance of getting through any emergency water situation that could arise.

Weak Points

Like any water filter, it is important that you keep it safe from impacts and freezing. This is a plastic housing even if it is a tough one at that so try to avoid drops and falls. If you are hiking in a treacherous area then take extra caution to pack your filter well so even if you do fall, you don’t break it.

Scenarios like that are one of the reasons many survivalists and preppers say that you should carry a bottle of water purification tablets as well as a pump.

Care needs to be taken when cleaning as well so that you don’t damage the glass fiber main filter. Some users have also reported that the filter leaks at various points causing untreated water to enter the territory of treated water.

On the other hand, these leaks are often O ring issues that can be easily resolved if time is taken. Clogs and a reduction in flow rate are other complaints but that is something that can happen to any filter if it is not maintained properly or if very dirty water is used.

Water filters are not the cheapest thing out there so sometimes they get used for too long with a replacement filter.

Overall, I am impressed with how many people rate the Katadyn Vario very highly and how few seem to have issues with it.

To be blunt, a lot of the people that have issues with it strike me as quite possibly being the type that should probably have a filter that is not a pump. If you are impatient or don’t like pumping, spare yourself the frustration and get something that uses gravity. 

To Sum It Up

The Katadyn Vario offers:

  • Effective filtration for up to 3 adults
  • Removes viruses, bacteria, sediments, and chemicals
  • Long 500 gallon filter life
  • 2 quart per minute flow rate for normal conditions and a still impressive 1 quart flow rate for dirtier water conditions
  • Inexpensive and easy to find replacement filters
  • 3 stage filtration
  • Less and 1 lb carry weight
  • Could be used by a group short term
  • Good personal filter for each person to have in their bag. A group situation is a lot more water secure if everyone has their own filter plus a larger communal one such as the Lifestraw Mission for example
  • Alternative to fans of older model pumps like the MSR Sweetwater
  • Good for a gift since it is so useful and affordable


The Essential Back Up

Remember to always have more than one way to filter or get potable water for drinking. Regardless of what you choose for your main filter, always have a back up. The Sawyer Mini is an excellent choice for a back up filter that doesn’t break the bank.

I have said it before and I will say it again “Water is your first line of survival.

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Looking for the best water filter available on the market? Check out our review of the Katadyn Vario to find out how it fares and its top benefits!

  1. The SEAL’s and ALL OTHER branches of the military state that there is no filter that gets all the littlest nasty’s out of the water. The Katadyn filters are used all over the world by many organizations and do the best at filtering out the creepies. BUT the water must be boiled for 5 minutes, 10 is best to ensure that all viruses are killed. As to expense, where life is at stake, who gives a rip? Katadyn makes a larger filter system that goes for less than retail on Amazon, as does just about everything. MSR also makes a very good filter. Regardless of which brand you buy, the water must be boiled. Allowing un-boiled water from a Steri-pen to enter your body is just asking for trouble.

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