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Katadyn Vario Review: Should You Buy It?

Avatar for Samantha Biggers Samantha Biggers  |  Updated: August 22, 2019
Katadyn Vario Review: Should You Buy It?

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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.

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.

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

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 thevery 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. 

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3 Responses to “Katadyn Vario Review: Should You Buy It?”

  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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