sawyer squeeze vs katadyn befree vs platypus quickdraw

The Best Ultralight Backpacking Water Filters of 2024

If you’re shopping for the best ultralight backpacking water filter, we recommend choosing between Sawyer Squeeze vs Katadyn Befree vs Platypus QuickDraw. All three models allow you to drink on the go, directly out of the filter. Compared to chemical, UV, straw, gravity, or pump-based units, these hollow fiber filters are generally much lighter weight, faster to use, allow you to carry less water in reserve, and are overall more efficient on the trail, especially for solo-use.

This guide is based on backcountry experience, meta-study, and user-review data. We blend what works best for us with what works best for the average hiker. While you’re here, don’t miss our guides to more great hiking nutrition content including, freeze dried meals, backpacking stoves, ultralight pots, backpacking mugs, backpacking food, and Drink When Thirsty.

You make Adventure Alan & Co possible. When purchasing through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you. Here’s why you can trust us. Now back to Sawyer Squeeze vs Katadyn BeFree vs Platypus QuickDraw.

Quick Picks For The Best Backpacking Water Filters

sawyer squeeze vs katadyn befree vs platypus quickdraw

Comparison: Sawyer Squeeze vs Katadyn BeFree vs Platypus QuickDraw

Water Filter Price ($) Filter Weight (oz) 1L Bladder Weight (oz)
Avg User Review (stars)
Sawyer Squeeze 41 3.0* 1.0 4.2
Katadyn BeFree 45 1.9* 1.1 4.0
Platypus QuickDraw 50 2.7* 1.4 3.4

*based on our measurements of lightly used filters with a baseline amount of water leftover inside the hollow membrane.

Sawyer Squeeze backpacking water filter

Sawyer Squeeze

The Sawyer Squeeze is a long time favorite among thru-hikers, and one of the highest rated backpacking water filters on the internet. This is the unit we have the most experience with, and the one we recommend most broadly. Shop now.

  • Price: $41
  • Filter Weight: 3.0 oz
  • Provided Bladder Weight: 1.0 oz
  • Average REI User Review: 4.2 stars
  • Pros: Ultralight. Fits Smartwater. User-friendly. Most reliable. Most affordable. Most highly rated. Most popular among thru-hikers.
  • Cons: Bags are hard to fill in shallow water.  Gasket can fall out. Lowest output flow.

Compared the other filters in this guide, Sawyer Squeeze has the lowest and slowest output flow to start, but drops off the least as it gets dirty and clogged. Once they hit mid-life, all three of these filters have a similar flow, so we don’t put as much weight into the value of its flow-when-new. The Sawyer’s bottom gasket is prone to falling out as the unit ages, or if over-tightened, so we recommend carrying the backup (one backup gasket comes with every filter) in your repair kit. Flush the filter clean it after every few trips.

Pair your Sawyer with a Smartwater bottle for optimal use (make sure to burp the bottle at 25% intervals so as not to damage it). It’s much easier to drink out of and fill up a Smartwater bottle than the default Sawyer bags. However, the bags are great to store in your backpack as a low volume solution (rolled up and rubber banded) for when you need to go full camel-mode for dry camping.

Katadyn BeFree water filter

Katadyn BeFree

Based on our experience, Katadyn BeFree offers the best user experience compared to any other backpacking water filter. Perhaps our favorite feature is that the .6L volume unit is small enough to fit in most shoulder strap pockets, giving you extremely easy and efficient access to drink from any water source you pass by; no need to take your pack off. Shop now.

  • Price: $45
  • Filter Weight: 1.9 oz
  • Provided Bladder Weight: 1.1 oz
  • Average REI User Review: 4.0
  • Pros: Ultralight. Lightest weight in group. Tied for best output flow. Smallest filter unit. .6L size can be mounted on front shoulder strap.
  • Cons: Bladder is puncture prone. Swish cleaning isn’t very effective. Cheap flip top cap. Overall least durable.

BeFree ties QuickDraw for the best flow output and is easy to fill up from most water sources. Though also like QuickDraw, the out-of-the-box flow diminishes quickly upon after the first few days of use.

The biggest downside to Katadyn BeFree are its low durability and lack of versatility. Unlike Sawyer Squeeze and Platypus QuickDraw, which have universal attachments, BeFree is much more limited. Maybe it can attach to other bottles or bladders, but we’ve never seen it. The plastic BeFree bladder is much softer, more malleable, and more prone to puncture and abrasion leaks than the other two. It can also sustain damage where the soft sides connect to the hardened lip if over-squeezed. Lastly, the plastic flip sport cap is prone to breaking off or cracking. These can be replaced, but it’s not ideal.

We recommending pairing the .6L model with a shoulder strap mount and storing up front. Depending on your setup, you may wish to cut off the ring at the base of the flip cap so there is a space to loop shock cords around in order to hold the top of the filter in place as you bend over. These flip caps are cheap and prone to breaking, and you can replace them with them with sturdier caps from other bottles if you so choose.

Platypus Quickdraw backpacking water filter

Platypus QuickDraw

The Platypus QuickDraw is our third favorite filter on the market, and still a great option due its light weight, ease of use, and Smartwater-compatibility. Out of the box, it has an absolutely massive flow output, though this diminishes quickly during the first few days of use. Shop now.

  • Price: $50
  • Filter Weight: 2.7 oz
  • Provided Bladder Weight: 1.4
  • Average User Review Score: 3.4
  • Pros: Ultralight. Durable. End cap for off-bottle storage. Tied for best output flow. Easiest to fill bladder. Fits Smartwater. Good feature set for use in cooler conditions.
  • Cons: Most expensive in group. Lowest user reviews. Stubby bladder cap is difficult to remove.

It also comes with a bottom end cap, which is particularly great for frequent on/off use. This could be relevant in a number of ways, for example, if you like to store it in a ditty bag, or when traveling over a mountain pass in frigid wind and you want to keep the filter warm in your pocket to prevent it from freezing.

The Platypus water bladder also has pros and cons. First off, it’s very durable, more so than either Sawyer or Katadyn. We love the perpendicular handle, which allows you to drag the bladder through the water for a quick fill-up without getting your hands wet. However, the twist cap is stubby and difficult to remove, especially with cold hands.

But we just can’t ignore the fact that with hundreds of data points, it has significantly lower user review scores than its very direct competitor, the Sawyer Squeeze, while also being more expensive. While it seems fine to us, the average hiker just isn’t having a great experience with this product. Hence our bronze medal award.

SmartWater Bottle to mount a squeeze filter

Smartwater Bottle, 1L

It’s an odd phenomenon, but Smartwater makes the best ultralight water bottles on the market, and they’re really high quality. At only 1.2 oz, they’re roughly 1/3 the weight of a Nalgene, fit better into backpack side pockets, can connect to Sawyer Squeeze and Platypus QuickDraw filters, and are durable enough to last for multiple hiking seasons. Shop now.

  • Price: $2
  • Weight: 1.2 oz
  • Pros: Ultralight. 3x lighter than a Nalgene. Lasts multiple hiking seasons. Easier to drink from than bladders. Can be recycled. Narrow diameter fits into pack pockets nicely. Fits Sawyer Squeeze and Platypus QuickDraw. Thru-hiker approved.
  • Cons: Won’t last forever. Bad to support single-use water bottle industry, even if you use the bottle for years.

What’s more, they’re extremely affordable, widely available, and come in an array of sizes. While 1L is the most broadly applicable, we’ve also put the 1.5L, the .6L, and the .75L to good use. The smaller ones in particular sit well in front-mounted shoulder strap holsters.

The biggest downside, of course, is that by purchasing a Smartwater bottle, you are supporting  the wasteful, unethical, and highly problematic single-use-water bottle industry. Given that we intend to use each water bottle for at least a year before it starts to degrade (we’ve had one last for three years), we feel this is permissible if you set an intention to offset the plastic waste by consciously buying one less disposable container over the course of the next year to make up for it.

Sawyer Sqeeze backpacking water filter on SmartWater Bottle

How to Choose Between Sawyer Squeeze vs Katadyn BeFree vs Platypus Quickdraw

When shopping for a backpacking water filter, most hikers should immediately eliminate all other filter options from consideration and choose between the aforementioned Sawyer Squeeze vs Katadyn BeFree vs Platypus Quickdraw. We repeat that you should avoid pump filters and gravity filters, because they’re too slow and inefficient to use on the go, forcing you to carry more water weight in your pack.

Exceptions to the above recommendations may include scenarios involving group base camping (in which case a gravity filter or chemicals may be justified), and for environmental conditions which requires alternative or additional water treatment. During winter, when temps never rise above freezing, it is inadvisable to carry this type of filter. If water freezes and expands inside the hollow fiber membrane, it will become damaged and fail to remove bacteria, protozoa, gunk, etc.

So once you have narrowed in on choosing between Sawyer Squeeze vs Katadyn BeFree vs Platypus Quickdraw, the next step is determining how you plan to use your filter, which will inform your ultimate purchase decision. performance within this group of three is quite flat and which you should choose may come down to personal preference or simply whichever you can find on sale when it’s time to buy. Once each filter has been used a few times and entered midlife, they all have a similar flow rate, though perhaps Sawyer is still slightly slower.

For most people, combining a Sawyer Squeeze with a 1L Smartwater bottle is the most efficient, reliable, and longest lasting system. If you aren’t sure which to choose, just go with that.

If you lack the shoulder mobility to reach back into your side pocket while wearing your pack, we strongly recommend choosing the .6L Katadyn BeFree and pairing it with a shoulder strap mounted holster. This is the most efficient system in terms of on-the-go drinking, and also provides the ergonomic benefit of balancing out how the weight of your supplies are carried.

Lastly, the QuickDraw. Choose QuickDraw if you plan to frequently store your filter in a pocket or a ditty sack because the bottom end cap prevents water from dripping out. This can be relevant in cold conditions, when you need to keep it stored against your body to pass heat and prevent it from freezing. The bladder is also great in cold weather, as you can dip into a lake or creek without getting your hands wet and cold. QuickDraw is our preferred pick for cold weather.

shoulder mounted water filter

Ultralight Backpacking Water Filter Conclusion

Sawyer Squeeze vs Katadyn BeFree vs Platypus QuickDraw

Thanks for reading our guide to Sawyer Squeeze vs Katadyn BeFree vs Platypus QuickDraw, the best backpacking water filters. While each filter has advantages and disadvantages relative to its peers, all are quite viable in the backcountry and offer a much faster and more efficient performance than pump filters, gravity filters, or chemical drops in most scenarios. Learn more about backcountry hydration, and drink up!

katadyn befree vs platypus quickdraw vs sawyer squeeze
2 replies
    • Jaeger Shaw
      Jaeger Shaw says:

      That’s because $10 is roughly how much it costs to ship USPS priority. It’s a flat rate pricing model, so smaller items are bit less economical. We can’t all be Amazon prime.

      Reply

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