Product Review of the Katadyn Vario Water Filter

This guest post is by Dean C and entry in our non-fiction writing contest .

A few months back, I had sold a few things of value and used that money to buy a Katadyn Vario water filter. Since water is so important, and the items I sold had no real value to prepping, it was an easy decision.

I had been wanting a portable water filter for some time. The Vario meets industry standards for reducing bacteria at 99.9999% efficiency, and protozoan cysts at 99.9%. Now I’m not going to pretend I know much about these little buggies, I just know we don’t want em’. I wanted to end up with a Katadyn due to company reputation, and that of Swiss made products in general. Thus far, I am quite pleased with the purchase.

The Vario is very lightweight, and very easy to use. Disassembly and reassembly for cleaning and filter cartridge replacement is very simple. The main body of the filter breaks down into six main parts, and there are also the intake and output hoses. At all critical breakdown points there are o ring gaskets to help maintain the integrity of the filter. Katadyn was also kind enough to include an extra set of o rings for replacement purposes, as well as a small tube of lubricant, and a small scouring pad for cleaning.

The Vario is the first micro filter with two different filtering modes, “longer life” and “faster flow”. In longer life mode, water flows through a ceramic pre-filter disc before passing through the carbon core filter cartridge. Faster flow mode bypasses the ceramic pre-filter and flows straight to the carbon cartridge, allowing a higher output rate. It is recommended that faster flow mode only be used when water is already relatively clear.

Switching from one mode to another is as easy as taking the top housing off, turning the ceramic disc to line up with clearly indicated points, and replacing the top housing. As with most filters, the ceramic pre filter disc, the filter cartridge, and the carbon within the cartridge, are all independently replaceable. This will allow you to extend the life of the overall filter system.

At the end of the two feet of intake hose, there is a small strainer to keep large debris from getting into the pump assembly. There is also a small weight to keep the hose in the water, and a small float to keep the strainer off the bottom of the pond/stream etc.. In murky or heavy sediment water, to extend cartridge life, it is recommended to wrap a coffee filter around the intake strainer and weight. When possible, you could also put murky water in a bucket and wait for the sediment to settle before filtering. The output hose will feed into whatever, or you can remove the bottom cap and the Vario will fit onto the tops of most standard sized water bottles.

The Vario retails for $89-$99 depending on where you get it. The cartridges are good for 500 gallons, easily replaceable and retail for about $40. Also, when water taste starts to decline, the carbon inside the cartridge can be easily replaced, and those pouches of carbon run about $12.

Now we all know that when TSHTF, water is going to be one of the most crucial factors to our survival, and we can only store so much. Portability and affordability were my two deciding factors. Yeah, it would be great to have a Big Berkey, but in a bug out, it isn’t going to fit in a backpack. The Vario, being two inches larger than a full can of beer, and weighing slightly less, leaves plenty of room in the backpack.

I’m very happy with the Vario, so cheers to clean water, (and the beer if you’re so inclined.)

This contest will end on August 7 2012 – prizes include:

First Place : 1 Year Subscription to AlertsUSA, 1 Radiation Safety Package consisting of the following;  (1) NukAlert Radiation Monitor and Alarm (5) Radsticker Peel and Stick Dosimeters (1) Box Thyro Safe Potassium Iodide. All courtesy of AlertsUSA. A $150 gift certificate for Federal Ammo courtesy of LuckyGunner Ammo. And a British Berkefeld water fillter system courtesy of  LPC Survival. A total prize value of over $700.

Second Place : A six pack Entrée Assortment courtesy of Augason Farms, a Nukalert courtesy of Shepherd Survival Supply and a WonderMill Grain Mill courtesy of Kitchen Kneads. A total prize value of over $550.

Third Place : A copy of each of my books “31 Days to Survival” and “Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat” courtesy of The Survivalist Blog dot Net and “Kelly McCann’s Inside the Crucible Set” courtesy of Paladin Press. A total prize value of over $200.

Contest ends on August 7 2012.

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. JP in MT says:

    I bought one of these a couple of years back and wanted to buy another one. Should have bought 2, as the cost seems to have doubled. Still I haven’t found another one that I like better.

    It’s light and WORKS!

    Great writeup!

    • julie thompson says:

      I have an extra Katadyn Pocket water filter.

      •Pocket water filter designed four outdoor enthusiasts and international travelers.
      •Filter’s silver-impregnated ceramic element is effective against bacteria and protozoa.
      •Filters all microorganisms larger than 0.2 microns to produce clear, drinkable water.
      •Filter is rated at 13,000 gallons of service life.

      I can send a picture of it upon request, just send me your email if interested.
      Cost w/shipping in US- $189.00

  2. SurvivorDan says:

    Great review. Thanks. I have several portable filters but I like the weight and float system as the lack of them in my existing water filters has been an issue. Looks like the Katadyn Vario is worth a look.

  3. riverrider says:

    awesome job dean. makes me want to buy one, but i have 2 dif ones already. can’t beat katadyn. enjoyed the pictures as well.

  4. NorthBound says:

    Has anyone tested the water that comes out of this type of filter? Is there evidence that it removes the bad bugs, etc.? Aside from the good reviews about its ease of operation, lightweight construction, etc., I’d like to be assured that it actually does what it says it will … make bad water drinkable.

    • Dean in Michigan says:


      There are no assurances in life. At some point we have to take manufacturers for their word that the product does what they say it will. Have I put my butt through the pond scum test? No.

      • NorthBound says:

        Of course there are no assurances in life. The goal of my question was to understand what the evidence is. It’s my family I’m trying to protect.
        A responsible manufacturer welcomes non-biased evaluation of its products. If it’s a good product or process, independent evaluation will say so, as will thorough positive reports from consumers.
        I certainly didn’t mean to offend you as a reviewer. Was just looking to get a comprehensive understanding of how, and if, the product would fit into a plan for hydration resources in emergencies.

    • riverrider says:

      katadyn for one and MSR, PUR, all have submitted to tests from groups like UNICEF, world health org, and others that operate in Africa and have been certified as safe and effective at doing what they claim when used properly.

  5. Selling unneeded stuff to buy preps is a good idea. Maybe I can find stuff topass on & buy a portable water filter. I have the makings for the dirt cheap filter, thank you, md. Good review, especially coming from one of the pack.

  6. I have never understood the 99.9% claim for cysto, does that make the water safe or not? Leaving any cysts in drinking water would seem a bad thing in the end (snark) no matter how much, or am I wrong about that? Seems like you still need to boil or add choloine to have really safe water…

    • Dean in Michigan says:


      How they can measure down to a tenth of a percentage or less is a mystery to me too. We’ll leave that to the chemists, as those numbers came from Katadyn. I think we just have to judge the water at the time. If you look at it and think “eeewwwweee”, well, I would probably boil it too. But if you can’t boil, some filtration has to be better than none.

    • “a bad thing in the end” ,,,,,, hehehehehe. i just got it.

    • riverrider says:

      s, nothing is 100%. even your tap water has things in small concentrations like E Coli (pooh). its the concentration that matters as your body can fight off small amounts without you even knowing but huge amounts will overwhelm you body’s ability to destroy the bugs. look at the filtration specs. 2 to 3 microns is best for giardia and crypto. five or higher and you’re not getting the best filtration, mostly for sediment. chlorine won’t work on everything. some organisms are able to “cyst” in a hard shell and withstand all but the most robust attempts at destroying them. thats why filtration has become dominant in the arena of water purification. backpackers have used these filters for decades and i’ve never heard of one getting sick while propperly using one, even in the most disgusting pondscum water you can imagine. one caviat, when it gets clogged you have to stop and clean it. if you try to force it, the bad guys can be pushed thru the o-rings. for storage, the filter needs to dried out first or mold can develope.

  7. great review! im looking for something to keep im my get home bag that i can reliably process drinking water for a few days. my new oilfield job only reguires me to be 80-90 miles away from at the most. i would think i could get home in 4-5 days walking. i was just getting to the point where i am getting ready to purchase a water filter. thanks for the timely review.

    • riverrider says:

      bc!! happy for you man! hey if you just want a filter for that scenario you can get the pioneer filter straw. its only good for twenty gallons, but its only 10 bucks. i keep one in every bag and vehicle. you just scoop up whatever water you can find, stick the straw in and drink. hard to beat for the price. glad to hear from you. looking forward to more. be careful out there.

  8. I am a water quality technician. I will say that our treatment methods, no matter how good the filter is, we always, ALWAYS disinfect the water afterwards. It’s called the multibarrier approach and it ensures that if there is ever a breakdown in the process of the filter (you cannot see micro organisms if they are there, if they don’t get through, if they do get through) then your disinfection should cover that.

    Boiling, chlorine tabs, liquid chlorine are all good ways of disinfecting on the go. I wrote a short article on the basics of water treatment and if M.D. gives me permission I’ll put the link up, if anyone is interested.

  9. I have the Katadyn HikerPro, for backpacking, and the Base Camp, for prepping at the BOL. Both perform perfectly. And even better they both use the same filter cartridges! The Base Camp is really nifty, and a great alternative to the big Berkey unless you need to feed an army.

    • Dean in Michigan says:

      +10 Nessie…….

      Didn’t know the filters were interchangeable. I looked at the Hiker Pro, but volume put me to the Vario. The same filter feeding more than one system would seem to be better for the prepper contingency.

  10. vlad strelok says:

    Vario $100 500 gal = 20 cents a gal
    replacement filter $40
    500 gal = 8 cents gal
    Katadyn Pocket water filter $265
    13k gallons ……..2 cents per gallon
    replacement filter $200
    13k gallons 1.5 cent
    per gallon

  11. Did a little more reading on this and seems the filter straws ect are handed out in places like Haiti and Africa by the thousands. Those that have used them in such places report drinking really questionable water (after filtering with the ceramic type filters and the straws) with no ill effects so I now assume (that word) that in an emergency the filters can be used UNITIL a water source that is treated can be found or made, best is I am thinking treatment after filtration. The one repeat comment on them all seems to be how fragile they are and how easy they are to damage so keep that in mind. I think I will buy a couple of the straw filters for my BOB to back up my pump filter ya know, just in case….

    Plan for the worst, hope for the best.

    • riverrider says:

      good idea!

      • riverrider says:

        oops, punched out too early…i had a filter failure myself on the AT, an MSR that i forgot to dry out for storage. it molded, unbeknown to me. the water was like acid, burned my lips, so i quit drinking immediately but with no backup i had to cut my trip short. not fun.that was before i started toting the filter straw in my edc.

  12. This Katadyn product is one of the light and effective way to generate drinking water. It is light and carriable. It could even be used in some very tough situation where you are running out for water.
    This may not be the best way to filter water, but if you have got nothing on hand, at least you get this one.

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