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Katadyn Vario Long Term Report - Pam Wyant

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  • pamwyant
    Hi Rami, here is my Katadyn Vario Long Term Report - Pam HTML version here: http://www.backpackgeartest.org/reviews/test/TESTS/Katadyn%20Vario%
    Message 1 of 2 , Nov 26 11:34 PM
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      Hi Rami, here is my Katadyn Vario Long Term Report - Pam

      HTML version here:


      OR: http://tinyurl.com/339kt5

      Field Conditions And Use:

      In early October I used the Vario on a 30 mi (48 km) weekend
      backpacking trip in the Cranberry Backcountry in southeastern West
      Virginia. Temperatures ranged from around 50 F to 80 F (10 to 27 C)
      and the weather was mainly dry with only a few sprinkles of rain one
      evening. Trails varied widely from sections of old logging roads
      that had fairly smooth dirt surfaces, to rocky passages through
      rhododendron thickets with their accompanying roots across the trail,
      to a short section of graveled forest service road. Elevation varied
      considerably from 2700 to 4000 ft (800 to 1200 m) with some tough
      climbs. Water sources were low and scarce due to a very dry summer
      and fall. The first evening I filtered about 3 quarts/liters of
      water from a small low-flow stream near our camp. The water appeared
      clear, but the bottom had a good bit of clear appearing sediment
      which I tried to avoid stirring up. After filtering about 1.5
      quarts/liters on the longer life setting, the filter once again began
      spurting water and not working well. I cleaned the ceramic filter
      with the green scrubby and pumped a bit more, but found the filter
      still not working very well, pumping water very slowly. I switched
      to faster flow setting and quickly finished filling my containers. I
      filtered an additional quart/liter on the faster flow setting the
      next morning with no problems. A couple of hours later I quickly
      filtered another quart/liter on the faster flow setting from a small
      moderately flowing stream which lasted until that night's camp. I
      did not need to filter again on that trip, since a trail angel had
      planted some water for our group knowing that we would have a dry

      Shortly after this trip, Katadyn contacted me concerning my problems
      with the filter spurting water and not working well on the longer
      life setting. Their customer service representative shipped me a new
      ceramic filter and a new glassfiber filter to use in completing the
      test, which I used for my next trip, a section hike of the
      Appalachian Trail in northern Georgia and southern North Carolina in
      late October and early November. A friend and I had originally
      planned to divide the trip into a 2-day segment followed by a night
      at a motel (and showers) and another 4-5 day segment, but due my
      friend developing severe blisters, and situations at a couple of
      shelters that made us uncomfortable, we ended up spending 3 nights in
      hotels and 2 nights on the trail.

      Over a 6 day period, I hiked a total of 56.1 mi (90 km) at elevations
      ranging from 2660 to 5220 ft (810 to 1590 m), with a lot of ascending
      and descending, often over 700 ft (200 m) within 1-1.5 miles (1.5-2.5
      km). The trail varied from short sections of semi-smooth dirt to the
      more common rocky sections, with plenty of roots crossing the trail
      to throw in a little variety, and a few rock scrambles. Temperatures
      were in the 40 to 70 F (4 to 21 C) range. The weather during our
      trip was dry for the most part, but there was some fog and
      condensation some mornings.

      Unfortunately, this area of the Appalachian Trail was under an
      exceptional drought during the weeks preceding our trip and during
      the trip itself, so we needed to haul more water than normal. Due to
      the lack of reliable water sources, I carried about 6 quarts/liters
      starting out the first day, which lasted until mid-morning the second
      day when we reached a good spring in a mostly dry creek bed behind
      Deep Gap Shelter. The water itself appeared clear, but was flowing
      into a shallow depression with a good bit of sediment at the bottom.
      Recalling my earlier problems with sediment, I thought a minute and
      decided to use a large fallen leaf to place under the intake
      prefilter and weight assembly. This seemed to work very well, and
      not much sediment was stirred up when I pumped. I was able to
      quickly pump about 4 quarts/liters for my friend and myself using the
      longer life setting and did not notice any water leaking from the
      pump housing.

      Photo - Using the Vario in Betty Creek

      Our second night was spent in a motel, and I did a a 15.6 mi/7.4 km
      solo day hike the third day due to my friend having severe blisters.
      Since a couple of good water sources were reported for this section,
      I took the Vario along in my pack so I could refill my water bladder
      and not have to carry more than a couple of quarts/liters at a
      time. The stream at Plum Orchard shelter was running well and I
      filtered from a shallow water hole there, with the water being clear
      with little sediment on the bottom. I again used a large leaf under
      the prefilter assembly, which seemed to be working well, since the
      filter quickly pumped a couple of quarts/liters using the longer life
      setting and again I had no further problems with the filter.

      We set out the fourth morning with enough water for the day, and I
      filtered about 4 liters/quarts that evening at the spring behind the
      old Carter Gap shelter. The water was cloudy with suspended
      particulate. After the first liter on the longer life setting, the
      water began to flow very slowly gradually decreasing to a mere
      trickle and a few drops began to leak from the middle of the pump
      housing. I took the top off the housing, and found a good bit of
      grainy sediment on the top of the ceramic filter which I washed off
      in the spring. I had to repeat this once more, but was able to
      continue using the longer life setting by cleaning the ceramic filter
      with the provided scrubby, and did not have to switch to the faster
      flow setting.

      The final time I used the Vario for this test was the next day, at
      Betty Creek, shown in the photo above, where the water was running
      well and appeared clear. The water depth was sufficient for pumping
      without having to worry about stirring up sediment from the bottom.
      The Vario worked well on the longer life setting with no problems,
      quickly pumping 3 quarts/liters.
      Testing Conclusions:
      Although I've been frustrated a bit by how quickly the Vario can clog
      when there is sediment in the water, I've enjoyed having clean,
      clear, good tasting water quickly available. Attaching the hoses in
      the field and getting the filter operating is a simple matter;
      although sometimes figuring out how to get to the water and hold the
      filter, water bottle or bladder, and keep the outlet hose sanitary
      while keeping the intake hose in a good position so it doesn't draw
      up sediment or algae, all while trying to get in a comfortable
      position to work the pump is a definite challenge. It's a little
      easier to fill a hard sided water bottle than a flexible bladder, but
      both usually have to be held in position to keep the containers from
      shifting and the filtered water from spilling. Once in a while, I can
      wedge the containers in place among some rocks, but I usually keep
      them in place with my feet so I have both hands free to use on the
      filter. All this results in the need for a little dexterity while
      using the filter. Fortunately, the worst that ever happened when I
      was filtering water was having one foot slip on a rock and get a
      little wet.

      In using the filter, I've found the dual piston design makes for a
      very strong pumping action. This is both good and bad. It's good
      because it's fast. It's bad because this means the prefilter
      assembly will move around a lot in the water as I pump. This allows
      it to drift around and get into less than optimal position, like
      against an algae encrusted rock or too near the sediment at the
      bottom of a shallow hole. This can result in a lot of sediment
      working its way into the Vario and clogging the ceramic filter. I've
      learned to work around this a little by taking up any excess intake
      hose and holding it in my hand to keep the prefilter assembly better
      positioned, and to use a large leaf to keep too much sediment from
      stirring up in shallow water. It would probably be a good idea to do
      as the manufacturer suggests and collect water in a container such as
      a collapsible bucket when the water is cloudy, then allow it to
      settle for a while before trying to pump it. However, I like to keep
      my pack weight down and keep my equipment simple and to a minimum, so
      it is unlikely I will have a large container with me on backpacking
      trips. I could see how this might work better with groups when the
      weight could be shared and this is something I might try in the
      future to try to extend filter life.

      I experienced only a little leaking from the pump housing after
      replacing both filtering units, and it happened only when the ceramic
      filter was coated in sediment. So, it appears that when the ceramic
      filter needs cleaned or replaced, pressure can build up from the
      Vario continuing to pump water in that can't filter quickly enough
      through the ceramic. The water has to go somewhere when it is under
      pressure, so it squirts out the path of least resistance - the place
      the two parts of the filter housing connect. Keeping the ceramic
      filter clean and replacing it when too gunked up seems to eliminate
      this problem.

      I've tried carrying the filter in several different places in my
      pack, including within the main pack bag and in the front pocket, but
      I've found I best like carrying the Vario inside its case in one of
      the side pockets on the exterior of my pack. This allows for fast
      access to the filter and lets excess water drain out of the case and
      drip harmlessly into the mesh pocket and onto the ground instead of
      onto other gear I am carrying. The cased filter fit well inside the
      outside pocket of my GoLite Quest pack and I never had it come out
      while hiking, but did have it come out of the pocket a few times at
      camp while packing and unpacking if the pack wasn't completely full.
      The loop tab on the outside of the case came in handy for threading a
      compression strap through to make sure the filter can't escape
      completely if it does work its way out of the pocket.
      Final impressions:
      Overall I'm impressed with how quickly the Vario can filter water,
      and how clean and good tasting the water is after it's passed through
      the filter. Although I'm quite impressed at the amount of dirt the
      Vario collected from the water I pumped, I've come to the conclusion
      that much of this dirt is collected due to the strong pumping action
      of the dual pistons, and probably would not have been in the water
      had I collected it carefully in a pot or other container.

      Although I've really enjoyed being able to drink clean water quickly
      without waiting for chemicals to work, the 20 oz (567 g) or so that
      the wet filter and accessories weigh conflict with my 'gram weenie'
      tendencies, and I probably will either go back to chemicals or other
      lighter water treatment techniques for solo trips. On trips where I
      am sharing equipment with friends, I plan to continue to use the
      Vario and enjoy the quick, clean, good tasting water it provides.
      Hopefully I'll find careful selection of water sources will make the
      replacement filters last much longer than the originals.

      This concludes my long term report.

      Thanks to Katadyn and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to
      test the Vario Water Filter.
    • rami
      ... [[R:]] Hi Pam, Very nice looking report. Only one edit for you, then please upload at will. thanks, -r ... [[R:]] ...and I did *a* 15.6... You have an
      Message 2 of 2 , Dec 1, 2007
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        pamwyant wrote:
        > Hi Rami, here is my Katadyn Vario Long Term Report - Pam
        > HTML version here:
        > http://www.backpackgeartest.org/reviews/test/TESTS/Katadyn%20Vario%
        > 20LTR%20-%20Pam/
        Hi Pam,
        Very nice looking report.
        Only one edit for you, then please upload at will.


        > Our second night was spent in a motel, and I did a a 15.6 mi/7.4 km
        > solo day hike the third day due to my friend having severe blisters.
        ...and I did *a* 15.6...
        You have an extra 'a' in there.
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