I don’t do any marketing for Katadyn but if I did I think ‘water so good the eels want it back’ might be a winner.
Having a way to purify water, especially when you’re unfamiliar with where you’ll be travelling, is essential. The average person can survive weeks without food. You can still feel safe from mortal danger if you have to skip the odd meal or two but the same cannot be said about water. Without water you’ll be lucky to last more than 3 days.
There is a helpful rule to remember these limits called ‘The Rule of Threes’. You can survive three minutes without air, three hours without shelter (in a dangerously cold environment), three days without water and three weeks without food.
Neither of those things are particularly enjoyable and your mileage may vary but generally speaking the average person should scrape through – taking one scenario at a time!
Understanding The Katadyn Mini’s Ceramic Water Filter
The Katadyn Mini’s job is to help you avoid passing that deadly three days without water, it does this by cleaning contaminated water that you might find on your adventure with a mechanical, ceramic 0.2 micrometre gauge filter.
Making Sense of Measurements: 0.2 µm is correctly called 0.2 micrometres. However in English speaking countries we arrogantly reject international standards and call them microns. This no doubt greatly upsets the French who invented the The International System of Units, or ‘Le Système international d’unités’, to make everyone’s life easier.
The Katadyn Mini is mechanical rather than chemical, an example of chemical water purification might be chlorine or iodine tablets that kill the harmful bacteria in the water but still leave them in there. They won’t harm you of course, they’re dead, but chemical purification may not kill everything and it can’t remove other contaminants such as silt, mud, tiny creatures, etc. You just have to scoop the cleanest bottle full you can find and near sterilise it with chemicals. It’s cheap and relatively effective but the resulting ‘water’ isn’t very attractive to drink as it may not look clean and the chemicals, especially iodine, leave a strong taste.
Mechanical filters on the other hand, like the Katadyn Mini, filter the water by sieving out the contaminates. First, as the water is pumped up it goes through a fine gauze, filtering out sticks, leaves, large critters and the chunkier particles of grit and dirt. The second and final stage is the internal ceramic filter that scrubs the water clean of any object larger than 0.2 microns.
Filtration down to 0.2 µm effectively removes bacteria, cysts and larger inanimate debris such as silt. The two things the Katadyn Mini’s ceramic filter won’t be able to remove are viruses and chemicals.
Luckily viruses don’t survive long away from their host cells and you can make a good guess at whether or not a water source is contaminated with chemicals by looking at its source and location. If you happen to be downstream of a poorly managed third world Coca-Cola plant then the Coca-Cola itself might be the least toxic way to hydrate yourself, however if you’re in the Scottish Highlands and there’s a fast moving brook, chemical contamination shouldn’t be a concern.
Katadyn Mini Design and Features
So, now we know what a 0.2 micrometre ceramic filter can do, lets take a look at the Katadyn Mini itself.
The Katadyn Mini comes with three items that are not pictured above, a small bag to carry it in (that I don’t use) a little piece of green scouring pad to refresh the filter and a small ring of foam (we’ll get back to the last two).
The Katadyn Mini weighs 210g and is about 18cm long. Impressively the ceramic filter, it is claimed, can clean 7,000 litres of water. To put that into perspective the average person should drink about 2.5 litres of water per day. That means if you use this filter every single day it could last you 7.5 years!
You certainly should not expect the filter in Katadyn Mini to last that long. The way the filter works is that once the outer layer of the ceramic filter becomes blocked with silt, sediment and other dirt the surface can be scrubbed away with the scouring pad. Underneath the dirly top layer the ceramic filter is clean and porous allowing you to filter more water.
You can keep scrubbing the filter clean and re using it until it wears down and fits within a built in measurement gauge. At that time it is suggested that you replace the filter.
I have used my Katadyn a handful of times in water that may have been rich in bacteria but was relatively free of silt and mud. Because of the lack of clogging material I haven’t had to clean my filter yet and there is no sign of restricted filtration or discoloration of the surface of the filter.
The tube that draws in the unfiltered water is conveniently packed into the base of the unit. There is no such compartment for the exit tube, which is why I tie it around the handle. If you’re drinking high risk water you should keep the everything on the clean side of the filter separate from the dirty. For example the two hoses should never come in contact.
Once you have unravelled the ‘in’ hose and attached the ‘out’ hose the Katadyn Mini is ready to go. The Katadyn Mini comes with a small foam float that attaches to the end of the in hose to keep it off the bottom. I didn’t find it to be very effective and prefer to anchor the hose into place with a stone or bury it slightly a few centimetres from the end, with the inlet and gauze exposed underwater.
Pumping is quite laborious but it’s not a huge strain. I’m happy to pump a litre of water for myself, which takes about 5 minutes, and I’ll pump another litre for my partner or a friend with only mild discomfort and reluctance. After that I think I’d pass the torch and let someone else have a go. The Katadyn Mini would be unsuitable for providing clean water for a group of people but one filter between two works quite well.
You may have to flush out the system if the Katadyn Mini hasn’t been used in a while but after that the water is clean and great tasting.
Katadyn Mini Conclusion
The Katadyn Mini water filter gets the job done in a tiny package. The main sacrifice made for the sake of its small size is filtering speed. But even to get 5 litres a day you’d only be at the grindstone for 25 minutes, which for such a vital element seems reasonable.
If you need more filtered water, such as for a group of people, I would suggest looking at one of the larger products in Katadyn’s range such as the Katadyn Expedition. For one or two people the Katadyn Mini is the perfect trade off between portability and usability.
I carry the Katadyn Mini on all of my cycletours so that I can carry less water knowing that I can top up as I go from nearly anywhere. It means I actually travel lighter with the Katadyn Mini than without because if I was relying on the next clean tap I would have to carry emergency water rations incase there wasn’t one.
With a competitive price (about £90 in England or as cheap as $70 in America), great durability and long filter life the Katadyn Mini makes it onto my essentials kit lists every time.
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