Renown for their quality portable filters, Katadyn has made more than one appearance in our reviews already. With the Vario Microfilter Katadyn has engineered a portable solution capable of filtering down to 0.2 microns and backed up by several pre-filters and an activated carbon block filter. But ontop of this filtration prowess is some high-tech engineering which endows the Vario with its considerable flow-rate, appreciable filter lifetime, and easy-to-use handheld pump design. Equipped with two pistons, all you have to do to pass water through the Vario’s considerable filters is squeeze the handle. Pretty luxurious compared to a lot of portable filter solutions!
The Katadyn Vario is an adjustable portable water filter that has two flow settings: Fast (Longer Life) and Faster. At first glance the Vario, at 6.5 inches and 15 oz, seems bulky and feels heavy compared to other portable pump filters you might have used. But once you start pumping for yourself and see its advertised peak speed of 2.2 liters per minute, you’ll realize how willing you are to sacrifice a little space for quality performance and the convenience of a high flow rate.
At the heart of the Vario’s capability to filter water so quickly compared to many of its rivals is its adjustable design which lets the user decide if they prefer a high flow rate or a longer lasting filter lifetime. In our review below we’ll examine the differences and benefits of these different filter settings.
The Katadyn Vario – A Versatile Portable Water Filter To Suit Your Ever Changing Needs
The Katadyn Vario works with a 2 filter system. A ceramic filter disc keeps dirt, debris, and sediments from ever encountering the primary 0.2 micron glass fiber filter, which is capable of removing over 99.99% of waterborne bacteria, protozoa, and cysts that might be lurking in your water source. Along the way water is also passed through the Vario’s activated carbon filter to remove chemicals which contribute to bad tastes and odors. There is also a pre-filter attached to the end of the input hose, preventing any larger dirt or debris from entering the hose.
Katadyn has brilliantly allowed for a bypass of the ceramic filter by adjusting the Vario to its Faster Flow mode, meaning the water goes straight from the source to the primary filter. While this drastically increases the flow rate, it also leaves your filter more vulnerable to degrading – hence the name of its standard mode, “Longer Life”. I would recommend only using the Faster Flow mode if your water source is clear and clean, and you’re just looking to filter out any harmful organisms.
Using the Katadyn Vario in the Field
Along with the theme of versatility, the output hose comes equipped with a clip to accommodate any bottle size, and there is a removable hatch that allows you to just screw a large lipped bottle straight on to the Vario – no hose hassle needed. This proved massively useful more than once, letting me easily fill up larger bottles with literally zero losses. Talk about efficiency!
I found myself excited for an opportunity to use the Vario’s Faster Flow mode at first sign of appropriate waters. The speed difference is notable: I clocked filling a liter of water in the Faster Flow mode at about 35 seconds – which is about 1.7 liters per minute, a little less than its advertised peak speed. After a moment of rest and a drink of water, I pumped 1 liter through using the ceramic disc on the “Longer Life” setting in around 50 seconds – about 1.2 liters per minute. So, if you are spending half an hour pumping filtered water a day, you will end up filtering about 15 liters more using the Faster Flow mode. As I have said, that is noticeably faster, but I got a twinge of guilt using the Faster Flow setting – worrying that I might have misjudged the water’s cleanliness and shortened the life of the glass fiber filter cartridge. So, again, make sure the water is clear for the speedy mode.
The Katadyn Vario Microfilter’s Design and Usage
If you’re shopping Katadyn you know that you’re getting a well designed piece of equipment. Their Vario is no exception. The filter and pump both fit comfortably in your hand – and function comfortably without any training or experience. Unlike many pump filters I have used in the past, the Vario is far from a strenuous exercise. The pump features a dual piston technology that intakes water every time you pull the lever as well as push – twice as efficient as a standard pumping system.
The entire Katadyn Vario kit will cost you about ~$75.00. All the components are both cleanable and replaceable when they are finally worn out. Which, for the primary filter is after about 2,000 liters (~500 gallons.) Replacement cartridges for those run about ~$37.00 on Amazon. The ceramic disc filter is easily cleaned with a sponge or cloth and only needs to be replaced after it is visibly worn down – replacements for those are about ~$15.00. And finally, for around ~$13.00, you can purchase replacement carbon for your glass fiber filter if your water starts tasting a bit funny but the filter is still operating normally (After around 200 gallons).
All-in-all, not a cheap filter, but I would say worth the price if you are going to use it to its potential. Without a doubt it is also pretty far from a maintenance-free solution. The filters should be regularly cleaned and replaced as per manufacturer recommendations. If you run into any problems, Katadyn offers a 1 year warranty for malfunctions. This is reassuring, especially after reading that some buyers have reported leaks after extended use, though we didn’t encounter any in our brief experience with the Vario.
I think that the best use of the Katadyn Vario would for a camping or boating trip. Due to its somewhat hefty size and weight (compared to other camping filters,) smaller or lighter filters might work out better for backpacking and hikes. But the Vario is a champion in situations where you are outdoors and need to filter water fast, making it great for groups of people who would not want to wait in line for their turn at the watering hole. I’m also really fond of the option it gives us to bypass the ceramic filter, nearly doubling it’s water flow speed when you aren’t in need of too much filtration power. Just having the option there is nice.
Katadyn Vario Final Thoughts and Review Summary
The Vario by Katadyn may look like it’d be awkward or bulky, but it rests comfortably in your hands, pumps like a dream, and flows like a stream. It feels sturdy and is easily cleaned – which is good, because the replacement components for it are rather costly. It can adapt to better suit your needs or its environment. I really respect Katadyn for the thought and effort they put into their products, they are always well designed and trying to find some way to benefit their customers. This quality shines in the Vario. I would recommend the Katadyn Vario to anyone who enjoys spending time outdoors but doesn’t want to put a lot of their time and energy into getting clean water.
We award the Katadyn Vario Portable Microfilter a 4/5. Definitely worth checking out!
Learn More About the Katadyn Vario Portable Water Filter
To check current prices, read customer reviews, learn more details, or purchase a Katadyn Vario right now, check out the Amazon listing.
Check out the Katadyn Vario in action in this great YouTube review from YouTube user Rookie Backpacker!
Easy to Use
Exceptional Build Quality
Requires Maintenance & Replacement Filters Frequently
- Editor Rating
- Rated 4 stars
- Vario Microfilter Portable Handheld Water Filter
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A hand-held pump equipped with a powerful Katadyn water filter makes the Vario an impressive part of any wilderness kit.
Jacob Hatch is the author and founder of Hydration Anywhere. He has been actively writing about drinking water since 2013. These days Jacob spends most of his time investigating water related news, studying environmental issues, reading health studies, and reviewing products like water bottles and water filters.