Unless you are planning to buy bottled water every time you travel (not always practical, cost-effective or environmentally sound) packing along a compact water filter may be an alternative. Enter the lightweight Katadyn BeFree water filter in a soft flask (approximately 2.4 ounces total) as the perfect solution to maintaining your gastrointestinal health.

Certainly when traveling in less developed or Third World countries, and certainly in remote areas in other parts of the globe or even in Europe, travelers are advised not to drink untreated water. And while the Katadyn BeFree ($39.95) will not remove chemical impurities such as lead, its tiny 0.1 micron hollow fiber filter will protect you from bacteria, protozoa and other contamination. And, for most of us, that is plenty good enough.

It is a simple matter to fill the 0.6-liter (20-ounce) collapsible, BPA-free flask from the tap, a pitcher of water, or any other water source such as a stream or lake. Then screw on the cap with the filter attached and slake your thirst from the drinking nozzle. The nozzle also comes with a cap to keep the nozzle clean between uses.

We both used the Katadyn BeFree system throughout travels in Europe and frequently on hikes where we could refill as needed from numerous streams waterfalls. While the flask seems a bit fragile — and we were careful when using and stowing it as a result — we have experienced no punctures or leaks even after a few months of use and packing. Perfect!

Michael filling the Katadyn BeFree water filter flask.

The cap is said to attach to a HydraPak Seeker 3L reservoir if you are in need of storing more water between refills. This we did not test.

When empty, the bottle and filter squash down to nearly nothing and stow away almost unnoticed in pants pockets, bike jerseys or pack. That also makes them stealthy, nearly unnoticeable stowaways in a carry-on or suitcase.

All in all, the Katadyn BeFree is a perfect water filter system for travelers and worthy of our HI Travel Tales Seal of Approval!