Katadyn Vario Review

The Katadyn Vario Water Filter is the flag-ship of Katadyn’s Backcountry series of filters. The unit is made of black plastic. The thick handle has a stop that keeps you from smashing your fingers against the body of the filter. These are just a couple details, keep reading to see what else we had to say in our Katadyn Vario Review.

The handle is connected to a dual action pump. Two pistons reside at the top and push water through the filter portion of the unit. Whereas most filters have a single pump action (which means it only works on the down stroke) the Vario works in both directions of travel which speeds up filtration.

The water input nub is on the upper area of the housing. It has a red protective sleeve to keep dirt out of it and let you know that this is where contaminated water is going to. The lower portion is where you grip when pumping and it is very comfortable when holding.

The Vario has a unique multi-stage filter system. The main filter is pleated glassfiber while the other filter is ceramic. You can change from using one to the other by simply twisting the top portion to one of the two settings – 1. fast setting or 2. longer life setting. The longer life setting (enhanced image to left) runs water through both filters and is meant for dirtier water while the fast setting will bypass the ceramic filter.

For improving the taste of the water there is a replaceable activated carbon chamber. Like all activated carbon it removes bad tastes as well as certain contaminants that get through normal filters. While this will make the lake water taste better it is also great feature for those that have water stored with a water preserver product made of bleach. The activated carbon will remove the bleach taste. Katadyn recommends replacing the carbon every 50 gallons or 200 liters and the refill packets seen to the right are about $5 each.

At the bottom there is an adapter that allows it to attach to Nalgene bottles or other poly carbonate bottles with similar mouth openings and thread patterns. There is also a hose barb which lets you attach the provided silicone tubing so you can fill any ol’ water container. There is also a plastic cap that will allow for a wide variety of hydration packs to simply plug the tube into the bottom of the filter.

Like most Katadyn products there is a pre-filter screen that is found at the end of the supply hose. There is also a closed-cell foam float that slides along the hose so you can make sure the filter isn’t sitting on the bottom of the body of water. By adjusting it to sit at the right point where the pre-filter won’t sink to the floor.

Lastly, there are a variety of accessories and extra parts that come with the Vario. Various of O-rings, silicone lubricant, a green scrub pad for cleaning the ceramic filter and a zip-lock type bag for putting the clean hose separated from the bad water hose.


The Vario is the simply the fastest filter we have ever used. MSR Miniworks, nope slower. Hiker Pro, not close. Combi, no way. Pocket, forget about it. MSR HyperFlow, not sure need to find one of those. Either way you look at it the Vario is a speed demon thanks to its dual action filter and is surprisingly easy to pump. Normally a combination you don’t see together.

Aside from the ease of pumping and the speed the water is filtered, the water tastes did in fact improve thanks to the activated carbon. We tested the filter in the Uintahs last Fall and the water tasted great. A nice thing about the chamber where the carbon goes is that it is not tied to the filter. With a product like the Hiker and Hiker Pro you need to toss your filter 6 months after using if you want to benefit from the carbon. Filters like that have the carbon part of the filter element. The Vario on the other hand can have the carbon switched out without having to toss a perfectly good filter.

Our only real gripe we came across during our Katadyn Vario review was the increased technical nature of the filter. Due to the various chambers, O-rings, and filtering methods it makes repair a little more complicated. Most of the negative Katadyn Vario reviews you see online are from people that had an issue and didn’t read the manual or understand how to fix it after reading it. While it isn’t rocket science it isn’t super easy either.

Check out the Vario here


The Vario is a competitively priced (mid $90s) water filter that is faster and easier to pump than everything we have tried in the market. The water tastes great thanks to the refillable carbon. It is versatile in that it can connect to poly carbonate bottles, hydration systems, and other water containers. We have no problem giving it the Top Food Storage Reviews top award of MUST BUY!


  • Fast, think Roadrunner fast
  • Easy to pump, even kids will have no problem
  • Great price for feature-set
  • Versatile, can change methods based on water conditions
  • Refillable activated carbon, no need to toss filter element



  • A little more tricky to service


Check out the Katadyn Vario Water Filter today we don’t think you will regret it. That concludes our Katadyn Vario Review, thanks for dropping by!

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