SteriPEN Adventurer Review

Purifying water in the wild for me usually means finding a clean source — a stream, a spring, mountain meltwater if lucky — and dropping in an iodine pill or two if things seem suspicious.

But that’s the ideal scenario. Once, deep in the North Dakota Badlands, I was forced to drink filtered water from a cattle trough. Then there was a time in Utah, hiking along a silt-choked tributary of the Green River, when my partners and I pre-filtered sediment through a pair of (clean) underwear stretched over the mouth of a bottle.

This summer I tried something different. Instead of underwear and pills, I hiked with a small ultra-violet-light-emitting device that destroys the DNA of microorganisms, making them unable to reproduce and cause illness.

SteriPEN-W2.jpg

Seriously, the SteriPEN Adventurer zaps microbes, viruses, and bacteria, including the well-known likes of giardia and cryptosporidium — famous havoc-wreaking bugs that swim and swirl in tainted water unseen.

The device, a $129.95 product made by Hydro-Photon Inc. (www.steripen.com), is simple to use: Stick the pen in water; push the button to activate the UV light; stir the water until the indicator light turns green; remove, and drink.

It takes about 50 seconds to purify 16 fluid ounces, and about 90 seconds for a liter.

The SteriPEN is compact and durable, weighing in at 4 ounces. A hard plastic cap protects the light source when not in use. It runs on common CR123 batteries.

The company promises to protect its users from diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis, and Legionnaires’ Disease. Botulism, cholera, smallpox and typhoid fever are further maladies Hydro-Photon Inc. can guard against.

I tested the pen out in streams and lakes this summer, and as far as I know the system worked. There’s a bit of magic and technology to trust, as well as the company’s word on what the product does, as water treated with the SteriPEN seems the same before and after the treatment. All the action happens on an unseen microbial level.

I found it to be more quick and convenient than a pump filter. Iodine pills, a long-time favorite of mine for their simplicity and portability, leave a funny aftertaste; the SteriPEN has no such side effect.

For nasty water you will have to pre-filter before using the SteriPEN, running the bad water through a product like the company’s Water Bottle Pre-Filter, a $12.95 cap that fits atop Nalgene-style bottles to catch debris and particulates.

Or, in a pinch, you can just use your underwear. The SteriPEN, hopefully, will take care of the rest.

(Stephen Regenold writes The Gear Junkie column for eight U.S. newspapers; see www.THEGEARJUNKIE.com for video gear reviews, a daily blog, and an archive of Regenold’s work.)

Posted by Active Toby - 10/08/2007 03:49 PM

Have you tried the solar panel instead of the batteries?

Posted by Stephen Regenold - 10/09/2007 11:13 AM

Not yet. Have it but still need to hook it up. It’s a panel to charge the device on long wilderness trips so you don’t have to bring a ton of extra batteries.

Posted by Simon Trussler - 12/28/2007 01:39 PM

I hate having to wait for tablets or my drops to work when I’m thirsty, pumps always seem like a pain to use and carry so when I saw this I had to have one. Well I got mine for Xmas so I’ll be using it soon, I also got the pre-filter to take the lumps out, it just stays on your bottle so you can almost forget about it.

Posted by CHRIS - 08/29/2008 09:13 PM

THE SOLAR CHARGER IS FOR THE BATTERIES, NOT THE DEVICE. SUPPOSED TO TAKE 21 HOURS OF SUNLIGHT= 2 TO 5 DAYS FROM PURE SOLAR, 8 HOURS ON AC. COMES WITH A BELT CLIP SO I GUESS YOU COULD KEEP A PAIR OF BATTERIES CHARGING ALL THE TIME ON A HIKE OR SOEMHTING……………

Posted by Emilie - 05/21/2010 05:32 PM

I was absolutely wrapped with this device for a the first couple of hikes/trips I did with it, but unfortunately I dont think they are reliable yet. My first steripen took started to malfunction early during an extended trip through Morocco. The company was good about sending a replacement unit, but the delay cost us a fortune in bottled water.

The replacement unit I was super careful with, in case the last malfuction was my fault somehow. But it failed as well partway through a lengthy desert walk in Australia, and left me begging for purification tablets from fellow hikers, and eventually drinking unprotected water. Fail, in my humble opinion, until they can make them more robust. I emailed my 2nd disappointment to the company, but they no longer seemed interested in replying.

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