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If you're traveling 'off the grid' this solar powered battery charger will help your SteriPEN keep working.

And if you're preparing a home disaster preparedness kit, this is again a useful extension of your SteriPEN's functionality.

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SteriPEN Dual Solar/Mains Recharger

Gives your SteriPEN almost limitless capacity

Stick the SteriPEN unit into a glass of water, turn it on, stir it around, and in 45 seconds you have killed any bacterial contamination, leaving you with clean safe drinking water.

It is a great way to discreetly purify the glass of water at your table in a third world restaurant, and has many other uses too.

Part 3 of a series on SteriPEN products.  Part 1 reviews the SteriPEN Classic model, Part 2 reviews the Traveler and Adventurer models.



The battery powered SteriPEN obviously relies on its batteries.  If you're somewhere remote, not only might the water not be safe to drink, but there might be no batteries available for sale and no source of mains power to recharge your rechargeable batteries.

And so, the dual powered SteriPEN Solar Recharger provides the ultimate in flexibility.  It will recharge your batteries either by mains or solar power, and it doubles as a strong protective carry case for your SteriPEN as well.

This is a great accessory to add to your SteriPEN Traveler or Adventurer.

The SteriPEN Solar Recharger Case - What you Get

If you go hiking in the backwoods, you'll probably take some sort of water filtration device with you.  We all need lots of water, and it is, alas, both bulky and heavy to carry with us.

Unfortunately, those lovely looking fresh country streams are often dangerous to drink from, due to the presence of 'coliform matter' caused when runoff water from wildlife excrement contaminates the water with dangerous and potentially lethal bacteria.

A Steripen is small and lightweight and a great way to ensure you can enjoy safe drinking water when hiking.



weighs 6.8 oz with batteries, 7.7 oz with carry pouch

mains brick adds another 2.3 oz to its weight.

Two batteries alone weigh about 1.2 oz



Steripen Traveler

Steripen Adventurer

Solar Recharger



Even inexperienced travelers know to be careful when drinking water in much of the rest of the world. Experienced travelers also know to be careful with bottled water – unless you are drinking name brand water, and break open a clearly sealed bottle yourself, you may be drinking tap water that was put into the fancy bottle out the back of the restaurant, hotel, or store.
At best, contaminated water can ruin part of your travels, and at worst, you may catch a life threatening infection in a part of the world with poor health care, or perhaps suffer long term ongoing problems. This is definitely a situation where prevention is vastly better than an uncertain cure.
There are many different types of devices to treat water available for travelers, but most of them do not provide the comprehensive protection you need. You should seek a unit that has been EPA certified as an effective water purification system. Don’t confuse water purification with water filtration – a filtration device does not filter out small viruses, only larger bacteria. A purification process eliminates both.
There are three main approaches to water purification. The simplest is very low tech, but impractical for most people while traveling. Simply boil your water for several minutes before drinking it. A second approach is to use chemicals – tablets or liquids, usually containing a chlorine or bromine chemical.
And now, a company in Maine is offering a third solution, one that is convenient, quick, simple and safe. Their Steripen uses ultra-violet rays to kill viruses and bacteria in the water. To use it, you place the unit into a container of water, press the on switch, and stir until the UV light switches off at the end of its cycle. It takes about 45 seconds to treat a pint of water, and 90 seconds to treat a quart (or liter) of water.
Using it is simple and discreet – you can even use it to sterilize a glass of water served to you in a restaurant. The UV process doesn’t add any taste to the water, and there’s no need to wait a long time for boiled water to cool or for chemicals to treat the water and then lose its chemical taste.
There are two model Steripens. One is larger than the other, but both do exactly the same job. Most travelers will choose the smaller unit which is compact, lightweight, and very easy to use. It measures 6” x 1” x ” and weighs only 4 oz. A set of two CR-123 batteries will treat 40 – 60 quarts or liters of water. If you’re planning on using the unit a lot, or will be somewhere away from battery stores, Steripen also offer a set of rechargeable batteries and solar recharger.
The larger style units sell for $100 and the compact traveler style units sell for $130. The solar recharger with rechargeable batteries is $50.
Chances are you’ll find a Steripen helpful and reassuring next time you’re traveling. When it comes to water, better to be safe than sorry.



Regular tourists

One of the blessings of our modern lives is that we have reliable safe water freely flowing from our taps at home (but see the next point).  This is not nearly so assured in the rest of the world, and treating the water you use, even for brushing your teeth, in your hotel room and elsewhere with the Steripen can ensure your travel pleasures aren't disrupted by inconvenient and sometimes serious illnesses from water-borne pathogens.

An unexpected danger can also lurk, in some countries, in supposedly safe bottled water.  In some countries, there are no quality standards for bottled water and you might find yourself paying a premium for water no better than what comes out of the tap.  The Steripen can be inserted into a bottle of water to sterilize the water before you drink from it.

Because the Steripen is small and simple to use, it can also be used to discreetly purify a glass of water given to you in a restaurant when you're unsure how safe the water might be.

Everyone for their Emergency Kit

What would you do if your city's water supply was disrupted?  Perhaps an earthquake, or an act of terrorism, or system failure might suspend one of life's essentials we take for granted in most western countries - the reliable flow of safe water through our taps.  Indeed, simple mistakes have also disrupted water flow or water purity, sometimes for days at a time, and in some of the world's most developed cities.

If you like to be prepared, a SteriPEN is an excellent addition to your Emergency Disaster Preparedness Kit.  It has a virtually unlimited shelf life (many regular water filters expire after a few years whether used or not) and as long as you can feed it batteries, the 5000 uses per replaceable lamp unit give you plenty of pure clean water in an emergency.


The Steripen is sold attractively packaged in a plastic cylinder.  Inside is the unit itself, which comes complete with a strong protective sleeve to fit over its lamp when not in use, plus a nice carry pouch.  A set of well written instructions and warranty/registration card complete the package.

The Steripen needs four AA batteries, but, alas, no batteries are supplied with the unit.  You don't get much for your $100 these days.

Although skimping on batteries, the manufacturer is generous with the warranty, offering a 'limited lifetime' warranty.  In the fine print, it reveals you must send in the registration card to qualify for the warranty, and the warranty is offered to the original purchaser only.

Because the lamp must be replaced every 5000 uses, the warranty of course covers the lamp only for its 5000 use life, but the body warranty is unlimited.

The unit, complete with protective cover, weighs 3.6 oz.  Add a set of batteries and you've about doubled the weight.

How it Works

The Steripen uses ultra-violet (UV) light (better to use the term 'radiation' rather than light, perhaps) to sterilize the water.  UV light is the same type of radiation that causes sun-burn, and, in large doses, skin-cancer.  The same dangerous properties of the light are put to good use with the Steripen to simply kill any bugs and germs that might be in the water.

UV radiation is used by many town water supplies to sterilize their water.  It is an accepted, safe, and reliable solution, and although we're using the term 'radiation' it is nothing like radioactive radiation and water that has been exposed to UV light is totally safe in all respects.

Although direct UV light is dangerous to people as well as to bacteria, by a happy trick of nature, the UV light is completely contained within water, and so you're at no risk when using the Steripen.  You can see a blue glow, but this is not UV light (which is invisible) but visible light that is also generated at the same time.  More than 90% of the output of the unit is in the form of invisible UV light.

The Steripen does not neutralize any poisons or other bad chemicals.  It kills living things, but doesn't do anything to inert poisonous substances.

Neither does it precipitate out any suspended solids, such as in a glass of muddy water.  In fact, if the water is not clear, the UV radiation does not penetrate as efficiently through the water and the Steripen will not work as reliably.  For this reason, the instructions say to only use it with clear water, and if the water is muddy, you should let the water settle first, or pre-filter it.

The Steripen has two settings - one for up to 16 ounces (one pint) of water, the second for up to 32 ounces (one quart).  You simply choose the appropriate setting, turn it on, stick the light tube 'wand' into the water, stir it around until the UV light goes off, and you then have pure safe water to drink.

Electronics inside the unit compute how long to operate the UV lamp for, and generally it is about 45 seconds for 16 ounces and 90 seconds for a full 32 ounce quart of water.

The unit also counts how many times it is used.  Because the UV light tube wears out over time, when the unit has been used 5000 times, it gives an error and requires you to replace the light tube.  This involves returning the unit to the factory, where they replace the assembly and return the unit for a $60 fee.  The unit gives a warning at 4900 uses so you can plan for the replacement at a convenient time.

Using the Steripen

Using the Steripen is as simple as it should be.

Because you need to fully immerse the light tube, there should be at least 2" of water in the water container, although if the container were flat and wide, you could hold the Steripen on its side to fully cover it.

You push its button, then immerse it in the water.  The unit senses when it is in the water and activates.

As well as generating the UV light which is invisible, it also generates some visible light so you can see that the unit has started to work (and, more to the point, when it has completed its task, too).

Stir it around while it is radiating, and when the light turns off, check that the indicator LED shows green.

And that's all you need to know and do.  Almost instant safe drinking water is the result.

I was concerned that the glass capsule surrounding the light might break, but Miles Maiden, Steripen's inventor and company President, explained the capsule is actually made from strengthened quartz, 1/10" thick.  It is strong and unlikely to break during normal usage, which is just as well, because the warranty unfortunately excludes glass breakage.

When not in use, a strong plastic sleeve surrounds and protects the quartz tube.


Because ice cubes are often not perfectly clear, the UV light may not be able to shine all the way through ice and so you should not have ice in the water when purifying it.

Battery Life

The Steripen uses a lot of power and is fairly hard on batteries.  A set of four regular AA alkaline batteries will be good for about 20 - 40 uses, each for a pint of water.

If you get the longer life Lithium type batteries (single use, not to be confused with Lithium Ion rechargeables), these can give you up to 140 cycles.

Rechargeable batteries are probably your best choice if you plan to use the unit regularly.  A set of modern high capacity NiMH batteries (such as the ones we review here) can be expected to give 150 uses per charge.  The cheaper NiCad type batteries will give fewer than 20 uses per charge and probably shouldn't be used.

The Steripen tells you when the batteries need replacing (the LED flashes red quickly).

The Steripen compared to other products

If you're comparing the Steripen with other ways to get safe drinking water, it is first essential to compare it accurately with similar products.

Many devices are sold as water filtration systems, but these are not the same as an EPA approved water purification system (the Steripen has been independently tested and passes the EPA's purification parameters).

The best water filtration systems have a maximum filter size of 0.2 microns (a micron is a millionth of a meter) and are effective against bacteria (which range in size from about 0.2 microns up to 10 microns) but are ineffective against viruses which are much smaller (0.004 - 0.1 microns in size).

A purification system is effective against both viruses and bacteria.  Viruses (eg hepatitis) are every bit as dangerous as bacteria, and so you really need a full purification system rather than the partial solution presented by a filtration system.

Filtration systems not only don't protect you from viral infection, but are also can be more expensive than the Steripen, bulky, and awkward to operate (probably requiring you to pump water forcefully and slowly through a filter).  Filtration systems are also prone to clogging, and either need regular replacing or cleaning.

The lowest tech approach to purification is to simply boil your water for several minutes.  But this requires a heat source and suitable container to boil the water in, plus the patience to wait until the water has cooled again before drinking it.

The most common purification method is to add chemicals to the water that will kill the viruses.  Chlorine or iodine tablets are added to the water, and after letting it stand for a while (up to four hours in some cases) you end up with water that is safe to drink, and which hopefully doesn't taste too bad.

The Steripen is generally quicker, easier, and more portable than all these other solutions.

Where to Buy

Steripen is manufactured by Hydro-Photon in the US.  They have retail distributors spread around the US, and these days the device lists for a very good value of $99.95 (it was originally $150).  Hydro-Photon forbid discounting.

Travel Essentials offer it at this price, with no sales tax and give you free shipping, which is probably the best deal available.  And should you want to buy more than one, they offer a $5 per unit discount on multiple orders.


Chances are, before reading this article, you didn't know you needed a water purifier, or what the difference is between a water filter and water purifier!

But whether you now feel this might be useful when hiking outdoors, when traveling overseas, or just to keep in your household emergency kit, you probably now agree that a Steripen is a very convenient and effective solution to the problem of how to ensure you have reliable access to safe drinking water, wherever you are.

The Steripen is now a regular part of my international travel kit.  Recommended.

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Originally published 17 Dec 2004, last update 30 May 2021

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

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