SteriPEN Traveler Water Purifier
A compact lighter version of the classic
The compact sized
SteriPEN units - the Traveler and Adventurer - work
identically to the original SteriPEN.
Simply place the unit in a container of up to one liter
(or one quart) of water, push the button, and stir while the
UV light is illuminated.
When the light goes out, your water is safe to drink.
You've added no chemicals, and the water hasn't acquired any
new tastes. What could be quicker, easier or better
Part 2 of a series on
SteriPEN products. Part 1
reviews the SteriPEN Classic model,
Part 3 reviews the solar charger.
The original SteriPEN was and
still is a wonderful item to provide you with safe drinking
water. Since its release, the Steripen people have been
working on a smaller more portable version of this unit, available as the Steripen Traveler or
the Steripen Adventurer
(identical units other than for their color schemes and names).
The new units work almost
identically to their older larger sibling, are priced slightly
higher, and of course are smaller and lighter. They also
come with a very useful option - a solar recharger.
Which is best for you?
Read on to find out.
About Water Purification in
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
series of units use
ultra-violet rays to kill viruses and bacteria in the water. To
use a Steripen, 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.
How the SteriPEN 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.
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.
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
The Steripen does not
neutralize any poisons or other bad chemicals. It kills
living things, but doesn't do anything to inert poisonous
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 - What You Get
The new SteriPEN Traveler
and Adventurer units come in an attractive box. Inside is
the SteriPEN itself, a set of batteries, a nylon carry case, and
a short instruction guide that is easy to understand and follow.
All SteriPEN units have a
lifetime warranty, offered to the original owner only. The
lifetime warranty excludes the replaceable lamp, which is
warranted for its 5000 use life.
The new SteriPEN models
(identical except for their name and color) measure 6” x 1½” x
¾” and weigh only 4 oz (complete with batteries). This is
about half the size and weight of the earlier SteriPEN.
Using the SteriPEN
Although the SteriPEN is a
very high tech and ingenious device, using it is as simple as
can be. Simply press the button on the unit - once for up
to a quart/liter of water, or twice for up to a pint/half liter,
then place the unit into the water.
When the SteriPEN senses it
has been placed in the water, it switches on. You then
stir the water with the SteriPEN until the light goes out, some
45 seconds later (if on the one pint setting) or 90 seconds (if
on the one quart setting). A green light on the LED
indicator signifies a successful treatment, a red light would
indicate an unsuccessful treatment.
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
$40 fee. The unit
gives a warning at 4900 uses so you can plan for the replacement
at a convenient time.
Discreet in Use
We like the fact that these
new SteriPEN units are compact and lightweight enough to be
carried in one's day carry bag. This means if you're
having lunch at a restaurant in an area where the water is of
dubious quality, you can ask for a glass of regular water with
your meal and use your SteriPEN at the table to sterilize it
without drawing a lot of attention to yourself.
This is possibly even a
better alternative than asking for bottled water (which
anecdotally is often filled from the tap out the back of the
One of the strategies to
reduce the size and weight of the Traveler and Adventurer
SteriPEN models has been to use smaller sized batteries - CR123
batteries (each about half the size of an AA battery).
This means the batteries
last for fewer uses than with the full-sized Steripen Classic.
You can expect to get about 100 uses on the 1 pint setting from
a set of two batteries.
If you use rechargeable
Li-Ion batteries, you can expect 40 - 50 uses before needing to
The unit has a low battery
indicator - a fast flashing red light, advising you to replace
CR-123 batteries cost about
$1.50 or so each, depending on where you buy them, which means
you are paying about 25c to treat each gallon of water, or 3c
per pint. This is vastly less expensive than buying
bottled water, and of course, in some places, bottled water is
not available or is of uncertain purity.
Which SteriPEN Model is Best
The Classic SteriPEN is less
expensive, but is also bulkier and heavier than the new Traveler
and Adventurer model SteriPENs.
With airlines increasingly
reducing the amount of luggage you can take with you for free,
and with weight and space considerations also being critical for
backpackers, the smaller and lighter units more than justify the
$20 extra cost for most people.
Two SteriPEN accessories to
The SteriPEN only works in
reasonably clear water. Cloudy (ie muddy/dirty) water
prevents the UV light from shining evenly through the water.
If you encounter muddy water, you have two solutions. You
can simply let the water sit for some time so the dirt settles,
then carefully pour the clear water on the top into a container
and then use the SteriPEN on that clearer water only, or you can
pre-filter the water to strain out the dirt. Pre-filtering
the water is a faster and simpler solution.
There are many different
water filters (and even a paper coffee filter would work in an
emergency) that can be used, including SteriPEN's own Water
Bottle Prefilter, which lists for $12.95 and is available from
Travel Essentials for only $9.95. Travel Essentials
stock the complete range of SteriPEN products.
The second accessory to
consider is the battery charger to be used with rechargeable
Li-Ion CR-123 batteries for the Adventurer and Traveler.
SteriPEN's battery charger can work either from mains power
anywhere in the world, or from solar power using its built in
This is reviewed separately
(review pending) and can be purchased for $49.95 (this includes
a set of rechargeable batteries).
Where to Buy
Steripen is manufactured by
Hydro-Photon in the US. They have retail distributors
spread around the US.
Alas, Hydro-Photon forbid discounting.
Travel Essentials offer all SteriPEN units,
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.
SteriPEN 'Classic' for $79.95
SteriPEN Adventurer for $99.95
SteriPEN Traveler for $99.95
SteriPEN Prefilter for $9.95
SteriPEN Charger for $49.95
For More Information about
SteriPEN and Water Purification
Please read our
review of the original SteriPEN Classic
model which contains more information about water purification,
the important differences between filtration and purification,
and more information about the SteriPEN units in general.
Clean safe drinkable water
is something we take for granted in the US, but is often a
rarity in much of the rest of the world.
With a SteriPEN
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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18 May 2007, 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.