I cannot begin to explain how much I dread testing a product like this. Many years ago, I moved to another state, and on the trip there, picked up a stomach bug. That resulted in a couple of days curled up with two blankets in front of a heater, shivering. The only time I got up was to run to the bathroom. Despite my vow never to repeat that, the same thing happened on my arrival in Australia. Not only was I violently ill, but the walk from the bedroom to the bathroom grew by a mile with each trip, due to my delirium. After a few days, I was up and about. But like a beaten dog, I will never forget. So when we received our SteriPEN Freedom to review, it was with more than a bit of trepidation that I set out to test it.
Yes, SteriPEN products have been proven all over the world to be incredibly effective at neutralizing the bad stuff in water that ruins vacations. And yes, the SteriPEN Freedom is virtually idiot-proof. But sometimes, I like to think of myself as a better idiot. One that can mess up even the simplest of tasks. The reason for this is simple. Unless we started with a water sample that we knew was bad, there is no way to know with 100% certainty that my arch nemesis – giardia, and his partner in crime, cryptosporidium were truly dead, other than me getting sick. I actually put off this review until I met the SteriPEN rep in person at Outdoor Retailer, and she assured me that I was being a big baby. The UV lamp in SteriPEN products doesn’t necessarily kill 99.9 of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. No, it does something more ominous to those vicious microbes. It disrupts their DNA. So you may still be swallowing them, but they will be unable to reproduce inside of you. Sucks to be them, right?
With that in mind, we collected a couple of water samples from a stream above the Sundance resort on Mount Timpanogos (Apologies to Robert Redford, if we happened to trespass), and proceeded with our simple test. Luckily, the Freedom is designed to be exceptionally easy to use. (Remember, idiot proof) Removing the cover activates it, giving you 13 seconds to get it into water. I could almost hear the Mission Impossible theme playing my head, but still managed to get the lamp and sensors underwater in that much time. At that point, I stirred gently while the green LED on the tail end of the unit flashed slowly. This action is necessary to expose all the water-bound enemies to the UV light, but would make for a terrible martini. After roughly 48 seocnds, the light changed from flashing to solid. Not as dramatic as toast popping out of your toaster, but a clear indicator that your water is ready. Then came the moment of truth. I drank. Then nothing. Twenty four hours later, still nothing. At 48 hours, I considered it a success.
Despite my overly-dramatic review, the SteriPEN Freedom is indeed an effective and easy to use device. After a 30 second explanation, Ms. Outsider was able to demonstrate for the attached photos. It’s relatively small and compact (5.1″ x 1.4″ x 0.8″) and weighs only 2.6 ounces. What really makes it special is that it’s rechargeable. It has a built in battery good for 40 treatments of 16 ounces (a half liter) each, between charges. The micro USB port is covered by an extremely tight fitting seal, and allows it to be charged from an AC outlet at home, a computer on the go, or a solar unit when you are really out and about. Expect 8,000 treatments from the lamp, with a warning at 7,900, reminding you to have the lamp replaced by SteriPEN or one of their authorized technicians within 100 treatments. Although it’s certainly worth the MSRP of $119.95 for the peace of mind, plus not getting sick from a drink of water, the Freedom will cost you the grand sum of 1.5 cents per treatment over the life of the product. Seems more than reasonable. And because the desingers at SteriPEN like to offer a little something extra, there’s a built in LED light that is activated by a few twists of the wrist, rather than a switch that wouldn’t be as waterproof. Other tangibles include a neoprene case, USB cable and AC adapter, as well as instructions in English, Spanish, French, and German. If you’re like me, and fear water-borne bugs, the SteriPEN Freedom would make a great addition to your camping gear, emergency kit, or travel bag. steripen.com