If Captain James T. Kirk were to whip out a water purifier, I bet it would look a lot like the Steripen. He’d probably keep it with his tricorder too. For any non-Trekkies out there, I am talking about Star Trek and the futuristic technology they have on that TV show. Steripen is better than fiction though because you can buy one, wave your ultraviolet light-producing gadget over your water, and make it safe to drink.
When I was a kid, we used to drink water straight from the creek without a thought. Many of the streams in my area were spring fed and flowed regularly, so maybe the water was safe to drink. In reality, luck probably kept me from getting sick. Now that I’m older and smarter, water purification is something I take pretty seriously.
SteriPen sold its first products in 1999. They have certifications from the Water Quality Association and have received the Gold Seal, so you know their stuff works. The ultraviolet light produced from the SteriPen eliminates all sorts of nasties in water, including bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. Ultraviolet technology has been used by water producers, municipalities and hospitals.
I bought my SteriPen Ultra from a local outfitter a few months ago. The Ultra has a USB rechargeable internal lithium battery that is supposed to handle 100 treatments at a half liter of water per charge. The ultraviolet lamp on the ultra is rated for 8,000 treatments. In its carrying case, my SteriPen Ultra weighs in at 5.7 ounces.
Using the SteriPen Ultra is really simple. Once the battery is charged, remove the protective cover from the tip of the pen and press the power button. Both one and half liter treatments are available. The only difference is how long the treatment cycle lasts. When it is ready, the SteriPen shows an icon to go ahead and put the pen in your water to start treatment. Next, a countdown timer and stirring pen are shown on the screen. A couple of electrodes on the pen detect trace minerals in the water so that the SteriPen knows it is in water. Stirring agitates the water and makes sure all of it is exposed to the light. Once treatment is complete, a happy smiley face is displayed on the screen and you can go ahead and drink.
The clearer the water is, the better for the SteriPen. Murky water may not allow the UV light to penetrate the water and treat it well. A filter to get rid of floating bits of leaves, grass, and other stuff in the water is needed if your water has any debris in it. SteriPen makes a cone shaped filter called the FitsAll filter for that purpose, and I may try and pick one of those up.
The advantage I see to the SteriPen is that you do not have to worry about your filter media clogging as with water filters. Also, the SteriPen does not add any taste to the water, and it is easy to use. Depending on your situation, a backup water treatment method may be advisable, in case you forget to charge the battery, or if you were to lose your SteriPen. So don’t toss those tablets yet. Just something to keep in mind when planning long or remote trips. The Ultra has an MSRP of $99.95 and can be found at www.steripen.com.