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Gear Review: Steripen Water Treatment
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Gear Review: Steripen Water Treatment

Gear Review: Steripen Water Treatment

Testing out the Steripen Ultra

Are you looking for a highly effective, easy to use, chemical-free option for treating water? I'd like to present to you the Steripen. This little device uses UV light to kill over 99.9% of bacteria, viruses and protozoa that can make you sick when you drink untreated water.

My boyfriend and I recently picked up a Steripen Ultra for use on a long backpacking trip through South America, and we've already been impressed with its ease of use. I've never been a big fan of water filters myself, preferring instead to use purification options like iodine, Aquamira, or chlorine. The biggest difference is that filters will actually "filter" your water, getting rid of any floaters, grit, or insects that may have gotten in, whereas water treatment simply kills anything that might be harmful. Because most of the water I drink while on the trail or during travel is fairly clean already, and because I'm not too concerned by the occasional speck of dirt or insect, I've never filtered, but always treated or boiled my water. However, in the past couple years two things have begun to happen. First of all, I've started to taste the Aquamira in my water more, and the sweet and sour aftertaste does not help with the constant battle to stay hydrated. Second of all, the price of Aquamira (or iodine for that matter) has become a deterrant. It is easy to pucture or lose the container, or not screw the lid on correctly and have it all drain out, and then you're forced to buy a new package. On a long trip overseas, it doesn't make sense to carry multiple bottles of liquid with you, and it would take a lot of Aquamira to treat every glass of water you drink while you travel. So then along came the Steripen.

Treating water at its source

To be honest, it took me a while to even seriously consider a Steripen because it seemed complicated, fragile, and full of potential error. I didn't know how it would stay charged or what sort of condition the water needed to be in to be safely treated. Well, as it turns out, the Steripen is incredibly easy to use, practically error free, and comes in a variety of battery options. Once you choose which Steripen is right for you, you simply put the glass wand in water, press a button, move it around for approximately 45 seconds (the device will tell you when it's done, and you move it around to expose every potential bacteria or virus), and voila! You have yourself a clean, bacteria and virus-free cup of water. The Steripen can treat 1 liter or 1/2 liter, or less if you just want to drink a glass of water. If you filled up an old plastic water bottle halfway and want to treat it, they even make an adapter so that the wand can fit inside the mouthpiece, the bottle can be turned upside down, and it can all get treated. And if you are a person who hates floaters and prefers filtered water, they have a pre-filter you can buy as well.

There are a wide variety of Steripen options out there, which can get confusing for the consumer. The best way to narrow it down is to decide whether you want to charge your Steripen with a USB (this is the option we chose since we'll usually have outlet or computer access to recharge after approxiamtely 50 uses), or use either disposable or rechargeable AA or CR123 batteries. If you're using your Steripen primarily for long backpacking trips, the battery option is nice so that you can carry extra with you. From there, it is just a matter of how much you want to spend, how much weight you mind carrying, and what extra features you like. I have to admit, I went for the Ultra mostly because it has a screen where a smiley face tells you when your water is good-to-go, therefore helping with the human error side of things. As far as fragility goes, the Steripen comes with a great hard case inside a soft case, and we haven't run into any problems while packing it. Compared to a typical filter, there are far fewer pieces to worry about clogging or breaking.

Gotta love waterfall water

After the first use, I think the Steripen sells itself. You have fresh, clean water from any source, and it tastes as amazing as the waterfall or creek that it just came from. We know we'll use our Steripen all over South America (imagine all the bottles we'll save!!), but we also look forward to using the Steripen on future backpacking trips and hikes. We have found our revolution in water treatment. Isn't it time you gave it a shot?

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