Sunday, May 3, 2009

Review: Steripen Adventurer

I've been looking into water purifiers for a long time. It's a pain to have to carry 3 liters of water with me for an overnighter. Half of my gear weight comes from my water. I've looked at filters, but have read horror stories of them clogging or breaking, and the replacement filters can be very expensive. I've looked into chemicals, but some of them taste terrible, and they all take a long time to work. I even considered going with no purification, but that has always made me nervous. I wanted something small, easy, and safe to use that would give instant satisfaction when on a day hike.

Enter the Steripen. The Steripen line of water purifiers use ultraviolet rays to "deactivate" viruses and bacteria (it alters their DNA, so that they can't reproduce). The same thing happens in nature, where the sun purifies water. The appeal of the Steripen is that it's small, usable for years with only replacement batteries, and will purify a liter (quart) of water in 90 seconds. This means that I can go out with almost no gear at all and still drink as much as I want, as long as there's a water source nearby. Plus, I get to connect with nature and taste everything in the stream. That may sound gross, but I'd rather drink what comes from the mountains than what comes through a municipal supply.

Now, on to my review. I can't tell you anything about the effectiveness, since I've never gotten sick with or without water purification. So instead, I'll talk about my impressions.

The Steripen Adventurer is light. According to the official website, the Steripen Adventurer is 3.6 oz. (105 grams) with batteries. That doesn't mean much to me, but it weighs less than half a cup of water. That's pretty light! It also takes up very little space in my pack. It's about the size of a small water bottle, and actually fits in the water bottle pocket of my pack.

It takes CR123 batteries, a common camera battery (they look like half-size AAs). While not as easy to find as AA batteries, any Wal Mart or Target has them. Supposedly, they last for 50 liters or so, which is plenty for an entire season of camping for me.

Using the Steripen is easy. You take off the cap, push the button, and then stick it in the water and stir it for 90 seconds for a liter of water. In practice, it is slightly harder than that for me. For the Steripen to work, the two contact points must be submerged (the little silver oval on the above picture). While this isn't a problem with Nalgene bottles, I'm using a Gatorade bottle, and the contact points barely fit in the mouth. It does work, but the bottle has to be filled up all the way to the top. This is difficult when drawing water from a shallow stream, so I've come with my own system (more on that in another post). Just be aware that if you're using a Gatorade bottle user, you'll need to be able to fill it up to the very rim.

The other thing that makes a Steripen a little more difficult to use is that the water needs to be clear. Murky water blocks the UV rays, making it ineffective. However, I did find some good information in the owner's manual that I hadn't found online. It says it will work with relatively clear water. In their words, it wil work with water that looks like"weak lemonade," the kind that you can still see through, but is slightly cloudy. Plus, with water that is a little more cloudy than this, it suggests using the Steripen twice. And you can always prefilter the water with a bandana, which helps somewhat.

As for construction, the Adventurer seems pretty sturdy. It has a rubbery feel, and is easy to grip when wet. The cap is very secure, to the point where I had a hard time getting it on and off. I don't think I'd want to drop it on the wand when the cap isn't on, as I'm pretty sure it would break, but I think that it could sustain a drop with the cap on. And when in its protective cloth case, I wouldn't be worried about it at all.

All in all, I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars. It loses slight points for needing clear water and the slight difficulty of use in Gatorade bottles. But I still think it's the best solution out there!

Price: $79.95 w/free shipping from
Build time: N/A
Availability of materials: You can buy it online almost anywhere, and I've found it in a couple of local outdoor stores. The batteries aren't hard to find, either.
Durability: As long as you don't drop it with the cap off.
Functionality: Works quickly and easily with clear water; not as good with murky water.
Portability: Will fit in a cargo pocket or on a belt.


  1. Have you ever tried using a coffee filter rather than a bandanna? With a tighter weave, it might get more 'gunk' out. And the weight is negligible.

  2. Tetsubo--
    That's a good idea. I don't have any coffee filters, but I might go out and get some to try. Are they reusable (at least a couple of times)?

    What I've done is double the bandanna, which increases the "junk" filtering. If a coffee filter is able to clarify the water a little, I may try that. Thanks!

  3. you can get metal coffee filters that are reusable, otherwise the paper ones can be dried out and reused

  4. Dave,
    How long do the metal coffee filters last? Can they be washed? I don't think I've ever seen metal ones, but then again, I've never looked.

  5. Metal coffe filters are not as good as the paper ones. The mesh is smaal enought that the grounds don't go through but small dirt particles will probaly make it through. When I used one for making coffe there was coffe powder in the bottom of my cup. Great idea on the filters though and I will more than likely get myself a steripen soon. Thanks for the video.

  6. I bought a Steripen. I'm glad that you like yours Paco. I think it's a great innovation.