SteriPEN Review: Never Again Have to Filter Water in the Backcountry
I’ve used pump filters, pills, and the filters built into water bottles. When it comes to portable water purification, none of them compares to the SteriPEN.
Pumps are larger, heavier and take up precious cargo space for multi-day backpacking trips. They are also quite a bit of work and take a lot of time – especially when you’re in a group with many bottles to fill. Pills make the water taste nasty. Most filters I have used are both expensive (for those that meet our rigorous needs) and limited in use and capacity. From an environmental waste perspective, UV light is definitely the lowest impact and most sustainable at 8,000 treatments.
I bought my first SteriPEN about eight years ago in preparation for working in the jungles of the South Pacific. Heading off-grid with limited to no access to safe, potable water and backpacking a majority of the time, I opted for the SteriPEN Adventurer which came with the added bonus of a solar charging case. Though I had been backpacking my whole life, I knew that local water sources from my home near Olympic National Park were vastly different from those I would find in the harsher jungle environment. Parasites and microbes that my body was not accustomed to could go so far as to kill me if I wasn’t careful. With the added knowledge that I would often be days or weeks away from medical care if I did get sick or something went wrong, I knew I needed something I could count on.
Little did I know just how right I was.
Until my time on the remote islands of Vanuatu, I had never experienced the joy of skimming back a film of dead mosquitos and leaf debris in order to fill my water bottle. This helped me get “a little less protein”, but when that is the only source of water in a brutal jungle environment, you embrace what you have. At that point, it really is about living or dying of thirst. Judging by what I could see, I cringed thinking of all the fun little nasties that I couldn’t see. Staring at my now full water bottle, with an unappetizing number of floaties, I couldn’t help but cringe. With two weeks left in our trip, the last thing I wanted to do was wind up in the fetal position with diarrhea, fever or any of the other dozens of horrible ailments that can come along with contaminated water.
Faithfully, I immersed my SteriPEN Adventurer into the bottle. I couldn’t help but watch intently as the faint blue glow of the ultraviolet lights reassured me that it was doing its job. I will not comment further on flavor or consistency. However, I will testify that the SteriPEN did its job. I never got sick. I also never got dehydrated and I never went thirsty. No matter how nasty the water!
It wasn’t just the purified water that I got from the SteriPEN – it was also the confidence that it gave to me and the others in my party. The science is simple and easy to understand. The ultraviolet light renders the contaminants harmless. We never had to worry about our water source, just that there was one. The device is easy to use as well as fast and efficient. It’s lightweight, compact nature lends well to backcountry backpacking.
I haven’t been in the jungle for several years, but still often go on backpacking treks into the wilderness of Olympic National Park and elsewhere. The water sources are primarily clean, crisp, and cold mountain streams. (No extra protein.) Although I have been drinking from many of these crystal clear mountain water sources since I was a kid, I now use my SteriPEN without fail – better safe than sorry. The last thing I want is Beaver Fever (Giardiasis) to ruin a chance at stunning views, high mountain lake fishing, and other epic experiences.
If all of the above is not enough to convince you, SteriPEN’s customer service definitely will. I am always impressed when a company stands behind their products with a 100% replacement guarantee.
It’s too bad though that not all companies are as honest about fulfilling their promises of full replacement warranties as this earth conscience company is. After eight long years of use, my original Adventurer finally died. The SteriPEN support process was amazing! I was helped by David Snyder on their technical support team. He made very relevant recommendations for troubleshooting and worked with me through the entire process from beginning to end. What really amazed me though was his responsiveness and kindness throughout the interaction. Here are a couple excerpts:
David – “We’ll take care of it as quickly as possible. When is your next wilderness trip planned for?”
Me – “…no rush, next wilderness trip will be in June. Thank you so much for your assistance. It’s been an outstanding experience so far.”
David – “I’ll keep my eye out for your pen and make sure it is shepherded through our repair shop as quickly as possible, certainly well before your June trip.”
In my opinion, that is above and beyond when it comes to customer care. I am a loyal SteriPEN user, and will be for years to come. Congratulations SteriPEN (and David) you’ve earned a lifelong dedicated supporter of your products. And if anyone needs yet another reason to buy:
With each purchase, SteriPEN contributes to water4. This project works toward empowering local entrepreneurs to bring clean water to their own communities.
The interaction with SteriPEN and David began on April 18, and a couple short weeks later I had a brand new SteriPEN to replace my old one. What a great excuse to hit the backcountry and try it out! So adventuring we went, doing a short overnighter to FlapJack Lakes in the Olympic National Park (highly recommended, check out the Flapjack Lakes post here).
Here are a few shots of the new pen in action.
Thanks, SteriPEN! (…and a special shout out to David Snyder – Thanks for the great customer support!)