Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Steripen Adventurer – Handheld UV Water Purifier with a Solar Charging Case

If you anticipate a bike ride where water quality may be compromised you have a choice: add evil-tasting chemical tablets to your water or pack a Steripen. How do I know this? I asked Reese Huges, co-editor of Pacific Crest Trailside Reader: Oregon and Washington: Adventure, History, and Legend on the Long - Distance Trail to take the Steipen into the high Sierras, a test that would go far beyond what most bike tourists might require. Little did I know how much he would come to depend on it.

I used the Steripen and the Solar Charging Case as the sole means of purifying water for myself and two thirsty companions on a recent 17-day backpacking trip in the High Sierra. We rotated two batteries always keeping one in the solar charger, had access to relatively clean water (as opposed to turbid or highly contaminated H2O), and boiled untreated water for dinner and hot drinks. We’ve have been off the trail for a week and none of us has shown any sign of harboring giardia lamblia or other parasite.

Throughout the trip the steripen performed well. There is something wonderful about enjoying cool High Sierra water without the taste of chlorine or iodine or the inconvenience of a pump. We were especially concerned about battery life and meticulously monitored battery performance. The Steripen manual indicated that when using rechargeable CR123 batteries, about 30 liters should be able to be treated. We were able to treat 35, 36, and 34 liters between charges.

There are a couple of caveats to the solar charging system that should be noted. First, the manual indicates that 2-5 days are required to recharge the battery. With no way to determine the extent to which the recharge is complete, we always kept the charger exposed. It is hard to know how the system would perform in conditions with less solar exposure than the sunny Sierra. Second, use of a steripen does necessitate that you bring a wide mouth bottle. We would treat water in the wide mouth bottle and then transfer the water to our array of Camelbaks and Platypus containers. Most wide mouth bottles have attached tops that invariably get wet when filling the bottle and we often mused about just how that moisture gets sterilized. And, lastly, in a world where every ounce matters, the hard plastic case does add some weight although it does provide excellent protection for the steripen and, in total, weighs no more than the pump we have usually carried.

A final thought. I have also traveled extensively in the developing world and could see considerable application of the Steripen and the Solar Charging Case in those situations where access to safe drinking water is uncertain.

The Steripen Adventurer Opti (above) performed like a champ!  We were very pleased.

Rees Hughes
Co-Editor, Pacific Crest Trailside Reader: California: Adventure, History and Legend on the Long Distance Trail

So, friends, if you're heading across central Brazil or, say, downtown Garberville, on a bike tour you might want to pack a Steripen.

And whether you're planning a bike tour, hike or just a stroll over to the couch do take one of Rees' books along. These are true stories from the real wild west. Fasten your seat belt...