Steripen Traveler UV Handheld Water Purifier Review

I found out about the Steripen Traveler UV Handheld Water Purifier from another parent in my son’s Boy Scout troop so I had to check this nifty device out. As any Scout knows, untreated water in the wild may look good but may harbor nasty organisms like Giardia and Cryptosporidium. If you do any traveling to areas of the world where water treatment isn’t always done right, having a device like this may help you prevent unpleasant illness. Let’s take a look at this handy water purifier.

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It’s hard to believe but just swirling the Steripen Traveler UV Handheld Water Purifier in a 16 ounce glass of water for about a minute will destroy 99.99% or more of the bacteria, viruses and protozoa using ultraviolet (UV) light technology. UV technology has been used for almost a century in hospitals and treatment plants to purify water but the Steripen Traveler is the first time that such a device has been available in a handheld package.

The Steripen Traveler UV Handheld Water Purifier is lightweight and uses CR123 batteries, a typical camera battery. I would have preferred for it to have used less expensive and more common AAA or AA batteries but I guess this would add to the weight. The battery life seems to be decent enough but you probably wouldn’t want to be purifying water for a lot of people with it at once. It is a personal device, after all.

Operating the Steripen is easy, just swirl it around until the detector light turns green. You don’t need to do any pumping through a filter, timing how long you’ve swirled it around or use any additional chemicals or test strips. Of course, the Steripen Traveler UV Handheld Water Purifier won’t do anything about the taste of the water either good or bad. It won’t get the rotten egg smell out of sulfur rich water, for example, nor will it change the taste of the water like many chemical purifiers do. If the water you intend to drink isn’t clear, you may need to do some filtering first or just find a better supply of water. 

If you travel to less developed areas of the world, are concerned about natural disasters cutting your supply of clean water or just like to camp out in the wilderness you should check out the Steripen Traveler UV Handheld Water Purifier.


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Comment by Fergus Mayhew
2008-07-02 10:17:36

I find it really hard to imagine that the Steripen Traveler UV Handheld Water Purifier can do everything it says it can, but I think I’ll pick one up & try it out.

We spend a fair amount of time in the back country near where our home, and this is just the sort of thing that would give an added level of security for hikes where the water we’re carrying starts running low. Thanks for the suggestion.

Comment by trade show booths
2008-07-02 14:12:32

Frank, I leave it to you to find interesting products to review. I grew up backpacking in the Sierras and using a pump/filter system. Giardia isn’t something you want to become familiar with. This new UV system is interesting, but I’m not sure I quite trust it. I agree on your comment about the batteries - we have some “talking” kids books with the CR123 batteries and they seem to run out pretty quick. For backpacking I think I’d still go with the pump, but this may be of interest for travelling. A cheap emergency alternative is a little bottle of bleach. In a emergency, mix a teaspoon of it into a gallon of questionable water and let it sit for a while to work and let the chlorine evaporate. I can’t guarantee it but it was what we were told as kids.
Anyway, the real test is to get a pint of water out of a high country stream, swirl the pen, and then drink the water. Are you up for that? :) ~ Steve

Comment by jfc
2008-07-02 16:09:12

Hi Steve,

Bleach isn’t 99.9999% effective against Cryptosporidum and Giardia like this device is supposed to be. Probably the closest chemical water purification tablets or drops but these take up to 4 hours to work. Also, with commercial bleach, there may be hazardous additives or industrial impurities.

As for how well this works, I ought to check with a Army Reserves Master Sgt. I know. He’s in charge of mobile water purification, just like in that Pauly Shore movie, and I’m sure he would know exactly how safe it was.

Comment by trade show booths
2008-07-02 16:57:07

Frank, man, you know a lot! Hadn’t thought about the problems of bleach (I’ve never had to use it). I’d probably take the risk in an emergency where I risked dying of dehydration versus getting Giardia. I hope to never face that decision. I’d be interested in the opinion of your Army Reserves Master Sgt, and would trust it. ~ Steve

Comment by Vacation Tips
2008-07-03 02:22:03

Gadgets such as Steripen Traveler UV Handheld Water Purifier appear to be the trendy “green” thing to carry in the 3rd world - apparently its bad to drink bottled water as all the locals do! I would probably have used something like Steripen Traveler UV Handheld Water Purifier when trekking in the Himalayas ’cause Ican vouch that Iodine makes water taste absolutely foul. And carrying a couple of tiny camera batteries is no big deal: but for the cities I don’t think you need something like Steripen Traveler UV Handheld Water Purifier just drink the water the locals do!

Comment by jfc
2008-07-03 08:42:04

Hi Lissie,

I don’t know that I’d call it “trendy green” necessairily. Maybe a good way to avoid illness on a trip and save a little money on overpriced bottled water.

As for city water, you don’t want to drink tap water in most places in Mexico and Central America and certain Caribbean Islands unless you want a case of Montezuma’s Revenge.

2008-07-11 04:19:21

In fact bottled water is very reasonably priced in most developing countries: just avoid the foreign water they sometimes try to get the tourist to pay for! I drank the tap water in India for months and never got sick: its actually the dirty kitchens which will get you!

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Comment by Cect 168 Phones
2008-07-04 05:09:22

I think it is also a mistake to drink the local water if you’re only gonna be in town for a couple of days. Often, the local water is every bit as safe as your water but you are now used to whatever oddities that your local water may contain. In a new town, you may well discover that the local water has different qualities, and it’ll take more than a few days to get used to them. The Steripen Traveler UV Handheld Water Purifier might well get you through a couple of days without needing to make your body adjust to local water.

Comment by Fergus Mayhew
2008-07-04 05:13:18

I assume there is a difference between drinking the local tap water and drinking local bottled water. Perhaps I’m naive, but I had always assumed that bottled water would be pretty much safe to drink wherever you travel. Now, if you’re planning to drink tap water, then the Steripen Traveler UV Handheld Water Purifier would be very valuable.

Comment by jfc
2008-07-04 10:06:35

Hi Fergus,

What you have to watch out for, in Mexico in particular, are people refilling water bottles with tap water, resealing them, and selling them to tourists on the streets or small stores.

Comment by Fergus Mayhew
2008-07-08 13:47:56

I never even thought of that … I’m a naive, trusting soul with a big “Kick Me” sign on my back!

Forewarned is forearmed … I’ll watch out for that.

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Comment by trade show booths
2008-07-08 17:28:33

hi Frank, good comment on being careful in Mexico of locals just refilling bottles with the local tap water and resealing them. All the more reason to only drink beer when you’re there! :)
Any word from your Army Reserves Master Sgt friend on his thoughts on the effectiveness of the Steripen Traveler UV Handheld Water Purifier?
~ Steve (the guy with no portable water purifiers but plenty of portable trade show booths!)

Comment by jfc
2008-07-09 22:52:45

Hi Steve,

He hasn’t responded to my email yet. He could be on a deployment right now. I did find out that several military units use the Steripen in survival packs by doing some Googling around though.

Comment by jfc
2008-08-04 09:46:02

Hi Steve,

I heard back from him.

I would not have a problem using the UV purification in a personal or survival scenario. It will handle the major organisms you will find in poorly treated water supplies. I do feel safer using a reverse osmosis water purification process when drawing from a raw water source. This process will not only handle the bacteria but will also handle any larger parasites and many dangerous chemical impurities and suspended particulates that a brief UV exposure will not take care of.

Comment by trade show booths
2008-07-10 08:49:58

Hi Frank, Thanks for the update. The fact that several military units have it in survival packs makes it very credible to me. I’ve been intending to put together an earthquake/disaster survival kit for a while now (I live in California, and just had a wildfire burning too close for comfort). I’ve bookmarked the Steripen for when I put together that kit. I’ll still be looking for a response from your friend. Thanks again. ~ Steve

Comment by trade show booths
2008-07-10 10:24:54

hi Frank, I can’t believe I made the comment two days ago about an alternative to unsafe water - drink beer! Then just now I came across an editorial by George Will titled “Beer: The key to our survival”. Is George Will reading optempo now? The editorial is funny, but also points out how unsafe water was a HUGE deal in the past. I won’t say any more about it, other than it ends with a great quote by Ben Franklin, “Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”. You can read the article here:
Steve (my new motto ~ drink plenty of beer and then buy some portable trade show booths!)

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