In my section of our best and worst travel gear of 2009 post I raved about the SteriPen, classifying it as the product I’d most likely be talked into doing infomercials for—that’s how much I like it. At the Outdoor Retailers show this past January I swung by the parent company’s booth and saw that they had a new model coming out: the SteriPen Adventurer Opti with a built-in L.E.D. light. They sent me one to check out just as it’s hitting the shelves, so here’s my pseudo-infomercial as a demo.
You don’t want to overhaul a product that’s already working well, so thankfully this new version is just an upgrade. The shape, weight, and functionality are the same. What has changed is the addition of a single L.E.D. light. That helps guide you when you’re purifying water in the dark or conversely if you’re having a hard time seeing that it’s working in very bright light. It also works as a flashlight in a pinch, if you hold down the single button for three seconds to make it stop flashing, so it now qualifies as double-duty gear.
The SteriPen Adventurer was already a wonder, enabling travelers to avoid chucking hundreds of single-use plastic water bottles into landfills or into the rivers that flow into our oceans. You can’t drink the water in some countries, but that doesn’t mean you can’t carry your own bottle and refill it. Just zap it with this—48 seconds for a half liter, 90 seconds for a liter—and you’re good to go. The ultraviolet light kills any and all microbes.
Everyone I know that travels with one of these raves about it. They may have been skeptical at first, but when you’ve traveled through nine developing countries like I have without getting one case of the runs, you tend to become convinced. My daughter drank water purified with a SteriPen in Mexico (four times), Guatemala, and Belize and stayed healthy too. So did my wife, so three for three.
This item is no trouble to pack as it only weighs 3.6 ounces including the batteries and it’s compact. It comes with disposable batteries that will last about 100 purification sessions. Once those wear out, you can be more eco-friendly by using rechargeable ones. In the video posted above I show off the solar charger accessory you can buy that also doubles as a padded carrying case. It takes about eight hours for the batteries to fully charge, but you can go for 50-60 sessions before you need to do it again.
This product retails for around $100, which is more than a bulky pump, but not unreasonable considering you never have any filters or parts to replace. Even putting aside the question of you personally wrecking the environment by buying throwaway water bottles your whole vacation, do the math on the ROI. You’ll see it doesn’t take too many trips for the SteriPen Adventurer Opti to pay for itself compared to continually buying liter after liter of water in convenience stores and restaurants. After all, tap water is still free most places.
Stop thinking about it and go buy one. The planet will thank you and eventually so will your wallet.
Get the Adventurer Opti at Backcountry.com
Get it at EMS.
Tim Leffel is founder of the Practical Travel Gear blog, as well as the Cheapest Destinations blog and the narrative webzine Perceptive Travel. He is the author of The World's Cheapest Destinations (now in its 4th edition), Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune, and A Better Life for Half the Price.
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