New SteriPen Adventurer Opti Model Review

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

Get it at EMS.

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Tim Leffel

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.


  1. Gene on May 12, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    I’ve been wanting to get one of these. I spent $35 on bottled water on my last one week vacation in Mexico and it annoyed the hell out of me. That’s a lot of beer I could have bought!

  2. Chris on May 13, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    Haha, yeah Gene I can understand that. All those Boston folks a couple weeks ago were probably buying bottled water instead of beer, sad time for Bostonians. I bought the SteriPEN with the solar charging kit and love it. I bought it from All Mountain Access, which I have bought from them before and I got in like 3 days.

  3. John on May 27, 2010 at 2:56 am

    You neglected to mention the most important change to the Adventurer Opti. It has a different method of detecting the presence of water. This has apparently been a problem for a significant number of users of the original Adventurer, and the unit would sometimes fail to work. Instead of using probes, which did not always work reliably in certain conditions, the new Adventurer Opti detects water optically – hence the name. I don’t have one yet, but the new Opti is reputed to be more reliable.

  4. Mathieu on March 3, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    Wow! I am going to have to look at these opti. This is a great tool for when you are traveling, Well done ! I wonder how long the batteries would last if use regularly?

  5. Adam B. on March 10, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    This looks like a very handy tool – especially the solar charged one, but can’t looking at the ultraviolet light cause eye damage?

  6. Tim L. on March 11, 2011 at 8:19 am

    Adam, there’s zero risk of damage unless you’re using it to purify your tears.

  7. Marsha on June 16, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    I have the old Steri-pen Adventurer anad can’t imagine going anywhere out of the US without it. Being a doubting Thomas I tested it out with water from our fish pond. And i am still alive to talk about it!

  8. Buff on July 6, 2011 at 11:45 am

    How have I not heard of this? If i saw it on an infommercial I’d probably ignore it completely but reading these comments has made me think twice. I’m planning a trip to mexico pretty soon. I’ve heard the water down there is absolutely terrible. I’ll be staying there for a while so this pen is probably a must-have right?

  9. Tim L. on July 6, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    In Mexico the ice and any water served in a restaurant or mercado will be purified, but what comes out of the tap is not unless you’re at a resort with a big in-house purification system. So yes, I’ve used this a lot in Mexico when on the move.

  10. Buffy on July 23, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    Awesome, I will pick one up next week! Thanks for the insight Tim.

  11. Michelle on June 30, 2013 at 11:23 am

    Hi, Tim. Your video about the Steripen is great! I thought this only existed in my dreams. 🙂 I’m a germaphobe and I’ve always wanted to go to Mexico but I have such a fear about the water. I do have a question for you though. Although you and your family use the Steripen for water you drink, have you ever gotten sick from the food? I always hear that in Mexico a lot of people who drink purified water still get sick from something in the food… like salads, fresh fruit, etc. I’d like all the tips I can get! Thank you.

  12. Tim Leffel on June 30, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    That can happen anywhere Michelle. I’m sure you’ve gotten the runs sometime from a restaurant at home too. But Mexico has moved leaps and bounds forward in the past two decades and it’s much safer than it used to be. Even market stall places use purified water and wash their veggies well, so I don’t get sick any more often in Mexico than I do in the U.S. now. Still, it always pays to be careful, especially the first few days after arrival. Some peoples’ stomachs get upset just because of the different ingredients (and more spice than they’re used to).