Monday, June 27, 2011

Product Review - Steripen Classic

I had the worst thing happen to me for my birthday- I was given cash. For most people this isn't a problem, but I really wanted to stretch those greenbacks. I decided a water purification system was what I really needed, since I've got at least 3 backpacking trips planned this summer. This article will summarize my research and review the purification system I decided on.
First, my needs.
1. It had to be small and light.
2. It had to kill viruses, protozoa and bacteria.
3. Any consumables like filters, batteries and so on had to be inexpensive and ubiquitous enough to find them in small towns.
4. The filter shouldn't impart any taste to the water that had to be removed.
5. It had to be durable.
6. The purfication process had to be fast.
First I was dead set on traditional pump filtration. However, pumps are big and heavy, don't kill viruses, filters can't be bought at any corner gas station, usually impart some sort of taste, and though durable, takes forever to clean the water. 1 out of 6 isn't bad.
Just so you know, the EPA rates water treatment devices in two forms:
-water filters, that remove 99.9% of bacteria and protozoa, but not viruses.
-water purifiers, that remove 99.9% of bacteria, protozoa AND viruses.
Besides the faults listed above, pump filters eventually will clog and have to be cleaned or replaced. Replacing the filter usually costs half the price of a full new pump filter. I don't know, there's still something almost romantic as sitting creekside, hearing the constant "SLURP... SLOGG" of a water filter.
I forgot to mention... my budget was $60, so most mid range, and all high end filters were out of limits.
I'd heard of UV purifiers, but I was a skeptic. How was a little light bulb going to kill tiny civilizations of microbes? I didn't believe it until I talked to an expert. One of my customers works for the Salt Lake City water department, and said a lot of cities nationwide were treating their culinary water with UV.
I looked into the Steripen. The 'classic' model ran on lithium AA batteries, so the consumables are easy and cheap to get. The unit was small and light, was rated as a 'purifier' by the EPA, and didn't impart any taste to the water. So I bought one. I was able to use it this week, and it is really easy to use. I got the bundle with the nalgene prefilter, so just screw on the filter, dip into the water, unscrew the filter nipple, push the button (once for 1 liter, twice for a half liter), put the Steripen into the hole with a snug fit and invert, stirring the bottle. After the bulb stops glowing, pull out the pen, dry it off, replace the bulb cap and store in the included neoprene case.
Oh, and fast? You'll have a liter of cool drinking water in 90 seconds. Try to do that with a pump filter.
Ok, enough praise. Now the drawbacks. That brown puddle water you have to dip in because the world is in a post apocalyptic dystopic anarchy? Yeah, the water will stay brown, but the bugs inside will be dead. The Steripen's only filtration comes from the prefilter nipple, for lack of a better word. It will screen out sediment and large debris, but know that no water treatment will filter out heavy metals. So, don't drink downstream from mine tailings.
The other problem I forsee is if the water level is too low to dip a nalgene in, I don't know how I could purify it. This however could be remedied with my GSI glacier cup dipping in the flow and filling the nalgene.
Aside from a few legitimately easy to avoid drawbacks the Steripen really fits the bill. I give it 5 stars.
Here Eric demontrates how easy it is to use:

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