SteriPEN Ultra

September 5, 2014

Suncreen should always be near the top of your pack list for just about any outdoor outing. Spending large amounts of time having fun in the sun unprotected can cause sunburn, and in extreme cases lead to skin cancer. Nobody likes too many UV rays — including bacteria, viruses, and protozoa that can knock you flat on your back through water borne illnesses. Harness the power of UV light in your hands, and give those annoyances the ultimate burn with a SteriPEN.

Back in 2012, I used the SteriPEN Journey throughout the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route to purify my water. The SteriPEN's UV lamp will kill a claimed 99.9% of the aforementioned nasties that leave you sick from bad water.

The SteriPEN Journey has since been replaced by the improved SteriPEN Ultra, and it remains easy and intuitive to use. Simply turn the SteriPEN on, place the bulb and diodes into a 1-liter container of water, stir, and watch the countdown on the display screen. Once the countdown is complete, you'll get a smiley face indicating that your water is clean and ready to drink. The SteriPEN can sense temperatures, and is able to adjust the timer to account for cold temperatures that may require longer exposure times. You'll probably want to grab a Nalgene for purifying your water, because for this to work properly the container can't have ribs or curves like a water bottle often does.

There are two big improvements that the Ultra has taken on over the Journey model. The first is that it is USB rechargeable, so you don't have to worry about finding CR123 batteries to keep your filter running. The second improvement is the high contrast OLED display, which is much easier to read in bright outdoor conditions. The Ultra can still purify a liter of water in 90 seconds, or a half liter in 48 seconds.

Notice I say that this purifies water as opposed to filters water. Since you're not pushing the water through any type of screen or filter, the SteriPEN will not remove debris, so try and scoop up fast moving water if possible. I did find myself drinking some murky water with no problems, but it's not always the most enjoyable. 

What's the biggest benefit to the SteriPEN? Through my experience, being able to scoop up water, and then run to the safety of your tent and purify it before the mosquitoes are able to get after you. The SteriPEN Ultra retails for $99.

Photo by Josh Tack

TOURING GEAR & TIPS is written by Joshua Tack of Adventure Cycling's member services department. It appears weekly, highlighting technical aspects of bicycle touring and advice to help better prepare you for the journey ahead. Look for Josh's "Fine Tuned" column in Adventure Cyclist magazine as well.

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