A Convenient & Highly Effective Water Treatment System


The Steripen is one of the coolest inventions I’ve ever come across. As you all know, I am an avid hiker, backpacker, and all around adventurer. I love to be outside, and of course I need to stay hydrated and avoid all of the horrible illness associated with contaminated water. Therefore, I ALWAYS treat water in the backcountry.

For an extra couple of minutes of time, I like the peace of mind that treating water provides. For all of my tips and info on water treatment, check out my article in Hiking 101: Water Treatment.

I was one of the early adopters of the Steripen. I bought mine 2 years ago, and there’s no looking back! Simply attach the “Steripen pre-filter” to your Nalgene bottle, fill it up at an appropriate water source (running water is best), remove the pre-filter, and zap your water with the UV light of the Steripen for 90 seconds. The pre-filter prevents dirt from getting into your water, and the UV light kills protozoa, bacteria, AND viruses (filters can’t kill viruses).

Why I like my Steripen?

  • Lightweight. I am not an Ultralight backpacker yet, but I do try to keep my packweight down. Using a Steripen definitely helps with that!
  • Low Volume. It hardly takes up any space in my backpack. I keep mine in the sidepocket of my Gregory Deva 60 pack for easy access.
  • Very easy to use. Yes it’s simple if you read the directions. I keep a photocopy of the “troubleshooting” guide in my map case just in case…
  • Super quick. It only takes 90 seconds to zap 1 liter of water.

And for those of you who’ve been reading my reviews for awhile, you know that I always am unbiased and like to point out the negatives as well. For the Steripen, it’s really hard to call some of these negatives but…

  • You do have to take extra batteries with you. The Steripen is only as reliable as the batteries it operates on, so if you are doing a 6 month Pacific Crest Trail thru hike, the Steripen probably isn’t the best option for you.
  • Steripens are pricey. The technology is great, and I still consider it a good value, but they can run $80+.
  • Filters can be faster for large groups. If you’re in the backcountry with a big group of (4+) people, a powerful filter will likely faster. Also, unlike the Steripen, filters don’t eliminate viruses – you’re unlikely to have problems with viruses in the water in the U.S., but for those of you overseas or planning at Himalayan trek, keep this in mind.

Further evidence as to why the Steripen is so amazing? My Steripen Classic is the most borrowed piece of hiking gear. Out of all the stuff I own, my friends are constantly asking to borrow my Steripen for their own backpacking trips.

Using my Steripen in the backcountry!
Using my Steripen in the backcountry!

PS – One more tip: If you decide to buy a Steripen, definitely get the pre-filter. Otherwise you’re gonna have to come up with your own method for keeping dirt out of the water (bandana, coffee filter?). I prefer to have the custom fit Steripen pre-filter that screws on perfectly to my Nalgene 🙂 Check out my answer to this reader’s question: Does the SteriPEN pre-filter keep the Nalgene threads bacteria free?

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