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Hands-on Gear Review

SteriPEN Adventurer Opti Review

SteriPen Adventurer Opti
Price:   $90 List | $69.99 at Amazon
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Pros:  More reliable than other SteriPEN models, doubles as a flashlight, compact and lightweight, effective against viruses, quick treatment time
Cons:  Need to monitor batteries closely, does not filter particulate, limited to using with certain containers, does not treat water on threads of bottle
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   SteriPEN

Our Verdict

For UV purification, the SteriPEN Adventurer Opti is lighter, smaller, and more reliable than the SteriPen Journey LCD. SteriPEN seems to have overcome a few of the finicky reliability issues with this model, and have developed a more compact and easy to use unit, though the green or red light indicating if it worked can be hard to see. It also has the fun feature of doubling as a flashlight. It is less bulky than the other UV purification option, the CamelBak All Clear, but not as low maintenance as a simple and long-lasting filter unit like the Sawyer Squeeze since it still requires battery changing and monitoring.

As with all SteriPENS, with the Adventurer you are limited to what size and type of container you can use to purify your water in, and it does not strain out particulate, requiring the user to be more diligent in selection of water sources. It does, however, have the added benefit of treating viruses, making it a particularly desirable choice for international travel. Weighing 4.61 ounces, the Adventurer is an excellent option for a weight conscious hiker who wants a chemical-free purification method. An even lighter SteriPEN model is the SteriPEN Freedom, which has the benefit of using a micro-USB charger that can be hooked up to a solar charger.


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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
McKenzie Long
Senior Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Tuesday
August 12, 2014

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A handheld UV light unit, the Adventurer Opti purifies water, meaning that it treats for viruses as well as bacteria and protozoa. It does not filter out particulate, however.

Performance Comparison


Amanda Fenn using the 4.6 ounce SteriPen Adventurer Opti to purify water in her Nalgene bottle while hiking in the Sierra.
Amanda Fenn using the 4.6 ounce SteriPen Adventurer Opti to purify water in her Nalgene bottle while hiking in the Sierra.

Reliability/Effectiveness


The UV light technology of the SteriPEN Adventurer, which is similar to the CamelBak All Clear, is fast and effective against viruses as well as protozoa and bacteria, which is an advantage over all the pump filters besides the First Need XL. The way UV light works is that it does not actually kill pathogens, but instead scrambles the DNA of the organisms so that they cannot reproduce, rendering them harmless to you. One thing to note is that since the organisms remain alive in your water, if the treated water is exposed to visible light for a length of time before drinking, the microbes can essentially heal and reactivate.

There are still a few drawbacks: it only works in bottles with openings at least 1.75 inches wide, and it does not work well in hydration bladders. Also, it does not treat the water on the threads of your bottle, which chemical treatments do. This is not an issue with pump filters since your bottle never touches untreated water, but with the SteriPen you dip your bottle right into a water source, and where you sip is not sterilized.

Weight


If you are looking for a lightweight, chemical-free purification system, the SteriPEN is one of the best options. Including batteries and case the Adventurer only weighs 4.61 oz., much lighter than any pump filters besides the Sawyer Squeeze and is lighter than the SteriPEN Journey. However, the SteriPEN requires specific accessories to be carried along with it, such as a Nalgene or similarly sized bottle. This is heavier than a hydration bladder or a collapsible bottle, neither of which work with the SteriPEN. Once you add the weight of the bottle, extra batteries, and possible back-up treatment method, the system gets heavier.

Time Before Drinking


Like the Journey LCD model, it takes 90 seconds to purify a liter, which is comparable to the time it takes to pump a liter from most of the other filters, but it can seem like a long time as you wave the wand around in your water bottle.

Ease of Use


To treat water using the Adventurer is quite simple: fill your bottle, dip the pen inside the mouth of the bottle, push the button once, and agitate it around for 90 seconds. In comparison to the SteriPEN Journey model, the Adventurer is a little harder to know if it is working properly, especially in daylight. Where the Journey has a relatively large and easy to read screen with a smiling or frowning face to indicate if it worked, the Adventurer has a tiny light that shines green or red, but is almost impossible to see in the sun.

Durability/Uses Before Maintenance


The primary concern with the SteriPEN and other UV water treatments is that the batteries can run out, and if you are in the backcountry, this could cause problems. The Adventurer uses the same Lithium photo batteries as the Journey LCD, which can be harder to find if you aren't in a big city, but they are longer lasting than double A batteries. The rechargeable batteries are especially hard to find, and last for fewer cycles. Our tester used the Adventurer Opti over a 3 day backpacking trip to sterilize water for 4 people, and the batteries were still gong strong by the end of the trip, which is promising.

Taste


The SteriPEN treatment does not affect the taste of the water, which is mostly a good thing. Unless the water is particularly gross, the fresh flavor of mountain water, absent of added chemicals, is appetizing. Some of the pump filters actually improve the taste of the water, but the SteriPEN leaves the flavor the way it was originally.

If you just use the SteriPEN on its own, it does not filter out particulate the way that all of the pumps do. A separate pre-filter can be purchased as an accessory, but that is just another piece that needs to be carried.

Best Application


Since the UV technology deactivates viruses, this method is perfect for international travel or places where water is particularly contaminated. Also, bcause of its light weight and fast treatment time, the SteriPEN is ideal for trips where weight and/or speed is a concern. It is advisable to bring a back-up emergency method along, such as the Katadyn Micropur Tablets, just in case the lithium batteries quit working and you cannot find replacements.

Value


For $10 less than both the SteriPEN Journey and the CamelBak All Clear, the Adventurer is a relatively good deal for a UV water treatment. It even rings in as less expensive than the Platypus Gravity Works, which uses a much simpler technology. Remember that replacing the lithium batteries will require an additional cost throughout the life of the device.

Other Versions


Traveler
SteriPEN Traveler
  • Cost - $50
  • Creates safe drinking water
  • The UV lamp provides 3,000 water treatments

SteriPEN Freedom
SteriPEN Freedom
  • Cost - $100
  • Has the benefit of using a micro-USB charger that can be hooked up to a solar charger
McKenzie Long

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: February 16, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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  • 5
 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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  • 5
 (3.2)

60% of 5 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
7 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 71%  (5)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 14%  (1)
1 star: 14%  (1)
Sort 7 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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   Feb 16, 2017 - 02:02am
Kevin Boland · Backpacker · Montrose, NY
The SteriPEN Adventurer Opti is a terrific product, but you just need to be aware of its limitations, and set your expectations appropriately.

It is a battery powered electronic device; yes, the batteries can go dead, or the device can suddenly stop working. You have to follow the directions. Use it on clear water that the light can penetrate.

So, carry a spare battery, test the device before leaving on your trip to make sure you understand the directions and to make sure it is working, and to make sure you know how to use it. And carry chemical tablets or drops as a backup. Consider using the prefilter that SteriPEN makes, to clear the water before using the purifier.

I have carried this SteriPEN for 5 years on about 10 backpacking trips, and it has never failed me. That is pretty reliable! I recommended it to my friend, and she complained it did not work; I tested hers, and it worked fine; she had not read the directions and was using it wrong. You have to be sure to hold the water sensor under water for the UV light to come on.

I have heard of some people complaining their device did not work, and it turned out they had not realized you must take off the clear plastic tip that protects the UV light!

If your Adventurer Opti does not work, you can send it back to SteriPEN, and they will repair or replace it. They are pretty liberal about it, and seem anxious to please their customers.

I use this device to kill viruses in water that has already been filtered for bacteria and protozoa with a Katadyn Hiker Pro filter. I am sensitive to gut pathogens because I take a drug to prevent acid reflux, and I am therefore without stomach acid that would ordinarily kill many pathogens; but this water treatment combo has never once caused me to become ill. It works!

I know people who simply fill their bottle from the water source, and then use this device as their only water treatment, and have had zero problems. I don't like the idea of consuming all those pathogens, even though their DNA has been scrambled by the UV light; that's why I use the filter first.

By the way, this review claims that the DNA scrambling is reversible via subsequent sunlight shining through the treated water; as far as I know, this makes no scientific sense. Once the DNA is scrambled, the pathogens cannot reproduce ever again; that is why they call it 'sterilization'.

I recommend not storing the device with the battery inside it, between trips; the battery slowly drains in this situation. Remove the battery for storage.

If you follow these tips, you will have a good experience with this product! Highly recommended. I didn't give it 5 stars because you have to be aware of everything I have mentioned; otherwise, the Adventurer Opti is a fantastic product.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Aug 21, 2014 - 07:18am
This has been my primary water purification method for years.

From tramping in the south island of New Zealand to hiking the rainforests of tropical north Queensland in Australia it never failed.

Yes you should treat it with respect, take some spare batteries and a backup purification system (like chemical tabs). They only add a few grams even if you don't need them, but you will glad you brought them if you do!

I purify in a wide mouth bottle and transfer to water bladder.

Some electrolyte tablets can help with flavour if your water doesn't come from a fresh mountain stream.

I think the lamp in this model works better than others in cold (snow melt) water.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Aug 19, 2014 - 04:25pm
QITNL · Climber
You might want to consider rechargeable batteries. The AW RCR123a Protected 750 mAh Battery is $7/each at lighthound.com. The Surefire charger is $13. Charge them before you hit the trail, good for about 30 jolts.
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   Aug 19, 2014 - 12:48pm
Rattlesnake Arch · Climber
I have been using an Adventurer for 3 years in the Rockies and Sierra. I have not been sick in that time. I admit that more faith is required to use this device than other systems. I like it because it is very light, and I can treat water for a good tasting drink wherever I find it. This means I hardly have to carry any water most of the time, making my pack lighter. The CR123 batteries are expensive retail. However, if you buy the batteries bulk on the internet, you can use a fresh one every camping trip and they are still not expensive. For example, I bought 12 for 11.99 three years ago. You have to follow the instructions rigorously or your water will not be treated. The small indicator lights are hard to see in the sunlight, and I am red/green colorblind making it more difficult. However, once you become familiar with the flash patterns and other clues you can tell when your water has been treated. At night it is easy to see the wand glowing. As far as I am concerned, you can't improve the taste of high-country water with any chemical or filter.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Aug 18, 2014 - 05:48pm
 
FortMental · Climber · Albuquerque, NM
…if the treated water is exposed to visible light for a length of time before drinking, the microbes can essentially heal and reactivate.

Huh?


I think you're better off worrying about different bacterial strains' susceptibility to a quickly fading battery and UV energy. Iodine pills are the way to go, in any case….plus they're good for cracked fingernails!
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   Jun 4, 2014 - 12:14pm
Lucky Man · Hiker · WPB, FL
If you want a reliable method of treating water, do not buy a SteriPEN. My Adventurer Opti worked okay the first few dozen times I used it, but then it became a battery vampire. The company claims the Opti treats 50 liters of water before the lithium CR123 batteries need replacement. In reality, I first had to replace the batteries ($17 a pair and hard to find) after about seven days of hiking, and then the device failed again only four days after I added fresh batteries. No, I wasn't treating water for a large group, only myself. I was left high and dry but luckily that day was going into Fontana Village to resupply; the store didn't have the batteries, so I bought Aquamira drops, which are cheaper, much lighter, don't require wide-mouth bottles, last much longer and haven't failed me yet. The only disadvantage of Aquamira is the short wait to drink the treated water.
SteriPEN instructed me to send back the device for "testing" and include $7 for return postage, but I know now that I can't rely on this gadget and am seeking a refund. Stay tuned.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Sep 8, 2012 - 12:29pm
rantia · Climber · Atlanta
I used an earlier version of the Steripen adventurer. It is very nice when it works but it suddenly stopped working while hiking in the Indian Himalaya. Not a battery problem as I was carrying an extra battery.

I currently use iodine sterilization (PolarPur with a backup of betadine from my first aid kit) as it is light and robust. This approach has some limitations for crypto and giardhia.

The following websites could be helpful.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portable_water_purification
http://www.getreadygear.com/pdfdocs/Water-Purification-And-Storage.pdf
http://www.high-altitude-medicine.com/water.html

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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