Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: $90 | Compare prices at 4 resellers
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
Best Uses: Backpacking, hiking, international travel
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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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Traveler, $50, creates safe drinking water and the UV lamp provides 3,000 water treatments, while the Sidewinder, $100, is an eco-friendly and portable UV water purifier that makes clean water available when no power source is. An even lighter SteriPEN model is the SteriPEN Freedom, $120, which 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: August 21, 2014
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