Gadling Gear Review: SteriPEN Ultra Water Purifier

The SteriPEN Ultra water purification systemNothing ruins a great travel experience more quickly than getting sick while visiting some remote region the world. One of the best ways to avoid those kinds of hazards is to be very careful about what you eat and avoid drinking water that isn’t clean. But such water sources aren’t always easy to find or identify, which is why it is important to always play it safe and purify anything you drink. Iodine tablets and filtration pumps are viable ways of creating clean drinking water while traveling, but the safest and most efficient way of doing so is through the use of ultraviolet light. UV lamps are capable of destroying more than 99.9% of all the harmful bacteria and organisms that can exist in water, making the liquid completely safe for consumption.

SteriPEN is a company that is singularly focused on making UV water purification systems specifically for travel. In the past we have reviewed several of their products and have always come away impressed. But the company continues to refine and improve their purification systems, making them more efficient and easier to use. By incorporating those improvements into the new SteriPEN Ultra, they just may have created the best portable water purification system ever.

Some of the enhancements to the Ultra include a greatly improved OLED display, a long lasting rechargeable battery and an interface that is much easier to understand. Separately those things don’t seem to bring much to the table, but together they add up to a better product for travelers, backpackers and campers. One that is highly effective and incredibly simple to use.

Despite these nice upgrades to the device itself, the process for using a SteriPEN purifier remains the same. The Ultra is capable of purifying up to one full liter of water at a time, which is accomplished by simply filling a water bottle with the liquid and then activating the UV light. The user then immerses the lamp into the water and begins to stir until the light turns off on its own. It takes between 45 and 90 seconds to complete the operation depending on how much water is being purified and the current temperature. In colder weather it takes a bit longer for the UV light to warm up, so the system compensates by burning a bit longer. Still, the Ultra does its job faster than previous models, which is helpful when you’re purifying several liters of water per day.In previous SteriPEN products it wasn’t always clear if the process was completed properly and if you didn’t stir the water at a quick enough pace, sometimes you would need to repeat the process. With the Ultra, the company wanted to make it as clear as possible whether or not your water is safe to drink, so they changed up the user interface a bit to make it more clear. Now, after the UV light goes off, the OLED will display a smiley face if it the water is clean, while a frowning face indicates that the process will need to be repeated. These two emoticons will tell users everything they need to know at a glance. Battery and lamp life indicators are also easy to read at all times.

SteriPEN Ultra water purification systemThis redesigned interface benefits greatly from new OLED display. It is bright, clear and easy to read even in low light conditions. Previous SteriPEN models didn’t incorporate this technology and as a result, the screen was often difficult to view, and all but impossible to use at night. But the Ultra’s display never leaves any room for doubt and the user will always know if the device is working properly. It also makes it abundantly clear if the water is clean and ready to drink.

The SteriPEN Ultra is powered by an internal lithium battery that is capable of purifying 50 liters of water between charges. That’s enough water to last quite a few days, but in case your journey runs longer, the device can be easily recharged via USB. That means you can power the battery back up using a computer, external battery pack or small solar charger. Actually, anything that will allow you to plug-in a USB cable does the trick. This is a much better option than using replaceable batteries, which can run down quickly and can be difficult to find when traveling in a remote location.

Rugged and durable, the Ultra has been designed to withstand the rigors of the road. But to give it a bit of extra protection, SteriPEN includes a nice travel case. They also throw in a USB cable for charging purposes, just in case you don’t have enough of them lying around your place.

If you’re a traveler who routinely visits destinations where the water quality is questionable, you’ll definitely want to have the SteriPEN Ultra in your pack. But backpackers and backcountry campers will appreciate the device as well. It quickly and efficiently purifies water and provides piece of mind at the same time. I’ve used various SteriPEN purifiers on several of my own journeys and can honestly say that I have never gotten sick. My endorsement of this product comes after extensive use in the field, where these devices have never failed to perform as expected. That said, the Ultra is by far the best SteriPEN product that I have ever used and a must have for adventure travelers. With a price tag of $99.95 and a rated life of more than 8000 uses, this is a product that will earn its keep time and again during your travels.

[Photo Credit: SteriPEN]