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]

Gadling gear review: Camelbak All Clear water purification system

The Camelbak All Clear water purifcation systemFinding safe and clean drinking water while traveling can often be a real challenge, particularly if you’re visiting some of the more remote destinations on the planet. Wandering off the beaten path may be one of the more rewarding elements of travel, but it can also be detrimental to our health as many of the world’s water sources contain bacteria, viruses and even parasites. Fortunately there are a number of ways to treat potentially contaminated water, making it safe to drink, including water purification tablets, micro-filters and treatments of ultraviolet light. Of those, UV light is the most effective and has become a much more viable option over the past few years.

Camelbak, the company that practically invented the hydration pack, has recently introduced a new product called the All Clear that looks to marry a high-quality water bottle with a UV purification system. The company has cleverly integrated an ultraviolet light into a specially designed lid for the bottle that when activated will kill more than 99.99% of all bacteria and viruses found in water. That makes it an incredibly useful item to have in our bags when visiting destinations where clean water can be at a premium.

Using the All Clear couldn’t be easier. You simply fill the bottle with water from any source you have at hand, secure the lid on top of the container and activate the UV light by pressing the power button. That will initiate a 60 second countdown timer on the integrated LCD screen which serves as a prompt to begin slowly rotating the bottle back and fourth in 180 degree turns. That motion helps to ensure that all of the water inside the bottle receives equal exposure to the purifying light, which is vital for killing off the harmful bacteria. When the countdown has finished the UV light shuts off and the contents of the bottle should be ready to drink.The All Clear is powered by an integrated battery pack, which is recharged using an included USB cable. That means the device can be powered up by plugging it into your laptop, a USB battery pack or even a portable solar panel. This adds a great level of versatility for travelers but brings a bit of unevenness to the process. Recharging from my laptop took about 4 hours but Camelbak estimates that it will take 15-20 hours using the sun. When fully charged the All Clear is good for about 80 uses, which is enough to purify 16 gallons of water.

Camelbak has clearly taken great care to consider the needs of travelers and backpackers while designing the All Clear. For instance, they have included a second lid that is better suited for drinking from the bottle and have added a convenient carrying case for the UV lid to the package as well. They’ve also printed step-by-step instructions on how to use the device on the outside of the bottle making it nearly impossible to get the process wrong. Those little touches may not seem like much, but they are greatly appreciated when packing for a trip.

For many of us a good water bottle is almost a mandatory piece of travel gear these days and having one with an integrated UV purification system is a great option. That said, the All Clear’s UV lid is a bit on the heavy side – especially when compared to the competition – although it isn’t particularly large or bulky. The heavier cap does include a more powerful ultraviolet light, however, and is designed to work well in a variety of conditions including colder weather.

If you frequently find yourself traveling to destinations where the drinking water is suspect then the Camelbak All Clear is the kind of purification system you’ll want to take with you. It is an easy to use system that knocks out nearly all of the harmful bacteria and viruses that we could potentially encounter on our journey and it does so in a fairly compact and rugged package. The system comes with a $99 price tag and includes a good water bottle, two lids, a carrying case and a USB charging cable. That is a very good package for the price and one that I think you’ll appreciate on future excursions.