SteriPEN Traveler review – using the power of Ultraviolet light to purify water

Clean and reliable water may be a given when you open the tap back home, but when you are on the road, it isn’t always readily available. On some trips, you may be trying to locate clean water in the wilderness, on others it may be the tap water that needs some extra attention.

SteriPEN water purifiers use ultraviolet (UV) light to disinfect water. There is absolutely no question about the effectiveness of UV light, in fact, your local water company may be using the same technology to clean your municipal water supply. At home, I use a commercial UV cleaning system in my furnace, and it has had a noticeable effect. The EPA has recognized UV light as a proven viable technology.

The SteriPEN traveler is a compact water purifying pen, operating it is as simple as turning it on, removing the protective cap and placing it in a cup or bottle of water. The pen can clean up to one liter of water at a time, in under one minute. Sensor prongs ensure the UV light won’t turn on when the pen is not immersed, protecting your eyes from the UV radiation.

Before purifying water, you do need to be sure that it is free of particulate matter – UV light can kill a lot of things, but it won’t remove dirt or other small debris. Commercial filters can easily take care of this, and in the worst case scenario, you can even use a piece of clothing as a filter cloth.

The product runs off four AA batteries, but SteriPEN recommends only using Lithium or Nickel Metal hydride batteries. On a full set of batteries, the SteriPEN traveler will disinfect up to 200 liters of water. I found that some brands of Alkaline batteries work in a pinch, but you will definitely want to travel with a few spare batteries you have tested with the SteriPEN.

At just $59.95, this is the most affordable SteriPEN, and if your trips take you somewhere with questionable water, investing $60 to prevent a week of stomach cramps is easy to justify. Then again, there are also times I think I’d use this to disinfect the water glass at the local budget hotel.

Summer travel: how not to sizzle your skin

The good folks at CNN have released a helpful guide and accompanying photo gallery horror show of solar ray-blasted epidermis. In “5 ways to avoid getting deep-fried,” you’ll find dermatologist’s tips to protect your sun from UVA/UVB damage, skin cancer detection links, and entertaining anecdotes of CNN reporters’ worst sunburns/precursors to melanoma.

I love the sun as much as most holiday-makers, but years of basting myself in baby oil, combined with the onset of crow’s feet in my early twenties and my mother’s own ongoing struggle with basal and squamous cell carcinomas have turned me into the Queen of Sunscreen. While my friends still mock me, and a former farmers market employer once remarked, “I can always tell when you’ve been hugging my dog, because he smells like sunscreen!” I feel vindicated because at 41, I look a good ten years younger, and have yet to develop my first pre-cancerous lesion. I get an annual screening at my dermatologist, and religiously apply a minimum of SPF 30 UVA/UVB sunblock over all exposed body parts (please remember the back of your neck, hands, ears, and knees, and tops of your feet).

Gadling has a more detailed explanation of what the heck all this SPF stuff means, and a guide to choosing sunglasses that do more than just look hip. I also wear, and heartily endorse (unpaid, of course) the sun protective clothing by ExOfficio, and sun protective hats by Outdoor Research. Sounds wacky, but these items are constructed with UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) textiles that, while not a substitute for sunblock, provide a great dual-defense system. They’re also attractive, and incredibly versatile and travel-friendly. Don’t hide from the sun this holiday weekend; just take precautions, have fun, and think of all the money you’ll save by not requiring reconstructive surgery and Botox.

(Image credit: Flickr/Saspotato)

Cute Sunscreen Stickers

So it’s hot, damn hot, and for most of us fair-skinned folks, that means trying to keep the sun’s rays from frying our skin. Whenever I go anywhere I usually pack away a bottle or two of SPF 15 and 50. And I guess I use the 50 most of the time because, well, I’m about as prime a candidate for skin cancer a they come.

But I saw these handy little stickers recently that I thought would be a nice way to better manage your UV intake. They are also good for kids, to help make suer that junior doesn’t come home with you looking like a red delicious. These oh so cute little stickers from Leaps and Bounds measure UV rays hitting your skin and change from yellow to deep orange when sun exposure approaches dangerous levels. They are also water resistant, so they should stay on even if you decide to take a cool dip.

UV Bikini

Here’s one that, despite my better judgment, I am filing under gear.

It comes from sister site Luxist and is all about a new piece of space age apparel called the UV bikini. Actually, I should correct that. It’s more post-space age. It’s a global warming age piece of fashion.

And the Inconvenient Truth about this piece of swimwear is that it is quite ugly (the body inside of it not withstanding). The idea behind the UV bikini is, as you might have guess, to help you know how many horrible, skin-damaging UV rays are bombarding you at any particular moment. Then you can decide whether to apply some SPF 300, continue with your tan, or go immediately to the dermatologist for skin cancer removal. The bikini comes with a handy little meter that is waterproof, washable and pool-safe. It runs about $190 and will definitely inspire lookie-loos, especially those whose hygiene may be lacking and who have an inordinate fondness for Star Trek.