A couple of months go I was contacted by a representative of SteriPEN, the manufacturers of a hand-held ultraviolet (UV) light water purifier, asking if I would be interested in testing their SteriPEN Freedom device. I almost never accept products for review, but due to the amount of time I spend in developing countries where the drinking water supply is unsafe, I had been seriously considering purchasing a portable water purifier even before they got in touch with me, so I happily agreed to try it out.
When the package arrived I read the instructions, charged it up, and tucked the small device in a side pocket of my backpack. I had intended to try it out the moment I arrived in Pokhara, Nepal, but a month after arriving, it still sat unused in my pack. I thought about it every day that I refilled my plastic one-liter bottle from the five-gallon reusable drinking water jugs provided by my guest house, but I continued to procrastinate. I reasoned that since I wasn’t adding to an already severe plastic waster problem in Nepal, there was no real need to test the city water.
In truth, I was afraid. The idea of drinking a glass of water from the tap in a third-world country, even after it had been treated with an UV light that is proved to destroy 99.9% of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa (giardia and cryptosporidium), made me more than a little uncomfortable.
At the end of my month in the guest house, I moved into a new flat with my adopted Nepali family. They also had five-gallon jugs of bottled water delivered to the house and I patted myself on the back, pleased that I was helping the environment by continuing to reuse my one-liter bottle. Then the unthinkable happened. One night, a landslide high up in a remote area of the Himalayas blocked the Seti River. The next morning the river broke through, sending a 30-foot high wall of water down the valley that wiped out one village and killed 27 people. As it roared downstream, it also tore out a pipe that carried the main water supply to Pokhara. Overnight we were reduced to receiving water one hour per day, and with the 10-hour per day power outages that are normal in Nepal, that sometimes meant there was no power to pump water up to the roof tank during the hour it was available.
The water man who delivered those five-gallon bottles suddenly became the most popular man in town. As our supply ran low, I knew it was time to break out the SteriPEN. That evening, in the privacy of my bedroom, I filled up a 16-ounce glass with water from the tap, removed the cover from my SteriPEN, and immersed the UV lamp in the water, making sure the sensing pins were also covered by the water. The LED pins blinked green and the lamp turned on automatically, emitting a visible blue light. Per the instructions, I agitated the water by stirring it thoroughly (about 48 seconds) until the lamp automatically turned off and the indicator light became steady green. The treatment was complete.
I grimaced and drank the water down, then climbed into bed, with a packet of Imodium pills set out on the nightstand next to my bed, expecting the worst. The next thing I knew, sunshine was streaming though my bedroom window. And I felt great. No diarrhea, no ill effects at all. Now that I am over my initial fear, the SteriPEN will be my constant companion while I am on the road. Not only will it save me a lot of money in bottled water while further helping save the environment, the device even doubles as a flashlight.
Though I will almost use always my SteriPEN for sterilizing unsafe water in third-world countries, it will also destroy microbes in water drawn from a stream while camping, and it would be a great safeguard in the event of temporarily contaminated water after a disruption in supply, such as a break in the city pipeline. The device does not help clarify turbid, murky or dirty water but in an emergency the company recommends filtering such water with a coffee filter or shirt and then treating as per normal.
At a weight of 2.6 ounces and a size of 5.1 in. x 1.4 in. x 0.8 in., the Freedom is SteriPEN’s smallest, lightest and first rechargeable UV water purifier. It provides up to 40 treatments per charge and can be recharged via a micro USB port on my laptop, AC outlet or compatible solar charger. Though the manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $119.95, the SteriPEN Freedom is currently available at Amazon.com for $101.93.
In the interest of complete disclosure, if you click on the above link to Amazon.com and purchase the SteriPEN Freedom, I make a small commission, which helps support my blog. The manufacturer kindly provided the device free of charge for me to test and review, however, the receipt and acceptance of complimentary items/services received will never influence the content, topics, or posts in this blog. I write the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.