Oh, how I wish I had a gadget like this the last time I went on an extended backpacking trip and brought along icky-tasting iodine tablets to purify river water for drinking and cooking. With SteriPEN products — and there are many sizes and shapes for different uses — the portable water filters use an ultra-violet light to destroy waterborne microbes, making water in developing countries or in the wilderness safe to drink.
The technology is cool: According to the SteriPEN FAQ page, microbes such as bacteria, viruses and protozoa make you sick by reproducing and overwhelming your body’s immune system. SteriPEN creates ultraviolet (UV) light that disrupts the DNA of microbes in seconds. Without functional DNA, microbes can’t reproduce to make you sick.
The SteriPEN Traveler, which retails for $59.95 (check Amazon.com for deals), is designed especially for people who need a convenient way to purify water while in a foreign country. It’s just about 8 inches long and 1.5 inches wide, so it fits conveniently into carry-on or checked baggage. The UV light works on 4 AA batteries (good for about 200 water treatments; always pack your electronic items without batteries, to avoid running them down unintentionally).
All you do is turn the SteriPEN Traveler on and wave the UV light wand around in a cup of clear water. It’s finished purifying in under a minute. The directions crack me up: “Discolored or dirty water should be pre-filtered until clear prior to SteriPEN treatment… Coffee filters or a shirt can be used in an emergency.”
Another cool feature: the tapered wand is designed to fit into commercial water bottles (or narrow-necked reusable water bottles, like metal Sigg brands), so you can create a tight seal by placing the wand in the bottle and turning it upside down for convenient water purification.
I played with the water purifier at home, and found directions very easy to follow. Admittedly, I did not go down to the family pond to get some dirty water to purify, but my buddy Tim Leffel at Practical Travel gear has used SteriPEN products firsthand and won’t travel in a foreign country without a SteriPEN.
Want to win a hand-held SteriPEN Traveler of your very own? Just leave a comment below telling me where you’d use it. Comment once daily if you like, up until 6 p.m. PDT, Tuesday, November 16. I’ll choose a comment number via Random.org, and announce the winner on Winning Wednesday, November 17. Immediate family members of The Vacation Gals are not eligible, and winner must have a valid U.S. or Canada mailing address.