SteriPEN JourneyLCD Review

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The SteriPEN JourneyLCD, the latest product from Hydro-Photon Inc., is a handheld water purifier that zaps microorganisms swimming in suspect water with an ultra violet light.

It’s different from the company’s Adventurer model — which I review here in depth: — in that the JourneyLCD has an easier-to-understand interface.

steripen journey

Want to purify a batch of water? With the JourneyLCD, here’s what you do:

1. Push the big gray button to turn it on.

2. Stick the glass tip into your water.

3. Watch as the timer ticks to zero on the LCD screen.

That’s it.

Once the timer hits zero — counting down from 48 seconds for 0.5 liters (and 90 seconds for 1 liter) — a smiley face graphic appears. Bing! Water is ready to drink.

steripen journey

Above: the full kit; cost: $129.95.

How does this magic wand work, you ask? According to the company, the ultra-violet-light-emitting device destroys the DNA of microorganisms, making them unable to reproduce and cause illness. It zaps microbes, viruses, and bacteria, including the well-known likes of giardia and cryptosporidium.

Use the SteriPEN JourneyLCD in the woods. Use it in a foreign place to purify suspect tap water. Either way, the product is a quicker and easier solution than the alternative of chemical treatments or a pump.

Available: Now

Price: $129.95


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SteriPEN - SteriPEN JourneyLCD

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Out of stock, zap waterborne nasties with this h20 purifier..

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Trailspace: Outdoor Gear Reviews

SteriPEN Journey LCD

rated 1.0 of 5 stars

Stopped working after only 2 liters in the backcountry.

  • Lightweight
  • Quit working after first day

So I filmed this video clip while on the River-to-River Trail. I'm pretty mad.

To further explain, it arrived a couple weeks before my trip. I tested it at home to make sure everything was working right. Three days before my trip, I demonstrated it to my Cub Scout den, as we were learning about the "Ten Essentials."

On the first day on the trail, we stopped to refill water bottles. It took multiple attempts to get it to work. I kept getting the "Frown Face." Finally, it purified 2 liters.

The next morning, I handed it to my buddy and left him to take care of water while I made breakfast. He came to me a few minutes later and said the battery light was coming on. So after only 2 liters (plus the 2 I tested at home), the battery was dead.

We finished the week using purifying tablets. The taste is nasty, but I think that's my new ultralight solution.

Source: bought it new Price Paid: $70

steripen journey

I have owned the Steripen Adventurer for about a decade, and it has performed very very well, with good battery life. With the Journey LCD, I had the same battery probs described by the other reviewers. My conclusion is that the Journey somehow drains batteries when not in use. I had a headlamp like that—it's now in the landfill. By flipping one battery when not in use (so it couldn't make a circuit), I seemed to get a little more life out of it.

  • UV sterilization is the state of the art
  • Get the Steripen Adventurer instead
  • It sucks down the batteries in no time

I do like the LCD display, but I am back to using my Adventurer rather than the Journey.

Source: bought it new Price Paid: on sale at REI

steripen journey

I bought this unit to replace a water filter when its valve tore after several months of hard use on the AT. The first 8 liters went well, then the battery went flat. 3 more pairs of new batteries would only treat 2-4 liters of water before they also were flat according to the device. I kept the batteries in my underwear to keep them warm, and this worked for 2 more liters.

A waste of money and I'll never buy another one.

Price Paid: US$100

steripen journey

I thought that this was one of the coolest products I had seen in awhile when I bought it. But this weekend I took it out for the first time, only to find it doesn't work! At home I purified several liters of water no problem. But on the trail I couldn't get the damn thing to work! I ended up having to boil 4 liters of water! I don't recommend anybody get one.

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SteriPEN JourneyLCD Handheld Water Purifier

And Then There Was Water…


By Eric Yang


Whether you’re vacationing in Mexico or hiking the Catskills, there’s nothing worse than pulling off an Oregon Trail fatality… dysentery. Okay, perhaps that’s a stretch, but sickness caused by unsterilized water is high-up on the list of potential excursion quagmires. Technology to the rescue.

Editor’s Note : With winter approaching, we thought it would be appropriate to share a side note about SteriPEN. We’ve been told that there are times when users are unable to use the SteriPEN on melted snow or ice where electrical conductivity is low. When asked this, SteriPEN explained that all current models utilized doubled electrode voltage that function in the coldest or distilled water.

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SteriPEN Journey LCD Water Purifier str0008

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Product Discontinued by Manufacturer

SteriPEN Journey LCD Water Purifier has been discontinued by SteriPEN and is no longer available. Our product experts have helped us select these available replacements below.You can also explore other items in the Outdoor Gear , Camping Gear , Hydration , Water Filtration Systems , Water Filters yourself to try and find the perfect replacement for you!

Product Info for SteriPEN Journey LCD Water Purifier

Features of steripen journey lcd water purifier:.

  • Requires two CR123 Batteries (included)
  • Purify 16 oz of water 100 times (1600 oz) on one set of CR132 Batteries
  • 48 seconds purifies 16 oz of water
  • works with the Steripen Prefilter

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Steripen journey lcd water purifier unavailable & discontinued models, list of unorderable models.

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SteriPEN Journey Safe Water System

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Product Discontinued by Manufacturer

SteriPEN Journey Safe Water System has been discontinued by SteriPEN and is no longer available. Our product experts have helped us select these available replacements below.You can also explore other items in the Camp & Hike , Camp Kitchen , Camp Hydration , Water Treatment , Water Filters & Purification yourself to try and find the perfect replacement for you!

Product Info for SteriPEN Journey Safe Water System

Features of steripen journey safe water system:.

  • Limited time offer
  • Includes the new FitsAll Filter and a 32 oz wide-mouth Nalgene BPA-Free water bottle
  • Requires two CR123 Batteries (included)
  • Purify 16 oz of water 100 times (1600 oz) on one set of CR132 Batteries
  • 48 seconds purifies 16 oz of water
  • works with the Steripen Prefilter

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SteriPEN review

A review of uv water sterilization using the steripen journey.

Collecting water from a nearby river, stream or spring can often mean the water is contaminated with a host of bacteria, parasites and other organisms resulting from animal waste or decay. Fortunately, sterilizing water using ultraviolet (UV) light is quick, easy, and works without the use of any chemicals. This portable UV sterilizing device is perfect for treating water while backpacking or foreign travel.

steripen journey

How does it work?

The SteriPEN (manufactured by Hydro-Photon) is equipped with an optical grade quartz lamp which emits a shortwave germicidal ultraviolet (UV) light to sterilize waterborne pathogens – including Giardia and Cryptosporidium – in 90 seconds. According to Hydro-Photon, “UV purification works as the ultraviolet energy emitted by the light is absorbed by the cells of the microbe, preventing cell enzymes from ‘reading’ its DNA.” In other words, the DNA of harmful microorganisms that make you sick are not able to reproduce.

The UV process destroys the reproduction cycle of over 99.9 percent of harmful microbes – including viruses, bacteria, and protozoan cysts. This device will not remove chemical toxins such as industrial runoff that may be present in the water.

The device uses a Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) displaying facial expressions to indicate a success or failure. It is powered by two Lithium CR123 batteries and weighs 5.4 ounces (with plastic lamp case and batteries).

What containers does it work with?

The SteriPEN can be used to treat water contained within plastic, metal, ceramic, or glass containers.  The SteriPEN can be used to treat water inside of a hydration bladder but is not recommended. This is because you must take extra precaution to make sure the untreated water does not enter into the bite tube. Also, the bladder capacity often exceeds 1L and does not contain visible measure indicators, so you must be extra careful not to pour over the 1L limit. Therefore, it is best to treat the water with a separate measurable container, then pour batches of the treated water into the hydration bladder.

Is the UV light harmful?

The UV lamp is made of optical grade quartz, one of the few materials that are transparent to UV. The UV is not harmful to the skin because the UV is blocked by the plastic container. The visible light given off by SteriPEN is blue light – not ultraviolet – and it is not dangerous to look at.

Operating Instructions

  • Press On/Off button to turn the unit on.
  • Select the amount of water to treat; 1 L is the default (max) and .5L is the second option (select by pushing on/off button a 2 nd time).
  • Immerse the bulb into the water and stir wand to agitate the water to ensure a uniform amount of water is exposed to the UV.
  • Timer will begin a countdown to show when sterilization cycle is complete; 90 seconds for 1 liter (32 oz) or 48 seconds for .5L
  • Water sterilization will indicate success (smiley face) or failure (sad face).  If there is a sad face, it is likely that the water is murky or contains solid particulates, and the UV light can’t effectively penetrate the water to sterilize it.  There is also a battery status indicator. If the battery is low it will indicate a frown within the battery icon.
  • Keep separate water containers for treated and untreated water . Our untreated water container is a 6L platypus which we fill directly at the water source and carry back to our campsite to treat in 1L batches.
  • Don’t treat your water at the water source. Carry the platy (or untreated container) to your campsite and treat in 1L increments as you need it. We always keep two separate 1L Nalgene bottles of treated water available for cooking & drinking. We also use these to fill up our hydration bladders.
  • Wipe off untreated water: The SteriPEN does not purify the threads or lip of a water bottle. Make sure to wipe off any excess water from the threads of the bottle before drinking.
  • Battery longevity: The manufacturer claims that a single set of disposable CR123 batteries will charge 50L of water between uses. This statement seems to be fairly accurate.  If you use disposable or solar charged batteries, you will not get this many uses. Rechargeables will only last about half of the life of disposables and seem to result in more issues. Using disposables are recommended for this unit. Carry a spare pair with you!  The manufacturer also makes a solar-powered charging device to use with the unit, but we can not comment on its effectiveness since we don’t own it.
  • Water collecting in shallow pools: SteriPEN is a water treatment device, not a water collection device.  If you are hiking in drought areas or need to collect water from shallow pool you should take a traditional pump system which siphons water. We have used plastic zip bags to collect water from difficult to reach places. We lay the bag horizontally and fan the water inside; This takes patience.

Additional Details about the use of the SteriPEN can be found in the manual Download SteriPEN manual .

Additional details about the use of the steripen within the hydration bladder ..

steripen journey

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Please note: This item is not available for same day shipping. Use the chat feature or give us a call at 864-284-1801 for further information.

Main Product Image

  • Weight: 128g (4.5 oz) with batteries.
  • Dimensions: 18.6 cm (7.3 in.) in length, 4.1 cm (1.6 in.) in width, and 3.3 cm (1.3 in.) in depth.
  • Battery: 2 CR123 batteries (included)
  • Certifications: WQA Gold Seal Certified
  • Travel Case: Neoprene
  • Includes: 1 liter BPA Free Tritan water bottle and SteriPEN FitsAll Filter

steripen journey

  • Its expected shipping date is:
  • Use the chat feature or give us a call at 864-284-1801 for information about when it will be available for shipping.
  • This does not qualify for free shipping.

Mom Goes Camping

Ultimate SteriPEN Review: Options, Instructions, and How It Compares to Other Purifiers

steripen review

Whether backpacking in the wilderness or in developing countries, a good water purifier is one of the best gear to bring.  Having a water purifier means that you don’t ever have to buy bottled water (and contribute to plastic waste).  Nor do you have to worry about lugging heavy bottles of water up mountains when you can just drink directly from streams.  There are a lot of different purifiers, but SteriPEN is one of the best options.

In this SteriPEN review, I’ll go over everything you need to know about SteriPEN including how it works, how to use SteriPEN, the different types of SteriPEN, and some good alternatives to SteriPEN.

What Is SteriPEN?

SteriPEN classic purifying water with UV light

SteriPEN is a type of water purifier that uses ultraviolet (UV) light to deactivate harmful pathogens in water.  The keyword here is deactivate. Unlike water filters, the SteriPEN doesn’t actually remove the pathogens.  You can buy the SteriPEN here .

Instead the UV light damages the DNA of the pathogens and makes it impossible for them to reproduce.  If the pathogen cannot reproduce, it cannot cause infection.

Fun fact: UV light can even kill bacteria and viruses in the air.  One theory as to why we get sick more in winter is because there isn’t as much UV light from the sun to kill airborne pathogens. ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 )

What Does SteriPEN Treat?

SteriPEN uses a UV intensity of 254nm, which is very effective at treating pathogens in water.  When used correctly, it will treat 99.9% of the following pathogens:

  • Bacteria: Including Campylobacter, E. Coli, Salmonella, and Shigella
  • Protozoa: Including Giardia and Cryptosporidium
  • Viruses: Including rotovirus and hepatitis

SteriPEN Does NOT Treat:

  • Chemicals or toxins: Such as fertilizers, pesticides, or chemical runoff.
  • Larger organisms: Such as tapeworm eggs.
  • Cloudy water: The UV light won’t be able to get to the pathogens if the water is murky.

What does this mean for real-life use?

Travel in undeveloped countries:.

You can use SteriPEN on tap water in underdeveloped countries.  However, it’s not going to be completely effective if the water might be contaminated by chemicals, such as near agricultural or mining areas.

You don’t ever want to drink chemicals, but a few days’ worth of exposure probably isn’t going to give you cancer.  On the plus side, chemicals don’t cause traveler’s diarrhea like bacteria, protozoa, and viruses do, so using SteriPEN will spare you that terrible ordeal!

Backcountry Water:

With backcountry water, things get a bit more complex.  It used to be that you could just use a water filter in the backcountry.  However, viruses are becoming more common in backcountry water because of overcrowding and people going to the bathroom near water sources (follow Leave No Trace, people!!!).

SteriPEN will purify bacteria, parasites, and viruses, but it won’t remove those parasites like tapeworm eggs.  So, you wouldn’t want to rely on SteriPEN alone when drinking from streams, lakes, rivers, or private wells.  You’ll have to get a filter which can remove viruses too (which has it’s drawbacks) or use SteriPEN in addition to a water filter.

How to Use SteriPEN

steripen instructions

Using SteriPEN is really simple.  However, it’s really important that you use it correctly.  Otherwise the UV light won’t be able to reach all the pathogens in the water.

  • Only use on clear water: Some of the SteriPEN products can be used with cloudy water, but not anything very dark. You need the water to be like a light lemonade.  If the water is murky, then you’ll need to pre-filter it.
  • Determine how much water you are purifying: Either ½ or 1 liter of water.
  • Remove lamp cover and click: Use 1 click for ½ liter and 2 clicks for 1 liter of water.
  • Put the lamp into the water: Depending on the model you have, a green light might flash after you click. Put the lamp wand into the water while it is flashing.  Once the lamp detects water, it will emit UV light.
  • Stir until the lamp turns off: It’s important that you stir. This agitates the water and ensures all pathogens make it into the UV light.  When the lamp turns off, you are done.  It takes 48 seconds to purify ½ liter of water and 90 seconds for one liter.
  • It’s really important that you agitate the water while using the SteriPEN. One independent study found that SteriPEN only treated 94.98% of spores when the water wasn’t agitated.
  • The pre-filter sold by SteriPEN is only 40 microns. That’s enough to remove sediment and make the water look clear so it can be treated by the SteriPEN UV light. However, it is not small enough to remove tapeworm eggs and other parasite eggs.  You can see a list of parasite egg sizes here . Play it safe: I’d recommend using a pre-filter with an absolute rating of at most 1 micron.

Isn’t UV Light Bad for Humans?

Yes, UV light can be very dangerous for humans.  However, SteriPEN is usually used in water bottles.  The plastic, glass, or metal will block the UV light.   If you are using the SteriPEN in a large pot though, some of the UV light could get to your eyes and cause damage.

One cool thing is that SteriPEN only turns on if it detects water.  This feature makes it impossible for you to accidentally blast yourself with UV light.

SteriPEN Comparison

There are several versions of SteriPEN out.  In my opinion, the SteriPEN Ultra ( get it here ) is the best version because it can be recharged via USB. I typically bring a lightweight power bank on my backpacking trips, which is enough to recharge my devices, headlamps, and a SteriPEN.  On longer trips, you can bring a portable solar panel .

SteriPEN vs. Other Water Treatment Systems

Let me start by saying that no water treatment system is perfect .   There’s always going to be a tradeoff.  For example, water filters which can remove viruses are usually reallllly slow and clog easily.  Systems which can remove chemicals require expensive cartridges which have to be changed frequently.

If you are dealing with really dangerous water – viruses and chemicals in addition to the standard bacteria and protozoa – then you will likely need to combine two water treatment methods.

Sawyer Mini

tips for sawyer mini

For a long time, Sawyer Mini was my go-to water filter for backpacking.  It is incredibly lightweight.  It’s also very cheap and its filter lasts forever, so there’s not even any cost for replacement filters.

As you would probably expect with such a cheap water filter, there are plenty of downsides.  The main ones are that the Sawyer Mini doesn’t treat viruses (though Sawyer does now make the Point Zero Two filter which can remove viruses, it just gets clogged super easily).

Viruses usually aren’t a problem in backcountry because they don’t survive well in water and UV light from the sun usually will kill them.  However, thanks to overcrowding and irresponsible hikers going to the bathroom close to water sources, viral outbreaks are now becoming common on popular trails (my uncle, for example, is one of many people who succumbed to rotovirus while hiking the AT).

The other downside of the Sawyer Mini is that it takes forever to filter.  I personally don’t mind this, but it can be a pain in the butt if you are in a hurry or need to filter a lot of water at once.  You can buy the Sawyer Mini here .

LifeStraw vs. SteriPEN

The LifeStraw water filter might look cool, but it’s completely impractical to use in real life.  I’ve ranted about this in my post Why I Hate the LifeStraw Water Filter so won’t get into it here.

GRAYL GeoPress vs. SteriPEN

steripen journey

The GRAYL GeoPress is a newer water filter to hit the scene.  It uses a press action instead of pumping, so it is easier to use than most filters.  It also has a carbon filter, which means it can remove chemicals as well as bad odors.

The GRAYL GeoPress would be the very best water purifier, except for one issue: The carbon cartridges don’t last very long.  You’ll have to replace them after 65 gallons, or even more frequently if the water is exceptionally contaminated.  This means the cost adds up much more than most other water filters or the SteriPEN.  It breaks down to about $0.38 per gallon plus  the initial cost of the filter. You can get the GRAYL GeoPress here .

MSR Guardian vs. SteriPEN

Long considered one of the best water filters, the MSR Guardian boats impressive features like being able to filter water quickly (5 liters per minute) and having a self-cleaning.  You never have to scrub the filter or back-clean the Guardian!

Because the Guardian filter has a pore size of 0.02 microns, it is able to remove viruses.  This means it can do everything that the SteriPEN does, and it does it without relying on batteries.  The filter cartridge lasts 10,000+ liters, so it really outshines the SteriPEN (as well as most other backpacking filters) in ever way.  The only issue?  It’s a very expensive initial investment. Over time, the investment pays off though since the filter lasts so long.  You can get the MSR Guardian here .

Katadyn Hiker Pro vs. SteriPEN

The Katadyn Hiker Pro is a pump-type water filter.  It’s got a nice big hand pump, so is fairly easy to use.  I also like that it has a tube that goes into the water so you don’t have to crouch right into the water source.

Compared to the SteriPEN, the main advantage of the Hiker Pro filter is that it has a charcoal filter element to remove some bad odors, tastes, and some chemicals.  However, the Hiker Pro won’t treat viruses like the SteriPEN does.  The Hiker Pro also has a fairly short cartridge life of just 200 gallons (less if the water is really murky).  That ends up being around $0.23 per gallon plus  the initial cost of the filter.  So the SteriPEN ends up being a much better value over the long run.  Get the Katadyn Hiker Pro filter here .

Water Purification Tablets vs. SteriPEN

Water purification tablets contain chemicals like iodine.  You just drop them in the water and wait.  The chemicals will kill or deactivate pathogens in the water.  Like with the SteriPEN, tablets won’t remove sediment, bad taste, or chemicals.  The main advantage to the SteriPEN vs iodine tablets is that the SteriPEN is much faster.  Some tablets take over 30 minutes to treat viruses.  Also note that many purification tablets don’t treat Cryptosporidium.

The Bottom Line?

The SteriPEN is a great way to treat unsafe tap water when traveling abroad. However, it has a lot of drawbacks for wilderness backpacking – particularly that it doesn’t work on murky water, won’t remove sediment or worm eggs, and relies on batteries.

If you want to use SteriPEN in the backcountry, I’d recommend using it along with a cheap filter like the Sawyer Mini .  The filter takes care of sediment and large parasites.  The SteriPEN then destroys viruses.

If you’d rather only use one purifier, then get yourself the MSR Guardian filter . It’s expensive but lasts almost forever and handles everything except chemicals.  Or, if you want one purifier that can truly do it all – including get rid of chemicals — go with the GRAYL Geopress .  Just be prepared to pay more over the long run since you need to replace the cartridges so frequently.

Image credits:

“ Sanitizing water with my Steripen. I als ” ( CC BY 2.0 ) by  ryochiji “ Steripen ” ( CC BY-NC 2.0 ) by  AlphaTangoBravo / Adam Baker “ IMG_6762 ” ( CC BY 2.0 ) by  Tim Berger

About the author /

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Diane Vukovic grew up camping and backpacking in upstate New York. Now, she takes her own daughters on wilderness adventures so they can connect with nature and learn resiliency. With dozens of trips under her belt, Diane is an expert in minimalist camping, going lightweight, planning, and keeping her kids entertained without screens.

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“Bumsly Owl”

Thankyou 4 the research time and miles on the trail. I’m a devoted steripen user but for 1st time i am going where tapeworm eggs are a reality, so i must find a filter that doesnt take forever or weigh much

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SteriPEN Freedom Review

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Our Analysis

  • You can use the micro-USB charger to charge it with a solar charger rather than worry about carrying extra batteries or needing an electric outlet. This would be better on the go.
  • it weighs 30 grams less than the Adventurer.
  • it eliminates viruses (which makes it more effective than a filter, and a better choice for international travel.)
  • The combined weight of the Freedom plus a hard-sided water bottle to use it in, plus the solar charger would still likely weigh more than the Gravityworks plus a water bladder.
  • Adding an electronic element to something as vital as water treatment unnecessarily complicates the system, and raises the probability that it could malfunction when you really need it. There is nothing to break on a gravity filter, so it is more reliable.
  • The rechargeable battery is integrated, so if that battery stopped working or starting dying more quickly, you cannot replace it yourself, but have to send it in for a repair.
  • The Freedom has the same limitations as other SteriPENs: it does not treat water on the threads of the bottle, it can only be used with certain containers, and it does not filter out particulate from your water.

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A Little Adrift Travel Blog

A Little Review… The SteriPen vs LifeStraw for Water Purification While You Travel

Last updated on January 15, 2024 by Shannon

Review Steripen Adventurer

While it’s no secret that I support traveling lightly and packing only what’s necessary, the definition of necessary is subjective. And it’s also a tough call about recommending how travelers should stay healthy on the road .

Table of Contents

Why Do You Need a SteriPen?

I’ve written about how sick I’ve gotten over the years. I almost died in Laos from contaminated fresh vegetables. Staying healthy while traveling is a tricky subject and one that a lot of travelers assume that they can handle without much planning.

Carrying a SteriPen or water purification device like the LifeStraw is a good fallback for those on long-term trips, or for trips involving remote travel. Throughout this SteriPen review I’ll detail the whys and hows of this device, the top alternatives, and how they work.

using our steripen in hongsa laos on watery tea served at room temperature

Many backpackers travel overland through remote areas. It’s in the most remote parts of my yearlong round the world trip that I needed my SteriPen to save my hide (that and my travel insurance , because it surely saved my life, too).

There are moments when I had no choice but to drink local water—sometimes in the form of tepid tea—and with my SteriPen, I ensured that I wouldn’t get a parasite when that need arose.

Now, I didn’t have a SteriPen or a LifeStraw when I first packed for my round the world trip . But, my cousin brought a SteriPen for us to use throughout India and Nepal , and it came in handy.

The vast majority of the time we used it on water from the tap in India, and neither of us got sick (from the water, that is). Though we had some issues with traveler’s diarrhea, it wasn’t from drinking water but rather a few poor food choices.

a steripen or lifestraw can't save you from bad food

Of note is that many serious water purification options aim for survival situations and disaster preparedness—those cost a lot.

For travelers, this SteriPen review aims to assess which are a good fit for trips that might include a range of situations where you need water purification as an option, but you’re likely not relying on the device for a years-long water solution (and you need it to be portable!)

the steripen used in a bottle of water

What are the Primary Ways to Purify Water While Traveling?

There are several methods you can use to purify water while traveling, depending on the resources and equipment you have available. Here are the main options:

Boiling is an effective way to purify water. Bring the water to a rolling boil for at least one minute, and let it cool before drinking. This is most effective if you’re at your accommodation and just need enough water to brush your teeth, or to get you through a night.

Chemical treatments

There are several chemical treatments that can be used to purify water, such as iodine and chlorine dioxide tablets. These tablets are widely available and both easy to use and to pack, but they definitely affect the taste of the water. These are good to have in a medical kit if you’re doing a lot of camping and outdoors backpacking.

Water filters can remove a wide range of contaminants, including bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. There are many types of water filters available, ranging from simple straw filters to more advanced systems. The LifeStraw profiled below falls into this category and is an excellent option.

UV light can be used to purify water by killing bacteria and viruses. Portable UV water purifiers are can be used on the go. The SteriPen profiled here falls into this category and worked well on our trip through South Asia.

Review: What is a SteriPen?

Review of how SteriPen Adventurer performs in water

A SteriPen is small, pen-like electronic device that emits ultraviolet light and purifies either half a liter or one full liter of water at a time. The device operates on batteries and works with clear water by killing the DNA of harmful microbes and bacteria.

A light wand sticks out of one end of the device—you push the button either once or twice to purify a full liter of water or a half-liter, then submerge the light wand end into the water.

The light turns on and stays on while you agitate the water with the light wand until the dose is complete. (Models vary slightly on how to operate it, so read the directions!)

Once the water is safe to drink, about one minute later, the light turns off and flashes green. If it flashes red, you have to repeat the dose because something went wrong.

For example, if you accidentally lift the wand out of the water during a treatment a sensor will flag that the water was not properly treated and flash red.

The UV light destroys the DNA of any microbes and bacteria in the water. UV light is safely used in bottling plants all over the world, so this little light just brings it to the consumer level. Although UV light is bad for a person’s skin and such, when used within the water, it’s safe.

Things I liked about my SteriPen:

Eco-friendly : We really limited our use of plastic water bottles all throughout India and Nepal.

Light and small . We carried a one-liter water bottle (I use a single-wall stainless steel Nalgene ) so we could submerge our small SteriPen Adventurer, and those two things were all that we needed for it to work.

Effective : It worked. We stopped using it at one point in India because there were floaty things in the water—but everywhere else, it worked and we didn’t get sick for the whole first month we traveled (and when we did get sick it was due to poor food choices!).

Versatile : It went on my Annapurna trek . Porters have to carry the bottled water you drink on Himalayan treks, and it’s pricey. We carried our Nalgene bottles and used the SteriPen the whole way and didn’t have to purchase water once.

Easier : I never had to backpack around with several liters of water strapped to my bag. And if we ran out of water at night, we had no worries about brushing our teeth with tap water, we just purified some more.

SteriPen Drawbacks:

Expensive : Some might consider the price tag steep for something that you might only use a dozen times on your trip. If that’s a concern, or if you’re solo, consider something like the LifeStraw .

It works well for a single person and will give you the same level of safety. My cousin and I shared our SteriPen, so the price savings from not buying bottled water made it cost-effective and it was easy to share.

Batteries : The SteriPen Adventurer takes Lithium CR123 Batteries. My cousin brought two sets of spare batteries from the United States. The U.S. batteries were the only ones that worked. I’m not sure why, but we bought two other sets of backups in India from different locations and neither set worked.

We were fortunate that the batteries we had from the States lasted just long enough to get us through our Annapurna trek; the charge on the Indian batteries was just not strong enough to power the device.

Floaties : In order to remove particles, you would have to actually use one of the company’s other devices, as this doesn’t remove particulate matter from water.

Shop the SteriPen on Amazon.

With more than 500 positive reviews, I’m not the only one who’s found value in traveling with this little device! Check the current SteriPen price now.

Review: How Does a LifeStraw Work?

LifeStraw Review

This device is a straw that you use to suck water through the filter and into your mouth. You can submerge the LifeStraw into any water source—a water bottle or a river—and the straw cleans the water as it passes through the hollow-fiber membrane.

The company also sells a LifeStraw Go water bottle and filter combination, but I find that impractical for travelers. If it’s built into your water bottle, then you are using your filter 100% of the time, even if you head to Europe or some such.

The LifeStraw comes off as more of an emergency backup option for hikers than something that travelers would want to use daily for the four months that I used my SteriPen in India and Nepal. It will work in a hairy situation, but it’s not necessarily the best option if you want regularly filtered purified water.

Benefits of the LifeStraw:

Longevity : The microbiological filter provides 4,000 liters of safe drinking water, meaning it will easily last your entire trip, and you don’t have to worry about finding batteries, like with the SteriPen.

Light and small . Just like with the SteriPen, all you need to carry is a water bottle (I use a single-wall stainless steel Nalgene ). Although the marketing materials show people drinking directly from a river, you probably won’t be using it that way, so plan on carrying a water bottle.

Effective : This device eliminates the most serious water borne illnesses, including those that travelers most frequently encounter on the road, including bacteria and parasites—these are the most common causes of travelers’ sickness.

Price : At just US $20, the straw is an easy option for those unsure they need water filtration but want a backup. It was developed for use by people in developing countries, which is part of why the price-point is so low.

LifeStraw Drawbacks:

Limited uses : This is a straw that purifies as you suck water into your mouth, meaning you can’t as easily share water with another person, or to drink tea or something else provided to you by a local. Unless, you put in a bottle or baggie and then push the liquid through it.

The SteriPen, on the other hand, can purify anything that’s clear and it’s clean inside of the bottle and can be used for anything you might need.

Viruses : There are a few things not eliminated by the straw, including chemicals and viruses. Meaning it’s effective on river water and such, but might still leave a few things in your water if you’re using on water from taps in developing countries. It’s very effective, just not 100% effective, which could really matter to some people.

Shop the LifeStraw on Amazon.

This is a super popular product with 100,000+ positive reviews. The roughly $20 price point means it’s a good backup option for travelers. Check the current LifeStraw price now.

Should You Buy a Water Purification Device?

do you really need a steripen

It depends. Let’s review a few key circumstances. If you’re traveling extensively and for quite some time through countries with developing infrastructures :  YES . These devices lower a traveler’s eco-footprint, saves money in the long term, and save you from tricky situations with water that just seems suspicious.

  • The SteriPen is not something many travelers will use every day of a trip, but when you do, you’ll be glad it’s in your bag. But, if you’re backpacking around the world just once and only in these developing regions for a limited time then the SteriPen is likely an unnecessary extravagance.
  • No matter the length of your trip, I recommend world travelers at least pack an affordable alternative like the LifeStraw . You need a solid fall-back if you’re stuck without clean water.

After my cousin left my trip, I headed to Europe and did not need a SteriPen. I have one now, however, and I brought it on my travels through Africa . Again, although I didn’t use it all of the time, I was happy to have it when I was stuck in a circumstance where I needed to drink something made with local water.

Both of these are cool little devices that 100 percent live up to the promise of making unsafe water clean. They effectively sterilize water from taps and rivers—any clear water you can put in your bottle can be effectively sterilizes.

Between the SteriPen and its affordable alternative, the LifeStraw , you should have something in your bag that is small and handy.

Quick Tips: Stay Healthy While You Travel

  • How to Shit Around the World: The Art of Staying Clean and Healthy While Traveling : What happens when you travel in developing countries, for long periods of time, without a SteriPen? This book offers a frank and unapologetic discussion of everything from diarrhea to parasites, and other gastrointestinal nastiness. It doesn’t shy away from any topic that may impact your health—it should be a mandatory primer guide for all travelers.
  • How to Avoid Travel Sickness While Traveling : A full rundown of the illnesses I’ve survived over the past decade on the road, as well as my hard-learned advice for staying healthy while traveling.
  • Oral Rehydration Salts : Besides travel insurance and ensuring I had clean water, ORS are essential in every travel kit and I think any traveler takes great risk if they travel to remote places without these—death from diarrheal illnesses is often due to dehydration, not the parasite itself.
  • SteriPen Adventurer Opti Personal : The SteriPen Adventurer works best for long-term travels, or those spending a lot of time in the outdoors on treks, camping, etc.
  • LifeStraw Personal Water Filter : Portable and effective, this straw can be used from a RTW trip to a camping trip — and everything in between.
  • Best Travel Insurance Options : The short of it is that IMG Global is the travel insurance I’ve used for well over a decade.

How to Stay Healthy on the Road

With more than a decade of experience traveling all over the world, I share every lesson learned about how to avoid getting sick when you travel—and, more importantly, how to handle any inevitable travel sicknesses.

39 thoughts on “A Little Review… The SteriPen vs LifeStraw for Water Purification While You Travel”

I have used the Steripen Adventurer and always carry a spare set of Lithum batteries. The Eveready brand claim a 10-year shelf life I have used it while backpacking and in Third World countries, so far no problems getting sick There is a USB rechargeable version that you can use a battery pack and/or a solar cell panel to recharge, I don’t have first hand knowledge how convenient they are. One question is if it works with colored drinks, for example in Peru there is a “Chicha Morada”, it is a purple drink and I don’t know if the Steripen will work.

Given that it’s UV light, darker beverages will not work. I’ve used it on green teas I was served lukewarm in Laos and the light fully penetrated the liquid. That’s what you need for sterilization.

I bought the Steripen that uses the AA batteries…..if you buy lithium AAs they last a very long time. Or you can use rechargeable Nimh types, or bring a few extra regular alkaline AAs.

I like the portability and the fact it nukes viruses as well as bacteria and spores. It also never needs money spent on new filters, as it doesn’t need them. It’s also very easy to use. The AA version comes with a prefilter for really nasty water, and Steripen makes an adapter for the other models that fits all Steripens, or you can just use a coffee filter or a bandana.

The AA model is called the “Steripen Classic 3”.

I’m currently researching what type of water cleaning system to get that isn’t going to compromise it’s effect in freezing temps. I volunteer on city Emergency Response Team and have a bugout bag in a sealed container in my truck 24/7. I live in the Rockies and the temps in my truck go below freezing. Recently read a blog of a person who questioned the specs of water filters in freezing temps. He contacted all makers with a few who talked around the issue, others didn’t comment at all, only one maker responded LifeStraw. Last week I contacted LifeStraw and their statement was that their filters are designed to work between temps of 33-140, if exposed to temps under 32 degrees their advice was to change the filter or discard the unit. Granted most folks store their gear in the house, but in the garage or shed the filter can be compromised. Seems there is no good answer for my situation, currently going to use the SteriPen Ultra as a backup to a filter; use cannister with mouth covere with fine cloth to filter out debris, use filter, then the SteriPen to be safe. Hopefully SteriPen battery will heat up if keep next to body during cold. Solar/power pack to recharge battery.

That sounds like a good approach. If the SteriPen turns on, then it should work to kill the bacteria, so you would know at least that it’s not functioning, versus the LifeStraw, which would not give any indication if it was compromised by the temperatures.

regarding use of Steri pen, as you quoted

“A light wand sticks out of one end of the device—you submerge that end into the water and then push the button either once or twice to purify a full liter of water or a half-liter.”

Be Careful as different models of pen have different ways of using them

I was getting the red light of fail constantly using the same method as above. After many emails to tech support the problem was (for my model you start with the pen different) Start with pen out of the water, Power on, you have 15 seconds to then dip the pen in water submerging the contacts or sensor. This completes circuit and start the Process of cleaning the water. swirl till green light shows

the difference between the air and the water is how it know when to stop basically

so moral of the story read the instructions, and follow them, as clean water is the same color as bad water… but so far it been great little piece of gear to have (now the idiot in charge is skilled enough to use it)

That is SUCH a good point. I had the same experience of the learning curve putting it into the water, yet somehow didn’t articulate that well when writing. I appreciate you pointing that out and have updated the post to reflect it!

I’ve had my Steripen since 2008… 8 trecks in Nepal plus backpacking at home. Works great, provided good (not Asian knockoff) batteries are used.

The sensors DO need occasional cleaning. A wipe and Steripen works.

Thanks for sharing your experience! Working after more than nine years is a testament to a good product. Mine is also still working since around that same time. Cheers. :)

Mine worked great in South America but now I am in India and it just stopped. It charges but the uv light does not come on. I think it is the sensors. . It tried tech support until it kicked me out. I love it when it works.

Oh nooo! That is the worst when it stops unexpectedly. My cousin and I ran into a problem on a long trek, where the brand new batteries we had bought in India weren’t good enough (likely knock-offs or very old), so they couldn’t power it. We ended up having to do exactly what we had tried to avoid — buying bottled water high in the Himalayas! Hope it starts working again for you.

Thanks for the extra tips Rob – you are very right about the batteries, we took two sets and it just did us since the ones that we bought (which were energizer but could have been sitting on the shelf for years maybe) didn't work.

You are spot on about the filtering, it doesn't take out the floaties, but we never got sick from it either – it never came to needing a coffee filter, but that's an awesome tip if I ever do need it down the line.

Cheers and thanks for lending your advice since it seems it's been working so well for you – it's a genius little product, I just think the whole battery situation is a bit troublesome for long-term travel in particular, perhaps they're work on that though! :-)

Purchased the Steripen Adventurer and love it. Small, lightweight, very effective. It doesn't filter the water. I see some people think of it as a filter. It disrupts the DNA in all the Bacteria, viruses, crypto and giardia and protozoa etc. So they can't reproduce and make you sick. They get passed right through you with no ill effects. Drawback is the problem with the Charger for it if you get that. It takes about three or four days to fully charge a set of batteries. I use the disposable lithium CR123 batteries and take about four sets of them with me. That's enough for almost 200 litres of water for drinking and brushing teeth. That's a lot of water. Four sets take up little room. Lithiums weigh very little. But in a major city, you may find a branch of a big battery manufacturer like Energizer, and they can get you good batteries, not the cheapy third world unknown batteries that don't work. I prefilter cloudy water through a couple coffee filters if it is not clear. Don't want to drink floaties. ;) I've yet to get sick with the Steripen. The only drawbacks are the slow solar charger, and the availability of batteries, so take extra sets.

There's 2 styles of Steri-pens that I've seen, the one pictured and the one I bought.

The one I have has a filter (that fits quite a few styles of bottles) to get rid of the floaties before zapping the water and uses regular AA batteries. They still do recommend lithium batteries (averages about 200 charges of .5 litres) to using over alkaline batteries (which gives only 20-40 charges).

I'm glad you mentioned the batteries, I'll have to pack some spares so I don't run out :)

That's really great to know Catia, I had no idea that the other SteriPens used a different battery – AAs are so much easier to find then the small specialty ones! Next time I am looking at these I will definitely consider the one you mention. :-)

That's just crazy that you guys had the exact same battery problems! As you say, that's a real detraction from the device considering it's designed for travel outside of the states – thanks for weighing in on this with your own experience. I'm actually not taking one with me on this upcoming trip – while I also love the green value of it, the batteries were a big issue for us too.

So I guess that means that you guys aren't using it anymore?! I'm going to do some research on the other straw device you mention, that seems like a much more viable option than continually seeking out the right batteries in developing countries :-)

I fell in love with the idea of the SteriPEN when I first saw it used by an American guy biking across Burma a couple of years ago. So, before we left for the Latin America portion of our journey I bought a SteriPEN Adventurer (with a solar-powered charger) and was super excited to reduce our environmental footprint (i.e., reducing plastic bottle waste).

Unfortunately, I seem to have gotten lemon rechargeable batteries that died after about a month (it would take one night to charge the batteries & it could only power the device to clean 1/2 a liter). And, because I didn't have spare batteries with me the device became obsolete because the batteries seem impossible to find outside the United States. They are CR123a batteries, not regular CR123 batteries.

So, I'm torn. I love the idea of this device, but it could have been better designed to take batteries that you can purchase in the countries where you need to use the device (i.e., developing countries).

I just learned about another device that was developed for children to use in Africa, but would also be great for travelers. It is a straw with a filter at the end so it cleans water as you suck through the straw.

Considering how long you'll be in those regions, I think it could really work well for you…as long as you bring some batteries!! :-)

Very nifty! Might investigate this for my travels… In Africa for two months & Asia for four months next year!

I didn't know such a thing existed, pretty cool. I guess though it wouldn't help if the water were murky. Would be disinfected probably but look gross. I could see something like this being very handy especially in some remote places.

Yeah, it wouldn't work for murky water – and I stopped using it when there were large, visible floaties because that was just gross! But it really did come in handy along the way :-)

I think I'd probably agree with you – three days seems hardly worth the price tag! Another traveler mentioned an interesting option of the filter-inside water bottles, but I haven't much looked into that, could be beneficial though if the cost were more reasonable :-)

I was totally sold on this until I saw the price. I'm going to Egypt next year and could use it, but I'll only be there for about 13 days, so I'm not sure if it's worth it.

Interesting read for sure!

I have a water bottle with a built-in filter… had never heard of this device before. Glad it worked for you :)

I've wondered how the filters work – the thought of relying on a filter in India made me nervous…but I take it yours works well?

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Safe drinking water is available within seconds with Steripen UV technology. Our UV water purifiers from Steripen set the standard for fast, simple and effective water treatment when travelling, during outdoor activities or emergency preparedness.

Steripen Classic, Ultra, Ultralight, Adventure Opti or Aqua are an environmentally friendly alternative to bottled water. They destroy viruses, bacteria and protozoa - including Giardia and Cryptosporidium - in just 48 seconds. Globally people rely on Steripen's portable UV water purifiers and appreciate their efficiency and reliability. Steripen has been part of the Katadyn Group since July 2017.

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    Compared to messing with water filtration systems, tasting iodine, or boiling, using the SteriPEN is a cinch. The Journey works with Hydro-Photon's pre-filter (not included), which removes particulates, and it ships with two CR123 batteries, which will purify roughly 100 16-ounce bottles of water.

  5. SteriPEN Journey LCD

    The SteriPEN Journey is simple to set up. Using a small coin or screwdriver, loosen the screw holding the battery compartment closed. Once opened, place the included lithium batteries into place, following the instructions printed directly on the SteriPEN. The operating instructions are printed directly on the SteriPEN.

  6. SteriPEN Journey LCD Reviews

    Reviewed by. C Moore +14. July 30, 2018. I have owned the Steripen Adventurer for about a decade, and it has performed very very well, with good battery life. With the Journey LCD, I had the same battery probs described by the other reviewers. My conclusion is that the Journey somehow drains batteries when not in use.

  7. SteriPEN Journey Test Report by Rick Allnutt

    The SteriPEN Journey is an ultraviolet device designed to treat water to make it safe to drink. The device has some advantages over most filters or chemical treatments, because research shows that it makes water safe from all organisms that can make people sick. It works against viruses, bacteria, and protozoa.

  8. SteriPEN JourneyLCD Handheld Water Purifier

    The >SteriPEN JourneyLCD is a travel, handheld water purifier that simplifies the process of, well, water purification. The JourneyLCD features an integrated LCD screen that lets user's choose how much water they plan to purify (half or full liter). It also displays a countdown timer, battery level, and a usage number that notifies you when ...

  9. SteriPEN Journey LCD Water Purifier

    The revolutionary SteriPEN JourneyLCD uses universal symbols to take the guesswork out of the water purification process. Journey's integrated LCD screen displays the user's dose selection (1/2 liter or 1 liter), battery status and countdown timer.

  10. SteriPen Journey Handheld Water Purifier The most portable water purification system we've seen yet, the SteriPEN Journey takes the guesswork out of clean, safe water. With ul...

  11. SteriPEN Journey LCD Handheld UV Water Purifier

    The Journey is light, weighing in at just 4.5 ounces (128 grams). And like all SteriPEN models, it's fast. It takes just 48 seconds to purify 16 ounces (0.5 Liter). The Journey's tapered end provides a snug fit with water bottles, and with the SteriPEN Fits All Filter, works even with wide-mouth water bottles.

  12. SteriPEN Journey Safe Water System

    The Steripen Journey System Pack comes with the new FitsAll Filter and a 32 oz wide-mouth Nalgene BPA-Free water bottle. The revolutionary SteriPEN JourneyLCD uses universal symbols to take the guesswork out of the water purification process. Journey integrated LCD screen displays the user dose selection (1/2 liter or 1 liter), battery status and countdown timer.

  13. SteriPEN review

    A review of UV Water Sterilization using the SteriPEN Journey Collecting water from a nearby river, stream or spring can often mean the water is contaminated with a host of bacteria, parasites and other organisms resulting from animal waste or decay. Fortunately, sterilizing water using ultraviolet (UV) light is quick, easy, and works without the.

  14. SteriPEN Adventurer Opti Review

    For UV purification, the SteriPEN Adventurer Opti is lighter, smaller, and more reliable than the old SteriPen Journey LCD.SteriPEN seems to have overcome a few of the finicky reliability issues with this model, and have developed a more compact and easy to use unit, though the green or red light indicating if it worked can be hard to see.

  15. SteriPEN Journey Safe Water System

    The SteriPEN Journey LCD is Steripen Journey Personal UV Water PurifierThe SteriPEN Journey LCD is a personal, portable, handheld UV water purifier that utilizes C Wavelength UV (ultraviolet light). UV-C light is short wave light, between x-rays and visible light wavelengths, which destroy the DNA of microbes in seconds. Without functional DNA, microbes can't reproduce or make you sick.

  16. Ultimate SteriPEN Review: Options, Instructions, and How It Compares to

    SteriPEN vs. Other Water Treatment Systems. Let me start by saying that no water treatment system is perfect.. There's always going to be a tradeoff. For example, water filters which can remove viruses are usually reallllly slow and clog easily. Systems which can remove chemicals require expensive cartridges which have to be changed frequently.

  17. SteriPEN Journey Safe Water System

    The SteriPEN Journey Safe Water System - UV Purifier includes everything you need to purify water on the go, including the Journey LCD water purifies and a SteriPEN FitsAll filter that removes debris and particulates. The Journey SteriPEN emits ultr. Free Shipping on orders over $99 | FREE 365-DAY RETURNS

  18. SteriPEN Ultra Review

    The SteriPEN Ultra is a meager 6.65 ounces including its squishy carry case. Of the SteriPEN models, it's the heaviest, but it's much lighter than pump filters that treat viruses. The profile is narrow, which fits nicely into a backpacking pack or even a running pack. It's a little large for ultralightweight missions that might go for 20+ miles ...

  19. SteriPEN Freedom Review

    The SteriPEN Freedom has some unique qualities that make it a more attractive option than other SteriPEN models such as the SteriPEN Adventurer Opti and the SteriPEN Journey LCD:. You can use the micro-USB charger to charge it with a solar charger rather than worry about carrying extra batteries or needing an electric outlet.

  20. SteriPen Review: Water Purifying for World Travelers

    SteriPen Adventurer Opti Personal: The SteriPen Adventurer works best for long-term travels, or those spending a lot of time in the outdoors on treks, camping, etc. LifeStraw Personal Water Filter: Portable and effective, this straw can be used from a RTW trip to a camping trip — and everything in between.

  21. Steripen

    Steripen Classic, Ultra, Ultralight, Adventure Opti or Aqua are an environmentally friendly alternative to bottled water. They destroy viruses, bacteria and protozoa - including Giardia and Cryptosporidium - in just 48 seconds. Globally people rely on Steripen's portable UV water purifiers and appreciate their efficiency and reliability ...