Best Purification Tool for Clean Water While Hiking

(note: this blog was updated in 2019 to reflect over 4 years of SteriPen usage.)

SteriPen Product Review


While my friends lugged their filtration systems to the creeks along the Appalachian Trail, I gleefully carried my SteriPen to the water source. I’m convinced the SteriPen is one of the best products to come along for clean water. Here is my product review of the SteriPen, which is updated after one year of use.

How the SteriPen Works

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The SteriPen, about the size of a flashlight, runs on lithium batteries, although you can use alkalines if you want. When inserting the pen into a liter bottle of water and pressing the button, it will purify a liter of water in about 90 seconds. Note that it does not filter–it simply purifies. Each lithium set of batteries will purify about 90 liters of water.

No Need for Filtration

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I used the Classic SteriPen, which is sold without the per-filtration system. I didn’t see a need for the filtration while hiking the Appalachian Trail. The free-flowing creeks ran clear, and when I filled my liter bottle, the water was debris-free with the exception of a very small amount of fine silt at the bottom of the bottle.

The Pros

Convenient and easy to use, the SteriPen purified the same volumes of water as my friends with their filtration systems and did it in less time. It was also less bulky and lighter weight than most of the filtration systems I saw folks using on the Appalachian Trail.

I am glad I packed the small instruction booklet with images, as I was a bit confused exactly how it worked and what the lights meant. Once I figured these important items out, the SteriPen never failed. I drank purified water for five days on the Appalachian Trail with no problems, and I was especially glad to know that it kills viruses as well. At the Stover Creek shelter, there were warning signs to not only filter but to purify due to a reported virus outbreak on the trail.

The Cons

The SteriPen is basically a florescent light bulb at the end of a wand. It has a nice protective cover, and it easily slips into the side of a backpack. But if you break the bulb or you don’t have replacement batteries, you’re out of luck and thirsty. Additionally, it only purifies one liter at a time, and SteriPen doesn’t recommend that you purify directly in a water bladder. Thus, you’ll need to purify one liter at a time in your bottle and then pour the purified water into your bladder. I didn’t find this too inconvenient as the section of the Appalachian Trail we hiked had water every 2-3 miles. I managed to survive on one liter of water at a time while hiking and stopping at the abundant water sources.

SteriPen After One Year

I’ve now been using the SteriPen for all of my water needs while backcountry hiking. I’ve even used it in Mexico while staying in the city of Oaxaca. It’s a great tool to sterilize the city water that comes from taps, and it saves me tons of money from buying bottled water. In all the times I’ve used my SteriPen, I’ve never gotten sick from the water or had any digestive issues.

Recommendation FOR the SteriPen

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Despite the fear of breaking the bulb or the batteries failing, I strongly recommend the SteriPen. It’s convenient, affordable and efficient. It produces drinkable water at a quick and effective click of a button. As a product review of the SteriPen, I rate it an A.