A Little Adrift

A Little Review… Purifying Water While You Travel

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

Water in most developing countries is not safe to drink. This means that travelers are relying on bottled water day in and day out. There are, however, other options. I found that carrying a SteriPen and/or a water purification device like the LifeStraw is a good fallback for those on long-term trips. Many backpackers are traveling overland through some remote areas, and in this regard, my SteriPEN saved my hide several times. There are moments when I had no choice but to drink local water — with the SteriPEN I could ensure that I wouldn’t get a parasite when that need arose.

Now, I didn’t leave with one either a SteriPEN nor a LifeStraw for my one-year round the world trip. But, my cousin brought a SteriPEN for us to use throughout India and Nepal, and it came in handy. We used it the vast majority of the time and it helped us stay healthy. Though we had some issues with traveler’s diarrhea, it wasn’t from the drinking water.

What is the SteriPEN?

It’s a small pen-like electronic device that emits an ultraviolet light and purifies either half a liter or one full liter of water at a time. The device operates off of 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 — that gets submerged into tıhe bottle of water. Push the button either once or twice to purify a full liter of water or a half-liter. The light turns on and stays on while you agitate the water with the light wand until the dose is complete.

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 it 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 the SteriPEN:

Drawbacks:

Should You Buy a SteriPEN?

It depends. If you’re traveling extensively and for quite some time through the developing world: YES. It lowers a traveler’s eco-footprint and will likely save money in the long term. Check the price for it on Amazon now.

If you’re backpacking around the world just once and only in these developing regions for a limited time: NO, it’s likely an unnecessary extravagance. But I do recommend you pack an affordable alternative like the LifeStraw so that you have 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, though 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.

It’s a cool little device and it 100 percent lives up to it’s promise. It effectively sterilizes water from taps, water from rivers, any clear water you can put in your bottle it’ll sterilize. Between the SteriPEN it’s affordable alternative, the LifeStraw, you should have something in your bag that is small and handy.

Quick Tips: Stay Healthy While You Travel