Safe Water in Paradise

Honeymooning in the developing world? There are a lot of reasons why a SteriPEN should be at the top of your packing list

Clean Water

Water cascading over a pair of hands.Courtesy iStockphoto

When you're getting ready to honeymoon in Thailand, issues like water purity suddenly become more relevant. So, my fiancé and I got ridiculously excited about the latest purification technology from Hyrdro-Photon. The SteriPEN Journey LCD uses ultraviolet light to kill 99.9999% of bacteria, 99.99% of viruses and (only?) 99.9% of protozoa. Just stick the wand into a water bottle, push the button, wait a minute or so, and drink.

In the frequently asked question portion of the SteriPEN website, there's one question that easily justifies its $99.99 cost: Will the SteriPEN be effective in water from ______ (insert country or destination name here!)?

"The answer? A simple and universal yes. The SteriPEN uses C Wavelength unltraviolet light (254nm) to purify water in a similar fashion to that of larger treatment facilities. The UV light actually destroys the DNA of any unwanted substance, rendering it harmless for drinking. Users pick between the ½ liter (16 ounce) and one liter (32 ounce) setting, push the button, and gently stir the pen through the water. The LCD will count down from 48 seconds (1/2 liter) or 90 seconds (1 liter), while a visible white light (with no purification purpose) gives the appearance that something is happening. Once complete, the light will turn off and a smiley face will show up on LCD screen indicating the water is safe for drinking. If the pen is pulled out before the appropriate dosage a frown will signify the water is not so safe. The pen won't activate until it is in contact with water and the UV light offers no health risk once immersed in the water. Unlike chemical options, the UV light doesn't make the water taste any different and works much faster than their up to four hour waiting period."

Testing has been conducted by all sorts of labs offering all sorts of accreditation and SteriPEN publishes those results on their website. The UV lamp can run 10,000 cycles, which is 4 liters/day for seven years and the LCD screen will indicate when it's nearing its end. The device runs on CR123 batteries that could be tough to find where water is poor but will last through 100 purifications. The battery life is also tracked on the LCD.

The device does have a few easily overcome limitations that should be noted before travel. It's not recommended for use inside hydration bladders but the water can be treated before you carry it. The UV technology works best with clear water, so if you're siphoning from the river, best to filter out any sediment to ensure best results. With no visible quantification of the water safety level before, during or after use, the pen does leave the user wanting 'proof', though we recognize that such analytical capability would price the product out of public reach. Instead, we're fine trusting the white light and saving $3.50 per liter on the bottled water.