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Reviews > Water Treatment > Ultraviolet > SteriPEN Journey > Test Report by Rick Allnutt

  Ultraviolet Handheld Water Purifier

Test Series by Rick Allnutt

Initial Report - 22 September 2008

Field Report - 25 November 2008

Long Term Report - 27 January 2009


NAME: Rick Allnutt
AGE: 55
LOCATION: Helotes, Texas
GENDER: male
HEIGHT: 6' 0" (1.8 m)
WEIGHT: 190 lb (86 kg)

Over the last several years, I have become an ultralight camper with a three-season base pack weight of about 8 lb (3.5 kg) and skin out weight of 17 lb (8 kg). I have completed many section hikes on the Appalachian Trail (AT) in all four seasons, and many trips to state parks, with a total mileage of about 1650 miles (2500 km). I am a gearhead, a hammock or tarp camper, and I make much of my own equipment. 

Trail Name: Risk

Risk's Ultralite Hiking Page:

22 September 2008


SteriPEN JourneyManufacturer: Hydro-photon
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website:
MSRP: US$99.99
Listed Weight: 4.5 oz (128 g) with batteries
Measured Weight: 4.6 oz (130 g) with batteries
                           5.5 oz (156 g) with batteries and carrying case

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. The device does nothing to remove chemical toxins from water.  

The SteriPEN technology does not kill the organisms that are present, but it makes them incapable of reproducing and causing illness. It is not the few organisms I take in that cause me problems, it is their nasty habit of rapidly reproducing once they are inside me that causes disease. When the ultraviolet light in the SteriPEN causes the little organisms to become sterile, they are no longer able to cause me any symptoms or illness.


I have had a long love/hate relationship with methods of making water safe to drink. I have used filters, iodine, and chlorine compounds at one time or another. On the Appalachian Trail, I almost always was able to find springs coming directly out of the ground, and never filtered that water. All these methods have significant drawbacks. Neither chemicals nor filters eliminate all the organisms. Filters don't get rid of viruses. Chemicals are poor at getting rid of some of the larger cysts. Filters clog at the worst times. Chemicals all leave an aftertaste.

My initial impression of the ultraviolet technology of the SteriPEN is that all the problems mentioned above are solved, and then some. UV treatment of clear water makes any organisms (viruses, bacteria, and cysts) unable to reproduce and cause illness in my body. It takes less than two minutes to treat a liter of water and as soon as the water is treated, it is ready to drink. It takes no muscle power to treat water, like all filters I have used, and the light does not clog.

The SteriPEN Journey was precisely what I expected from the website. It looked and felt just like I thought it would. I also appreciated the availability on the website of scientific articles showing the research that has been done with hand-held field water purification. One of the serendipitous findings I made was that many of the disposable quart (liter) disposable bottles have a mouth just the right size to support the body of the Journey and allow swirling of the water in the bottle. (See the photo)  I have used such bottles as hydration bottles for more than a year now because they are cheap, light and easy to use.

The way that Hydro-photon has packaged this UV water treatment device is above all else, easy to use. Batteries fit in the top of the handle. The manufacturer warns that the battery compartment is not "guaranteed to be waterproof" and says that the end of the handle should not be immersed in water.  However, the rest of the package is apparently waterproof and I need not concern myself with splashing water on the single pushbutton or the LCD display while stirring water.

Treating a quart (liter) bottle of water requires the following steps: 1) Take the device out of its cloth case (which can be carried on a belt like a sheath knife). 2) Pull the orange cap off the end of the device to expose the light element. It is important to take the cap off without any bending motion, to make sure that the light bulb is not damaged. 3) Press the button one time and the LCD display comes to life. 4) Put the device in the water to be treated. This needs to be deep enough so that the two stainless steel probes are under water, and the probes need to stay under water during the whole treatment cycle. This is to reduce risk of exposing me to UV light that could harm my eyes or cause local sunburn to my skin. 5) stir the water or gently swirl the container on and off for the 90 second treatment cycle. 6) I then rinse off the lip of the bottle with the treated water to wash off any untreated water from the mouth of the bottle. An easy way to do this is to put the cap on loosely and turn the bottle upside down and let a little water come out of the bottle.

The package is also friendly. It is designed to smile at me when a cycle of water treatment is complete. Actually, there are two smiley faces, one for battery condition and one for water treatment completion. The package instructions say that a pair of batteries will treat about 35 quarts (liters) of water on one charging of a pair of C123 batteries or 50 quarts (liters) on a pair of disposable C123 batteries. The light element itself is rated for 9999 cycles and there is a display to show how far along that time line the device has traveled - it automatically counts the cycles over the life of the SteriPEN. It will be hard to approach this number of cycles in the ensuing four months of testing. Even if I were on a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail and treated 8 liters of water a day for a long six months of hiking, I would only have used about 1/8th of this total.  

I wondered about the use of C123 batteries in the Journey until I compared it with other SteriPEN devices. The C123 batteries allow a much lighter package than a AA battery device. Also, there is a ready supply of C123 batteries that can be mailed or carried on long hikes without having to rely on regular access to wall current and a battery charger.


The SteriPEN Journey is an easy to use, light-weight and very effective water treatment device.  The package seems robust and up to normal hiking and packing. 

The things I really like about this device are:
- Effective for all the organisms that are likely to be in water I am willing to drink
- The hardware is well constructed and friendly to operate
- I find that I am much more willing to treat water when it is this easy and problem free.

I thank Hydro-photon and for selecting me for this test.  

24 November 2008


Gila Wilderness

September 17-19, 2008 – Three day, two night hike in the Gila Wilderness, New Mexico. The altitudes ranged from 6000 to 7400 ft (1800 - 2300 m). Temperatures were from 45 to 75 F (7 to 24 C). The weather included sun and rain. As can be seen from this photograph, there are places in New Mexico with plenty of water in early Fall.  All the water I drank on this trip came from this river.

October 25, 2008 – Overnight at Government Canyon. Hammock camping. Temperature 50 to 80 F (10 to 27 C) Clear night with many stars visible.

November 21, 2008 – Overnight at Government Canyon. Cloudy night expected to be cold. I slept in a tarp tent, and the temperature only dropped to 50 F (10 C).


My first impression when hiking down into the gorge of the Gila Wilderness was that this is a wild and unspoiled place. I met very few people in the wilderness on my hike. That's good, because I like it quiet when I am at home in the woods.

My second impression was that others had been this way before, and not long before. It was particularly obvious that many horses had worked their way through the canyon. This is not surprising, as the wilderness is open to horse camping. As is expected when horses share the path, they left occasional deposits on the trail and in the streams. 
Between the first and second day's hike, I went across this stream a total of 47 times. The horses had crossed that number of times too. That is a lot of opportunity for the water to be affected by horse traffic. So I was just as happy that I was carrying a proven method for purifying water from a stream that had been partly used as a horse trail.

Steripen being used to purify waterThe SteriPEN worked first time and every time exactly as the directions said it would. It was very nice to be able to sit back and watch the light purify the water in less than 2 minutes instead of using chemicals or pumping the water through a filter. Also with the water being contaminated with mammal feces (the horses) I had concerns about viral contamination that would not have allowed me to use a filter alone to make my water safe to drink.

I found myself drinking a little more than usual with my constant wading through fords. I guess that comes from several years of training to think about drinking whenever I come across water. Old habits are often good habits.

Here, I have just collected water from the Gila River and begun the 90 second process to make the water safe to drink. I found that the device is easy to use with a salvaged one liter (one quart) Gatorade bottle. I also carried a Nalgene bottle, but the Gatorade bottle held the SteriPEN up so that I could take a photograph.  

As expected, the treated water was cool and refreshing. It had no residual taste from having been treated with ultraviolet light. There was no ozone smell to the water or the area around the bottle. In fact, the water tasted just great - like pure mountain stream water - which is what it mainly was. The advantage to treating the water was that I did not have to worry about whether the water was going to infect me with something that would spoil my hike.

I also used the purifier for several day hikes during the field testing period. I remember one moment at Lost Maples State Park in Texas, when I bent down to fill my water bottle in a stream.  A mother was standing there watching her somewhat wild children playing on a nearby rock. Mind you, I am a little older than her children were. Nevertheless, with her arms folded, she challenged me after I filled up my water bottle from the stream with "Are you going to drink that?"

I had the opportunity to explain that yes, I was going to drink this wild water, but that I was going to treat it to make sure that it was safe. Maybe another day I will have the opportunity to sit down to talk about how safe the water really was and how good it tastes to drink water from a stream when hiking. Maybe I will see her and be able to continue the explanation before I finish my long term report.


The SteriPEN is a great device for making sure that water is pure and safe to drink. In my home state of Texas, where state park rivers may well have begun in ranch pastures, this is an important step toward safety. What I really like about the SteriPEN includes:

- The SteriPEN works to purify water from viruses, bacteria, and parasites
- The device is quick and easy to use
- The device takes away one more thing to worry about and makes me feel even more at home in the woods.

27 January 2009


20 December 2008 – Night at South Llano River State Park, Junction Texas. Hammock camping. A beautiful clear night with lots of astronomy accomplished. Low temperature reached about 50 F (10 C). 

23 January 2009 – Garner State Park Texas. Testing gear and doing astronomy at this dark sky site. Tested a hammock and underquilt in cold windy conditions. Tested the SteriPEN on Frio River water. Temperature reached about 30 F (-1 C). 


Frio River in Garner State Park TexasIn the Long Term period, I have used the 
SteriPEN on several trips and on about 5 extended day hikes. I have collected water from puddles half dried up in the longest drought Texas has known for quite a while. I have also collected water from a beautiful clear water river.

Having the 
SteriPEN in my pack makes me feel much more comfortable in choosing water to drink. Here in Texas, unlike along the Appalachian Trail, I know that available water has been exposed to farms and pastures upstream. These are water sources I would normally not drink without chemical treatment. However, my reading of the scientific papers provided by the makers of the SteriPEN has convinced me that it really does work.

I have discovered that when a puddle has been drying up for more than a month, it does not taste very good, even though it is completely safe to drink. I have also enjoyed some of the best tasting water I have ever had - that pictured here from the Frio River.

SteriPEN has continued to work flawlessly. I have used it with several types of bottles, though mostly I have stuck with the quart/liter bottle pictured in my Field report. I did discover that if I try to push the button to start the cycle when the electrical contacts are already underwater, that the device will not allow me to purify water. The order must be 1) press button 2) put the device into water. 

I have had no difficulty with battery life or use in temperatures down to near freezing. 


What I really like about the SteriPEN still includes:

- The SteriPEN works to purify water from viruses, bacteria, and parasites
- The device is quick and easy to use
- The device takes away one more thing to worry about and makes me feel even more at home in the woods.

Read more gear reviews by Rick Allnutt

Reviews > Water Treatment > Ultraviolet > SteriPEN Journey > Test Report by Rick Allnutt

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