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Reviews > Water Treatment > Ultraviolet > SteriPen Adventurer > Mike Lipay > Test Report by Mike Lipay

SteriPEN Adventurer and Solar Battery Charger
by Hydro-Photon

Mike Lipay

April 28, 2007


Internal Report Links
Personal Information Product Description Conclusion
Initial Report
December 12, 2006
Field Report
March 4, 2007
Long Term Report
April 28, 2007


Personal Information
Name Mike Lipay
Age 51
Gender Male
Height 5 ft 8 in / 173 cm
Weight 185 lb / 83.9 kg
Email hiking AT westernpa DOT us
Location Plum, Pennsylvania
BackgroundI've been hiking and backpacking since the '60s. I enjoy hiking solo, with my kids, or with one of the two hiking groups to which I belong. I have taught LNT skills, wilderness survival, and outdoor first-aid. I am no ultra-light backpacker (my pack typically weighs 29-40 lb (13-18 kg) loaded), although I am always looking for ways to cut down on the weight. I'm a low-techie, preferring a hiking staff to trekking poles, compass to GPS, fire to fuel; but I am open to new products when there is a distinct advantage over more traditional "technology".
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Product Description
Model SteriPEN Adventurer SteriPEN Adventurer
Manufacturer Hydro-Photon, Inc.
Year of Mfgr 2006
Website www.SteriPen.com
MSRP N/A
Mfgr. Specs
Weight:    3.9 oz       110.0 g
Length:    N/A
Width:     N/A
Thickness: N/A
Personal measurements
Weight:    3.5 oz       100.0 g
Length:    6 3/32 in     15.5 cm
Width:     1 5/8 in       4.1 cm
Thickness:  15/16 in      2.3 cm
Warranty One-year warranty against manufacturer defects.
 
Model SteriPEN Solar Charger SteriPEN Solar Charger
Year of Mfgr 2006
MSRP N/A
Mfgr. Specs
Weight:    6.9 oz       194.0 g
Length:    7 in          17.8 cm
Width:     3 5/8 in       9.2 cm
Thickness: 1 5/8 in       4.1 cm
Personal measurements
Weight:    6.7 oz       190.0 g
Length:    7  1/16 in    18.0 cm
Width:     3 11/16 in     9.4 cm
Thickness: 1  5/16 in     3.4 cm
Warranty No warranty information was provided.
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Initial Report
Arrival The SteriPEN Adventurer was delivered on December 2, 2006. After opening the box (somewhat oversized but securely packed), and examining the contents, I determined that everything arrived in good condition.
Warranty I was disappointed with the warranty Hydro-Photon chose to offer on the Adventurer model (See Product Description). Other models in the SteriPEN line come with a lifetime limited warranty.

With regards to the Solar Charger, no warranty information is offered in the literature. Instead, I was referred to the SteriPEN website, once on their website I noticed that only the classic SteriPEN warranty information was provided.
Instructions I found the instructions for both the SteriPEN Adventurer and the Solar Charger easy to follow, and the many illustrations helped in identifying the location of different items (switch, light, etc.). Using the step-by-step instructions, I was able to do an initial test of the Adventurer within a few minutes (the batteries came with a partial charge).

The instructions are provided in English, German, Spanish, and French, in a folded pamphlet. I found the manual for the charger to be an easy-to-handle size (12 x 18 in; 30.5 x 45.7 cm), but the larger manual for the Adventurer was difficult to handle (15 x 27-1/2 in; 38.1 x 69.8 cm). A booklet format would be easier.
Website I visited the website mainly because the instructions for the charger indicated that the warranty information was available there. I was disappointed that the website was not only missing the warranty information, but has no information at all on the Adventurer model of the SteriPEN. I would hope that this will be corrected in the near future, especially since there are a number of differences between the Adventurer model I am testing, and the Classic model which is shown on the website.
First Impressions I was impressed by the small size and weight of the Adventurer. Until now I have been using Hydro-Photon's original SteriPEN, which weighs in at 7.7 oz (218 g) - nearly twice as much! The Adventurer also comes in at an 1-1/8 in (2.9 cm) shorter, and half the thickness -- a definite improvement! Of course, the original has a longer operating life between charges, but with 4-AA batteries vs. two CR-123 batteries, that is no surprise. Even so, the Adventurer claims to treat up to 50 liters (50 quarts) on a single charge, more than enough for even my 5-day treks.

pre-filterOne observation that I did make right off is the shape of the front end on the Adventurer. Hydro-Photon suggests the use of a pre-filter to keep sediment from entering the drinking bottle, which could interfere with the water treatment. They do make a pre-filter which nicely screws onto the top of a standard wide-mouth bottle (see photo); after filling the bottle the Classic SteriPEN allows you to snap out the filter screen (blue cap in top of photo) and insert the Classic SteriPEN into the opening and shake the bottle to provide the agitation. Unfortunately, the shape of the Adventurer's front-end does not allow it to be inserted into the opening - this I consider a serious oversight. In place of their pre-filter, Hydro-Photon suggests using a handkerchief or bandana over the mouth of the bottle when filling, then inserting the activated Adventurer and stirring.
Setup and Usage SteriPENThe SteriPEN Adventurer was already assembled when it arrived, and the batteries had an initial charge. Even so, I removed the batteries, placed them in the Solar Charger (which doubles as a plug-in charger), and charged the batteries to full.

There are two options when treating: 1/2 qt (500 ml) or 1 qt (1 L), I selected the second as my bottle was 22 oz (650 ml). The instructions say to press the switch once then, when the green light comes on, insert the Adventurer into the water and swirl. At this point the UV tube lights up, this is an indicator that everything is working; the treatment process uses invisible UV light, but Hydro-Photon provides a visible light component to show that the Adventurer is working properly. The instructions then say to swirl the Adventurer until the light goes out, this took a little less than 90 seconds.

Pen in ChargerThe SteriPEN Adventurer fits nicely into the Solar Charger for transport and easy recharging of the batteries. The Solar Charger also has space for two additional CR-123 batteries, which can be recharged while the other two are being used in the Adventurer. To use the charger requires positioning the cover (containing the solar array) towards the sun. Hydro-Photon recommends turning the unit in the proper direction, then opening the cover and adjusting it to meet the angle of the sun.

I have two concerns regarding the SteriPEN Adventurer as shipped. First, it comes with two rechargeable CR-123 batteries, but no method of recharging them. Looking in local stores, I cannot find any chargers capable of handling CR-123 batteries. The only way to recharge the batteries is to purchase the optional Solar Charger; the Solar Charger comes with two more CR-123 batteries, along with a plug-in converter to recharge the batteries inside the Solar Charger.

Second, when following Hydro-Photon's recommendation to tilt the cover toward the sun, I had a difficult time getting the lid to stay open in the correct position, there is not enough friction in the hinges to keep the lid open in all but a few angles.

The Solar Charger comes with a pouch for carrying the Adventurer and Solar Charger on a backpack. The loops on the rear of the pouch are to attach the pouch to a backpack so that the batteries can be recharged while hiking. I'm curious as to how I will use the loops to make the attachment, there are no instructions on how to accomplish this. Charger in Pouch
Test Plan My plan for using the SteriPEN Adventurer is to take it with me on day hikes and overnight trips in the Alleghenies; my area of travel ranges from the lower Alleghenies (SW Pennsylvania, aka the Laurel Highlands) into the Allegheny National Forest (Northern Pennsylvania). The area is mountainous, with numerous streams and rivers flowing through. Typically, because of the abundant wildlife in Pennsylvania, no free-running water here is considered safe to drink. Human and animal waste are the major sources of giardia and cryptosporidium; since it is difficult to train wildlife not to relieve themselves near water sources, contamination is the inevitable result.

Temperatures during the field test period (mid-December through mid-February, winter in the Alleghenies) usually fall within the range of 19 to 43 F (-7 to 6 C), which should put a strain on battery life. Hydro-Photon recommends carrying the SteriPEN in an inner pocket to keep the batteries warm, and I will follow these recommendations.

Testing a water treatment system is difficult, since the only two methods of accurately determining effectiveness are laboratory tests and field tests. The problem with the later is that I can only be sure if the treatment fails, a situation I hope not to encounter over the next few months.
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Field Report
Test 1 - January 28-29, 2007 - Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail
Length of Trip 2 Days.
Conditions Temperatures ranging from the low 20's F (-7 C) to the upper 20's (-2 C), light to heavy snowfall throughout (16 in (41 cm) over the period.
Field Test This was a cold trip, we covered 10 miles (16 km) in the snow on the first day, and 5 miles (8 km) on the second. The heaviest snow came after noon on Saturday, a full 12 in (30 cm) arriving before dinner time. All of the major water pools were frozen, with the lake at Laurel Highlands frozen thick enough for people to ice fish, and I had the opportunity to watch them going about their sport.

CamelBakI kept the SteriPen Adventurer, and the extra batteries, in my inner jacket pocket to keep them warm (cold quickly diminishes the life of batteries). Throughout the trip I filled my water bottle (a 1-liter nalgene) in small waterfalls that I came across. I do not use the water bottle for drinking purposes as the water would freeze quickly in this cold water. I filled the bottle up, used the Adventurer to treat the water, then poured it into my insulated CamelBak hydration pack. Unfortunately, the design of the CamelBak does not lend itself to using the Adventurer directly.

The SteriPen Adventurer functioned flawlessly on this trip, each time the process functioned as HydorPhoton states, the light came on, I swirled the Adventurer in the water as directed and, after 90 seconds, the light went out indicating the treatment had completed successfully.

During this trip I treated a total of 6 liters (about 6 qts) of water using the batteries in the Adventurer, not needing the spares which I brought along (just in case the temperatures affected the initial set of batteries). Since I have suffered none of the symptoms usually associated with contaminated water I have to assume that the SteriPen Adventurer did the job.

Test 2 - Feburary 17-18, 2007 - Bear Run Nature Reserve
Length of Trip 2 Days.
Conditions Temperatures ranging from the low 30's F (-1 C) to the mid 40's (7 C), breezy, with a light snow fall (no measurable amounts).
Field Test This was a snowshoeing trip over relatively easy terrain. We covered a total of 12 miles (19 km) on this trip, six (9.6 km) on each day. In snowshoes six is a pretty good amount with the rolling hills. Streams were open, flowing fast enough to keep from freezing, so water was plentiful, though cold.

As with the prior trip, I kept the SteriPen Adventurer in my inside pocket, but this time leaving the spare batteries at home. I treated 5 liters (about 5 qts) on this trip, and all went pretty much as on the first trip. Again, having suffered no ill effects afterwards, the SteriPen Adventurer worked as expected.





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Long Term Report
Field Usage
Period March 20 thru April 28, 2007
Location Testing during this period was conducted in the Laurel Highlands section of the Allegheny Mountains, ranging from a northern terminus at Johnstown, Pa., to a southern terminus at Ohiopyle, Pa.
Trips The trips during this testing period included two day trips, and two weekend outings (2 nights each).
Conditions The weather has been colder than usual, with daytime temperatures in the 40's and 50's F (4 to 15 C) and overnights in the 30's and 40's (-1 to 4 C). Precipitation included light snow and moderate rains, though most of the time is was just dry and cool.
Usage I used the SteriPen Adventurer to treat water on all occasions, relying upon available water even during day hikes. In all cases the water was filled from local streams, taking it both from pools and waterfalls. Over this period of time I treated, and consumed, 10.5 quarts (10 liters) of water. At no time during this period, or the subsequent weeks, did I show any signs of consuming contaminated water.

PrefilterWhile filling the bottle I used either the Hydro-Photon bottle filter (see photo, courtesy Hydro-Photon), or a bandana over the mouth of the bottle. Both provided excellent means of keeping large debris from entering the bottle. Since the streams were all running clear this method is all that I needed to assure I had particle-free water.

I had no problems using the SteriPen Adventurer. Each time I pressed the button, waited for the green light to start flashing, then inserting the SteriPen Adventurer and stirred it in my plastic 1 quart (1 liter) bottle, until the light turned off. Prior to each trip I charged the batteries to make sure that I would have sufficient power for the trip (more on that later).

Additional Tests / Observations
Batteries Before taking the SteriPen Adventurer on any trips longer than a single weekend I want to know just how many treatments I could count on with a fully charged set of batteries. To determine this I ran several tests treating 1 quart (1 liter) of water repeatedly until the batteries were exhausted (indicated by a flashing red light while treating the water). I counted the number of treatements, then determined the lowest number (don't want to take a chance on needing to treat more water than I had battery power). Based on the results of these tests I determined that I could safely treat 22 1-quart (1 liter) bottles on a single pair of batteries. Since the SteriPen Adventurer comes with two sets of batteries, this gives me a minimum of 44 treatments without charging. I find this significantly less that Hydo-Photon's claim of 35 quarts (35 liters) for a single set of fully charged batteries.

During summer months, when I hydrate more often than in cooler months, I will typically drink 3-4 1-quart (1 liter) bottles of water in a day. This does not include water used for cooking, but I usually do not treat that water since boiling accomplishes the same thing as treatment. Based on this, one set of batteries will last me 5-7 days, with both sets of batteries I could go 11-14 days with recharging.

Solar Charger Solar ChargerI wanted to determine the effectiveness of recharging the SteriPen Adventurer's batteries in the field, just in case of battery failure, or in case a trip were to last longer than anticipated. To determine this I ran the batteries until they were exhausted (flashing red light when treating water); next I setup the solar charger according to the directions, and charged them for 4 hours. Finally, I again treated water until the flashing red light indicated that the batteries were drained, counting the number of treatments.

A brief word before I get into the results. Setting up the Solar Charger included tilting the lid of the charger to approximate the angle of the sun. The purpose is to get the sun's light as directly on the solar cells as possible. This was not as easy as the directions would indicate: the friction on the lid is poor, and at most angles it would simple not stay. There were few angles that I could actually attain, and none with any consistency. So, I simply did the best I could and settled for that.

The Pittsburgh area is notorious for its lack of sunny days, among the fewest in the nation (though we rank even with Puerto Rico!). For this reason I ran my tests during both sunny and cloudy days to get a feel for each instance.

On what the weather guru's call a "mostly cloudy day" the results were, as expected, poor. After 4 hours of charging I was, at best, able to eek out one more treatment, though most times I couldn't do even that well.

Sunny days, and I did have a few of those, faired a little better. With 4 hours of charging I was able to treat, on average, an additional 5 bottles.

Finally, I timed how long it takes to get from an exhausted battery to a fully charged one. After several tests the average time came out to 5 hours.

Conclusions
Thumbs Up
  • Fast treatment of up to 1 quart (1 liter) of water.
  • No residual taste left in the water.
  • Lightweight.
  • Provides up to 2 weeks of treatments on a single charge (2 sets of batteries).
  • Based on not experiencing any problems in areas where poor water quality is a fact, I feel comfortable with the effectiveness of the SteriPen on treating water.
Thumbs Down
  • I am less than please with the quality and effectiveness of the Solar Charger.
  • The screw used to hold the battery compartment lid in place does not stay securely in the lid when it is removed. On two occasions I lost the screw because it flew out of the holder, taking longer than desired to located it in the ground cover. A non-screw method of keeping the lid in place would be preferred.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank both Hydro-Photon and BackpackGearTest for the chance to test the SteriPEN Adventurer.
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