Steripen freedom – freedom of mind for drinking water with the best portable water purifier available
We have been using Steripen Freedom (renamed Pure+) for years now, and after meeting so many people traveling with different options we believe this is the best water purifier you should buy to guarantee safe water to drink. Water is considered by many experts the most valuable resource on earth, probably responsible for many conflicts in our history, and there is a very important reason for that: clean water may be the difference between life and death or long-lasting illnesses.
If there is one thing you really need when away from home is health. Oh wait, you need it all the time, right. But it is even more challenging when you are far from your comfort zone, and that’s when you will struggle to eat and drink properly. On our guide to eating healthy on the road, we focus on food; here we focus on water, and our miracle anti-disease weapon: Steripen Freedom – the UV laser gun.
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Update: (the Freedom model has been updated to Steripen Free+)
We had the best travel water purifier and never used it
The ridiculous story we can tell about Steripen is that we had the best travel water purifier in our hands for almost two years and never remembered to use it. Crazy, right? It was back in 2013, we were already 5 months into our Central America trip when we met a couple from the Czech Republic with whom we got along right away.
We were crossing the border to Costa Rica from Nicaragua and they were going to do a little deviation to visit a famous town up the river called El Castillo. We had time to spare so we decided to tag along, which turned out to be a great idea.
– Aren’t you going to buy any water? You know that tap water isn’t safe, right?
– Sure, but we have our water purifier device, we don’t need to buy it.
– A device? Which one?
– The best travel water purifier you will find, Steripen!
I looked at Sara and thought: how stupid could we be?
It happens that we had bought a Steripen before our trip but we always kept it in our backpack for emergencies, like when you are in places with no access to bottled water and need to get some. But why? Why keep it only for those moments that rarely happen? Why not use it on a daily basis to save dollars and dollars of bottled water and spare the environment of unnecessary plastic bottles? Thank you Borbara and Jirik for showing us the way! Since that day, we kept the Steripen in our daypack and have been happily using it since.
Why carry an extra gadget
When you have been traveling for a while you realize how important access to clean water is, especially in countries where tap water is definitively not an option. There are so many diseases you can catch from contaminated water, that the list alone should be enough to carry anything needed to prevent it. There are bacterias, parasites (cysts), virus and even heavy metals and other poisoning contaminants. Although it may not be likely to die from contaminated water, it is very likely that you will catch something that will keep you grabbing the toilet for a week.
Buying endless water bottles is terrible for our environment, as plastic is becoming humanity’s waste plague. I’m sure that anyone that watched the new amazing Blue Planet Series is not indifferent to our plastic epidemic, and would try to prevent adding to the problem by continuously buying plastic bottles.
The solution is carrying something that will give us access to unlimited clean water wherever we are, and, luckily for us travelers, there are many alternatives that allow us to have access to clean water while traveling. From small water purifiers or pills to bulky and heavy water filters, technology has developed many options to deal with this health hazard for travelers.
We know we like to talk about minimalism and traveling light, and we have been getting better and better at it. If you don’t believe, check how we traveled carry on only in South East Asia. To be able to do this we need to look to everything we want to take and question how much we need it. In our opinion, having access to clean water should be at the top of the priority list for any traveler, so a water purifier is a main necessity, it should always be in a packing list. This does not mean we shouldn’t have into consideration its impact on our weight and volume capacities and it’s exactly these characteristics that lay a great advantage for Steripen.
Water Purifier vs Water Filter
In a nutshell, the main difference between a purifier and a filter is that a purifier should kill the virus and a filter hardly does that. If you want the ultimate protection you need, a filter will probably not be enough. We say probably because there are some bulky filters that can also filter viruses, but those will probably fill half of your backpack.
A water filter is a physical process of blocking some particles to pass beyond the filter, which includes most of the particles and impurities. It involves a filter cartridge that keeps them from leaving and needs to be substituted from time to time. It can also affect the taste and odor of the water, making it more enjoyable. Unfortunately, a standard filter will not be able to eliminate most of the toxins in water, especially the viruses which are too small to be trapped. For that, you need different technologies that only the purifiers provide.
Why Steripen has the best water purification method (even as an emergency water filter)
First of all, it’s a purifier, not just a filter, that alone is enough to guarantee you will remove more than 90% of all water contaminants. Because Steripen uses Ultra Violet light to purify water, this number goes up to 99%. The only thing you need to be sure is that the water is not murky, and if that happens you need to use the pre-filter to clean the water from big particles.
Convenience and Speed
You may not be aware, but other systems like filters do require some time to purify the water. Pills, for example, require that you wait some hours before you drink it, filters require you wait for the filtrating process to happen. With Steripen, you just agitate it for less than a minute and it’s done. That’s why it is also a great solution as an emergency water filter for any situation, as long as it is charged.
We are going to compare it with other purifying systems, like boiling or chemicals. We use the battery powered pen, and we charge it with our portable solar charger, we couldn’t have a smaller footprint here.
The main disadvantage is the price comparing with other options, and in that regard, it’s a personal decision. For us, it is worth the price for what it does for us. Situations like washing teeth with tap water are not compatible with most of the methods available, but it’s damn easy with the Steripen.
Steripen Review – Our experience on the road
This will not be a very technical Steripen review, especially because we cannot attest objectively if it works or not, besides stating we haven’t had any health issues since we started using it. If you want a more technical Steripen review, you can check it here, it’s not the same model but it is the same technology. The model we bought was the Steripen Freedom that has two main advantages comparing to others: the size and the USB rechargeable battery. If you want a better Steripen comparison, you can check it here.
You can check more details about the different water purifying methods at CDC’s website. Backpacking in regions like South East Asia, where most of the time the water is not drinkable, it’s almost mandatory to have a water purifier. And when you are on the road, a portable water purifier solution is all you can dream about. There are many solutions in the market for purifying water but they are also heavy and not compatible with a light packer. As a backup, we also carry the chlorine disinfectant pills for when anything goes wrong with the Steripen, but until now, it hasn’t been needed.
When traveling in Colombia, we were trekking in a rainy forest and ran out of water, so we decided to drink the fresh water from a spring and do a little demonstration. Most probably the water was drinkable but why not do it all the time anyway? It will not make it worse and it’s free! (free to use the Steripen, not to buy it 🙂 ) Check our video using the Steripen to purify spring water:
In case the water is not clear enough, you can buy from the same company a filter to clear up the water before applying the UV lamp. It is very important because, if the water is murky, then the light will not get to all the particles, which may leave some parasites alive and we don’t want that.
The filter comes with 2 rubber adapters so they can adjust to any bottle and everything is very light in terms of weight which is great for us. The only downside is its bulkiness, but being so flexible and resistant you squeeze it everywhere inside your pack.
There are some Steripen models already available in the market, and in the case of our model, Freedom, it has been replaced by Pure+. To help out understanding the differences we did a table with the Steripen comparison and made our remarks about them.
|Model||Batteries||Liters per charge||Weight||Comment|
|Steripen Classic||AA Baterries||50 Alkaline - 150 Lithium||178 grams||Bulky and unless using rechargeable batteries not very eco-friendly|
|Steripen Aqua||AA Baterries||50 Alkaline - 150 Lithium||178 grams||Similar as classic (model difference is pre filter not included)|
|Steripen Adventure||CRV123 Baterries||50||140 grams||Similar to Classic just with different type of battery|
|Steripen Ultra||USB Rechargeable||50||108 grams||Much better than above, but not as light as Pure+|
|Steripen Pure+ (former Freedom)||USB Rechargeable||20||74 grams||Easy USB rechargeable battery and super light. Only drawback is autonomy|
In our opinion for Freedom/Pure+ the drawback of 20 liters autonomy is not very relevant as 20 liters is much more than our daily water consumption and the USB charging is really quick so it can be done every night. Besides that, being fully rechargeable and extra light makes it a no-brainer to chose for traveling.
And do not forget that nowadays you can easily charge your devices with foldable solar panels when on the road.
When we planned our trip back in 2010, this was basically the only brand in the market available for travelers for a portable water purifier with ultraviolet light. Nowadays, many others have the same solution, like Verilux that may be better or worse than the Steripen, we don’t know. For us, this is the best travel water purifier and we share some advantages and disadvantages of using this product compared with other methods:
- it only weighs 74 grams
- you can charge it with anything, even your laptop (USB port), no need for batteries like in other models
- it’s quick to use, just 60 seconds and you are ready to drink
- doesn’t impart any smells or flavors to the water
- it’s free to use as the battery is rechargeable
- makes you save loads of money on bottled water
- emergency water filter – as long it’s charged, you can quickly filter water in any circumstance
- comparing to other models it’s a good price, but alternative methods are free
- it feels very fragile, you have to be careful handling it all the time
- you have to be careful not to look at the light as it is dangerous to your eyes
- once in a while it took us some tweaking to work, but at the end it did
- it has a limit in terms of water measure that you must be careful to follow
Overall we are very happy with this product, it’s very practical and we save a lot of money from bottled water, besides keeping us more confident about what we are drinking. We highly recommend buying one of these for your travels if you are traveling to countries where water is not always reliable to drink.