SteriPEN Water Purification System Pack

Stuff you may find useful

"Don't drink the water" is one of the most common warnings about travel in Southeast Asia and unfortunately it remains the case that drinking tap water in many Southeast Asian countries is a pretty bad idea. True, you could probably get away with it in capitals like Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur, but especially in rural areas, this is not such a hot idea. What this means is that travellers -- and locals alike -- are forever resorting to bottled water.

SteriPEN Water Purification System PackThis has a number of implications. When the water flowing out of the tap is free, bottled water at any price is expensive. Travellers in Asia are usually advised to drink two to three litres of water a day. While bottled water is cheap -- a litre of "quality" filtered water in Thailand costs around 15B (US$0.50) -- when you're drinking three litres a day for a month, you've just spent US$45 on something that comes out of the tap for free. More importantly, you've also left 90 litre-sized plastic bottles in Asia to be disposed of -- something Asia could really do without.

The solution?

Sterilise tap water and use a a refillable drinking container. There are a number of sterilising methods, with boiling and charcoal tablets being the two best known, but there's also a very nifty device called the SteriPEN.

The SteriPEN uses ultraviolet light (UV) to rid water of disease-causing microorganisms. The UV light destroys their DNA, making them unable to reproduce and cause illness. It's effective against outdoor microbes like giardia and cryptosporidium; pathogens that cause diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis, and Legionnaire's Disease; household germs such as bird flu, E. coli, and salmonella; staph and strep; and natural-disaster risks like botulism, cholera, smallpox, and typhoid.

To purify the water, you fill your drinking container from the tap, then you push the water purifier's button, place the pen-like lamp in clear water, and stir until an indicator light turns green. That's it -- you're done. The entire process should take 45 seconds to purify half a litre of fluid and 90 seconds for a litre. There's no charcoal taste and the SteriPEN exceeds US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines for testing microbiological water purifiers.

So what's the catch? The SteriPen doesn't come cheap -- swinging in at around the US$85 mark -- and it is battery operated, so there's the additional expense of buying batteries. The manufacturer strongly recommends using lithium or NiMH (nickel metal hydride) batteries as they deliver six to ten times more doses per set than alkaline or nickel cadmium alternatives. A set of lithium or NiMH batteries can be expected to purify 85-115 litres of water.

If you're looking at this as a money saving tool, you need to take a bit of a longer-term view of things. You'll need to be travelling for at least two months for this to pay for itself, but regardless, think of all those plastic bottles you'll be saving.

Where to buy

At for just over $80.

In the UK, have a similar SteriPEN pack for 80.00 for shipping to UK addresses.

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