When traveling, some peace of mind can be had by having an easy way to purify your drinking water, as even the healthiest of us can get caught offguard by nasty little critters like giardia, cryptosporidium, or other bacterial bad guys, which will really put a cramp in any other plans we have.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 80% of all travel diseases are attributed to contaminated drinking water. The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that an estimated 10 million people get traveler’s diarrhea each year. If you pack a water purifier along with you, you can help ensure you're not one of them.
The good folks at SteriPen sent me their newest portable UV water purifier to take a look at, the Freedom model, which is their smallest and most lightweight model so far. And from my experience so far with it, it's a winner.
The Freedom is really small and lightweight (2.6 oz) - just the right size to fit in with your toiletries or in a "possibles" bag you keep right at hand - and it comes with a neoprene case to protect it.
The process for purifying water with it is almost dummy-proof (if you can tell the difference between a solid green light and flashing red lights), and is an 'instant on' design. Simply remove the outer case and immerse in up to 16 oz of water until the device's sensors are covered, and the UV light comes on automatically. The internal timer lets you know when the process is complete, which is 48 seconds, according to SteriPen.
"In 48 seconds, the germicidal UV light destroys over 99.9% of bacteria, viruses and protozoa such as giardia and cryptosporidium." - SteriPen
The Freedom is recommended only for use with clear water, as all UV purifiers are, but the source water could be pre-filtered before purifying.
This gadget doesn't rely on removable batteries, but has a lithium polymer battery which gets charged via a micro USB connection to your computer, an AC outlet, or even a solar panel, in as little as two hours. Each full charge is good for about 40 treatments of 16 oz of water. The UV bulb will last for up to 8000 treatments, and both the battery and bulb can be replaced by sending the unit in for service.
As an added feature, the Freedom also has a unique flashlight feature built into the handle, which is turned on and off by holding the device and twisting your wrist a couple of times, yet another reason to keep this near you in your gear.
I found the Freedom model quick and easy to use, and I really liked the small size of the unit (no more excuses about why the purifier didn't make it into the bag). The fact that it is powered by a rechargeable battery is also a huge plus for the green side of the equation, as disposable batteries are often not disposed of correctly, and many people aren't shelling out the extra green for rechargeable batteries (or are having to bring yet another charger with them while traveling).
At about $120, the Freedom UV Purifier isn't the cheapest gadget around, but as the company's track record has been always to exceed the EPA guidelines for microbial purifiers, as verified by multiple independent lab tests, this is a quality device. And of course, what's $120 compared to spontaneous bouts of diarrhea while traveling?