Posted by: UrbanGreenGirl | November 5, 2008

Stay green while backpacking with a water purifier

Water bottles in landfill

Water bottles in landfill_Photo:M Erikkson

If you are like me, you LOVE to travel but hate the fact that you can’t recycle your water bottles along the way. I’ve been known to bring them back with me in my suitcase because I don’t have the heart to throw them out. My friend Monica just completed a one year backpacking trip around the world with her husband and gave me a great tip to share with you here.

SteriPEN water purifier

Instead of buying countless bottles of water that will end up in the landfill or on the sides of roads (Ex. South America or India) try buying a SteriPENwater purifier. It will sterilise the water in your reusable water bottle (Eg. Nalgene bottle).  According to the manufacturer:

[SteriPENis] a water purifier and pre-filter that uses shortwave ultraviolet light to disinfect water. When you immerse the lamp in the water it disrupts the DNA of bacteria, viruses and protozoa, rendering them harmless. The pre-filter can be used to help clear particulates and debris from water.

The SteriPEN is easy to use:

  1. Fill up your reusable bottle with water from your hostel, hotel or a water tap
  2. Insert the SteriPEN
  3. Wait 45 seconds per .5L of water
  4. Voilà! You’ve got clean water and just saved a bottle from the landfill

The ultraviolet light will last up to 8000 treatments. The SteriPEN uses 4 AA batteries. The best is NiMH rechargeable batteries. Four will treat up to 90L-105L of water. Note, when buying a battery recharger (recommended for cameras as well) get one that comes with a universal adapter.

SteriPEN can be purchased in Canada at Mountain Equipment Co-op or REI in the states. Otherwise, you can consult the SteriPEN store locator. It retails for about $88 CAD or $90 US.

Happy green travels!

SteriPEN package



  1. I have the Steri pen Adventurer water purifier, which is basically the same but has a sturdier case and takes 2 CR123 lithium batteries.

    They have this new solar charging kit that comes with a pair of rechargeable CR123 batteries, and a charger that works from 110 or 240V outlets. And if you really find yourself “off the grid”, the built-in solar panel can recharge the batteries in two to five days, depending on solar conditions. Also available at MEC.

    I used this steripen during my year-long round-the-world backpacking trip. I admit we probably only used it for about 50-60% of the time. The main downside to this is that it doesn’t affect the taste at all, so if the water tastes gross, it will remain gross tasting even after purifying it.

    Other than that, it’s light, compact, easy and fast to use, and between the two of us we probably ended up saving hundreds of water bottles. Highly recommend it, not just for travel, but for camping as well.

  2. A similar product that I’m considering purchasing for backpacking trips is the MSR MIOX Purifier (also available at MEC).

    The advantage of the MIOX Purifier is that it doesn’t have issues with turbidity, and it can purify larger batches at a time.

    On the downside, you have to let the water sit (up to 4 hours to kill cryptosporidia). But then you just develop a 2-bottle system: already purified water, and another bottle undergoing purification.

  3. […] Source: Urban Green Girl […]

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