In the spring of 2010 I traveled to Nepal and made the trek to Everest Base Camp. A trip like that one requires plenty of gear, including a good pair of boots, a comfortable pack, and plenty of clothing to keep you warm at altitude. But one of the pieces of gear that I found to be the most invaluable was my SteriPEN Journey water purifier. The little electronic device allowed me to drink the local water without fear, which is both more cost effective and environmentally sound.
For those not familiar with SteriPEN’s products, they use ultraviolet light to kill off 99.9% of all the harmful bacteria that can live in drinking water. In the case of the Journey, you simply stick the little wand inside your water bottle and stir for a couple of minutes. After the process is complete, you’re good to go. The Journey was so effective that I never once had issues from drinking the water, despite the fact that many in my trekking group suffered ill effects.
Since that time, SteriPEN has released a new product called the Sidewinder, which does away with the battery operated light in the Journey in favor of a new system that uses a hand crank to power the light. The system includes a 32 oz water bottle (BPA free of course!), which you fill up with water and then attach to the Sidewinder. After flipping the device over, you are free to start turning the crank.
SteriPEN has made it nearly impossible to screw up the purification process. If you are turning the crank too slowly, a pair of red LED lights turn on to let you know you need to go fast. The instructions say you need to turn the crank at about two revolutions per second, and turning it faster does not speed up the time it takes to complete the process. It takes about 90 seconds to finish, and when you do, the LED lights turn green to indicate the water is now safe to drink.
That’s really all there is to it, and much like the Journey, the Sidewinder does an excellent job of getting you water free from all the potentially harmful stuff inside. But just for a bit of added security, SteriPEN included a filter in the box. That filter attaches to the water bottle and further helps to clean the water for drinking. It is a nice added touch and shows the company’s commitment to keeping us healthy while traveling.
The Sidewinder has a few decided advantages over the Journey that I used last year. For starters, it doesn’t require batteries, which can be difficult to obtain in the backcountry or a foreign land should you run out of juice. It is also super-easy to use, although it does take some practice to get the cranking perfected, and it can be tiring. Consider the Sidewinder a way of working your biceps while on a camping trip though, and you’ll be fine.
On the other hand, the Sidewinder is a bit large and bulky, and I can’t imagine taking it with me to Nepal, or most other countries for that matter. It is better suited for car camping or for when you’re staying in a base camp for some time and won’t be lugging it about. Don’t get me wrong, the device isn’t all that heavy, just a bit on the large side and awkwardly shaped.
Still, the addition of the Sidewinder to the SteriPEN product line definitely fills a niche. The fact that it doesn’t require batteries at all will be a big bonus for some, and it works as advertised, purifying your water as needed. (MSRP: $99.95)
(Both the Sidewinder and the Journey are available from TravelCountry.com)