When I made the trek to Everest Base Camp last year, I had the opportunity to test a truck-load of gear. One of the items that performed the best and left a lasting impression was the SteriPEN Journey, a water purification device that uses ultraviolet light to remove all the harmful elements from our drinking water. On that trip, I put the Journey to good use, and unlike most of my companions, I had no issues with getting sick while on the trail. Because of that experience, I vowed to never travel without a SteriPEN in my pack again, although I did feel there was room for improvement in the device.
Fast forward a year and a half, and SteriPEN has introduced several new products, including the just released Freedom. This new addition to the line-up brings some much appreciated improvements over the Journey, making it the best SteriPEN yet.
One of my few criticisms of the Journey was that it was powered by a CR123 battery, which is a bit of an odd size and difficult to find when traveling abroad. Granted, the battery is rated for 100 uses, but the last thing you want is for it to die, without a back-up, while you’re in a remote location. The Freedom has remedied this situation by incorporating a rechargeable battery pack. The downside? The battery is only good for 40 uses before needing a recharge.
Fortunately, recharging the Freedom is fairly quick and easy. It can be accomplished by using the included AC adapter or via USB. That means that while on the go, you can juice up your SteriPEN using your laptop or even a portable solar charger such as the Brunton Restore. Charge times varied depending on the method you use. The AC adapter took a little more than two hours to complete while USB on a laptop added about another hour. Using the solar charger took roughly double that amount of time.
When it is fully charged, using the Freedom is as easy as can be. You simply remove the plastic cover from the UV lamp, immerse it in water, and start stirring. The built in sensors will detect the liquid and light the lamp automatically. An LED light in the handle will blink green to indicate that the Freedom is working properly – that same light will stop blinking and remain lit when the process is complete. It typically takes 48 seconds to purify a half-liter of water and the process can be repeated to clean a full liter of water.
As with all SteriPEN devices, when used properly, the Freedom will remove 99.9% of all the harmful bacteria, viruses, and other harmful elements from our water. That means we can safely drink the water no matter where we are on the planet, and if you’ve ever visited remote locations in developing countries, you know how important that can be.
Weighing in at just 2.6 ounces, and measuring about five inches in length, the Freedom is small, lightweight, and very compact. The Journey wasn’t exactly large either, but it is always nice to slim down our gear when ever possible, and ultralight hikers, backpackers, and travelers will appreciate just how small the device actually is.
MSRP on the SteriPEN Freedom is $120, which is quite a bit more expensive than buying iodine tablets for adding to your water. However, purification tablets are not always relabel and they can make your water taste funny too. When I’m traveling abroad, I don’t want to risk getting sick, and SteriPEN eliminates nearly all chances of that happening. For that alone, the Freedom is worth every penny, and it will definitely be a permanent fixture in my backpack.
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