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chessie
senior member (100)senior membersenior member
 
12/30/2019 01:26PM
I'm curious about steriPENS for water purification in the BWCA. Do they really work? Pros/cons? It seems there are now various models, which one is best? Have folks used this as their primary means of water purification on long canoe trips, with success?
 
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andym
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12/30/2019 01:54PM
Just one tip, don’t drop one into the water bottle you are stirring with it. They are not waterproof and may well die. If it wasn’t for that I would have done a long trip with it. Because of that we had to switch to our backup iodine.

Also note that in the BW, cloudy water can make it wide to use a prefilter and/or do two treatments.

But I do think they are a good device. Just be aware of how they work and what that means for using them.
 
straighthairedcurly
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12/30/2019 05:35PM
My husband loves the Steripens and it is the only water treatment we have used in the last 5 years. We have a dedicated narrow necked bottle that is opaque and has reflective inside surface (like a fuel bottle). Do not use a clear or translucent bottle. We sterilize the water in this bottle one batch at a time and then transfer it to our Nalgene bottles. Since we typically have a duffer in the canoe, it is their job to do the treatment when we are in the middle of the lake.

Make sure you never try to sterilize more water than the specific model allows. Use clearest water you can find. We always draw from the center of large lakes. Carry spare batteries and make sure you understand the various warning lights so you know if it is working properly.
 
andym
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12/31/2019 06:08AM
While I understand the reasoning behind using a metal bottle with reflective inside, Steripen actually sells a kit with a translucent Nalgene bottle. The only bottle limitation they state is not to use a quartz bottle because it transmits UV. Fortunately, it is pretty hard to find a quartz bottle.
 
Tomcat
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12/31/2019 10:06AM
 
Blatz
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12/31/2019 10:07AM
I think a much more practical option for the BW would be the 0.6L Katadyn Befree. No extra bottle needed, simple , easy to clean, very light weight. Each person can carry their own
 
straighthairedcurly
distinguished member (442)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
12/31/2019 11:22AM
andym: "While I understand the reasoning behind using a metal bottle with reflective inside, Steripen actually sells a kit with a translucent Nalgene bottle. The only bottle limitation they state is not to use a quartz bottle because it transmits UV. Fortunately, it is pretty hard to find a quartz bottle."

Interesting because the only official Steripen kit I have come across that includes a container is an opaque 4L bag with a reflective interior. They sell that for use with a special model of Steripen that has a larger volume option. They say you can use other materials. While technically a Nalgene will protect you from the UV rays because it absorbs them, I prefer the reflective nature of the metal bottle to keep the UV rays moving around in the water as long as possible. Maybe I have a false sense of light physics and am always open to correction.
 
andym
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12/31/2019 02:52PM
Both the kit with a Nalgene bottle and the RapidUV 4 liter reservoir seem to be gone from the Steripen site but are still available from some retailers.

instructions for the Steripen Quantum and RapidUV reservoir suggest that using a reflective container keeps the UV light moving around better than a plastic container. The plastic may be absorbing more of the UV than reflecting it. My main point was that it is not necessary to use a metal container and that clear and translucent bottles can be safe both from the UV and for treating water. It's a user choice. But based on all of this info, I will consider a metal bottle to use with the steripen.
 
01/01/2020 10:25PM
Tomcat: " I have read that Giardia cysts may have heightened resistant to UV light and it is suggested that UV light alone may not be a reliable treatment . Not sure what to think.

UV Light


"


Your link sort of contradicts itself, at the beginning it states UV light kills Giardia then later it says it does not. It is from a government agency so go figure :) I think the confusion is UV light doesn’t always kill Giardia but renders it unable to replicate thus making it harmless. All jokes aside in the USDA’s defense they were discussing UV light and it’s practically for large scale municipal use, which is a different application than private hiking smaller application. I don’t know if any of that helps for confidence for you or not? I wouldn’t hesitate to use it and feel safe but I use a gravity filter for ease of use and less effort for the whole family. Confidence is a big deal!

T
 
GearGuy
distinguished member (103)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/02/2020 09:19AM
I found SteriPens to be useful when backpacking on the west coast where you could actually find water that wasn't full of floaties and mud. Here in Minnesota.....nope. Gravity filter for me.
 
Savage Voyageur
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01/02/2020 12:15PM
Ever been up there Mid summer during an algae bloom, or in June when the pine pollen covers the lake? You will want a gravity filter. It filters the nasties out of the water. Streams it would be fine, lake water not do much. Then there is the needs of a group where a steripen is not an option.
 
Ole496
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01/02/2020 03:12PM
2 step filtering is generally regarded as the way to go no matter what you use. Iodine plus filter, boiling plus iodine, filtering plus boiling, boiling plus steripen, iodine plus steripen, whatever 2 ways you go you should be good.

I always use a transparent Nalgene with my Steripen. I also pre-filter the water to remove debris (2 step). The pre-filter is a green cone that steripen sells the fits on top of my Nalgene. It removes a lot of stuff and provides enough clean filtered water for the steripen to be effective. We also pump, gravity feed filter or boil water as well so sometimes I'm able to use the steripen system after other means of filtering.

If you leave your water out in the sun in a transparent nalgene, the natural UV light can help kill the bacteria. How much time? Who knows really, I've heard it depends on the strength of the sun, the angle of the sun and the strength of the UV light on that day. So basically that's completely unreliable unless you're in an extreme survival situation and you have to take a few chances.

UV light kills in a straight line, it is not as effective when it's reflected. The Tannins in the water in the BWCA as well as mineral deposits and other debris cloud the water which make it very difficult for any UV steripen to effectively kill the bacteria. Some types of Cryptosporidium and Giardia are pretty resilient and often defeat UV attempts to purify the water. As long as you pull from a deep part of the lake and use a 2 step method you should not have to worry.
 
andym
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01/03/2020 02:50AM
Hmmm if the transparent Nalgene bottle block UV well enough that your eyes are safe from a Steripen then I sort of doubt that enough UV from sunlight gets in to sterilize anything. Now, if you pour the water into a shallow metal pan that might do better.

Other than a prefilter for the Steripen, I've never gone two steps on water purification. It's been either iodine or filter by themselves on our trips.
 
GearGuy
distinguished member (103)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/03/2020 03:19AM
andym: "Hmmm if the transparent Nalgene bottle block UV well enough that your eyes are safe from a Steripen then I sort of doubt that enough UV from sunlight gets in to sterilize anything. Now, if you pour the water into a shallow metal pan that might do better.


Other than a prefilter for the Steripen, I've never gone two steps on water purification. It's been either iodine or filter by themselves on our trips."


Agreed that 2 step purification is pretty asinine. Sorry Ole496 but a bit of your routine is a bit redundant. Anyways, Andy...you're wrong to doubt sunlight's UV power. 6 hours of sunlight exposure is enough to kill a number of bacteria. Caveat's include: Dirty water will take longer, bigger water bottle will take longer, and gravity filters are still better. See article referenced! Also, it's not surprising that a nalgene water bottle is able to filter enough UV light to be safe for your eyes. UV light is a high energy radiation that does not penetrate very deeply through objects. This is proven by the fact that dirty water takes longer to filter. Basic chemistry my friends!

https://modernsurvivalblog.com/health/how-to-purify-water-with-sunlight/
 
BWPaddler
distinguished member(9130)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
01/03/2020 10:49AM
I used steripen with nalgene bottles for several years without incident in the BWCA. I sometimes bring it along now as a backup plan... but agree that gravity filter seems to give me more options and seems easier with some trips (more people, better volume and speed). I do think I would use Steripen over gravity filter on solos where I really just need a liter at a time of water... I believe I have the Classic model from 2007?

But if you are set on SteriPen and want to choose between models, I would base that decision on batteries - what type and how many and how long they last. I was glad that my model used the same batteries as a digital camera and maybe also as a headlamp I had - so I could share between them if any of them ran low on power.

Second consideration would be weight and size.

Enjoy!
 
MossBack
member (31)member
 
01/03/2020 11:22AM
I know I will catch hell for some on my comments.

Forty years drinking unfiltered/ untreated water in the Quetico and we never had a problem. Being careful about where we get the water. Occasionally filtering through someone's t-shirt, especially if there is a pollen bloom occurring.

I did buy a steri-pen for solo trips where there would not be someone to drag me out on an extended trip. Giardia normal incubation period is about 5 to 7 days, so there is a good chance the misery would start on the drive home.

I doubt the ultraviolet light is harmful, because if it was the box it comes in would be bigger to have room for all the Known to the State of California Warning labels.
Regards,

MB
 
andym
distinguished member(4596)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
01/03/2020 01:01PM
I don’t doubt the sterilizing powers of the sun. Only the sterilizing power of the sun inside a bottle made of material that blocks UV. In the tests sterilizing water using sunlight it was inside very thin walled type 1 plastic bottles and they warn to use that type. Nalgenes are type 7. My camelback bottles aren’t labeled. It could be that it will still work in a clear Nalgene or other sturdier bottle but I would want to test the UV transmittal before relying on it.

As for UV being dangerous, it does cause sunburn, skin cancer, and eye damage. It’s why sunscreen and good sunglasses are designed to block it. It’s also why the steripens are designed to only turn on when the bulb is underwater.

We’re just a bunch of cells like the nasties in our water. Anything that kills them is probably pretty bad for us too. I would not recommend a huge dose of UV, boiling yourself in water, or forcing yourself through the small pores of a filter. Although, I’ve had what seemed like fairly large doses of iodine both orally and by IV for CT scans. But there are doses that will kill you. When drinking then CT iodine fluid I always tried to imagine I was sitting next to a lake in the BW.
 
TechnoScout
distinguished member (219)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/03/2020 09:16PM
MossBack: " I know I will catch hell for some on my comments.


Forty years drinking unfiltered/ untreated water in the Quetico and we never had a problem.

"


Not the same number of years for me, but in big lakes in the bwca, I drink unfiltered water. From the shore, I use a one-pass filter.
 
GearGuy
distinguished member (103)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/04/2020 12:07AM
andym: "As for UV being dangerous, it does cause sunburn, skin cancer, and eye damage. It’s why sunscreen and good sunglasses are designed to block it. It’s also why the steripens are designed to only turn on when the bulb is underwater.

We’re just a bunch of cells like the nasties in our water. Anything that kills them is probably pretty bad for us too. I would not recommend a huge dose of UV, boiling yourself in water, or forcing yourself through the small pores of a filter. Although, I’ve had what seemed like fairly large doses of iodine both orally and by IV for CT scans. But there are doses that will kill you. When drinking then CT iodine fluid I always tried to imagine I was sitting next to a lake in the BW. "


Yea but you're not acknowledging that a bacteria is a micrometer across, if that. And a human is 12-20 inches across. A bacteria is a micrometer thick, and the sclera of an eye is 1/8 of an inch thick. UV light (on the scale of a steripen's output) is safe for a nearby eye when used in a nalgene, and at the same time lethal to a bacteria because one is psychically a million times bigger than the other. :P
 
andym
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01/04/2020 01:20AM
Also the bacteria is a lot closer to the light than an eye outside the bottle full of water. That’s why you have to stir with the steripen. To get each thing in the water close to the light.

And yes, we have a lot more thickness of cells. But in your eye you really don’t want to damage the ones the light hits. But I completely agree that our eyes are safe with the steripen inside the bottle of water.
 
bottomtothetap
distinguished member(719)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/12/2020 11:23PM
The screen name "bottomtothetap" comes from the well and water treatment company I've worked at for over twenty years (our slogan is "We know water from the bottom to the tap"). I've regularly designed and sold UV systems for residential and commercial use so please take it from me that UV light is a method that's very difficult to make fully effective in canoe country. The problem is the clarity of the lake water (as others have alluded to in earlier posts). The water's tannin and other turbidity will block UV rays from reaching their intended targets. Achieving proper clarity by pre-filtering will be challenging in the backwoods as well unless you are somehow able to pressure feed your water through pre-filters that remove particles as small as 5 microns. THEN you could count on UV achieving the desired level of bacterial kill.
 
cyclones30
distinguished member(2054)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/13/2020 10:23AM
We've been using steripens as one of our main water treatment strategies for a few years now. We use the translucent bottle that came in one of the kits or our own, their pre filter that screws onto any nalgene threads, and then treat. If we have unusually dirty water we'll treat it an extra time. If batteries last for 400 or whatever the number is, what's one more shot to be more sure.

At camp we'll use iodine for the big treated MSR bag but if we're filling bottles on the go or day trips or whatnot it's a pen. Classic is one we have, not sure the other but we bring 2. We like to travel a lot, gravity filter seems like a hassle if you're not base camping. We fill bottles a few times a day and rarely at or near camp.
 
CampSR
senior member (54)senior membersenior member
 
01/15/2020 02:13PM
In our group, we each carry lifestraws. Scoop up some water from the lake, suck through the straw, good to go whenever you need some H2O. We also pump through a lifestraw with a hand pump to fill our clean water bag for camp (MSR Dromedary 10L), alternating straws used so one doesn't take all the beating. Works well for us, but to each their own.
 
Chicagored
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01/19/2020 09:32AM
I got tired of cleaning out ceramic pump filters from the green stuff in the water up there. Been using a steripen for years now with no adverse effect. I do try and get my water from the center of lakes, so it might be clean already, and if I take water from the shoreline, i will only use it if its going into something I'm cooking and will be boiling for at least 5 minutes.

 
mgraber
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01/19/2020 10:24PM
Just get a Platypuys gravity system and be done with all of the worries and have great tasting water to boot. Back flush when it plugs and you get years of use and 1000's of gallons with almost 0 effort. I know someone who got very sick using the steripen in near shore waters.
 
Inmyelement
member (13)member
 
02/15/2020 01:54PM
I've been happy with my Sawyer Squeeze run inline between 2 Cnoc 3 liter bags. Simple gravity system that comes with the versatility of using the Squeeze in other ways other than just an inline filter.
 
srust58
member (34)member
 
02/15/2020 05:18PM
mgraber: "Just get a Platypuys gravity system and be done with all of the worries and have great tasting water to boot. Back flush when it plugs and you get years of use and 1000's of gallons with almost 0 effort. I know someone who got very sick using the steripen in near shore waters."

+1. Why make it anymore complicated than it needs to be. We have used the Platypus for years. Before that we had a Katadyn gravity system. We had a one with a hand pump we used for a few years till somebody stepped on the handle. Don't remember the brand.
 
straighthairedcurly
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02/15/2020 07:00PM
I have a question for all the gravity filter fans. Are you filtering water while you are traveling throughout the day or just when you are in camp?

I ask because I drink A LOT of water during a day of travel so we typically need to sterilize or filter water regularly through the day.
 
02/15/2020 07:54PM
I also carry a Sawyer Water Filter Bottle for use while traveling. Unscrew lid with filter attached to tubing, dip bottle, rescrew lid/filter, drink through tube in lid. Simple and quick.
 
srust58
member (34)member
 
02/16/2020 12:07AM
straighthairedcurly: "I have a question for all the gravity filter fans. Are you filtering water while you are traveling throughout the day or just when you are in camp?


I ask because I drink A LOT of water during a day of travel so we typically need to sterilize or filter water regularly through the day."


Before we break camp we will filter enough to get us through the day. Usually 3 liters depending on the travel time. We always trip in September so we aren't sweating out the higher temps of mid summer. We don't travel with big stoves, fuel, chairs, coolers, or five fishing rods so carrying a bit of water is no big deal.
 
Tomcat
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02/16/2020 10:59AM
straighthairedcurly: "I have a question for all the gravity filter fans. Are you filtering water while you are traveling throughout the day or just when you are in camp?


I ask because I drink A LOT of water during a day of travel so we typically need to sterilize or filter water regularly through the day."


I use a gravity filter while traveling throughout the day and at camp.
 
bwcadan
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02/16/2020 05:40PM
I always pack a liter of water for entry and travel days if any. At my base camp which is within 2 portages usually, We use a gravity filter and fill the bottles for use around the camp. Each is name marked or a different shape when different brands are purchased. Wise to scale the bottles out once a day. Just too be sure of a clean water supply, I take 2 filters and thus have one in reserve if needed. I set up both before going to verify they work as well as they did when I returned last year and cleaned them including a solution of mild bleach water. Good luck.
 
TechnoScout
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02/16/2020 06:25PM
bwcadan: " ...I set up both before going to verify they work as well as they did when I returned last year..."
What is your verification methodology?
 
bwcadan
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02/17/2020 05:45AM
My verification is only for the flow of water through the filter. I have no way to know if any filter actually removes the micro bad stuff. I use the filters once a year on my trip, and neither filter is over 5 years old or so, so I think they should be fine. No problems so far.

Note: I soak in water the filters for several hours overnight before I leave for the BW
 
4keys
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02/17/2020 06:06AM
straighthairedcurly: "I have a question for all the gravity filter fans. Are you filtering water while you are traveling throughout the day or just when you are in camp?


I ask because I drink A LOT of water during a day of travel so we typically need to sterilize or filter water regularly through the day."


We use a Sawyer mini and fill our nalgenes before we leave camp. It comes with a straw and small squeeze bag which makes it easy to filter one bottle at a time while traveling.

There is also a MSR trail shot that looks like it is meant for filtering on the move.
 
TechnoScout
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02/17/2020 07:48AM
bwcadan: "My verification is only for the flow of water through the filter. I have no way to know if any filter actually removes the micro bad stuff. I use the filters once a year on my trip, and neither filter is over 5 years old or so, so I think they should be fine. No problems so far.

Note: I soak in water the filters for several hours overnight before I leave for the BW"

Thanks
I bought a gravity filter last year and have used it only on one trip. Going back in Sep and will use it again...just drawing from others' experiences!
 
nulstatement
member (13)member
 
02/20/2020 02:18PM
I brought a Steripen on my very first trip. It rained everyday. I can validate that the Steripen is NOT waterproof. The batteries corroded by day 3 and I switched to boiling over the fire. I switched to Platypus Gravity Filer + Sawyer Lifestraw for travel days.

I think the Steripen is better suited to travel abroad in which you want to purify water from local water systems rather than for wilderness applications.
 
Banksiana
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02/20/2020 03:34PM
4keys: "
There is also a MSR trail shot that looks like it is meant for filtering on the move.
"


The MSR Trailshot can also be used as a gravity filter (if you have the tubes and vessels) once in camp.
 
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