Monday, February 22, 2010

Decrease Your Travel Footprint With One Gadget

"What's that funny looking contraption with all the hoses?"
"It's a water filter so I don't have to buy bottled water."
OK, I'd seen other people toting around these complicated looking things but they always looked like so much work. I flashed back to childhood backpacking trips where I had to spend seemingly hours filtering stream water. When I'm on the road researching a guidebook I just don't have time for that. Still chatting for a few hours with this dread-locked hippy on a long haul Malaysian bus ride really got me thinking; when I got back home post-trip I started searching the Internet for an easy, packable water filter. What I found has dramatically decreased my footprint as a traveler and has become as important to my packing list as my toothbrush.

The Steripen is not a classic pump and filter water purifier, instead it zaps with UV light to stop the bad-guy microbes from reading DNA. If microbes can't read DNA, they can't reproduce in your gut or cause you any problems. It runs on two AA batteries that provide enough power to purify 200 liters of water. I have a model that's about three years old now - it's about the size of a medium banana and weighs next to nothing. I t slips in my purse, daypack or just about anything. To make the thing work you simply dunk it a liter or half-liter of water, press a button once or twice depending on how much water you're purifying and stir for about 40 seconds till the light goes off. I love that it also works on ice cubes in your drink so I know longer have to suffer through luke warm beverages in hot dodgy countries - just dunk the Steripen right in your glass.

The first time I took my Steripen on the road was on an eight-week trip to Thailand. I used it everywhere, filling my water bottle from the tap and zapping it as I needed it. The only time I had to buy water was on Ko Yao Noi where the tap water was brackish and tasted so disgusting I broke down and bought bottled water instead. Over the eight weeks I had no tummy troubles at all - a record for me. Now my Steripen has been with me to some ten countries and it's still kicking. When I arrive late at night to say, a hotel in Sulawesi, I don't have to worry about having a bottle of water because I can just purify my own. I no longer have to save that last little bit at the bottom of the bottle to brush my teeth with even though I'm thristy - no I have as much water as I want with my Steripen. I bring it on hikes so I don't have to carry a ton of water and was even consoled by it when I recently went through a cyclone knowing that even if the water cut out, I could drink from a puddle with my Steripen.

Now they are coming out with a "Travel Mini" even smaller than my model. Unfortunately I have no need to buy one since my old stalwart seems immortal. And no, I'm not getting paid by Steripen to write this - they have no clue who I am. I just love, love, love this gadget.

Check out their website at

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