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SteriPEN vs H2O Amigo, a long distance hiker’s comparison
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Dan Feldman
(podin04) - F
General Comments on 03/12/2011 09:59:15 MST Print View

First, thanks to everyone for providing such good discussion around the article. Reading comments is what I enjoy the most about writing. Second, I want to address a few recurring themes in the commentary:

VIRUSES. It is true that the Katadyn filter inside the H2O Amigo does not offer virus protection. It is also true that the incidence of backcountry water-acquired illness due to viruses in the USA is unknown. There is not sufficient scientific data exploring how often viruses make people sick in the backcountry. However, even if there was such data, it would invariably be limited to specific geographic regions. This is because the types and quantities of contaminants in a waterway are dependent on land use patterns. Waterways downstream of population-dense communities are more likely to contain traces of human waste and therefore to contain viruses that make people sick. Waterways near areas with spare human population or are upstream of large communities are less likely to contain viruses.

When discussing backcountry water treatment, various technologies shouldn't be thought of as "better" or "worse" based on the absolute number or type of contaminants filtered, destroyed, or otherwise rendered harmless. Performance metrics aside, a water treatment technology is only as good as where it is planning to be used. For instance, a technology that does not offer coverage for viruses might be a bad choice for thru-hiking the Potomac Heritage Trail, which passes by a large number of densely populated areas and ends in Washington, DC. On the other hand, a technology that covers bacteria and parasites, but not viruses, is perfectly acceptable for hikes in sparsely populated areas.

WHY I CHOSE A DISCONTINUED PRODUCT: An area of interest of mine has always been low tech vs high tech in the backcountry. This article was thus an extension of this curiosity, where the H2O Amigo was the the best representative of the gravity filter concept, even though it has been discontinued (and perhaps making a comeback!?) My assumption was that since we, the readers of BPL, value ingenuity and ease of at-home modification and since the H2O Amigo can be made at home for low cost, this article was relevant.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: SteriPEN vs H2O Amigo, a long distance hiker’s comparison on 03/12/2011 11:08:42 MST Print View

The review covers some interesting points, but I think the technologies are too diverse. An article with an overview and comparisons of electronic purifiers (UV and MIOX), chemical treatments, and filters is needed, with a separate article on each of the categories in detail.

The review is for a discontinued item, but there are a number of available gravity filters in the same class and should have been covered:

Katadyn Base Camp
Platypus GravityWorks
MSR AutoFlow Gravity Microfilter
Aquamira Frontier Pro
Sawyer gravity filters

Since there are dependable components available, a MYOG article on gravity filters would be very interesting.

As to the Steripen, the manufacturer does state that it takes 2-5 days to recharge the batteries with the solar charger. I think that takes it off the table as a viable hiking option with the rechargeable batteries. That option is better for remote/3rd-world use where AC power and battery availability are limited. I do use one and I remove the batteries for storage. I think it makes an excellent day hiking option, where you want to be able to use the water quickly. I back up any of my mechanical water purification choices with MicroPur tablets.

The Steripen and chlorine dioxide options make a good pairing. You can stretch battery life by treating water overnight and using the UV option for quick access during the day.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
H2O Amigo on 03/12/2011 13:14:37 MST Print View

The Amigo is slated to be released, again, better'n ever.

Dan Feldman
(podin04) - F
Re: Re: SteriPEN vs H2O Amigo, a long distance hiker’s comparison on 03/12/2011 13:33:17 MST Print View


I must respectfully disagree with your implication that the technologies covered in the review are "too diverse" for comparison. A cross-technology comparison of water treatment methods is important because each technology has its own benefits and drawbacks specific to the technology as a whole. Such a comparison allows a user to decide which of these benefits and drawbacks are more suited to his or her own situation (mine was distance hiking in western Montana). From there, the decision about which specific model of technology to use can be made. I think this might be what you are looking for, which was not the aim of this particular article. I am surprised that there are not MORE cross-tech comparisons on gear test sites.

Had I had the time and financial resources, I might have liked to have covered more gravity filters and UV pens and had a really large cross-tech comparison. A significant problem, however would have arisen: As this was real-life field testing, we only drank so much water each day. Including four or five other devices would have meant less water tested per device so, statistically speaking, the comparisons would have been less powerful and some of the issues described in the article (the fraying SteriPen charger padding and broken clip) might not have come to light. So, at my own discretion, I decided to go with what I felt were the best representations of each technology.

There is already a very good gravity filter MYOG article published on this site by Bill Fornshell:

The 2-5 day battery charge requirement DOES NOT take the rechargeable option off the table if the device is carried outside the pack where it can charge throughout the day while the other set of batteries is in use. It does, however, make it a less attractive option along trails that receive limited sunlight.



Matt DeWitt
(tritan) - F

Locale: Midwest
Re: Re: SteriPEN vs H2O Amigo, a long distance hiker’s comparison on 03/12/2011 13:49:32 MST Print View

Did you make a filter bag for it? Any pics or directions , videos? I am interesting in a gravity filter like the amigo. The Kadyden is 70.00 bucks and group size. I just want a smaller lighter weight version does sawyer have that?

Matt DeWitt
(tritan) - F

Locale: Midwest
Re: Another Sawyer fan on 03/12/2011 14:00:36 MST Print View

do you have a link to the filter you use? Is there a set with water bag or bladder and filter in one?

Craig Price
(skeets) - MLife

Locale: Melbourne, Australia
a plus for steripen on 03/17/2011 23:47:12 MDT Print View

well, despite other's concerns, I'll put in a plus for the steripen. I've used a steripen regularly for 3 years and have never had any issue, and I regularly drown it and beat it about, as it's on my waist belt when I fish and I'm nver one to worry about stuff and have been been kinda rough with it in the process.

I find it is perfect to replace my water in a small gatorade bottle (600ml) which I drink as I fish, quite handy and more superior for this purpose than the filters.

My only niggle is that, of course, steripen can't do anything about the flavour of the water - it's safe, but there've been times when I wished for a carbon filter to "cleanse" the taste on the palate a little, e.g. when I've been fishing areas with livestock near the water (bleh).


James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: a plus for steripen on 03/18/2011 05:20:53 MDT Print View

"... it's safe, but there've been times when I wished for a carbon filter to "cleanse" the taste on the palate a little, e.g. when I've been fishing areas with livestock near the water (bleh)."

Ha, ha... Yeah, I know the problem. Have you tried a few grains of crystal lite? Usually,
a little packet(To-Go or something) will bo two or three bottles.