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Filter vs Steripen
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(catskilled) - F

Locale: LI, NY
Filter vs Steripen on 08/10/2011 06:14:05 MDT Print View

Hello. I'm new to the forums. I'm a backpacker, although not a light backpacker, not yet anyway. I've been carrying water with me, which, needless to say, is quite heavy. For my next trip in Sept I'd like to have a way to purify water on the trail. I generally carry water purification tabs, but don't like the wait time and tend to think of them as an emergency backup plan. Where I usually like (Catskills, NY)water is plentiful and usually in the form of a clear, fast running stream.

My two choices were:

MSR Miniworks ES filter ( For $90 it's good for approx 300 gallons and replacement filters run around $45, plus it's on the heavy side at almost a pound, although anythings better than carrying water.

Steripen Classic ( At twenty bucks cheaper and about half the weight this seems to be the way to go.

I've read mixed reviews of the Steripens, so I'm unsure is this is the best option. Any help would be greatly appreciated.


Evan McCarthy
(evanrussia) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Steripen on 08/10/2011 07:01:24 MDT Print View

Go with the Steripen. It's a lovely thing: treat it well and it will treat you (and your water) well. I've used both the classic and the Adventurer Opti once a month or so since 2007 without mishap. You'll never go back to slaving over a pump again!

(If you do opt away from the Steripen, try Aqua Mira instead of messing around with a pump.)

Edited by evanrussia on 08/10/2011 08:03:54 MDT.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Steripen on 08/10/2011 07:47:17 MDT Print View

I believe the classic has two electrical contacts. When you fully insert the steripen into the water, the electrical contacts are in the water. This detects that it's fully inserted. If you pull out the steripen a little and the contacts are out of the water, it turns off to protect you from UV radiation.

The problem is, that some people report problems with this. It thinks you're out of the water and turns off. Especially with some water. Maybe some units are worse.

The adventruer opti has an optical sensor and doesn't have this problem.

Therefore, I would get the opti, not the classic, but it costs an extra $20 or something.

I tried using rechargeable batteries in mine but some of the batteries failed. Brand name non-rechargeables seem to work better. I got some Energizers from that were pretty cheap.

Of course, you should bring a spare pair of batteries. The batteries in the unit could fail so the spares add reliability.

Pushing the button can be difficult, especially if it's cold. That button is engineered to be difficult to push so it doesn't accidentally go off in your pack.

Given that it's an electronic thing, and given all the complications I've mentioned, you might conclude it's not worth it, filter is better.

I am happy with the opti - it depends on the person.

Make sure and play with it a little before you take it out.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
filters on 08/10/2011 08:02:32 MDT Print View

I have had occasional problems with my Steripen classic. I have backpacked with others who have also had problems. I still use it but carry a backup. I am eyeballing the Sawyer squeeze filter. People seem to like it a lot and its only about 3 oz.

Andy F
(AndyF) - F

Locale: Ohio
Re: Filter vs Steripen on 08/10/2011 08:29:23 MDT Print View

I'm considering a Steripen myself. Right now I use chlorine tablets or filter or just drink it raw.

A few things to consider about filters which might not be obvious:

- They weigh more than specified because they retain water.
- They can stop filtering and allow pathogens to pass through without any indication of failure. This could occur due to a drop or freezing.
- They can clog. Most can be flushed, but that requires clean water.

Obviously a Steripen is an electronic device which could fail without warning or due to being dropped or a battery failure. Also, it doesn't remove or deactivate multicellular organisms or their eggs. Don't rely on it where tapeworms are likely to be an issue.

Edited by AndyF on 08/10/2011 08:30:42 MDT.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Nothing is perfect on 08/10/2011 09:00:32 MDT Print View

I would advise against any pump - just too much weight and effort.

A gravity filter is great if you're filtering a large quantity of water at a time - like 4 liters or more. Platypus makes the lightest commercial version, I think. You can switch to a Sawyer .01 filter for even more safety, if you want. I have a set-up like this and use it when hiking with a group.

The Steripen (and I would advise you to spend the extra $20 to get the Opti - it's worth it, honestly!) is great for solo hiking and only doing 1-2 liters at a time. Light weight, quick, easy, effective.

Both set-ups have drawbacks, both have strong points. You just have to decide what you want to live with!

Karple T

Locale: Mid-Alantic
"Filter vs Steripen" on 08/10/2011 09:07:27 MDT Print View

I went from the MSR pump to Steripen classic to the opti.

The opti is amazingly easier than a pump. I will never even consider using a pump again.

I cut the top off of a plati canteen and marked the two levels the opti cleans. After zapping the water I pour it through a big coffee filter into my water bladder or bottle.

The plati canteen/cleaning cup and coffee filters roll up and fit into the opti sheath and its supper light and compact.

(catskilled) - F

Locale: LI, NY
Thanks on 08/10/2011 10:31:52 MDT Print View

Thanks for the help guys. I think I'll go with the Opti. Anything is better than carrying water and should the device fail I have my purification tabs. I didn't even think of the fact that the filter could stop filtering and I might not notice. That and the high cost of replacement filters is the deciding factor. Again, thanks for the help.

Andy F
(AndyF) - F

Locale: Ohio
Re: Filter vs Steripen on 08/10/2011 14:17:56 MDT Print View

Why the Opti instead of the Journey? I'm wondering this myself. Is it because the Opti has the better water sensors (optical rather than contact)?

(More of a question for everyone else than you, catskilled.)

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Filter vs Steripen on 08/10/2011 14:38:17 MDT Print View

Yes, the optical sensor-interlock is less buggy. Plus, the Opti is lighter and a bit less expensive. It only communicates via blinking lights though, so some folks will prefer the LCD display.



James Lantz
(jameslantz) - F

Locale: North Georgia
"Filter vs Steripen" on 08/10/2011 16:20:34 MDT Print View

I have used the Steripen Classic, Aquamira, Katadyn Vario & Hiker Pro. I now use the MSR Hyperflow filter because no matter what conditions you face, you can always use it with proper care (don't drop it or let it freeze). Case in point: last weekend on Springer Mountain, Ga. the spring was almost dry. My buddy & I were able to filter out of a couple of inch deep pools that were the size of a salad plate. The Hyperflow filters from a surface floating pre-filter, is very fast (easy to deploy & put away), versatile with any water carrying system, compact(for a filter), & relatively lightweight, does not retain much water, & is field serviceable. It does require a "learning curve" to backflush it & to check for filter integrity.
I like the Hiker Pro filter(which also has worked in the above scenario), but like the lighter weight, compactness, & speed of the Hyperflow.

David Vo
What about taste? on 08/10/2011 17:06:51 MDT Print View

Hi guys,

I am new here and new to backpacking. Honestly, I've never been. Kind of embarassing. Anyway, I actually have a lot of gear but need more before I go on my first trip to the back country in the valley near where I live. Anyway, I have an Steripen Adventurer Opti which is being discussed here. I was just curious, and excuse the dumb question, but if you use it to purify water, it will just kill the bacteria, but won't the water still potentially taste gross? I mean if you took dirty (looking) pond water and made it safe to drink with the Optipen, it would still taste terrible, right? Is this just accepted or do you carry some other means to improve the taste, like a filter?

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: What about taste? on 08/10/2011 17:43:02 MDT Print View

Hi David,

You're right--UV will do nothing to improve water's taste. A filter with carbon and in some cases, chlorine-dioxide treatment can improve taste and odor, but how much depends on the water.

Folks who hike the mountains are often lucky enough to have source water that tastes great, and treat only as a precaution. I try to avoid camping by swamps ;-)



Keith Selbo
(herman666) - F - M

Locale: Northern Virginia
I own a paper weight, er ... steripen on 08/14/2011 13:08:44 MDT Print View

My steripen went on exactly one trip. The speed is deceptive. You have to sit there and stir. You can't do anything else, and the others are correct, it doesn't improve the taste or appearance. It will even leave wiggly things still wiggling.

I've never found anything better than a gravity sawyer, charcoal filter combination. I never cease to be amazed at how I can put murky water full of sediment, plant debris, wiggly things topped with beige foam in one end and watch clear sweet pure water come out the other. Yes, it takes a few minutes to filter 3 liters, but it's a few minutes you can spend cooking, reading and innumerable other things.

The Sawyer is unparallelled for reliability. It's cleaned with a simple back flushing that takes about 20 seconds in the field to restore new filter flow. The manufacturer guarantees it for life.

About the only things I can fault are the minimalist instruction sheet and lack of an integrity test. It was up to me to figure out how to get it to filter at full speed, the best way to backflush and that purging all the air from the filtering train is necessary for fast filtering.

The most compelling testimonials for the Sayer come from the actions of people I hike with. To a man/woman, they start the hike with various pump filters, chemicals and yes, steripens and to a man/woman, they all end up borrowing my filter citing the ease of use (fill it and forget it) and it's infinite capacity.

For more information see the reader reviews.

Edited by herman666 on 08/14/2011 13:16:48 MDT.

John Jensen
(JohnJ) - F

Locale: Orange County, CA
people / stream ratio on 08/14/2011 14:00:29 MDT Print View

For me it would break down by how large the party, and how frequent the clear streams. 90 seconds may seem long, but I just remind myself that it's the attention that makes it so. If there are streams, and I can add a liter at a time, it's all very smooth. Total weight is low.

On the other hand, if I have to get water for five people at a lake, I'd rather have the filter.

(catskilled) - F

Locale: LI, NY
Thanks on 08/15/2011 13:38:56 MDT Print View

I bought the Adventurer Opti yesterday. Looks cool at least. We'll see how well it works when I go out in September. Thanks to everyone for the input.

David Vo
Re: Re: What about taste? on 08/15/2011 18:09:03 MDT Print View

Rick (or anyone),

It seems like there'd be an obvious answer but I can't get my finger on it. Can someone outlay a specific water treatment regiment for out in the field? I have a Steripen Adventurer Opti. I know it requires a wide mouthed container so ...

1. Steripent Adventuer Opti
2. Nalgene 32 oz wide mouth bottle
3. Coffee filter or cloth???
4. What container does the clean water get filtered into?

What's an effective way of filtering pre or post UV treatment? I've read various posts and sites that casually mention using a bandanna or coffee filter. Great, but in what setup, specifically? In my experience, using any sort of non-rigid filter (ie coffee, cloth, etc), requires a cone or funnel device to provide a rigid sidewall.

So, now that my Nalgene is full of UV treated water, how do I get it into my bladder or some other bottle, assuming the second bottle isn't also a wide mouthed container. Let's say it's a 2L Platy Bottle. Wouldn't holding a coffee filter over the Nalgene and tipping it over, cause unpredictable and random run off? In other words, not a directed stream?

Sorry if I am just missing something obvious here.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Re: What about taste? on 08/15/2011 18:54:06 MDT Print View

Nalgene - way too heavy

I treat 1/2 liter at a time. Took a 1 liter soda bottle, marked 1/2 liter level, cut off the top a little higher, 3/4 ounce, treat water in it

Usually I fill up a platypus water bag 2 liter or 4 liter. Carefully get as little stuff in it as possible. If there are a few floaties on the top I'll just pour them off. Let the sinkies settle to the bottom.

Matthew Swierkowski
(Berserker) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: Re: Re: What about taste? on 08/16/2011 11:02:24 MDT Print View

To David Vo (and whoever else cares) I’ll lay out my normal water gathering regimen. I normally hike over here on the East coast, so water is readily available in most places and is usually flowing and clear. I currently use the Steripen Adventurer Opti by the way. Typically I treat a couple of liters throughout the day as required, and then gather 4 liters (in a 4 liter platy tank) and treat that as needed around camp. I use my cook pot for the treatment container (Snowpeak 900...yeah I know I'm 100 ml short of the full capacity I could be treating...already have a Caldera Cone for the pot though so not changing it anytime soon), and a 1 liter platy or just normal plastic drink bottles for my clean containers. Around camp I only treat my drinking water. Water for cooking is simply treated by boiling (saves a treatment or two per day…i.e. for breakfast and dinner).

As for a pre-filter, I use the modified platy cap as seen here: This goes on the 4 liter platy tank, so when I pour the water into my cook pot to be treated it has already been pre-filtered. It works amazingly well. Usually if I get water that has a little debris in it, once I pour it through the pre-filter the water that comes out has no visible debris in it. If I get into really dirty water (only happened once or twice) I have used a coffee filter before. I haven’t figured out a real good way to do this yet, but in general I just hold it taut across the top of my pot (they’re big filters) and pour the water through it into the pot.

David Vo
Re: Re: Re: Re: What about taste? on 08/16/2011 12:33:18 MDT Print View

@Matthew - With all due respect, your water treatment regiment is not clear to someone, like myself, who had no field experience with this. It's the equivalent of asking someone how to assemble a computer (from scratch) to be used for video editing and I answer: Well I put the parts together, load up the video and edit.

How do you treat the water throughout the day? You collect it directly from the water source using your Snowpeak 900? You just scoop it up? Then you treat it with a Steripen? Where do you put this water after it's treated? You separately mention you also gather 4 liters (dirty) in a Platypus Tank and treat that later in camp. How do you treat 4 liters at once? You're pouring it through the pre-filter into the Snowpeak 900? What about in the field? No pre-filtering? Just stream to SP900 + Steripen to bottle?

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: What about taste? on 08/16/2011 13:40:40 MDT Print View

Hi David,

You're right to ponder workflow, as UV differs from the other options.

If the water needs prefiltering, I have a small mesh bag that fits over any opening up to the standard Nalgene lid (whatever that diameter is--can't recall). It removes debris and visible swimming things, but won't reduce cloudiness or anything microscopic. (I don't think UV is the best answer for cloudy water in any case.)

The Adventurer will fit in a mid-size container opening--such as a Gatorade bottle--so I generally use something like that. Light, strong, more or less free.

I don't find it a problem pouring from such a bottle into a narrow-neck container. Another reason to prefilter before treatment.

This system won't be a good match for refilling a hydration system on the go unless it's carried outside the pack. But a couple liter bottles in side pockets are just as handy.



Matthew Swierkowski
(Berserker) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What about taste? on 08/17/2011 10:23:37 MDT Print View

To David Vo, I didn’t realize you wanted all the nitty gritty details. Ok, let me just lay out a typical day then. Usually I start off the morning hike with water that was gathered and treated the night before. So we’ll go from there. The first water stop of the day while hiking goes like this: I stop, pull out my empty 4 liter platy (which is usually folded up and strapped to the outside of my pack), collect however much water I want to treat into it either by dipping it in the source (if there is room) or by scooping the water from the source with the Snowpeak 900, rinse the pot with a small amount of pre-filtered water from the platy (just to get rid of debris), fill the pot, treat the water with the Steripen and finally pour the water into my clean container for consumption. Each subsequent time I stop during the day I follow the same process, and empty out the platy when finished to be folded up and placed back on my pack.

At camp I pretty much do the same thing where I fill the entire platy up either by dipping in the source or scooping water using the pot, and then follow the same steps for treatment to consumption as outlined above. I treat water on an as needed basis at camp, so the platy just sits around camp with the remaining untreated water in it till the morning when I empty it to start hiking.

Hope that clears things up for you.

Darren Bagnall

Locale: El Portal, CA
SteriPen problems on 08/25/2011 10:47:50 MDT Print View

I have a love/hate relationship with the SteriPen. I love the simplicity and when it works, it is fast. Unfortunately, I have had big problems with mine. I used both a classic and an adventurer on the PCT this year and last. With both models I have very frequent shut-off problems. Halfway through treatment the unit shuts off and flashes red. The red flashing last waaay too long, then I have to reset and try again. I have had this happen up to seven or eight time per liter. So frustrating.

It's interesting to read about the Opti in this thread as possibly that is a solution. I have also been told the unit gets built up humidity in the bulb with frequent use and the humidity plays havoc with the sensors. Additionally, all these errors make you use more of the batteries than you should be forcing me to carry extra batteries. The 123 batteries that the adventurer that are hard to find and expensive and its the only thing I carry that takes that battery so it really is extra weight.

Does anyone have similar experience with the SteriPen? I feel like its a technology that is not yet ready for prime-time. I am hoping they improve with newer models but, in my opinion, SteriPen is not ready for the trail just yet and I would not recommend.

Brendan S
(brendans) - MLife

Locale: Fruita CO
"Filter vs Steripen" on 08/25/2011 11:20:14 MDT Print View

I have an Opti and love it. I've never had a single problem and it's seen LOTS of use.

Ben H.
(bzhayes) - F

Locale: So. California
why multi-staging with steri? on 08/26/2011 14:10:32 MDT Print View

I've been reading the in-depth steripen treatment techniques and am wondering why use so many containers? I recently purchased my steripen, but I haven't been able to use it on the trail yet.

This was my plan: 1) take wide mouth drinking bottle and cover the mouth with prefilter (bandana) 2) submerge bottle into water source 3) let debris free water fill the bottle 4) remove bottle from water and prefilter from bottle 5) stick steripen in bottle and treat water 6) give high fives and enjoy tasty clean water!

What am I missing? Why do I need three water containers? I understand if the source is a shallow pool, I may need something to scoop what out of it. I would use my cup or pot. Still that is only two containers.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: why multi-staging with steri? on 08/26/2011 14:37:01 MDT Print View

No compelling reason as far as I know. You can use a larger container and run multiple cycles if you can ensure you've stirred properly and have adequate contact time with all the water. This will be much easier with a smaller container.



Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Many bottles; Sawyer Squeeze on 08/26/2011 14:41:19 MDT Print View

Some of us use multiple water containers with the Steripen because we don't want to carry "heavy" Nalgene wide mouth bottles. Platy bottles or commercial water bottles are so much lighter, but have tiny mouths that the Steripen won't fit into. So I carry a Nalgene "canteen" with the lid cut off, making it just a one liter heavy plastic bag. I use that to dip water out of the sources and treat with the Steripen, then pour it into my Platys. Still much lighter than the Nalgene bottle.

On another note, I picked up a Sawyer filter. Lighter (dry) even than the Steripen, filters quickly, 0.10 micron filter, very long life. I've used the Sawyer filter before and liked the results as a gravity filter, but it was a lot of fussing to get everything set up, and then took awhile to do the job. This seems very quick, no fuss, quicker even than the Steripen. So far I've only tried it with tap water, but it'll go on my next hike!

Michael Davis
(mad777) - F

Locale: South Florida
Re: "Filter vs Steripen" on 08/26/2011 15:37:15 MDT Print View

Another Steripen (Adventurer) failure here.

It failed just past the warranty period but with only about a dozen outings. Bummer!

I learned my lesson not to count on electronics in the field.
I went back to my ULA Amigo Pro gravity filter and have been quite confident with it although it weighs too much.

So, I recently bought the Sawyer Squeeze filter and WOW! I do love it for it's ease of use, packability, and it's 2.5 ounces!!!

Bryan S
(bswiz) - F
To Steripen users... on 08/29/2011 13:26:47 MDT Print View

One question I've had for the Steripen is, what do you do about the water around the rim of the (for example) Nalgene that doesn't get treated?

That is, if you submerge a Nalgene and fill it, then treat it with Steripen, the water inside is presumably safe to drink. But if I now want to drink directly from the Nalgene, isn't the rim/threaded area contaminated with untreated water? Does wiping it off with a bandana clean any bad stuff enough to be safe? Or is it just such a small amount of water that it isn't a big deal (although I thought I read it only takes a couple drops of bad water to get sick from giardia or something else...)?


Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: To Steripen users... on 08/29/2011 14:29:53 MDT Print View

Hi Bryan,

If I follow the guidance correctly, you're supposed to put the cap on loosely then invert and rinse out the threads with treated water.

Alternatively you can pour the water in using a funnel from another container, being careful to not splash raw water on the treatment container. The same precautions hold for chemical treatments.



David Lutz

Locale: Bay Area
Water on the rim.... on 08/29/2011 16:41:15 MDT Print View

I drink the water from the small hole on the MSR cap I use. Or the MSR hose attached to the cap. So I don't actually drink from the rim.

So I just call that good and get on with it.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Opti on 09/01/2011 19:39:12 MDT Print View

After several years of using ClO2 tablets, I recently switched to a Steripen Opti. I didn't really mind the taste of the Cl2 in the water, but the wait time- 4 hours (although I rarely waited the full 4 hours) was a bit of a hassle.

I'm really liking my switch, I use a 2 liter platy cut ~ 3" above the 1 liter mark to treat the water (less than 1 ounce)- the cut platy is VERY easy to fill (unlike a non-cut platy) and readily stands on it's own- hit the switch on the Opti once and agitate (stir) until the light goes out (~90 seconds) and you now have drinkable water- where I hike (the Rockies) water generally is very clear and also tastes very good. I haven't had any glitches with the Opti thus far and appears battery life is very good (I also switched to a CR123 headlamp to keep batteries interchangeable)

I do keep a few ClO2 tabs in the unlikely event something were to go awry.

If your filtering for a large group a filter might be a better (quicker) option, for a couple of people I think it's going to be tough to beat the Opti

one other scenario where a filter might trump the Opti is you have very turbid water, although that's likely going to prove somewhat problematic for a pump as well- a pre-filter would be beneficial for either in those waters

Andy F
(AndyF) - F

Locale: Ohio
Re: "Filter vs Steripen" on 09/02/2011 11:02:42 MDT Print View

I very seriously considered the Steripen, as shown in my posts above. I decided to go with the Sawyer Squeeze 0.1 micron. It's simpler and more reliable because there are no batteries or electronics. Also, prefiltering is necessary with the Steripen if you're concerned about worm eggs, like I am.

"worm-free since 1971" (as far as I know anyway o.O)

Edited by AndyF on 09/02/2011 11:04:05 MDT.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
worm eggs on 09/02/2011 18:11:54 MDT Print View

curious what kind of worm eggs you have in your water?