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Water treatment
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Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Water treatment on 08/30/2011 12:44:33 MDT Print View

After reading the thread "Filter v.s. Steripen" it comes through that some folks have not yet been made aware of the EPA water treatment classifications. There are big differences between water filters and water PURIFICATION.

FILTERS > can filter down to one micron but will let some bacteria and all viruses pass through. And yeah, they are heavy and clog. I no longer use filters.

PURIFIERS > will kill (or disable in the case of UV pens) all bacteria and viruses. To date chlorine dioxide - not iodine - is the best chemical treatment. And in that type Katadyn tablets are the most convient to pack and use. Still the EPA will classify idoine based filters like First Need as water purifiers.

GOOD OLD BOILING > Still a great way to purify water, esp. for cooking - and for drinking, if ya don't mind waiting for it to cool.

I now carry the 1st gen. Steripen Adventurer and Katadyn tablets. A small funnel and #1 coffee filters is for all water before treatment. The chlorine dioxide tablets go in my hydration bladder and will keep both bladder and hose bacteria free.

The Steripen Adventurer is for my 3/4 L. bike bottle where I keep my electrolyte drink.
When I need potable water for the bottle I want it NOW, not in 30 mins. to an hour while waiting for a tablet to work.

So far so good, even out west here where wild burros and horses roam all over, including horses high in the mountains (6,000 to 11,000 ft.) just outside of Las Vegas.

Edited by Danepacker on 08/30/2011 12:45:05 MDT.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Water treatment on 08/30/2011 13:25:04 MDT Print View

Thanks for posting Eric. have some unanswered questions about water treatment. I love the steripen when it works but hate it when it doesnt. I too caryy the chlorine dioxide pills. But I don't think they actually are that effective against crypto and giardia, are they? At least not for short treatment times. I know the chlorine is good for bacteria and viruses but I don't think they are much of a problem in the US. Unless I am wrong(and I may be) why do we feel safe with the chlorine dioxide? Wouldn't I be more likely to prevent actual pathogens out by using a large diameter filter like the Frontier Pro?

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Chlorine dioxide on 08/30/2011 15:51:11 MDT Print View


According to the info online chlorine dioxide (either Aqua Mira double strength or Katadyn tabs) is 100% effective against all pathogens and viruses. Even hard-shelled cryptosporidium and giardia ae killed by it IF the recommended treatment times are followed as per water temp. The colder the water the longer it takes to treat properly. See Katadyn's instructions. The U.S. Military uses Katadyn tabs and the Army's Nautic labs said its the strongest concentration of the chemical available.

Sometimes I use Katadyn tabs in water I've already zapped with the Steripen just as a "belt-and-suspenders" precaution when I know, for example, that cattle are in the area.

Edited by Danepacker on 08/30/2011 15:52:41 MDT.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Chlorine tabs on 08/30/2011 16:03:46 MDT Print View

But its like a 4 hour wait for crypto and significant time for giardia if I remember too. I NEVER carry water that long; water is plentiful here. And I don't want to carry heavy water that long. I think a frontier pro will take out both the crypto and giardia. Do I need to even worry about the other stuff?

Tim Archambault
(TimArchambault) - F
Re: Water treatment on 08/31/2011 21:45:41 MDT Print View

Ben, Let me know what's wrong with your SteriPEN. Happy to help.

Edited by TimArchambault on 08/31/2011 21:48:06 MDT.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Steripen on 08/31/2011 21:55:23 MDT Print View

It blinks and does not work. Well, sometimes it works fine. It is unreliable. I have the classic.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Chlorine tabs on 08/31/2011 22:43:07 MDT Print View

Micropur tabs: the longest wait is for Crypto, which is 4 hours. Everything else is taken care of way before.

" Features the same proven technology used in municipal water supplies, Micropur tablets are effective against viruses, bacteria, Giardia and Cryptosporidium
Destroys viruses and bacteria in 15 min., Giardia in 30 min. and Cryptosporidium/i> in 4 hrs.
Use 1 tablet per quart of water
Meets the US Environmental Protection Agency purification guidelines; active ingredient is chlorine dioxide
Each tablet is individually wrapped and sealed
While a 4 hr. wait time may be inconvenient, alternative disinfectants do not claim to destroy Cryptosporidia"

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Chlorine tabs on 08/31/2011 22:47:12 MDT Print View

Keep in mind that Chlorine and Chlorine Dioxide are two different things.


Tim Archambault
(TimArchambault) - F
Your SteriPEN Classic on 09/01/2011 08:44:00 MDT Print View


If you are seeing a red blinking LED, I believe we may understand the problem you are experiencing. Please refer to our battery page at We recommend Energizer Lithium or NiMH batteries for your SteriPEN Classic. We strongly recommend against using Alkaline batteries as with all high-powered devices. Also leaving the batteries seated in the device while you are not using it will likely draw on the batteries.

If this is not the cause, I've gone ahead and created an RA # for you to return the SteriPEN Classic and we'll review the device and fix/replace it free of charge.

Attn: RA #110901AK1
PO Box 675
Blue Hill, ME 04614

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Steripen on 09/01/2011 09:25:54 MDT Print View

Wow, thanks Tim. I have tried the batteries you mention. I have taken out the old ones and put in new ones with the same problem. It actually works about 80% of the time. That other 20% is just too often. It also seems to always work while at home, even with the old batteries that failed on the trail.

Manfred Kopisch
(Orienteering) - F
SteriPen Classic on 09/01/2011 09:57:21 MDT Print View

Hi Ben,

I too have the SteriPen Classic and have lived through quite some frustration with it, but now I'm an extremly happy user. May be my experiences can help you to also get the most from your SteriPen. I just came back from 5 weeks of backpacking, where I used the SteriPen Classic with Eneloop rechargable batteries and a PowerFilm AA foldable Solar charger. I used it for my family of four, so we treated quite some water with it.

So here is are the frustrations I lived through

1) Old model: The first SteriPen worked great here in the SF Bay Area. But when I took it to the Sierra it seemingly stopped working. It was so frustrating to be away for a longer period of time and all of a sudden it didn't work. When that happened I thought I can't trust that technology and was ready to give up on it. But since the SteriPen worked again at home I got curious and researched the problem. I found that the Sierra water was "too clear" and the two metal contacts refused to acknowledge that they are indeed in water. That could easily be solved with a little pinch of salt to increase the conductivity of the sierra water. Once I understood and used this trick the SteriPen worked reliably. The problem was later brought to the manufacturers attention and they increased the voltage between the metal contacts. So I got the new model which works flawlessly in clear Sierra water without having to add anything.

2) Wet Contacts: I would quite often (20%) of the time get a red LED right after turning the SteriPen on and first having a green LED. Then the SteriPen wouldn't work and I was really frustrated. Why did the red LED go on? What did I do wrong? Why doesn't it work? And despite several tries I got the red LED over and over again and was stuck without being able to treat my water. In this case I had been too lazy to read the manual. Once I read it and understood that the contacts were not dry when I pressed the button, I just needed to wipe them dry with my bandana before using the SteriPen. Now it always works reliably. From time to time I get the red LED when I treat many bottles for a group. If I wouldn't know that I need to wipe the contacts dry, I would be stuck and become very frustrated. But with the knowledge I just wipe the contacts and keep treating.

I hope that helps,


a b
Steripen Classic suggestions on 09/01/2011 09:59:06 MDT Print View

Hi Ben.
I used a Steripen classic for over 1,000 miles on the A.T. this year. It was a second hand model i got here on Gear Swap.
I too had an issue about 20% of the time.
When it happened the light would blink green then red immediately. This was with brand new Lithium AA's as i took to carrying a second set (AA fit's my camera too).
I found out that residual water was conducting current across the sensor probes. This meant the Steripen "thought" it was already in water when i pushed the button and therefore would not initiate the cycle.
I also found that storing my wet Steripen inside the blue plastic sleeve was keeping it wet and exacerbating the problem.
The solution i came up with was to either dry the pen with my bandana or leave it out of the sleeve for a while in the mesh back panel of my pack to dry.
Sadly I ended up "killing" my Steripen in New Hampshire by leaving the battery compartment open in the rain.. It's okay.. it was probably a painless death since the electronics had no power at the time and it died doing what it loved to do.
I would totally consider another Steripen product in the future.

Edit: Thats hilarious that Manfred was able to put it into words so much better than me! +5 Manfred!

Edited by Ice-axe on 09/01/2011 10:02:12 MDT.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Steripen on 09/01/2011 10:22:35 MDT Print View

Manfred and Matt:

Thanks for your advice. I will give the steripen another shot. I do love it when it works. Great practical advice. Instead of adding salt, which is usually not handy to me, I wonder if I could just dip my finger in the water since its a bit salty from sweating on the trail? You may have just saved an innocent steripen from the junk heap.

Manfred Kopisch
(Orienteering) - F
SteriPen on 09/01/2011 10:57:39 MDT Print View

Hi Ben,

Adding the salt was only necessary for SteriPens manufactured before 2009. When I didn't have salt handy I have used sweat from my arm and it worked.

For my newer SteriPen that was manufactured after that I have not yet had that problem. I only encounter the issue with the wet contacts.

You can easily see by the LEDs what problem you are facing. When you turn on the SteriPen you get a green light. Then it starts blinking green for 15 seconds and in that time you have to put the SteriPen into water. If you put it now into the water and the lamp doesn't go on you are most likely dealing with an older SteriPen and adding salt to the clear water will help.

If you get a red light, instead of the blinking green light right after turning the SteriPen on, you are dealing with wet contacts. Just wipe the space between the lamp and the contacts dry with your bandana and you should be fine.


Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Steripen on 09/01/2011 11:23:59 MDT Print View

I've ready dozens of posts on the steripen and never heard such a direct, simple solution. If this works, more people should know.

Andy F
(AndyF) - M

Locale: Midwest/Midatlantic
Re: Water treatment on 09/01/2011 11:45:04 MDT Print View

Just a few small corrections: Filters filter down to 0.1 microns. The First Need isn't iodine-based. It removes enough viruses to meet the EPA standard using electrostatically-charged media. I have one, works great, never clogged. It's also heavy at 19.3 oz wet weight.

I recently got the Sawyer Squeeze filter. I'm not concerned with viruses in US backcountry areas where I hike. (If I were, I'd probably just drop in a Katadyn tablet after filtering.) This filter is 4.5 oz wet weight, including 2 liter dirty bag. It can be backflushed with high pressure using a large syringe, or with a clean Platypus and a "Tornado Tube" connector (science education product for connecting 2 water bottles together). Also, UV and chemicals don't remove or inactivate worm eggs. Are they there? Probably not, but I don't want the risk. Raccoon roundworm infection is extremely unlikely, but it really stinks if you are unlucky enough to get it.

Edited by AndyF on 09/01/2011 11:45:34 MDT.