M SteriPEN vs H2O Amigo: A Long Distance Hiker’s Comparison
by Dan Feldman
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The SteriPEN Adventurer Opti and the H2O Amigo Pro are both innovative and effective means for treating water in the backcountry, but the two products otherwise share little in common.
SteriPEN's story has been one of overwhelming success and rapid adoption amongst backpackers. After selling its first unit in 1999, Hydro-Photon Inc, the makers of SteriPEN, now offer no fewer than ten versions of the SteriPEN and market not only to the backpacking community, but also to the military, emergency rescue agencies, and the general traveling public.
The success and attention surrounding SteriPEN lies in a breakthrough, and admittedly glitzy concept in water purification: the use of ultraviolet light from a handheld pen-shaped device to scramble the genetic material of water-borne pathogens, making them incapable of reproducing. This technology is a clean alternative to more traditional water treatment methods involving chemicals or filtration. The Adventurer Opti is the ultralight version of the SteriPEN and can be used with disposable or rechargeable CR123 Li-ion batteries. For those not keen on buying disposable batteries or relying on the power grid, SteriPEN makes a solar charging case exclusively for the Adventurer Opti.
The H2O Amigo occupies the more subdued realm of the gravity filter. Far from being on technology's cutting edge, the gravity filter's basic, but effective design uses a water-holding bag that contains a filter with a small tube at the bottom for water output. The bag is filled, hung, and water moves passively from thebag, through the filter, and out to another bag or a drinking bottle for consumption. It's essentially pump filtration without all the work required of pumping.
A quick-drying, lightweight SilNylon bag with durable drawstrings and a single open-ended output hose make the Amigo perhaps the most no-frills, elegantly designed gravity filter to date. Sadly, the Amigo is no longer in production by its manufacturer, Ultralight Adventure Equipment. MSR, Katadyn, Cascade Designs, and Sawyer Products sell their own gravity filters, but none matche the lightweight simplicity of the Amigo. Used Amigos can still occasionally be found online, but these tend to be few and far between. More importantly though, the Amigo's simple design and obtainable raw materials perhaps permit at-home construction. This subject has been discussed in great detail on BPL's own forums.
The aim of this study was to compare the solar-powered SteriPEN Adventurer Opti with the H2O Amigo Pro for use in long distance hiking. Both devices were used alternately along 800 miles of the Montana section of the Continental Divide Trail from July 19 toSeptember 28, 2010 to provide drinking water for a companion and myself. While one device was in use, we shipped the other ahead to a mail drop location. Once at the mail drop, we switched devices, shipping the other ahead to the next mail drop. Practical considerations for long distance hiking for each device were noted. These included observations and recorded data on each device's weight, cost, performance, maintenance requirements, durability, and ease of lightweight modification. Temperatures ranged from the mid 80s to the mid 20s F. The Amigo was outfitted with a new Katadyn Hiker filter.
- Overall Impressions
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