Water Purification in Outback: SteriPEN Ultra and SteriPEN Pure+ Review

SteriPEN Ultra in action. Glass of water and UV desinfection magic

Both models SteriPEN Ultra and SteriPEN Pure + run on a built-in battery, are charged from any source with a USB port and, accordingly, they do not need batteries

Do not be surprised that in one review we decided to tell you about two lamps at once. In fact, they differ only in details, and their essence, as well as the advantages and disadvantages, are almost identical. Therefore, in order not to pour water on two articles and not to add unnecessary reading to you, we will consider two models at once in one publication and, at the same time, compare them with each other.

First, why did we choose these positions among the entire SteriPEN line? SteriPEN Ultra and SteriPEN Pure +, unlike other models, run on a built-in battery, are charged from any source with a USB port and, accordingly, they do not need batteries. And we love products that do not litter.

For example, during the life cycle of a lamp in SteriPEN Ultra, you would use and throw away from 200 (if lithium) to 600 (if alkaline) batteries. This is not only a lot of waste but also a good loss of money. The battery is easily enough for the entire period of operation of the lamp.

In addition, the SteriPEN Ultra is a top model that we could not miss. And SteriPEN Pure + is a find for those who watch every gram of weight in a backpack.

In the article on filtration and disinfection, we described situations where the purity of the water may require your intervention and additional tools. Let’s say you are the devil knows where and you know nothing about the state of the water there, or you know that the viruses in that water are regular visitors. In this case, in addition to filtration, you should take care of disinfection.

* The correct opinion is that disinfection should be taken care of always and everywhere if the water is not taken from a flowing source, but we are talking in terms of statistics, which say that in some regions of the world the risk of catching the virus is much higher than in others.

There are several methods of disinfection that can be used on the journey:

  • Boiling. Long and fuel consumption in the case of hepatitis viruses (60 minutes of boiling) and tetanus (3 hours of boiling). And if you do not want to drink hot water, you will have to wait for it to cool.
  • Chemical methods: chlorine and iodine compounds. Wait a long time for the result (from 30 minutes) and the water will taste like chlorine or iodine. It can be picked up by special means, but it is extra time and money. Wait until the smell evaporates itself – quite a long time.
  • Filtration with a filter with a pore time of 0.02 microns or less. The only outdoor filter that can do this today is the MSR Guardian. And it is, in fact, a well-thought-out work of art that filters water at a rate of up to 2.5 (!) Liters per minute and has a resource of 10,000 litres. But it is heavy (more than half a kilo in the wet state) and costs in the States as much as $ 350

* Sawyer also has a range of filters that they claim to filter out viruses, but sometimes their claims are advertised and it is unknown which one to trust.

  • AND…. compact ultraviolet lamps.

Ease of use is one of the strongest advantages of UV lamps. All you need is to fill the tank with water filtered from mechanical impurities, remove the protective cap from the lamp, turn it on and immerse it in water. To increase efficiency, water should be stirred with the same lamp. As soon as the lamp notifies the end of the process, water can be used for drinking or cooking. You do not have to wait long, swing the lever or sit near a water source.

What is magic? UV lamps produce radiation with the required spectrum for disinfection and intensity, from which 99.99% of living things in the glass die. At the same time, such a dose of radiation is not enough to harm the human body, and the tanks in which you will disinfect the water will not transmit ultraviolet light.

Irradiation time depends on the volume: 0.5 litres of water takes 48 seconds to disinfect and 90 seconds per litre. If you need more water, it should be disinfected in litre portions.

Another advantage of ultraviolet lamps is that they do not distort the taste of water like chemical disinfectants. No flavours of chlorine or iodine in your glass. On the other hand, do not expect them to improve the taste of swamp or stagnant water. This is a job for carbon filters.

The disadvantage of the UV method of disinfection – it requires pre-filtration with a filter with a pore of 0.1-0.2 microns. The first reason for this is that UV disinfectants are effective only in clear water. Because in dirty water, pests can hide behind silt or sand and their radiation simply will not reach. The second reason – the filter will retain UV-resistant pests because their size exceeds the pore size of the filter.

The same Katadyn BeFree, with which we have been travelling for a year and a half, or any other compact filter with similar pore size, will perfectly cope with the mission of pre-filtration.

At first glance, it seems that the additional filter is a plus load and plus costs. But even the SteriPEN Ultra lamp, which is not the lightest model in the line, together with its own protective cover and the Katadyn BeFree 0.6L filter weighs 219 grams, which is more than twice the weight of the MSR Guardian filter. And this couple in Ukraine costs $ 205, which is also much less than the $ 350 they ask for MSR in the States. This is considering that Ultra is the most expensive of all the Steppes.

We lose in time and in the number of actions. Because first you need to filter the water, and then proceed to disinfection.

When I first got acquainted with SteriPEN lamps, my longest “em-m-m“ ”was about lamp glass. Because the fragile material did not correlate in the head with the operation in the field. Actually, I voiced this fear in an article about filtration and disinfection, to which I received a video in response, where a SteriPEN lamp is fired from a potato cannon (what? :)). After those shots and flights, the lamp survived and worked, because the glass on it is not simple, but strong quartz. Even the polymer rings between the outer and inner layers of the glass absorb shocks. So, you shouldn’t worry too much about the lamp because of the fall, but you should also throw it somewhere because you can accidentally stand on top and crush it.

To better protect the lamps from possible damage, each model is equipped with a hard plastic cap with holes for moisture drainage and a softcover.

The main material of the cover is neoprene. On the sides, there are inserts made of three-dimensional mesh, which will ensure good moisture removal if you put a wet lamp inside.

Velcro covers are closed. Behind the covers – a loop on Velcro for fastening to the belt with a maximum width of 80 mm.

SteriPEN lamp housings are not totally waterproof. The top cover of the case is only splash-proof. This is strange because the devices are designed to work with water and have electronic components, and to put another gasket – elementary.

UV lamps work without problems in the cold. But it is better to transport them in the heat. Then you will not have to wait until the lamp warms up to start. And charging the battery will be enough for more disinfection.

SteriPEN Ultra, as I said, is the flagship of the entire line. Its weight is 134 grams (tested). The case adds another 28. In size – 18 cm long, 4 cm in maximum width.

In addition to the cover, the set includes an 80 cm USB-micro USB cord, instructions and a very interesting piece of paper.

It says that when you run out of lamp life in your SteriPEN Ultra (which is 8000 cycles), the manufacturer will send you a new SteriPEN, free of charge, the same or current at the time analogue. All you need – after the purchase to register the product on the manufacturer’s website and do not break it until the end of the resource. And I was especially convinced: this trick works in Ukraine as well. Not bad, right?

If you look at the numbers, the result is generally fantastic. 8000 cycles = 8000 litres of water. If you disinfect 3 litres daily, the lamp will last for 7 years and 3 months. If you travel only 2 months a year – it’s more than 44 years of travel. Now let’s remember the number of situations when you really need to disinfect water… That is, for most tourists it is one lamp for life. I wonder how many people will apply for a lamp replacement, making full use of its resource 🙂

* The lamp replacement program is called Premium Lamp Life Pledge and applies only to models with a resource of 8000 cycles: SteriPEN Adventurer Opti, SteriPEN Classic 3, SteriPEN Ultra, SteriPEN Freedom.

Lamp control – with one button. Press 1 time and the lamp is loaded for a 90-second cycle (disinfection of 1 litre of water). Press twice – 48-second cycle for half a litre.

The lamp itself lights up when two metal rods touch the water. Then the countdown begins.

As soon as the timer reaches zero and a smiley appears, a portion of water is ready to drink.

If the contact with water during the countdown is interrupted and the smiley gets bored – the procedure will have to start again by pressing the button again. It will not be possible to continue from the moment when the timer stopped.

In my experience, on the first launches of a new lamp, the countdown sometimes stopped and the smile was sad, even when the device was immersed in water. Who knows why. This went without saying after the first dozen experiments.

After each completed procedure, the screen displays both the lamp life and the battery charge status. One charge is enough for 50 cycles of disinfection.

Recharging is elementary. Open the rubber cover on the back wall and connect the cable. From the power bank, the battery on our lamp is charged in 5 hours. In my opinion, it is surprisingly long, because the current output is 2A. Next time we will try to charge from the socket and we will report on the result.

With the SteriPEN Ultra model, water disinfection can be performed both in containers with a wide neck, immersing the lamp there, and in bottles with a narrow neck (PET bottles, Platypus SoftBottle), turning the latter upside down. This is possible due to the rubber cone around the lamp, which is tightly connected to the narrow neck of the bottle. Just remember to move the tank during the decontamination process to mix the water in it.

To prevent the wet lamp from slipping out of your hands, the manufacturer has added rubber inserts to the side surfaces of the case.

The cost of SteriPEN Ultra on the Ukrainian market today is $ 140.

After such a full of goodies SteriPEN Ultra, the next hero of the review, SteriPen Pure +, looks like a child’s toy. But it should be appreciated by cars going on a long journey, and those tourists who want to have a disinfectant just in case, without burdening them with a backpack or their own wallet.

Take a look at this crumb. Its dimensions are 13×3.5×2.2 cm.

Proven weight 77 grams. Case another 28. That is, together with the Katadyn BeFree filter, a set of complete water purification from mechanical impurities and biology will pull only 160 grams.

As well as SteriPen Ultra, the Pure + model is completed with a cable for charging and the instruction.

The Pure + lamp has a life of 5,000 cycles and is not supported by Premium Lamp Life Pledge. But, again, if you travel 2 months a year and disinfect 3 litres of water every day during the trip, this resource will be enough for more than 13 years (because this lamp disinfects only 0.5 litres of water per cycle).

The Pure + battery produces up to 40 disinfection cycles on a single charge. The location of the charging port is the same rear wall of the case. And it is also covered with a rubber cap.

Note that, unlike the SteriPEN Ultra, there is neither an information screen nor control buttons. Only the instructions on the cap.

SteriPen Pure + is activated by immersion in water. As soon as the metal contacts touch the water, the lamp turns on and the diode on the back wall starts flashing green, signalling the start of the decontamination process.

After 48 seconds, the flashing turns into a stable glow, which means the successful disinfection of 0.5 litres of water. If you need to process 1 litre, just repeat the procedure.

If contact with water is lost, the LED will turn red.

Signals about low battery, its full discharge and low lamp life are given by the same diode. A transcript of all options can be found in the instructions for the device. I would advise you to take a picture of it and take that photo with you on a trip, so as not to guess later what the disinfectant is trying to tell you.

Due to the fact that Pure + has a rectangular cross-section, not round, to repeat the trick with an inverted bottle with a narrow neck will not work. It is designed purely for containers with a neck of 3 cm in diameter.

Conclusions. UV lamps, in my opinion, are the most practical method of water disinfection. Simple, effortless, like a filter, and time, like pills, leaves no aftertaste. The lamps are light and compact and, as it turned out, quite durable. The only thing I would improve on all SteriPen models would be to make them totally waterproof.

Which lamp to choose for yourself? I would focus on SteriPen Pure + if countries with viral activity are not the main focus of my travels. Or if I travel only from time to time and want to have a disinfectant just in case. It is light, compact and relatively cheap.

SteriPen Ultra is suitable for guides and travellers who spend most of their time travelling. With its, we can say, unlimited resources – it’s a good investment. Plus, as a group disinfectant, Ultra also looks more interesting because of its crazy resource and in terms of intuitive use, because all the necessary information is visible on the screen.

For large groups, I would recommend choosing either a set of SteriPEN Quantum Rapid Purification System, which disinfects 4 litres of water at a time or bother and for a lot of money to bring an MSR Guardian filter. It’s half a kilogram for 10 people is insignificant, and the filtration speed and ease of use are excellent.


  • speed
  • simplicity
  • light and compact
  • the built-in accumulator
  • works with bottles with a narrow neck (the SteriPEN Ultra model)
  • a rather low price


  • require pre-filtration
  • the presence of glass requires more care
  • the case is not waterproof.

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