The SteriPEN Adventurer Opti.
There are many ways used to ensure water is safe to drink. The principle ones are boiling, chemical treatment, filtration and UV irradiation. Boiling uses lots of fuel and gives you very hot water; chemicals usually leave a nasty taste and can takes ages to work, while not managing to hit all protozoa; filtration is faster but quite heavy, and (with one expensive exception) is not able to deal with viruses. UV treatment manages to deal with all biological nasties, uses no chemicals, and is fast. The SteriPEN UV wands have been through several generations of development, reaching a very satisfactory state with this SteriPEN Opti unit.
It would seem from comparing the outside of the SteriPEN Opti and the SteriPEN Adventurer that much of the Opti is the same. So It may be worth while reading our in depth Review of the Adventurer first. Here we will focus mainly on the changes (hopefully improvements) brought to us with the Opti.
To use the Opti all you have to do is uncap the UV lamp, press the button (once for 1 L, twice for 0.5 L), wait until the white LED starts to flash, then insert the lamp end into the water. This is illustrated in the second photo, where I tried, fairly unsuccessfully, to capture the illumination of the white LED. Stir gently for 90 seconds (for 1 L) until the UV lamp goes out and the white LED stops flashing, and you are done. In point of fact, this is also how you use the Adventurer, so one might ask where are the upgrades? Well, there are several.
First of all, many of the older Adventurer units had a rather high ‘off-state’ current drain, of about 600 micro-amps. This meant that storing the unit with the batteries in place for a few weeks could make a bit of a dent in the battery capacity. It was not unknown for people to go to use their Adventurer during a trip only to find that the batteries were flat. It turns out (according to Hydro-Photon, the makers), that the ‘off-state’ current drain was never meant to be anywhere near that high: it should have been only a tenth of that.
Smart users took to removing the batteries from the Adventurer while it was not in use, and only inserting them briefly when they needed to treat water. Well, that worked, but it was a bit of a hassle putting the batteries in and taking them out. Compounding that hassle was the flat thumbscrew used to hold the battery lid in place: it was quite awkward to remove. The hassles caused by the flat thumbscrew even led to an MYOG Thumbscrew article being published!
SteriPEN Adventurer Opti in use.
The circuitry inside the Opti has been upgraded to have an ‘off-state’ current drain of only about 60 micro-amps. This is low enough that you can afford to put the batteries in at the start of a trip and leave them there for the duration. Believe me, this simple change makes the Opti so much easier to use in the field! In addition, the old black protective cap over the UV lamp was always hard to remove. I went so far as to slightly machine the detents on the black cap to make it easier to remove. Well, the clear plastic cap on the Opti has modified detents, such that it is now much easier to remove the cap. It does not fall off by any means, but it does come off smoothly.
The third obvious difference is in the mandatory water sensing system. When using a UV system like this there must be a safety circuit to turn the UV lamp off if it is removed from the water – otherwise all sorts of damage could be done to your eyes for instance. The older Adventurer uses a conductivity sensor with little metal plates on either side of the housing near the lamp. There have been reports of people having problems with the sensor, although I have never experienced any myself. Well, the conductivity sensor has been replaced in the Opti by an optical sensor: a flashing white LED. When the LED is immersed in water, the back-scatter of light is altered and this change is detected internally. The system works very smoothly.
On a minor technical point: the Opti comes with a small plastic battery isolating strip under the battery lid. This actually fits rather neatly into the lid. I preserved this when I took it out, so I could re-use it after the trip. It is very convenient as it means I can store the batteries in the unit.
It may be worth noting that the UV treatment works just the same no matter what the temperature of the water – unlike the huge slow-down you get with chemicals. It does help to keep the batteries above freezing, but this is not hard. Once in use the batteries do get warm.
You will find that the marketing literature mentions that if you press the on-switch for a few seconds the white LED will act as a small torch. True, but not high on my list of essential features. I gather that there was a little spare room in the ROM space of the microprocessor – so they added a feature…
I have used the SteriPEN Adventurer for a number of years, including a two-month trip through Switzerland in 2009, not to mention many shorter trips in Australia. I have been quite happy with the performance, although the battery business was always a slight hassle.
Camp on soft grass under snow gums.
I took the Opti on a nine-day high speed trip across the Australian Alps in March 2010, just a few days after I received it. The difference in ease of use was remarkable! In comparison with the Adventurer, the Opti was a dream to use. I would pour a bottle of water into my cooking pot, whip the Opti out of its (MYOG silnylon) carry bag, flip the cap off, push the button, insert into water and stir. It was just so easy.
The supplied set of two primary batteries (ie not rechargeable) lasted the nine days very easily. I would have treated a bottle or two of water most nights. (The rest of our water got boiled as part of our cooking.) The batteries are not dead yet by any means – they should last for quite a few more trips. The company suggests that a set of good-quality CR123 batteries could handle up to 50 L, so that is consistent.
|Model||Opti or Adventurer Opti|
|Size||160 x 40 x 23 mm (6.2 x 1.5 x 0.9 in)|
|Weight (quoted)||103 g (3.6 oz) with supplied batteries|
|Weight (measured)||101 g (3.6 oz) with supplied batteries|
|MSRP||Not quoted, but about US$100 in some large stores|
- Effective against all bugs (independent test lab results)
- Lightweight (well, compared to a filter)
- Very easy to use
- Immediate results
- No chemicals, no taste
What’s Not So Good
- Battery consumption is significant
- No effect on industrial/agricultural chemicals
Disclosure: The manufacturer provided this product to the author and/or Backpacking Light at no charge, and it is owned by the author/BPL. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to review this product to the manufacturer under the terms of this agreement.