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Steripen Question

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Steripen Question

Postby Wish I lived in CO » Mon Jul 01, 2013 6:40 am

To date, I've used a common Katadyn filter pump. This year in an effort to save some weight I'm switching to a Steripen. Seems very easy to operate testing at home. Hopefully this is not too dumb of a question, but is there any risk or precautions for secondary contamination - namely on the threads of a naglene / bottle. Does the UV go thru the naglene (if clear or lightly tinted) and kill the bacteria, or do I simply wipe off the water left on the threads. Any tips appreciated.
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Re: Steripen Question

Postby CO Native » Mon Jul 01, 2013 6:52 am

From the manual:
Steripen wrote:• Adventurer Opti is not intended to disinfect water
above the surface of the water in the container, such
as droplets on the sides of the container.
• Adventurer Opti Is not intended to disinfect surfaces
of a drinking container, such as the mouth of the
bottle. Be certain that you always wipe the bottle's
mouth dry with a clean, dry cloth before drinking.
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Re: Steripen Question

Postby jeremy27 » Mon Jul 01, 2013 7:01 am

With iodine you hold the bottle upside down, unscrew the lid slightly, and allow the treated water to clean the threads. I dont know if that would work with a steripen. A more conservative option might be to have a designated "dirty" bottle and us that for collection and a "clean" bottle for purification. just one more thing to carry around.

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Re: Steripen Question

Postby Brian C » Mon Jul 01, 2013 7:04 am

What I do is after filling my nalgene, I completely dry the threads with my shirt. I am careful to keep the lid out of the water while filling. Then I'll treat the water, and if I have time, let it sit so the threads can dry completely. If I don't have time, I will put on the lid, flip it, and let a little bit of clean water run through the threads. I've used a steripen alot over the last few years and have never once gotten sick.
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Re: Steripen Question

Postby Dave B » Mon Jul 01, 2013 8:16 am

Brian C wrote:...and let a little bit of clean water run through the threads. I've used a steripen alot over the last few years and have never once gotten sick.


I've used a steripen quite a bit without doing what Brian explains and have never gotten sick.

On the other hand, I got giardia several years ago while working in the Idaho backcountry from drinking untreated water. That was one of the most miserable experiences I've ever had. Maybe I will start wiping the nalgene threads...
Last edited by Dave B on Mon Jul 01, 2013 12:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Steripen Question

Postby MonGoose » Mon Jul 01, 2013 8:33 am

jeremy27 wrote:With iodine you hold the bottle upside down, unscrew the lid slightly, and allow the treated water to clean the threads. I dont know if that would work with a steripen. A more conservative option might be to have a designated "dirty" bottle and us that for collection and a "clean" bottle for purification. just one more thing to carry around.


Unfortunately, that won't work with a steripen. The goal with iodine is to spread it around so that it comes in contact with all of the water. For example, if you added a one liter dose of iodine to a half liter of water, and then filled the remainder of the Nalgene with stream water, all the water would be sterilized (after shaking vigorously). Second example, If you used a steripen on half a liter of water and then filled the remainder of the Nalgene with stream water, your water would be unpurified and you would need to use the steripen again on the entire liter of water.

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Re: Steripen Question

Postby Stone_man » Mon Jul 01, 2013 11:28 am

I've used the Adventurer Opti on numerous trips and like Brian's experience, I've never contracted any illness. The thread has detailed well the potential issue of getting contaminated water on the outside threads of the mouth, and how the device only sterilizes water on the interior of the vessel. My strategy is to avoid this in the first place--what I do is carry an extra bottle just for 'dipping' into the water source, and not drinking from. Then, just pour the water from that bottle into your drinking bottle (being careful not to splash any of it onto the mouth/threads area), and Steri-pen away. This way you don't ever have a nagging worry about having ingested any residual contaminated water on the outside of the bottle--because as a biologist I know that even wiping the residual water off the threads doesn't mean you've removed all risk.

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Re: Steripen Question

Postby Papillon » Mon Jul 01, 2013 11:32 am

Stone_man wrote:I've used the Adventurer Opti on numerous trips and like Brian's experience, I've never contracted any illness. The thread has detailed well the potential issue of getting contaminated water on the outside threads of the mouth, and how the device only sterilizes water on the interior of the vessel. My strategy is to avoid this in the first place--what I do is carry an extra bottle just for 'dipping' into the water source, and not drinking from. Then, just pour the water from that bottle into your drinking bottle (being careful not to splash any of it onto the mouth/threads area), and Steri-pen away. This way you don't ever have a nagging worry about having ingested any residual contaminated water on the outside of the bottle--because as a biologist I know that even wiping the residual water off the threads doesn't mean you've removed all risk.


I do the same. I took a one liter gatorade bottle and cut the top 1/4 of it off (so I can get the pen in the water). I dip this bottle in the stream, treat it, then carefully pour it through a filter to remove floaties into another gatorade bottle(s).

Solid setup. An empty gatorade bottle is significantly lighter than an empty nalgene bottle too. I think 3.5 ounces.
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Re: Steripen Question

Postby OrthoMatt » Tue Jul 02, 2013 7:59 am

I've used a Steripen (Adventurer opti) for a couple of years. Gatorade bottles (32oz) work well, are fairly indestructible, and are much lighter than Nalgenes. I drink from the same container I dip in the stream and don't bother wiping off the threads. Your body is capable of defending itself against a low number of microbes on its own, so my theory is that the minimal amount of bacteria [i]potentially[i] in the water on the threads is not a threat to getting sick. So far, my experience has supported this - I have never gotten sick not wiping the threads... just my 2 cents.

A lightweight set-up that addresses your concern of getting contaminated water on the threads: take an old 2L Platypus bladder, cut off the top, fill it to the 1L mark, use the Steripen, then transfer it to another container (e.g. Gatorade bottle, Aquafina bottle, etc.).

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Re: Steripen Question

Postby Dancesatmoonrise » Tue Jul 02, 2013 9:08 am

Note that ingestion of as few as ten Giardia cysts may be sufficient to cause infection

http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/176718-overview

IF I recall correctly, it is one 14er member's opinion (she works in hydrology) that much of the water we drink in the backcountry may not be colonized with Giardia Lamblia. I cannot confirm this, but, considering the above fact, this may be the reason for no illness when not wiping the threads after SteriPen use.

I personally use a filter and do the best I can to maintain aseptic technique when making water with this method. I've considered trying a SteriPen but haven't done so yet for various reasons, but not due to any doubts of its effectiveness.

I have contracted giardia in the past, but not from drinking appropriately treated water. I concur with Dave. It's miserable; you definitely don't want it.

I've heard that boiling water for one to three minutes will kill any pathogens commonly found in water in Colorado's backcountry. I haven't researched this, but perhaps someone can comment on this? (I consider the stove a back-up to the filter, if the filter were to fail.)

Also note that melting snow, without boiling it, will not kill microbes. However, the risk is lower than with flowing water, as the later pools the microbes. On the other hand, if the place where you gathered the snow happened to be where an infected animal contaminated it, infection could certainly occur. I'm guessing it's a very low risk.

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Re: Steripen Question

Postby caseygries » Tue Jul 02, 2013 9:36 am

Dancesatmoonrise wrote:Note that ingestion of as few as ten Giardia cysts may be sufficient to cause infection

http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/176718-overview

I've heard that boiling water for one to three minutes will kill any pathogens commonly found in water in Colorado's backcountry. I haven't researched this, but perhaps someone can comment on this? (I consider the stove a back-up to the filter, if the filter were to fail.)

Also note that melting snow, without boiling it, will not kill microbes. However, the risk is lower than with flowing water, as the later pools the microbes. On the other hand, if the place where you gathered the snow happened to be where an infected animal contaminated it, infection could certainly occur. I'm guessing it's a very low risk.


A 3-5 min rolling boil will kill most pathogens. I wouldn't boil for any shorter than this. 15 min can guarantee sterilization for nearly all pathogens and spores. Now, considering that water boils at a lower temp at elevation due to low air pressure (~90oC at 10k ft), at least 3 min boil is essential (not one minute).

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Re: Steripen Question

Postby moon stalker » Tue Jul 02, 2013 11:46 am

In my opinion, there is one critical drawback to the steripen: it only turns on if the conductivity of the water is above some threshold. Basically, unless it senses an electrical connection between those two little knobs near the UV source, it won't turn on. This is not a problem unless you are trying to sterilize very pure water that has not had much contact with soil in order to pick up enough (harmless) cations and anions like calcium, magnesium, sodium, chloride, sulfate etc. If you are trying to sterilize snowmelt, don't be surprised if it doesn't turn on. This is a problem most often in the spring and early summer when you are close to big snowfields and stream flow is dominated by snowmelt. So you take the chance that some microbes are in that water, and your steripen won't turn on. Considering I ingest snowmelt without boiling or any other cleansing method, I take the risk and drink the water. But it is a risk, as Jim points out, microbes can get in the water from snowmelt. I've not gotten sick, yet.
And I hope Jim's comment about a woman who works in hydrology was not based on a post I made a while back about water in the Wetterhorn area. I was not trying to say water is not contaminated with Giardia. I think rijaca made the point that Giardia is to be expected in many places in the backcountry (in that thread at least). I was trying to state that water in many places in CO is contaminated with heavy metals that may cause people considerable discomfort if ingested. Heavy metals cannot be removed with any form of treatment or filtration in the backcountry. The filters commonly used are too big to filter out heavy metals.
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