We’re just going to come right out and say it (again): Every responsible traveler should carry a water purification system if they want to be healthy, thrifty, and environmentally responsible. That’s why we love our SteriPEN.

plastic water bottles trash

You don’t have to add to the plastic water bottle problem when you travel.

The shocking reality is that more than 8% of the earth’s population still doesn’t have access to safe drinking water. However, in much of the developed world (ie where most travelers come from) bottled water is no better than tap water which is treated and safe to drink to begin with. Yet bottled water costs up to 2,000 times more than tap water.

The environmental cost is even higher with millions of pounds of plastic bottles dumped into the trash annually. Furthermore, the production of all those plastic bottles and the act of transporting them consumes tens of millions of barrels of oil a year in the US alone.

According to the Beverage Marketing Corporation, global sales of bottled water increased 4.1% from 2010 to 2011. Many of you have probably ditched bottled water when you’re at home. However, when we travel to places with unsafe tap water (which includes some of the most compelling places on earth), our needs and behaviors change.

Take us, for example

We recently completed day 1,900 of our Trans-Americas Journey road trip. Well more than half of that time has been spent in areas where it’s not safe for us to drink the tap water. Conservatively speaking, let’s say we purchased four liters of bottled water per day for 1,000 of our days on the road. In this scenario we would have spent around $4,000 on water and thrown away at least 4,000 plastic bottles. Lined up end to end, that’s a trash trail nearly a mile long.


Karen using our SteriPEN while camping at Lake Havasu Falls.

Luckily, we have a SteriPEN.

Good for your travel budget and the environment

SteriPEN was one of our very first product partners and we’ve been using their water purifiers since day one of our Journey.  SteriPENs use UV light to kill any living contaminant in water and can purify a liter of water in 60 seconds with no additives, no after taste, no tossed plastic bottles. Also, no need to buy bottled water. If we hadn’t been using our SteriPEN we estimate that we would have spent at least $4,000 on bottled water so far. Subtract the price of our SteriPEN (US$90) and the cost of the batteries (about US$0.10/liter) and, so far, we’ve saved more than $3,500 by using our SteriPEN instead of buying bottled water as we travel.

Even better, we have not added 4,000 empty plastic water bottles to the billions that are discarded every year. And if you think those bottles are all being turned into lovely new Patagonia fleeces, think again.

The International Bottled Water Association admits that just 31% of the 85 million bottles of water which are consumed in the United States every day are recycled (itself an energy inefficient, polluting process). That recycling percentage number dips into the single digits or disappears altogether in developing countries where so many of us spend time traveling.



And what happens to unrecycled plastic bottles in Calcutta or Cartagena? We’ve all seen (and smelled) them burning on trash heaps, slowly releasing toxins into the air.

Though we love our SteriPEN, it’s not perfect. It failed on us once when we were camping near Half Dome in Yosemite National Park (it was below freezing and we believe that conditions were too cold for the batteries). And though the company says fresh batteries will purify 50 liters, we don’t usually get through that much water before we have to change the batteries.

And speaking of batteries, we’re aware that throwing out our spent batteries is an environmental hazard. If you can’t reconcile yourself to that check out the SteriPEN Pure + which can be charged via USB. It’s what we’re using now, so no more discarded batteries.

Be part of the bottled water solution

Another reason travelers need to commit to sustainable and money-saving  alternatives to the financially and environmentally unsustainable cycle of buying and tossing plastic bottles water bottles? The places you want to travel to are starting to make it harder to get your hands on bottled water. For example, Grand Canyon National Park, where our SteriPEN easily purified enough water to fuel our hikes to the canyon floor from both rims, banned the sale of plastic water bottles in early 2012.

Be A Responsible Traveler, Buy a SteriPEN:

SteriPEN has supplied various models of their water purification wands for us to use and review

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