Steri-Pen: A Review

My followers know my background, but since I’m giving my thoughts on a product I figured I’d include this! My name is David N. Berger. Age 24, an ASU graduate in Global Studies.

I’m a community development and health volunteer in Eastern Sub-Saharan Africa. Specifically I’m located in remote Northern Zambia in the sub-tropic zone near Congo.

I’m assigned to a rural health clinic 56 km from the nearest town. I live in an African village. No, not that national geographic concept I know you just pictured, but a mud-brick hut, grass roof, and no potable water (I use a river some klicks away). There is no electricity. I have a small portable solar panel made by Goal Zero and my steriPEN adventurer opti carrying case which has a solar charger built into it to charge the pen. That keeps me running. Mail (letters and packages) take about a month to get to Mansa, the provincial capital. Then, it’s an 8km hike to the nearest passable road and an hour or more hitchhike in to pick it up.

My RHC – Rural Health Clinic – services a roughly rectangular catchment of 56km x 11km, with a population of 9127. It’s broken into eight zones and I have a monthly outreach cycle of bicycling up to 112km round trip in the African sun for my furthest zone. The staff is spectacular, but…, well it’s difficult. There are three of us. Nine thousand one hundred and twenty seven to three. We’re working on outreach and education to train community health workers and neighborhood health committees for our zones, but it’s slow work.

It keeps us motivated and keeps us moving hard through the area. We’re on the go all the time. There’s never safe drinking water. With the exercise and heat I drink 6 to 7 liters of water a day, and at least five of those liters are purified by my reliable, compact, and hardy SteriPEN!

I’m writing to give you an idea of how important my gear is to me and those I serve. If I’m sick, there’s no one to step up and fill the void, and base prevention – starting with safe water and hygiene – is where my good health starts.

I’ve got to admit when I first bought my SteriPEN I was hesitant. This little thing with this fragile bulb is going to survive the hard life of the African bush? I’d gone out on a limb and bought it off the suggestion of a good friend and fellow humanitarian who used one in South America and swears by it. I trusted him, and I’ve been nothing but impressed and satisfied with the product. The battery is good, has a good power retention rate, although I use it so much I find myself wishing I’d had the cash to buy an extra (I bought just one larger single battery pack). The solar case works well is sturdy and keeps the pen safe n sound when strapped to my bamboo bike rack. More so, the pen itself is hardy, intuitive and simple to use. I don’t feel nervous strapping it to my belt in the included synthetic belt carrier. You just hit one click for a liter, there’s a built in flashlight which automatically turns off, and a water sensor to ensure you aren’t wasting battery. Then there’s a comforting characteristic bright UV purple glow that let’s you know it’s working.

Let me paint you a picture. You are on a sandy, loam soil, trudging along and gulping down water in 90 degree tropical heat and what feels like 95% humidity. Your bottle runs dry.You’ve got another 35 kilometers to go and then 52 to get back to home base.

You’re hunting along and come across an unprotected surface water source. You let out a sigh of relief knowing you’ve got your steriPEN and filter tied to your bag. You grab your bottle, slide in the multi-sized filter, submerge it and fill your bottle with clear water. You slide the filter out, shake it dry, and pull out your SteriPEN. One click and you’re good to go. The indicator is blinking and you know the bottle’s naturally reflective enough to sterilize the mouth with UV. Just 90 seconds later your back on your way with clean, safe drinking water. I do that nearly every day.

It’s really a life saver! More than that it’ll purify 1 liter or .5 liter at a go. Quick, hardy – life saving.

When friends ask what my two most important tools are in my service, I say my mind and my body. Without SteriPEN I might not have either.

I’ll be here in Zambia for the next two years. It can be difficult, but every moment is worth it. I can’t begin to tell you what this experience is like…Or how wonderful and amazing the roller coaster ride is, or what it means to me and the thousands of people I serve. Thanks SteriPEN for being a part of that and supporting me!!!!!


2 responses to “Steri-Pen: A Review”

  1. Galen J. Avatar

    Great review, David. I used ceramic filters when I was in Central America and Alaska, but the SteriPENs looked like a really fantastic concept to me. Glad to see it’s serving you well! All the best in the new year from afar,


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