Clean water, happy stomach: the SteriPEN

After traveling to several developing countries, I’ve picked up some helpful tips to avoid getting sick. The most important to practice: only eat fruit with a peel; drink bottled liquids; don’t eat raw vegetables (they’re either unwashed or rinsed in local tap water, which your stomach can’t trust); and if you eat street food, find a busy vendor who cycles through customers quickly—this means the food is cooked to order and is more likely fresh.

But sometimes, there’s just nothing you can do to avoid an upset stomach. So when I signed up to spend three months in western India, I was certain that I would eventually contract something.

I managed the first month and a half without issues by following the above tips, but buying huge bottles of water began to add up while trying to deal with the heat. I needed a long-term, cost-effective solution.

The solution I found is not for the faint of heart.


The most interesting, cheapest answer came in the form of the SteriPEN (or as I like to call it: a mini light saber) that promised to kill everything in my water bottle with UV technology. I know what you’re thinking: at first, second, even third glance, this contraption doesn’t seem like it would work. It scared me too.

Nevertheless, I filled up a liter water bottle, fired up the SteriPEN inserted it into the water and swirled as directed until it told me to stop. At this point, half the village had crowded around to watch me drink, half expecting me to explode. I took a sip and everyone held their breath.

Nothing. “In for a penny, in for a pound”—and pound it, I did. The rest of the day, everyone constantly asked how I felt. “Still fine!” I’d say. Nothing the following day, or the day after that. I didn’t once get sick.

This tiny flash light is incredible and quite literally could be a life-saver. If you plan to do a lot of remote travel, bring extra batteries and a water bottle. Save your would-be bottled water money for something less pollutant and more exciting.

SteriPENs retail between $50-$120 USD and can be purchased from major outdoor outfitters and online retail stores like Amazon. Learn more about the different models at  

Adam Warner

Adam WarnerAdam lives in Washington, DC and is a Computational Linguist. Never heard of that? Don’t worry—you and everyone else. Adam has lived all over the United States and also abroad in Korea and India, where he taught ESL and computer skills. Adam wrote the blog, I am the Narwhal, with travel tips and ideas for exploring East Asia. His passions include planning for new adventures, photography, good beer, and dog whispering.

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