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Wondering if anyone has thoughts on using the SteriPEN vs the more traditional Sawyer Squeeze for overnight trips?  Any good or bad experiences? Thank you.

9 Replies

We love the steripen - we have two now. I've never used the Sawyer squeeze, so I can't comment on that. 

We find the process of filling our bottles and sterilizing them easy and fast with the steripen, with a few caveats:

  • We made sure to be using wider mouth bottles. They didn't need to be really wide mouth, just not the narrow mouth you get on soda bottles. 
  • You never know when the batteries will fail, so I always carry a spare set. They are 123 batteries, which can cost $5/each (you need two) in the store, so I buy them online. I got a six pack for $13. 

The trickiest part is to learn the flashing light system and what to do if you get a red flashing light, or if it's hard to see in bright light. But we got the hang of it pretty fast. 

It takes 45 seconds of holding the pen in the water bottle and swishing it around for a 1/2 liter bottle of water, or 90 seconds for a 1 liter bottle of water. 

We have the Adventure Opti. 

The SteriPen tends to malfunction when you're at really high elevation (above ~12k feet) just an FYI if you're planning on going that high.


Interesting. We used the SteriPen in Nepal up to 17,000' the first trip, and 15,000' the second trip without malfunction. Maybe we were lucky. I did take spare batteries. 

I would agree that it's a better for fast moving, clear water rather than stagnant, cloudy water. 

The SteriPen tends to malfunction when you're at really high elevation (above ~12k feet) just an FYI if you're planning on going that high.


My 2 cents: SteriPEN is perfect for near-alpine moving water sources (like mountain streams and lakes)... not ideal for low-altitude stagnant water sources (like low-land lakes and silty desert springs). It doesnt filter, just sterlizes, so the water needs to be fairly clean to begin with.

Last time I used a Sawyer squeeze was on a backpacking trip as a backup filter (...our pump broke so it became our primary filter). After +/-15 L of filtration the filter began to clog through normal use (very clean, moving water) and eventually became nearly impossible to use. My take-away for the sawyer squeeze: great for 1 person for a small packpacking trip (2-3 days).


I have a SteriPen and love it.  I agree with the other responses that it does nothing to filter the sediment from the water so you want clear water to begin with.  I actually filter my water first with my Platypus and then use the SteriPen - probably overkill but that's okay with me.

There are pros and cons to each, many of which have already been mentioned. Here’s my breakdown:



Kills bacteria, viruses, and bugs
Doesn’t clog
Fast and simple
Works with any wide mouth water bottle
Water must be clear!
Batteries can die
Can malfunction (I’ve seen it happen) or break
Doesn’t address chemicals (non living poisons)
Sawyer Squeeze (not the mini!)
Filters everything down to 0.1 micron 
Instant and simple 
Fits most small mouth bottles
Can clog with heavy use
Can crack if allowed to freeze
Have to carry squeeze bags or compatible bottles
The SteriPen has always felt inherently more risky to me. What do you do if it malfunctions, the batteries die, the water is murky or contains debris? Some of these issues might be addressed with prefiltering and carrying extra batteries, but this requires more planning and weight.
In my opinion, the negative elements of the Sawyer Squeeze are easier to address. If it’s going to get below freezing at night just throw the filter in the bottom of your sleeping bag. If the filter gets bogged down, just back flush it with clean water. (Pro tip: go to a convenience store and buy a Smart Water “Squeeze Bottle.” The small nozzle fits perfectly for back flushing the filter and is lighter than the bulky syringe that Sawyer gives you. A couple flushes and taps on your palm and the filter will be running as good as new.)

I used the Sawyer to filter "cow" water....standing/stagnant, surrounded by cow hoof prints. We were out of water and desperately needed water for the next we put the sawyer filter to the test. We never got sick, so it worked!!!

I have a steripen too but didn't have it with me, although it wouldnt have filtered the particulates out like the sawyer did. 


lots of ' makes sense' comments here.  I used to use the steripen, and liked it very much, but...batteries would die unexpectedly or it would malfunction.  But probably the biggest reason I stopped using it was switching to smart water bottles with the narrow opening to save weight.  There's also the filter vs purify issue broght up here, but normally, 99% of the time you'll find 'clear' water to purify, or you could use your bandana or something to 'filter' particles.

REI member since 1979

REI Member Since 1979