About | Blog | Forums | People | Free Newsletter
Trailspace is a product review site for outdoor enthusiasts. Use it to find and share great gear.

SteriPEN reivsited

8:28 a.m. on August 19, 2010 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
7 forum posts

I bought the Steripen Journey for a car-to-car Direct Exum in a day climb up the Grand Teton last weekend. Fast and light was a necessity and since there were several water sources along the way, it seemed a sensible alternative to carrying the several liters of water necessary for such a long and serious pursuit (7,000 ft elevation gain, 15 miles of hiking, six pitches of 5.6-5.7 roped climbing and another 1,500 ft of 5.5 climbing which we soloed unroped, and then the descent).

The unit seemed to work when we tested it at home but when we NEEDED it, at 4:15 am and 4.1 miles in at 9,000 ft., the light would quit after a few seconds and the battery failure icons would show. We tried warming the batteries (it was mid 40's Fahrenheit, not even cold), removing them and cleaning the contacts, replacing them, warming them more... no use. Fortunately I brought iodine as a backup and had to use it or we would have had to bail on a climb we have planned for weeks and were in the middle of. Later in the day when the weather warmed up even further, the Steripen STILL wouldn't work. We continued on and summited the Grand Teton and made it back to our car at 9:30pm, 19.5 hours car-to-car, thanks to bringing the iodine.

After returning home I tested it and it worked at 84 degrees ambient temperature, but when I put it in a 40 degree refrigerator for 5 minutes, it failed again. I measured the voltage on the brand new, stock 3 volt batteries (Energizer Lithium photo batteries) at 2.87 volts each, only 4% below their max voltage so that was not the problem. I further spent a half hour with Hydro-Photon's Tech Support Engineer today who had me measure the voltage at the probes which was 3.25 volts (apparently perfect). With no idea what was wrong with this brand new piece of junk, all he could do is offer to replace the unit. Oh and when I pressed him, replace the shipping charges I would incur. Heck, REI would do that for me in a heart beat without all the trouble of having to pack it up and mail it back. But rather I'm going to just return it to REI and GET MY MONEY BACK.

I really wanted to see what this company was made of so I pressed them further, explaining how upset I was that it didn't work on our trip, but all they would offer is to replace the unit - sort of like having someone t-bone your brand new Porsche and then the insurance company has some hack do a lousy job of "repairing" it, like that makes it right, "Is that the best you can do for me, after what I went through because of this thing", and he replied, "Well what more do you want?", and I said "I want you as a company to do your best to make it up to me and I don't think I should have to tell you what I want. I want you to make it right, and just sending me another one of these things isn't doing any more than REI will do for me, and it's not even their fault." I really wanted to see what this company was willing to do. So he came back with, "It sounds like you're trying to extort money out of me." (!!!) So I replied, "It's not about the money, I can blow $90 in a bar in a night, I just want to know how concerned you are about having a happy customer and making things right for them." He wouldn't budge, despite me having worked with him on the phone for half an hour doing all his little tests for him, etc., not even offer me a lousy extra set of batteries. THAT's what kind of company Hydro-Photon is. So I told him, "We're done, I'm not wasting any more time field-testing and trouble-shooting this thing for you", and I hung up.

I'll return this thing to REI and stick with my MSR filter with iodine as a backup until a different, ETHICAL company comes out with a RELIABLE product. A company that cares about a person more than a twenty dollar bill. Don't trust your health, your safety or your life to this piece of junk, it is unreliable and it's not just me who says so, the track record sucks, check it out online for yourself. Moreover, it's made by a company who doesn't care about their customers, doesn't really care if you get Giardia because it fails, doesn't feel they have own any responsibility for endangering you with an unreliable device, doesn't feel accountable to make their customers happy or make it right for you, all for what, $30 or $40 bucks profit?

9:56 a.m. on August 19, 2010 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
415 forum posts

Well, this was impassioned enough to spark my curiosity: what should they have done to make it right?

11:19 a.m. on August 19, 2010 (EDT)
MODERATOR TOP 25 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
884 reviewer rep
3,432 forum posts

I'm would be mad too, but we don't live in a perfect world. I have had similar trips as well and I can tell you we as adventurers are responsible for always having our own back up systems for this very reason.

What do you feel they should do to make you happy?

That is a legitimate question asked by the guy on the phone that you seemed to take offense at. Everyone wants something different and it's hard to read peoples minds.

Are you also upset (I would assume) about the company's "track record" as you state in your post?

Don't misunderstand, I'm on your side concerning product failure, and you have every right to complain about poor products.

Please let us know how this turns out.

11:26 a.m. on August 19, 2010 (EDT)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,249 reviewer rep
5,186 forum posts

A couple things to note -

A brand new battery reads 3.4V, not 2.87.

I have found in all cases I have run into where someone was claiming failure of the Steripens that I could take the pen from them and if the batteries were at or above 2.9 volts, the pen would work just fine if the water temperature was above freezing. Like many other electronic devices using Li batteries (including the rechargeables), the Steripen requires full voltage. And Li batteries have a decay curve that is not gradual like alkalines, but stays at essentially full voltage up to the end then drops rapidly. 2.87 volts is too low for operation.

Also, you do have to keep the electrodes in the water during the whole process (or the led for the opti version).

It isn't like a tungsten flashlight.

I would have to handle your SteriPen myself, but, sorry, it sure sounds like operator error. I have never had a failure with my SteriPen as long as the batteries were fully charged (I use the rechargeables, and sometimes the non-rechargeables), and that includes use on Kilimanjaro and in winter Tetons/Sierra/Cascades/Rockies.

4:29 p.m. on August 19, 2010 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
7 forum posts

I expressed some bad words about the company in my previous post... though they were all true I just had a subsequent telephone conversation with Aaron Cox from Steripen and he agreed to test a new unit out for me, using a refrigerator at cold temperatures to make sure it will work down to freezing prior to shipping it. He's also replacing the batteries so that they're new and including coupons for additional batteries as well as a mailer for me to send the old one back if and when I am satisfied that the replacement unit will work appropriately. I don't think I asked too much of Hydro-Photon to go through this trouble, but I would like to say that I am also impressed with Aaron's concern for making me a happy customer and doing the right thing.

tommangan : To answer *your* question, *they* should have originally suggested what I just had to.

4:34 p.m. on August 19, 2010 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
7 forum posts

I'm would be mad too, but we don't live in a perfect world. I have had similar trips as well and I can tell you we as adventurers are responsible for always having our own back up systems for this very reason.

What do you feel they should do to make you happy?

That is a legitimate question asked by the guy on the phone that you seemed to take offense at. Everyone wants something different and it's hard to read peoples minds.

Are you also upset (I would assume) about the company's "track record" as you state in your post?

Don't misunderstand, I'm on your side concerning product failure, and you have every right to complain about poor products.

Please let us know how this turns out.

He accused me of "trying to extort money out of them". I was looking for someone to do something slightly related to Customer Service, they just had the wrong guy call me back, he's an engineer. Don't get me wrong, I have a BS In Mechanical Engineering as well, but I've known plenty of engineers over the last 30 years and they generally don't make great customer service people. Of course, this is all just my opinion.

4:37 p.m. on August 19, 2010 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
7 forum posts

A couple things to note -

A brand new battery reads 3.4V, not 2.87.

I have found in all cases I have run into where someone was claiming failure of the Steripens that I could take the pen from them and if the batteries were at or above 2.9 volts, the pen would work just fine if the water temperature was above freezing. Like many other electronic devices using Li batteries (including the rechargeables), the Steripen requires full voltage. And Li batteries have a decay curve that is not gradual like alkalines, but stays at essentially full voltage up to the end then drops rapidly. 2.87 volts is too low for operation.

Also, you do have to keep the electrodes in the water during the whole process (or the led for the opti version).

It isn't like a tungsten flashlight.

I would have to handle your SteriPen myself, but, sorry, it sure sounds like operator error. I have never had a failure with my SteriPen as long as the batteries were fully charged (I use the rechargeables, and sometimes the non-rechargeables), and that includes use on Kilimanjaro and in winter Tetons/Sierra/Cascades/Rockies.

Sorry, not operator error. 2.87 volts is 2.87 volts. If the batteries were bad (Hydro-Photon's engineer didn't think so), then they were bad. But if YOU claim to know that's too low a voltage, why would YOU then claim "operator error"? (That was a rhetorical question)

4:59 p.m. on August 19, 2010 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
415 forum posts

Have to admit I was skeptical at hearing of such lunk-headed customer service from a premium gear brand. Just isn't done, from what I've seen and heard.

I'm guessing anybody who can summit Grand Teton in a day has bought enough gear that he'd be just as skeptical till it happened to him. Wouldn't take long for the response to go from amazement to anger.

Glad to see Steripen cleared this up.

6:45 p.m. on August 19, 2010 (EDT)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,249 reviewer rep
5,186 forum posts

.. If the batteries were bad (Hydro-Photon's engineer didn't think so), then they were bad. But if YOU claim to know that's too low a voltage, why would YOU then claim "operator error"? (That was a rhetorical question)

Combination of two things - first 2.87 V is too low for many units that require lithium batteries (interesting side note - several of the Garmin GPSRs would turn off if you put brand new Li AAs in, because the voltage when new was too hig - Garmin claims the current versions will accept Li). As I said, a new CR123 has an open circuit voltage of close to 3.4V. The Journey LCD takes a pair of them, meaning that the voltage at the electrodes (what you called "probes") should be 6.8 V with new batteries (the batteries are in series in the SteriPen). You reported 3.25V, which is down to about half the new voltage and 56% of the voltage at which the SteriPens cut off. Lithium batteries lose very little power until the battery temperature is well below 0F. Your reported voltage says either the batteries were pretty well drained and/or something else is going on (damage to the electrodes possibly or internally in the SteriPen, possibly at the connector for one or both electrodes).


This is the CR123 discharge curve into a 100 ohm load. Remember that the voltage with a load (2.9 V) is lower than new, out of the shrinkwrap, no load (just the multimeter probes - 3.4 V). The voltage remains pretty flat for 40 hours of usage, then drops precipitously. The "low battery icon" you saw says the batteries were pretty well drained. (the diagram is from the Energizer data sheets, which you can see on line).

Second is that the electrodes on most SteriPens and LED and sensor for their newer Opti models must be kept in the water continuously, a mistake made by many operators. Using the "rubber funnel" attachment with the units that can be inverted gets around that, IF you remember to invert the whole thing so the electrodes or LED/sensor are in the water (that's a fairly rare operator error, though I have seen it many times.

It also sounds like there was a fair amount of miscommunication going on in both directions, based on your lengthy post - that's operator error, too, on both sides.

I am more than a little surprised at what you report about your interaction with the SteriPen tech people. That is very much at odds with my interactions with them over the past several years.

10:03 p.m. on August 19, 2010 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
28 forum posts

Sorry you had a negative experience with your Steripen.

I however hold my Opti in high regard as its been a welcome addition to my pack.

Quick,simple,dependable and light was what i was looking for and so far its delivered.

Hope your new Steripen is trouble free.

11:02 p.m. on August 19, 2010 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
7 forum posts

mamato said:

.. If the batteries were bad (Hydro-Photon's engineer didn't think so), then they were bad. But if YOU claim to know that's too low a voltage, why would YOU then claim "operator error"? (That was a rhetorical question)

Combination of two things - first 2.87 V is too low for many units that require lithium batteries (interesting side note - several of the Garmin GPSRs would turn off if you put brand new Li AAs in, because the voltage when new was too hig - Garmin claims the current versions will accept Li). As I said, a new CR123 has an open circuit voltage of close to 3.4V. The Journey LCD takes a pair of them, meaning that the voltage at the electrodes (what you called "probes") should be 6.8 V with new batteries (the batteries are in series in the SteriPen). You reported 3.25V, which is down to about half the new voltage and 56% of the voltage at which the SteriPens cut off. Lithium batteries lose very little power until the battery temperature is well below 0F. Your reported voltage says either the batteries were pretty well drained and/or something else is going on (damage to the electrodes possibly or internally in the SteriPen, possibly at the connector for one or both electrodes).


This is the CR123 discharge curve into a 100 ohm load. Remember that the voltage with a load (2.9 V) is lower than new, out of the shrinkwrap, no load (just the multimeter probes - 3.4 V). The voltage remains pretty flat for 40 hours of usage, then drops precipitously. The "low battery icon" you saw says the batteries were pretty well drained. (the diagram is from the Energizer data sheets, which you can see on line).

Second is that the electrodes on most SteriPens and LED and sensor for their newer Opti models must be kept in the water continuously, a mistake made by many operators. Using the "rubber funnel" attachment with the units that can be inverted gets around that, IF you remember to invert the whole thing so the electrodes or LED/sensor are in the water (that's a fairly rare operator error, though I have seen it many times.

It also sounds like there was a fair amount of miscommunication going on in both directions, based on your lengthy post - that's operator error, too, on both sides.

I am more than a little surprised at what you report about your interaction with the SteriPen tech people. That is very much at odds with my interactions with them over the past several years.

Thanks for all the tech stuff, I am very impressed with your knowledge base, as I am sure everyone else is. Please listen, you can doubt whatever you like, I have no control over that but, as for operator error, I'm 54 years old, I worked as an R&D Engineer at Xerox Corp., where I have a patent on a phase of the xerographic process, I've worked over ten years as a mechanical engineer for General Electric designing radar and sonar support equipment for the military as well as test engineer responsible for conforming our products to stringent mil-standards. I currently own two businesses, one of them an online business - I know what customer service is. At the expense of sounding arrogant, please LAY OFF the "operator error BS". Okay? (that was a rhetorical question as well)

11:07 p.m. on August 19, 2010 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
7 forum posts

Dreamer : Thank you! I do as well (I am optimistic).

12:35 p.m. on August 20, 2010 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
7 forum posts

Following is an emailed response from SteriPEN. I am now extremely satisfied with SteriPEN’s customer service. I couldn’t ask for more. I hope to have good luck with the replacement unit, and I am optimistic:

Hello Michael,
I have taken a new SteriPEN Journey from a retail package and performed the following tests:
Placed your Journey, with batteries installed, in our lunch freezer for 25 minutes. I removed your Journey and successfully completed a 1 Liter dose.
Placed just batteries, in a Ziploc baggie, in the freezer for 15 minutes. I removed the batteries and immediately placed them in your Journey. 1 liter dose complete with no frowny faces.
Placed your Journey and Ziploc baggie with batteries in freezer. I removed the batteries and Journey and immediately placed the batteries in your SteriPEN. Again, I was able to complete the 1 Liter dose with no problem.
This leads me to believe that you will not have the same problems with your new Journey as you did with your original.
Again, I am sorry for the troubles that you experienced due to the battery failure of your original Journey. This is unacceptable and we will do what it takes to rectify your situation and restore your confidence in the SteriPEN.

I have had your new Journey repackaged and shipped to your address via UPS 3 Day Select.
UPS will send the tracking number to your e-mail around 5PM tonight.

Thanks for the opportunity to try and rectify your problems.
Best Regards,
Aaron Cox
Customer Support
Hydro-Photon, Inc.
207-374-5848
www.steripen.com

8:19 p.m. on August 21, 2010 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
28 forum posts

I have to agree.....quite impressive.

April 19, 2014
Quick Reply

Please sign in to reply

 
More Topics
This forum: Older: Keen Aqua Guides - Any Experience? Newer: GoLite vs Granite Gear
All forums: Older: message not showing up consistently Newer: zion subway