Which SteriPen should I get for my trip to Cote d'Ivoire?
December 3, 2018 8:46 PM   Subscribe

Going to be in Cote d'Ivoire for a few months for public health work. Will primarily be in Abidjan and am not too concerned about water there, but work will entail some fieldwork where I will probably leave Abidjan and go to less developed areas. I've read up on my water sanitation options, and I think I'd like to go with a SteriPen, as I do think I need a purifier, and a filter. 1. Which steripen to get? 2. Which filter to get to go with it? More details below.

I am not sure what the situation is going to be in less developed areas. I've read that some steripens are great for travel - this would be good, since I would be on the move with probably just a weekender size bag at most, but then I read that the batteries can be pretty hard to find. Rechargeable Steripens, then, seem like the solution, but if I am in less developed Cote d'Ivoire, will I necessarily be able to re-charge it easily?

Additional note: I will probably also travel to other parts of Africa, in my spare time, during my assignment.

If anyone has experience with this kind of travel, I would really appreciate your $0.02. If you have any filter recommendations that pair well with the Steripen, that'd be great, too. Thanks!
posted by dubhemerak3000 to Travel & Transportation around Côte D'Ivoire (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You will be able to buy sealed bottled water everywhere you go. I would not plan to treat your own water as your routine hydration strategy. It can’t hurt to carry some iodine tabs in case of emergencies, but your specific organization will ensure you are in places with bottled water.
posted by quadrilaterals at 9:25 PM on December 3, 2018 [5 favorites]

If you really feel more comfortable bringing something with you I would get a sawyer hand squeeze filtration system and do iodine tabs (better for short term) or bleach drops (recommended by Peace Corps though I can't remember the specific solutions/amounts of the top of my head). I know in Togo, Ghana and Senegal plastic sachets of "pure water" are sold near everywhere and are very cost effective. Technically you can get a bad bag but I didn't suffer any ill effects over the two years that I drank them.
posted by raccoon409 at 9:41 PM on December 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

I know in Togo, Ghana and Senegal plastic sachets of "pure water" are sold near everywhere and are very cost effective.

Sachets of “Pure Water” are often just tap water, unless you’re buying from a large supplier. The actual sachets and heat sealing machine are relatively inexpensive and increasingly common (source: hours sitting outside filling and sealing said sachets with my in-laws — not Ivorian, but in the region).

But as quadrilateral said, you’ll be able to buy bottled water just about everywhere, even relatively rural areas. If you’re in a place with no or spotty power, there’s still likely to be a bar or other business in the nearest town that sells cold drinks using a generator to power their fridge/ freezer, and also lets folks charge phones and other devices (like a steripen) for a small fee.
posted by asnowballschance at 10:34 PM on December 3, 2018 [3 favorites]

I'm in Myanmar at the moment. I travel now with a LifeStraw bottle. I've used it for all my drinking water for a total of about a year.

Spent about 10 years abroad since 2005 and drinking water has always been an issue- I love having my LifeStraw bottle now. I would definitely recommend LifeStraw or the Steripen. You can get reusable batteries as mentioned. I have heard of the devices failing. I also lived for a year on a tenny island in the Marshall Islands and the EPA suggested we bleach our water. That is safe for limited periods, and an option, but not portable. You can also boil water absolutely anywhere.
posted by maya at 12:35 AM on December 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

I brought a Steripen on my first trip to Gabon. It was annoying to use and broke down in short order. I now carry Oasis tablets and they are simple, effective, and tiny. They have very little taste. I buy them on eBay.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:25 AM on December 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

I used a steripen classic for travel in Nepal for a few weeks. It was great. I used it a lot while trekking, treating my water in the morning, stir for a minute or so and off I went. A few times I refilled and treated water at a village tap during the day. I kept flavoured rehydration tablets with me and would sometimes drop those in when I was low energy or the water tasted a bit yuck. The classic comes with a small filter, just for sediment I think. I never had to use it as the water turbidity was fine. I brought replacement lithium batteries but didn’t have to use them.
posted by Cuke at 4:45 AM on December 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

I also liked the steripen in rural developing areas, but it's true that most places have bottled water that is fine. Something to wipe the neck of the water bottle is a good idea. If you are just doing occasional field work bottled water should work, and I wouldn't worry too much about batteries. New AA x4 get 50-100L of water done on my model. It is almost certainly more reliable to have a box of AAx12 at your base than worry about recharge.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:06 AM on December 4, 2018

Sawyer Squeeze is the best, and filters better than a Steripen.
posted by chocolatetiara at 7:39 AM on December 4, 2018

I feel like I'm jumping on a derail since the question seemed to be steripen focused but, like others above me, I'd say go with iodine tablets with the (optional) neutralizer tabs for after the water is safe/done. Honestly there's no simpler way and, unless you're dealing with legit murky, murky water (which wouldn't work via steripen anyway would it?) or have heavy metal concerns I think that's generally the simplest/easiest option.

Protip: Don't treat water with the tabs in a soft bladder type container, it still works fine but seems to pick up flavor from the tablets more than a dedicated container like a Nalgene or other hard plastic (or ideally glass which is inert) bottle.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:47 AM on December 4, 2018

Like Maya, I also recommend the Lifestraw instead of the Steripen. I've traveled to South Africa, Ethiopia, Namibia, Kenya, and backcountry hiking for the past three years using our Lifestraws (me, husband, two kiddos) and we've never had any issues. Bonus is no need for batteries.

also, in most parts of Africa had sterile, bottled water for sale.
posted by alathia at 9:53 AM on December 4, 2018

I'd suggest MeMailing ChuraChura, IIRC she lived there for a while and has shared anecdotes on here about her time in the field there.
posted by gatorae at 12:53 PM on December 4, 2018

Where are you going to be working in the field and for how long? I entirely agree with quadrilaterals. Forego a steripen, bring some iodine, and plan on drinking bottled water, unless you will be in "the field" for a lengthy period. If you will be in a truly rural and/or isolated place for more than about a week, I would strongly consider getting a charcoal water filter (you can buy in the marche) with tubing and buckets and donating that to whatever organization you are volunteering with.

In Abidjan, I would drink (and use exclusively) Awa bottled water. You will be able to buy Awa bottled water in nearly every town and most villages in Cote d'Ivoire.

In the field (I worked/lived in Southwestern Cote d'Ivoire close to the Liberian border and the town of Duekoue), I used either bottled water or charcoal-filtered water from friends in villages or our charcoal filtration set-up in the forest.

Depending on where in CIV you are, and what sort of power the steripen you are thinking of draws, you should be able to recharge it. Even in villages with no electric grid, there are little kiosks set up where you can pay a few dollars to charge things like cell phones off of peoples' solar panel/car battery setups.

I'm happy to answer any other questions you have about living and working in Cote d'Ivoire!
posted by ChuraChura at 5:01 PM on December 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

If you do end up going with a rechargeable steripen, consider the version with a USB charger. Then bring a battery pack and you can have a more reliable power supply for longer spans between cities.

FWIW: I used a steripen for a 8 day trip to the Boundary Waters, and me and my paddling partner didn't have to recharge it during the trip.
posted by MrBobinski at 5:31 PM on December 4, 2018

Thanks, all, for the good info!
posted by dubhemerak3000 at 1:21 PM on December 12, 2018

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