Travelers: There’s an Alternative To Bottled Water

Here’s a quick tip for travelers that even some of the most experienced don’t know.

This traveling tip will:

1. save thousands of water bottles

2. prevent you from getting sick

3. lighten your pack

You and I both know water bottles are bad. But before I explain the solution, I’d like to put the absurdity of this problem in context real quick with 10 facts about water bottles from

1.    Only 1 in 5 plastic bottles are recycled

2.    Americans consume over 8.6 billion gallons of bottled water

3.    Most tap water is more heavily tested and regulated than bottled water

4.    Plastic water bottles can take between 400 and 1,000 years to decompose

5.    It requires 3 times the amount of water to produce a plastic bottle than it does to fill it

6.   Bottled water costs over 1,000+ times more than tap water

7.    Last year, the average American used 167 water bottles, but only recycled 38

8.    In many taste tests, tap water was preferred over bottled water

9.    The NRDC conducted a comprehensive four-year scientific study of 1,000 brands of bottled water. The results showed that one third of the bottled waters violated their own industry standards for water quality

10.  It takes 17 million barrels of oil to produce plastic bottles yearly. This could fuel 1 million cars for a year

I don’t blame travelers for playing it safe

I almost never buy a water bottle when I’m home in the US or in other countries where I know the tap water is safe to drink. But I travel a lot and I know how bad Montezuma’s revenge is from experience, so I don’t mess around with sketchy water. If you’re sick of buying water bottles and wasting plastic, there’s an alternative that will save you money, time, and a whole lot of plastic.

Don’t drink the tap water!

If you question the tap water at all, don’t drink it. You don’t want to spend the rest of your trip on the pot!

Also, don’t brush your teeth with it, use the ice, or eat vegetables washed with tap water.

Tap water in many foreign countries can have microbes that will make you sick (viruses, bacteria, protozoa). Part of the reason travelers get sick from water is that your body has no exposure to the microbes in other parts of the world and in many cases water isn’t treated as much as it is in the US. You can adapt to many of these microbes over time, but others like Giardia and E-Coli can be serious, sometimes resulting in hospitalization (usually from severe dehydration).

So we end up buying bottles of water as we travel. I’ve been able to cut down on the bottles I buy by traveling with a Nalgene and refilling it intermittently when I’m around safe water. But, inevitably and to my chagrin, I have to buy bottled water when I can’t find a safe refill. But there’s a better way!

A quick and eco-friendly solution

Buy a reusable water bottle like a Nalgene and use an ultraviolet sterilization pen to make your water potable. You can boil water or use a water filter, but both have their disadvantages. Boiling isn’t really practical on the go and while a water filter is a bit more practical it’s still pretty bulky and doesn’t guarantee viruses will be filtered.

How much money you can save

You can save about a dollar per day per person.

SteriPEN advertises that their product can treat up to 8,000 liters of water (one at a time). At the cost of $86.00 (depending on model and where you purchase of course) for a SteriPEN plus the cost of a standard Nalgene at $10.99 you’re drinking water safely around the world for the rest of your life for less than $100.

If you drink at least a liter of water a day (average is 1.08 for adults but most drink more while traveling) it’s safe to say you’re spending at least $1 per day on bottled water. This will vary depending on where you’re traveling but so will the amount of water you drink.

Result: After 100 days of traveling you will have made your money back. BUT, usually you aren’t traveling alone. If you’re with your family or a group you can significantly cut this into 3rds or 4ths.

Over the lifetime of your SteriPEN you can save over $7,000 on bottled water.

How many water bottles you would save?

You can save 1 bottler per person per day.

Over the lifetime of your SteriPEN and Nalgene you can save up to 8,000 plastic bottles… just during your travels. 

If you like to travel, but also boycott disposable water bottles, consider this combo for your next trip:


steripen ultraviolet water sterilization for travel





I am a minimalist, environmentalist, and conscious consumer with a background in environmental studies, conservation, and tech. I founded prch to help others be more sustainable and realize an alternative to consumerism.