The highlight of Overland Expo East was the large motor vehicles and trailers, but the show also had some interesting tech in smaller packages. Perhaps the smallest of all, the Roving Blue O-Pen supports off-roaders and world travelers by keeping drinking water clean and fresh. In contrast to more common purification means, like UV rays and iodine, this pen-sized, battery-powered purification device kills bacteria, protozoa and viruses with the stuff that blocks those UV rays in the atmosphere: ozone.
The concept of using ozone to treat drinking water isn't a new one, dating back to the late 1800s. The US EPA's Drinking Water Treatability Database identifies ozone as "one of the strongest disinfectants and oxidants available in drinking water treatment," and the US Food and Drug Administration recognizes ozone's use for both water and food.
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Ozone has tended to be used for larger applications, such as municipal drinking water systems and household purification. Roving Blue specializes in portable systems, including the MVP-A carry case kit and the all-new O-Pen, possibly the most portable ozone-based purifier out there. The Wisconsin-based company says the stainless steel pen is TSA-approved and markets it at world travellers, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.
The O-Pen weighs just over an ounce (30 g) and purifies 16 oz (0.5L) of water in less than a minute. You simply drop the tip into the water, turn it on and let it do its thing. It bubbles while in use, providing a visual cue that clean water is on the way. In addition to taking care of all sizes of dangerous microorganisms, from tiny viruses to larger bacteria and protozoa, the O-Pen removes unpleasant tastes and odors, leaving a clean, fresh taste, one of the advantages that ozone offers over other treatment options, such as chlorine.
We took a look at the O-Pen at Bundutec USA's Overland Expo East booth. At first, it seemed a little strange to see such a small, ultralight purification system there, as the show is targeted mostly at people that travel in large camping vehicles with plenty of room to store larger water treatment systems, including vehicle-integrated systems like the optional one on the Base Camp trailer. But it's not as though such travelers never leave the vehicle to hike, boat, bike, etc., so a pocketable purifier could certainly find its uses among the attendees.
The O-Pen seems like a natural competitor to light, portable UV purifiers. The Steripen Freedom we covered years ago, which is now listed as discontinued but available in limited quantities at various retailers in the US and Europe, weighs just over double the O-Pen at 2.6 oz (74 g) and treats 1/2 a liter of water in 48 seconds. The Freedom offers more uses per charge at 40 treatments (20 liters) versus 30 treatments (15 liters) for the O-Pen. Like the Freedom, the O-Pen recharges via USB cord.
The O-Pen launched in July and is available for US$199. That's more expensive than any Steripen model, but perhaps the price will become more competitive over time.
Source: Roving BlueView gallery - 4 images