Luci Inflatable Solar Lantern for Camping, Hiking, Preparedness

Perhaps by now you’ve seen the Luci Inflatable Solar Lantern by Mpowered. I was sent one for review and so I’ll offer my opinion on it for emergency preparedness here…

The solar lantern comes in a small package and, in fact, collapses down to a very small size which makes it nice for tossing into a bag, the back of your car, or as part of camping gear:

Luci Inflatable Solar Lantern

Since it includes a built-in solar panel all you have to do to recharge Luci is to set it in direct sunlight for up to eight hours and it will be fully charged. Granted, I’m sure the battery doesn’t last forever without being charged so expecting to rely upon it for a disaster without having been charged recently isn’t a great plan. Consider it an alternative long-term light source:

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Use couldn’t be much easier. Just pull on the provided handle to stretch it out a bit and then inflate using the included valve. It even holds air with the stopper plug out which is nice. Deflation is the reverse and doesn’t take much effort except to keep pressure on the valve to let the air out:

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Luci has two brightness modes (low and high) as well as an emergency blinking mode. Sadly, there isn’t much difference in the low and high settings but the high setting is bright enough to light up the sink area in our kids small bathroom and to read by if necessary:

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Just to be sure it floated I filled our kitchen sink and let it sit in there for a while. In fact, I forgot about it and found it still floating about an hour later still working and not otherwise “sunk” which was nice… and expected:

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I later tossed it in our backyard pond (the following is with the camera flash on) and actually choose to leave it out all night (it was still floating but OFF):

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In fact, I took a few pictures with the flash OFF but it didn’t show up well. Ultimately, it’s not going to light up that much other than the surrounding few feet at best and the camera didn’t pick that up.

Why (and Why Not to) Choose a Luci Inflatable Solar Lantern?

Well, the Luci Solar Lantern is very compact, lightweight, requires no batteries, is waterproof, and can be recharged again and again using the power of the sun. It’s also relatively inexpensive at less than $15.

That said, I find it hard to say that an inflatable solar-powered lantern is a must-have for emergency preparedness. While a neat idea and one that can be fun for around the pool, hot tub, or at the lake, I don’t see any huge benefit over a typical lantern for at-home preparedness. On the go, it could be useful to toss into your bag but it wouldn’t be my first choice.

Buy this Luci inflatable solar lantern for it’s real purpose: fun times around the water. If you want a better option for a solar lantern consider the d.light LED Solar Lantern which provides quite a bit more light and is quite rugged too… not waterproof, mind you, but if you’re that worried about water protection for a solar lantern then you have bigger concerns to deal with first. 😉

Don’t be Afraid of the Dark! SHTF Lighting Solutions

SHTF Lighting Solutions
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As preppers we like to be prepared for nearly anything and that includes life without electricity… a wonderful invention that has reliably lit up the dark of night for generations now.

But, as preppers, we also know that the power grid is relatively fragile and certainly won’t be there (at least not reliably) during an lengthy SHTF event.

We need to plan for this or at least be aware and be willing to adjust our lifestyle and perhaps even our expectations. We NEED SHTF lighting solutions we can rely upon.

Fears are hard to overcome

It’s hard, however, to overcome well ingrained fears such as a fear of the dark. I’ll admit it… complete darkness still freaks me out on occasion. It’s a natural fear and one that nearly all of us experiences to one degree or another, especially children.

Perhaps there’s good reason for such fears, particularly so during any extended disaster scenario. Fortunately, most of us have yet to experience prolonged periods of darkness. The most that we’ve likely experienced is the occasional blackout for a few hours to a few days or weeks at most. Most people–even the relatively unprepared–can deal with these situations with a minimal amount of flashlights and batteries.

But what happens if those weeks turn into months and months into years? Unless you’ve REALLY prepared yourselves then you’re probably going to end up living in the darkness eventually.

Remember we didn’t always have lights

Believe it or not there was a time in life when we tended to go to bed when the sun went down and got up when the sun rose. Yes, we may have had the capability to make fire and even had candles but we DIDN’T have the myriad of flashlights, lanterns, glow sticks, and whatnot that we do now.

In fact, I’m willing to bet that you and I are so accustomed to ambient lighting–such as lights from city streets even a long way away to glowing LED lights from electronics such as your cable box–that we don’t even know what it’s like to NOT have them in our lives.

It’s ONLY when we experience a true blackout (or a serious removal from society) that we can even remotely begin to understand what a SHTF pitch black scenario might feel like. Granted, we currently have a variety of light sources at our disposal but there will come a time when they no longer work or we don’t have fuel/batteries to run them. Then, and only then, will we feel the ominous pitch black much like our ancestors did.

Yes, yes, I know that moonlight can provide some good light at night and that our eyes will eventually adjust to having minimal light but there are situations where even this won’t do much good…

OPSEC is a double-edged sword

I’d assume that many of us–me included–fully intend to board up our homes (or at least a room) so that no light escapes in order to protect our OSPEC from potential passersby.

That’s a good thing but doing so also means that NO light can get in from the moon or any other source… even the sunlight during the day. If/when we no longer have our own light source then we’re back to living in complete darkness and in our own homes no less!

Of course, I shutter to think what life might be like if we’ve sadly run out of fuel and batteries for lighting (among other uses) yet are still boarded up in our homes like prisoners. The question, regardless, is: what can you do in this situation? That is, to better prepare yourself for a SHTF situation long down the road?

Here’s a few thoughts…

What to do about long-term SHTF lighting solutions

  1. The first thing you can and should do is to stock more fuel and batteries… duh! It’s not THAT hard or expensive to do. In fact, I once did a calculation that you could purchase enough D-cell batteries to run my favorite battery-powered lantern (the LED Lantern) for about two years at five hours a day for around $100 in D-cell Batteries, if I remember right. The original post was, regrettably, apparently deleted in one of my overzealous cleanups of old posts. 😉
  2. The second thing you can do is to invest in a quality rechargeable solar lantern or two. The d.light LED Solar Lantern (reviewed here) is a good option but I’m sure there are plenty of others. Do realize that you’re going to need to place the lantern outside most days in a prominent spot so that it gets enough sunlight to recharge which could also blow your OPSEC.
  3. A step-up would be to utilize a small solar panel to recharge a deep cycle battery and then run any number of DC lights. I posted about an experiment I did a while back with an extra tent light. This option could result in fewer times that the battery needs recharged which is a plus to your OPSEC. In fact, you could even get tricky with it and figure out how attach panels in an inconspicuous spot on your rooftop (but still well exposed to the sun) and wire them permanent to your batteries. Of course, there are limitations on this but it might be worth considering for SHTF.
  4. Another option is to learn to live with it. Yes, as “crazy” as it may sound, you could learn to do as our ancestors did and rise and sleep with the sun. Granted, this doesn’t much help if you’re inside a boarded-up home/room during the day but it can certainly reduce the need for artificial lighting at night.
  5. You could, alternatively, choose NOT to board up your home thereby ignoring OPSEC rules, at least, not during the day. Yes, this may seem to be the CRAZIEST suggestion yet! Honestly, I don’t think I could live cooped up inside my home 24/7… not for very long anyway. Moreover, this would mean lesser security if/when something happens.

I’m not saying I have all the answers here but the topic has crossed my mind a lot lately. What thoughts do you have? I’m all ears…

SunJack Solar Charger and CampLight: Perfect Camping and Bug Out Power and Lighting Solution!

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I was sent this SunJack Solar Charger not long ago for review along with the SunJack CampLight (sold separately).

Since then I had the opportunity to test out the SunJack Solar Charger (and CampLight) a bit since then I can say that I’m quite impressed.

Granted, I’ve never owned a portable solar panel like this one so this is coming from somebody who has no experience with a portable solar charger. I do, however, have some experience with solar panels.

The SunJack Solar Charger

FYI, here’s some specs so you know what we’re talking about:

  • The 14 Watt SunJack comes with an 8,000mAh battery with 2 amp output that gives you enough power to charge four iPhones after 5 hours in the sun
  • The battery can also charge from any standard micro-USB plug and can output
  • The SunJack is able to get more electrons flowing into the battery faster than any solar charger available
  • The battery also is able to take in a full 2 amp charge from the solar cells, and discharge a full 2 amps – which allows for very rapid energy storage unlike anything else available.
  • The efficiency ~19%, which is higher than average. Weight 2.3 lbs.

So you know, the SunJack solar charger is approximately the same length and width as an iPad but significantly thicker due to the four solar panels that get folded up inside the convenient carrying case. Here’s a comparison of it to my iPad 2:

SunJack Solar Charger Comparison to iPad

The first thing I was curious about was the CampLight so I decided to connect it straight to the battery without having bothered to charge it first. I let the CampLight run for almost 10 hours overnight and it was still going! I was surprised that it actually put out a decent amount of light, enough to illuminate our bedroom as shown below and plenty to read by if you’re close enough (this is is near pitch black and with the camera flash off):

SunJack CampLight Demo

I should point out that I then tried to charge my iPhone after the ten hour CampLight experiment and was able to get a bit more juice out of the battery but it eventually died. No big deal. I then choose to try and charge it from my computer to see how that went… uhm, don’t do that. It was SUPER slow!

I do want to quickly point out one slight annoyance and that’s the provided cable that goes between the connection to the solar panels and the battery. As you can see from the photo below the cable is short, way too short if you ask me. I actually had to move the battery down from where it’s supposed to be retained so I don’t stress the connections:

SunJack Solar Charger Wiring

This was easily remedied by replacing the cable with a longer one and, of course, you don’t have to keep the battery in the sleeve while charging but I like things nice and tidy. 😉

Anyway, the next day I wanted to know how well the panels worked to power my iPhone without using the battery and so I took the SunJack outside, strung it up on my deck railing with some paracord and the provided carabiners, connect my iPhone and streamed some music:

SunJack Solar Charger Being Used

The SunJack solar charger worked like a champ and charged my phone fast. I then wanted to stress the panels and so I connected my iPad too and let them charge both at the same time. Because the iPad has a much larger battery the charging slowed down substantially but still managed to charge the iPhone and slowly charged the iPad but it probably would have taken all day to do so.

I think you can also charge the included battery while also running other equipment but I didn’t bother to try that.

A few things to note that I haven’t yet:

  • The SunJack panel comes with two USB outputs for charging more than one device at a time
  • The battery comes with two USB outputs as well but one output delivers 1 amp and the other delivers 2 amps (for charging things like tablets and iPads) which is a nice feature
  • The battery has approximate charge indicators with blue flashing lights and will blink two lights at a time when low on charge
  • The battery includes a small light that may keep you from tripping over your sneakers but not much more

I did notice that there are very similar portable solar panels such as this Anker 14W Solar Panel. The thing is that the Anker panel is about half the price of the SunJack panel but does NOT include a battery which is certainly necessary, in my opinion. That said, it wouldn’t be a big deal to purchase a portable power bank such as this EasyAcc 10000mAh External Battery and include it with the Anker panel. For the cost you could purchase both the Anker and EasyAcc battery for less than $100 and have similar capabilities.

To be clear, I don’t know if there are very serious technical or quality differences between the SunJack and Anker panels but they sure do look a lot alike.

Overall, I’m a fan of the SunJack Solar Charger.

As a camping/hiking portable power charger (and definitely as a bug out option) I like this charger a lot.

It’s compact, not ridiculously heavy, charges fast, and has enough standby power to charge the devices I would need charged when on the move during a disaster.

Ultimately, I have no problem recommending the SunJack solar charger to you, though, I would research the possibility of combing the Anker Panel and EasyAcc Battery (or similar) as a lesser expensive option.

Champ Bodyguard Battery: Power Bank, Flashlight, Siren

It seems that small portable power banks are all the rage these days and to an extent they should be. After all, they can be used to recharge one of your most useful assets during an emergency: the cell phone.

Now, I know there are people who say you shouldn’t rely on a cell phone and that’s true, assuming it’s the ONLY tool you have to perform the functions it can do. IMO, a cell phone should be one of many tools in your arsenal. Anyway, the point is that in order to keep the cell phone going when you need it the most, you’re going to want a power bank that you can take with you.

If you’re unaware, a power bank is simply a small device that can be used to charge USB electronics–most typically a cell phone–but in some cases it might be powerful enough to charge a tablet.

The Champ Bodyguard Battery

As for this Champ Bodyguard Battery, here’s the description from Amazon: “The Champ E-prep Bodyguard Battery with Rechargeable Power Bank is perfect emergency power supply. This power bank charges devices through a USB port and is perfect for giving juice back to a dead phone or tablet. It has High-efficiency output for fast charging with the capacity to completely charge a phone, giving 8 hours of phone calls. This power bank also comes with a built in flashlight to illuminate any dark place. It also has a siren to help alert nearby people for assistance…”

As you can read from the above, it’s more than a power bank and includes a handy light and siren too. Here’s my take…

Let me start with the siren: I wish they didn’t even bother. It’s virtually useless. I know they were trying to make this more of an emergency tool but the siren is simply not loud enough to draw real concern (in my opinion) from others. It was so obnoxious that I actually glued the switch in place with krazy glue. It’s much better now. 😉

The light, however, is a nice feature and is actually bright enough to see relatively well in a small dark room, such as a bathroom or closet. Outside it provides enough light to not trip over any rocks while walking around in the pitch dark but it’s no substitute for a quality flashlight.

Now, the actual point in the Champ Bodyguard Battery is the recharge capability. The battery has a capacity of 2200 mAh which is plenty to recharge a typical iPhone battery completely (an iPhone 4 battery is about 1400 mAh) assuming the Bodyguard battery is fully charged, of course. I should note that as power banks go this battery capacity is on the low end of the spectrum. You can get power banks that are significantly larger and for less money.

Ultimately, I wanted to like the Champ Bodyguard Battery because it does two important jobs for you in one relatively small package: recharge a cell phone and provide some lighting. The problem is that there are much less expensive options that perform both functions better. In fact, I can purchase an Anker Astro battery pack, a Cree flashlight, and a package of AA batteries for the flashlight and still have a bit left over. The choice, ultimately, is yours to make.

Champ Bodyguard Battery
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Emergency Weather Radio: Champ Survival Skybox

Once upon a time I had purchased an [easyazon_link asin=”B001QTXKCY” locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”rethinksurviv-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]Eton Emergency Weather Radio[/easyazon_link] and I wasn’t very impressed for the $50 I spent. Sure it had all the bells and whistles but there was something about it that I didn’t like… perhaps the hand crank, I don’t know. Seems I got rid of it –probably gave it to somebody–and so I haven’t had a true emergency radio in my possession until now.

Let’s talk about the [easyazon_link asin=”B00J1373N4″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”rethinksurviv-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]Champ Survival Skybox Emergency Weather Radio[/easyazon_link] today. Last week I reviewed the [easyazon_link asin=”B00HNCTDP6″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”rethinksurviv-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]Champ Survival Sidekick[/easyazon_link] and, to be honest, I wasn’t very pleased. This Skybox, however, is a different story…

According the Amazon description: “…With the Champ Survival Bluetooth Weather Radio with Flashlight, you’re a little more prep’d and ready for the unexpected. Whether you’re camping or caught in a power outage, the Survival Skybox has everything you need to you safe. Includes, AM / FM / NOAA weather radio, flashlight, bluetooth wireless technology, USB charging for mobile devices, distress light, NOAA alerts, digital clock, calendar function, temperature function, hand crank and solar panel charging, headphone jack, hideaway antenna, convenient carry handle, radio, AC power adapter, user guide, and 1-year limited warranty.”

The Emergency Weather Radio: Function (AM/FM/Weather)

As you can see, this is more than just a radio. Of course, that’s a great place to start. It’s does AM/FM but, more importantly, NOAA weather bands too. This, in my humble opinion, is very useful to emergency preparedness and something I feel every home should have.

Note that the display is all digital and allows you to change the stations using button OR a dial, though, I’m not sure why they integrated both options. One thing I liked, in particular, is the ability to turn the weather alter functioning on/off which means that if there is an alert issued (via NOAA weather services) then the radio will automatically turn on and start playing. That can be useful.

As for the sound, it’s plenty loud enough and just turning the volume up to about halfway was plenty to listen to weather alerts as well as music. Note: there is a hideaway antenna, which is nice, but I would have preferred it to be a bit longer so as to improve reception. Where we are we don’t get the best of reception but I was able to get the channels I generally expected to get.

The Emergency Weather Radio: Lights

There’s a light on one end of the Skybox. The light isn’t super bright by any means but it is a bit brighter than the Champ Sidekick I reviewed previously. I’d say it’s enough to keep from tripping over things around the house. The light also tilts up and down (let’s say 25 degrees or so) which could prove useful in some situations.

There’s also a red distress lighting included that, sadly, blinks as well. For the life of me I have no idea why manufacturers think this is a good idea. If I were truly stranded in a ditch somewhere then perhaps the idea makes sense but it’s hardly bright enough to be of any actual use. I would have much rather they skipped that idea and either made the red light NOT blink (so as to preserve night vision) OR made a low setting for the actual light.

Emergency Phone Charging

One very good addition is the ability to charge a cell phone. Like the Sidekick, this isn’t going to fully recharge a typical cell phone but should provide plenty of juice to get a phone call or two out. Moreover, the battery in the Skybox is about three times the size of the Sidekick so you will be able to charge a cell phone battery.

Solar Powered, Hand Crank, etc

I like things that are solar powered. According to the manual, however, it would take about 45 hours of direct sunlight to fully charge the battery. That may sound bad but anything that has a built-in solar panel like this isn’t going to charge very fast. If you’re going to rely on solar to charge the unit during an emergency then you should limit radio play and lighting as much as possible.

As for the hand crank, it’s very similar (if not exactly the same) as the Sidekick. IMO, it’s a last-ditch effort. Granted, it’s nice to have the option. According to the manual it should take roughly four hours to fully charge the battery of continuous hand-cranking. Sounds like a great job for the kids. 😉

I should note that it does NOT take batteries which would have been a nice option in an emergency radio. There is an included AC adapter which would be great if you have an alternative power setup but otherwise useless in an emergency. Beyond that, I would have at least preferred there be a compartment to place the adapter inside for storage but there isn’t.

Other Mentionables

Like I mentioned above the display is all digital. That’s nice but it gets a bit crowded. Anyway, no big deal. I did notice that the Skybox includes a built-in temperature monitor on the display which is nice. Now you can gripe about the precise temperature you’re either sweating at or freezing from! All kidding aside, it is a good feature and one I hadn’t thought about.

If you’re so inclined, the Skybox has bluetooth capability, meaning you can sync something like a iPhone or iPad to it and play your favorite music. I can’t say this is an especially useful feature during an emergency but, hey, at least you won’t have to wait for the radio station to play your favorite songs. 🙂

The Skybox also has an alarm and sleep timer feature.

Overall, there’s a lot packed into the [easyazon_link asin=”B00J1373N4″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”rethinksurviv-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]Champ Survival Skybox[/easyazon_link] emergency weather radio. The price is a bit steep at nearly $100 but you’re not buying a cheapo emergency radio here. I feel like it’s a quality radio that will suit your needs during an emergency. And with the added features of a light, solar powered, hand-crank, USB phone charger, and more… it works as advertised.

Emergency Weather Radio
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Champ Survival Sidekick 8-in-1 Multitool: Flashlight, Glass Breaker, Seatbelt Cutter, Device Charging

This Champ Survival Sidekick is marketed as a survival multi-tool, in particular, for your vehicle because of the tools included. According to the Amazon description:

  • “Includes flashlight, glass breaker, seatbelt cutter, distress light, magnetic base, USB connection, hand crank charging and compass included.
  • USB to micro cable.
  • Comes with convenient user guide.
  • Can charge most mobile devices. Phone and charging cables not included.
  • Compatible with iPhone iPod and works with Android Phones.”

The Champ Survival Sidekick: Flashlight and Distress Light

First and foremost this is a flashlight. It features 3 LED bulbs and for a flashlight that doesn’t run on alkaline batteries (there’s an internal battery that you recharge) it’s decent. Granted, it’s not going to outshine a Maglite but it does the job nonetheless. That said, the Satechi LightMate I reviewed the other week does shine quite a bit brighter.

There’s also a red distress light that you can choose to use instead. It blinks on and off rather rapidly on the butt-end of the flashlight. I assume the purpose it to attach the flashlight to your vehicle using the included magnetic mounts so that passing motorists will notice. Honestly, I don’t see how this is going to be any better than your vehicle’s hazards and really is just an annoyance to me. I’d have preferred a bigger battery, smaller flashlight, ability to use alkaline batteries… anything really.

The Champ Survival Sidekick: Glass Breaker and Seat Belt Cutter

Like the Satechi from the other week, this Survival Sidekick also includes a glass breaker. Rather than being included at the butt-end of the flashlight like the Satechi, the glass breaker is on the side of the Sidekick so you swing it like a hammer. I don’t see anything wrong with that design but the glass breaker on the Satechi is larger and heftier maybe making it easier to use… I don’t honestly know. As for the seat belt cutter, I didn’t attempt to test that but I do like it being included.

The Champ Survival Sidekick: Emergency Phone Charger

It seems that more and more survival tools are incorporating the ability to charge phones and I feel that’s a good thing. This particular tool says it can charge your phone from between 5-15% depending on phone model and this tool’s state of charge. While better than nothing there are better options for portable emergency phone charging. Of course, when desperate you can use the hand crank to first charge the internal battery and then charge your phone. In this case, don’t be that desperate. 😉 Speaking of which…

The Champ Survival Sidekick: Hand Crank Charging

Normally I don’t like hand-crank anything and I can say the same for flashlights. After using the crank for a few minutes and then later reading the directions it seems I would have to crank the flashlight for about a minute (at a good rate) to use the flashlight for three minutes. I can only imagine how much cranking I would have to do to charge my phone to any useful amount. That said, the hand crank is a last ditch option that’s nice to have if I ran out of every other option.

Everything Else

There’s also a button compass included on the butt-end of the Sidekick. I guess that’s useful if you’re thinking of hoofing it but probably not really necessary on a flashlight like this. Also, as I mentioned previously, there are magnetic mounts that allow the flashlight to stand up when attached to your vehicle’s hood or rooftop thereby allowing the red distress beacon to be seen. The magnets are strong enough to hold to the side of my car too.

I should also mention that the size of the flashlight is about the size of a 2 D-cell Maglite but significantly lighter. For the size I feel they could have done more.

Overall, the Champ Survival Sidekick isn’t a bad deal, it’s just not something I would recommend when there are better options. If you want a quality flashlight for your vehicle that incorporates a glass breaker and can charge your phone then buy the Satechi LightMate. For about the same price you’ll have a better flashlight for sure.

Champ Survival Sidekick
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Blackfire Clamplight Emergency 100-Lumen LED Flashlight

Last week I reviewed the Blackfire Clamplight Waterproof flashlight which I liked an awful lot. If you’re looking for a quality clamping light, that’s the one to get. This week I got to review the Blackfire Clamplight Emergency 100-Lumen LED Flashlight which you might call the “little brother” flashlight.

Because I had such a good time with the other clamp light I was looking forward to reviewing this one too. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite measure up to it’s “big brother.”

Specs from Amazon:

  • 100 Lumen Flashlight
  • Hand held, clamps & stands
  • 100 lumen flashlight & emergency strobe\
  • Snap on emergency beacon
  • Emergency Flashlight & Strobe – Blackfire’s new concept puts to shame all other flashlights sitting in your toolbox

More about the light from Amazon:

Emergency Flashlight & Strobe – Blackfire’s new concept puts to shame all other flashlights sitting in your toolbox. CLAMPLIGHT clamps virtually anywhere and stays out of the way. Shaped like a traditional flashlight for easy portability or to fit in a belt or pocket. It converts from a clamp light to a stand-up light by simply pressing the clamp and sliding the lock feature. Non-skid feet swivel down for stability. The GOOD DESIGN™ Award is a further acknowledgement of the company position as “the innovation leader in the flashlight category”.

My thoughts

Yes, it’s definitely a smaller version: lighter weight, easier to hold, smaller diameter, and so on. That’s a plus. Just like it’s “big brother” this one uses AAA batteries (four total), another plus… but that’s where the similarities and benefits end.

Since it’s a clamping light, the most important aspect of it *should* be the ability to clamp to things. Sadly, it’s not able to clamp to nearly as many items, especially wider objects like doors or a 2×4. Keep this limitation in mind.

The swivel and pivot leave a lot to be desired. If I had started out with this flashlight then I might not have noticed (or cared) that it doesn’t swivel 360 degrees (it does about 180 total) nor does the head pivot much more than about 90 degrees and definitely not as far back on itself as it’s bigger brother. Ultimately, you can find a way to position the light to get it to shine where you want but not nearly as easily as the waterproof version.

Light output is significantly less than the “big brother.” This is to be expected since this model is 100 lumens whereas the other is 170-190 lumens depending on which source you cite. That’s not really a big deal but what I did not like was the fact that this clamplight either had a high setting or strobe. There is no low setting. In my opinion, this clamplight would have been better off with a low setting over a strobe but I understand the desire to include the strobe since it’s marketed as an emergency light. If that’s the sole purpose (such as in a car) then the strobe may be a good thing.

Moreover, this clamplight isn’t waterproof like the other one. Again, not really a problem, just a feature that would have been nice given that the price for this clamplight is only a few dollars less than the waterproof version.

Since it’s an emergency flashlight there is a red-tinted emergency “beacon” that snaps onto the head. At first I didn’t realize what it was for as I didn’t realize this was an “emergency” light. Regardless, I actually had a bit of difficulty getting it to snap in place. Even worse, I broke one of the three retaining tabs getting it off the first time I tried! That was disappointing to be sure. In fact, what I would have preferred was that (1) the beacon screws on/off and (2) that the entire emergency beacon be a solid piece so that I could use it to preserve night vision if I so desired.

This clamplight can also stand and does so more easily than the waterproof version but I wouldn’t suggest that it’s very stable since the way it stands is by simply adjusting the clamping feet to be flat together and then balancing the flashlight on those. This isn’t very stable whatsoever and I wouldn’t expect it to stand upright on anything other than a flat surface. At least the waterproof “big brother” had a good chance to stay upright once you got it there.

Ultimately, I was disappointed in this particular emergency flashlight. If I hadn’t reviewed the  Blackfire Clamplight Waterproof flashlight first (and subsequently enjoyed it) this Blackfire Clamplight Emergency flashlight may have had fewer letdowns. For the money, go with the other clamping light… that one I liked a lot and still do.

Regardless, you can learn more about Blackfire products here as well as other clamping lights.

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Blackfire Clamplight Waterproof LED Light: 170 Lumens, 360 Degree Swivel

A few weeks back I received this Blacklight Clamplight to review. As I’ve never owned a quality clamping light before (I have owned poorly made ones) I said “sure” and have begun to really like it!

Though I still prefer a quality headlamp for survival situations such as a bug out, these clamp lights are nice for around the house work. Moreover, as a result of technology you get a LOT more for your money these days. 🙂

The clamplight specs:

  • IPX7 water resistance rated – protected against water immersion for 30 minutes at a depth of 1 meter
  • Hand held, clamps, stands & floats
  • 190 lumen hi/lo & strobe
  • Rubberized coating
  • Head pivots 360 degrees

I do want to mention that although the Amazon description says it’s 190 lumens the box says 170 lumens. That’s not a big deal to me just a clarification to point out.

Here’s a bit more about the light from Amazon:

Waterproof flashlight – Blackfire’s new concept puts to shame all other flashlights sitting in your toolbox. CLAMPLIGHT clamps virtually anywhere and stays out of the way. Shaped like a traditional flashlight for easy portability or to fit in a belt or pocket. It converts from a clamp light to a stand-up light by simply pressing the clamp and sliding the lock feature. Non-skid feet swivel down for stability. The GOOD DESIGN™ Award is a further acknowledgement of the company position as “the innovation leader in the flashlight category”.

My thoughts:

I can say I like this clamplight a lot. It’s about the same size as the Coast flashlight I reviewed a while back, though, a bit wider and lighter weight. Because it floats (yes, I did try it for about 30 minutes in my kitchen sink) the light is ever so slightly top-heavy (towards the head) but it’s not a big deal when holding as a normal flashlight and you won’t even notice after about three seconds.

Anyway, in my opinion, the true test of a clamplight is what it can clamp to and I’m happy to report that it clamped to about everything I tried, from a ladder to my coffee table, doors and even a 2×4 in the workshop. That’s nice.

The one gripe I had is that the light can be made to hold the clamps open so that it can stand upright which turned out to be significantly difficult to do the first few times I tried. Personally, I don’t really care if a clamp light can stand upright… it’s supposed to clamp. FYI, after a few more tries it got easier.

What I really liked about the light is the fact that the head swivels 360 degrees around and also pivots back on itself well past 90 degrees. With this combination you can get the light to shine almost anywhere you need it from a single clamped position.

It does seem to me that the swivel/pivot is easy enough to move without serious effort yet strong enough to stay in place. Granted, I didn’t try clamping it to a jackhammer to test that it stays put but for around the house, it’s perfectly fine.

The unit does use 3 AAA batteries which is nice for recharging capabilities.

As for light output, it’s plenty good for seeing what you’re doing even in complete darkness and actually shines quite a distance. The light comes with three brightness settings: high, low, and strobe. Personally, I have no need for a strobe setting, especially on a clamplight. The high and low settings were distinguishable enough so as to be obviously different… a pet peeve of mine when they’re not noticeably different. 😉

Overall, this Blacklight Clamplight is a good light for the money at less than $24 shipped. It functions as expected, clamps to darn near anything, swivels and pivots great, has a bright LED light, and is even waterproof.

If you’re looking for a quality clamp light, this is a good one to get. You can learn more about Blackfire as a company here and more of their lights.

blackfire-clamplight-waterproof

D.Light LED Solar Rechargeable S20 Area Lantern Review: Great Buy for <$20!

During out last camping trip I finally had a good change to use this d.light S20 lantern I’d purchased a while back. I was excited about it since the lantern was less than $20 shipped and promised good things. 🙂 Here’s my take on the lantern…

Battery Life

The website’s info states that the S20 can be run for 8 hours on a full battery which, in my tests, is way off. I was able to run the S20 on low for well over 9 hours (I did so overnight at home before camping and without charging it first) and was surprised to see it still going strong. In fact, I then choose to turn the lantern on high for a few hours just to get it to drain completely but it was still going! That was nice to see. How long does it really last? I don’t know as I never tried to drain it fully.

Brightness (and low vs. high setting)

On it’s own the S20 seems rather bright. In fact, I choose to gather five of the cheapo patio solar lights and attempted to subjectively compare their collective light versus the S20 and, in my opinion, the S20 outshone them no problem. Compared to any other lantern, be it the battery-operated Rayovac Sportsman LED lantern that I’m fan of or a typical propane lantern, there is NO comparison as the S20 is nowhere near as bright. Using it while camping made this clearly obvious. That doesn’t mean the S20 isn’t useful for a variety of off-grid tasks or for around the house, just don’t expect it to light up the night like a traditional lantern would.

The only actual gripe I have is that there is very little perceived difference in the low and high settings. Yes, there is a difference but it’s not super obvious; sometimes I wasn’t sure whether I had the lantern on low or high and found myself turning off the lantern just to be sure I had it right. In my opinion, I would rather have had the high setting be brighter. Yes, this would use more battery and maybe require a brighter (or additional) LED but I think the trade-off would be worth it.

Lightweight

They’re right that the S20 is very lightweight (it’s only 7 ounces). Compared to any alternative lantern that uses batteries or fuel there is no comparison! A toddler could carry the S20 around for hours on end without a problem. The lack of weight also makes it super easy to hang or mount nearly anywhere, from a tree branch to being tacked up to a wall. In fact, I recently hanged it from a thumb tack in a bulletin board and the lantern didn’t fall. Granted, that wouldn’t be a permanent solution but it worked.

Shape

They say the shape is supposed to be akin to a traditional lantern and I guess you could say that. The thing is that the S20 is shaped so that it’s narrower at the base and wider at the top (where the solar panel is). Initially, I was worried that this top-heavy design would make it unstable but the lantern had no problem staying upright, even on a wooden park bench at our campsite. That said, I would still have preferred the shape be the opposite of what it is now, that is, wider at the bottom. Maybe there’s a reason why it’s shaped the way it is, such as to diffuse the light better or to make it hang… I don’t know. In my tests the shape isn’t a problem, just a preference.

Renewable Solar Power

The S20 is renewable since it uses a small solar panel to recharge the light. I would say the panel is about three times the size of the cheapo patio solar lights you can purchase at Walmart for about $1. I’m not sure how this relates to it’s ability to recharge, though, they say it’s a “highly efficient” solar panel. I have no way to verify that statement. I can say that I repeated the overnight test after having let the lantern sit out all day to charge in the sunlight and the test was successfully repeated. Oh, it can also be charged via a USB cable but I wasn’t interested in that capability.

Final Thoughts

For less than $20 shipped it’s hard to go wrong with the d.Light S20 Solar Lantern. It lights up a dark room (or picnic table) well enough to see what you’re doing and lasts surprisingly longer on a single charge than I anticipated. Since it’s lightweight it’s easy to carry or hang. The ability to charge via solar is the main selling point here. Yes, you can purchase a dozen or more patio solar lights at similar cost but those things never seem to last very long. And, though I’ve only had this lantern for a month or two, I feel like it’s rugged enough to take some abuse. I expect to take the S20 Lantern with us camping for years to come.

Stats About the S20

According to the dLightDesign.com website:

  • The d.light S20 provides 8 hours of light on a full battery and uses proprietary, highly efficient LEDs. It provides 360-degree space lighting for any environment or focused light for studying, working, or cooking.
  • The d.light S20 is designed to be extremely user-friendly and flexible. It has a detachable handle and includes an integrated solar panel that makes recharging simple and easy. The S20 can be carried, hung or placed on any surface to effectively illuminate the surrounding area.
  • A highly efficient solar panel is conveniently integrated into the d.light S20 to make solar charging simple and easy. The S20 can also be charged from a USB source using the USB cable or a standard Nokia AC charger.
  • The d.light S20 is designed as a replacement for the kerosene lantern for a rural off-grid household. Its familiar lantern-like shape makes it easy for our customers to use and eliminates the need to purchase kerosene for light.
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Coast HP14 High Performance Focusing 339 Lumen LED Flashlight Review

I’ve been interested in a new, quality flashlight for some time now and, though I do like my trusty Maglite and even the lesser expensive Coleman Max, this Coast HP14 LED Flashlight stands to supplant both of them. Here’s a few details direct from Amazon’s website so we’re on the same page here:

  • Light output: High – 339 lumens; Low – 56 lumens
  • Runtime: High – 4 hours 45 minutes; Low – 20 hours
  • Beam distance: High – 175 meters (574 ft); Low – 36 meters (118 ft)
  • Impact and water resistant casing. 8.38 inch length
  • 4 X AA batteries are included to allow for immediate use

Light output and adjustable beam

I can say that this flashlight gives off a good amount of light, more than the Coleman Max I keep at my bedside and certainly more than the old style 2 D-cell Maglite I had laying around. Moreover, the adjustable beam is nice as it’s easily adjustable from a floodlight pattern (shown on left below) to a bulls-eye pattern (shown on right below) and everything in-between. Just push the lens in and out to adjust the pattern:

coast-flashlight-1

Beam lock is nice option, but…

The beam lock is probably not necessary considering the beam adjustment mechanism has a good feel to it and won’t readily move without you making it do so. In fact, you can set the flashlight lens-down and it won’t accidentally adjust due to the weight of the flashlight.

Of course, you do have the option to lock the beam in place by twisting the lens which is fine but happens to be a significant annoyance because the amount of movement needed to lock the flashlight beam in place is so small it’s hardly noticeable. In fact, the movement needed was so slight that I choose to line up a piece of duct tape and attempt to show how little the lens moves when locked. The flashlight is unlocked on the left and locked on the right:

coast-flashlight-2

Anyway, I thought it was something that I would get over and I did… I just don’t lock the beam anymore. 😉

The only other preference that I would have had was to NOT put the on/off button at the butt end of the flashlight. While you can turn it on and off with one hand, generally, it’s a two-handed job… not the best of plans for a flashlight I may need to rely upon at a moment’s notice. Regardless it’s not a deal-breaker whatsoever, just a personal preference for the on/off button to be on the side.

Regardless, the above two concerns are hardly worth worrying about.

Comparison to my other two favorite flashlights

I typically rely on a 2 x D-cell Maglite (which I’ve had forever) and/or a Coleman Max (I think I picked it up at Walmart quite some time ago for about $20 at the time). The Maglite is, obviously, a D-cell flashlight whereas the Coleman Max is a 4 x AA flashlight, just like this Coast HP14 LED Flashlight so it’s the best comparison I have. Here’s a photo of them together for size comparison:

coast-flashlight-3

Overall, the Coast flashlight is slightly smaller than either of the others but weights just a bit more than the Coleman and definitely a lot less than the Maglite, which is nice. To be honest, I switched to the Coleman over a Maglite as my “daily” flashlight because it uses AA batteries. The Coast light also uses AA batteries which is a HUGE benefit to most preppers because they’re easier to come by and easier to recharge.

One of the reasons people choose Maglites is because they’re super-durable and I feel that this Coast flashlight is up to the task. The body is durable and seems well-constructed. Apparently, it’s impact and water-resistant but I didn’t test either of those qualities.

As for light output, walking around outside in the dark and shining it around the property, I could see everything quite clearly and the beam was… pleasing. Not sure how else to put it.

I did take some pictures when it was almost dark with all three flashlights but they came out poorly, so much so, that these photos don’t do justice to any of the flashlights (click each thumbnail for larger image):

Whereas the Coleman flashlight had nothing more than pinpoint beam, the Maglite was broader, and the Coast flashlight actually brought the best of both worlds. Suffice it to say that the Coast HP14 far out-performed the other flashlights hands-down. Like I said, the above photos don’t do it justice. In fact, I can see now that I was using sub-par equipment for quite some time now!

I should also note that the Coast flashlight also comes with a handy case that easily attaches to a belt. I’d imagine this works well for people in law enforcement or security.

Final thoughts

Overall, this flashlight is well made. The casing is very sturdy and I really do like the fact that it runs on AA batteries. Beyond that, the adjustable beam is easy to use once I choose to ignore the beam lock.

I realize I also neglected to mention that it does have low output option which can be selected by quickly turning the flashlight on, then off, then on again. Personally, I didn’t use it hardly at all but I can see times where it might prove useful.

And, though you can purchase the Coast HP14 LED Flashlight on Amazon, it’s also readily available at local Walmart stores too. As for me, this flashlight has wound up at my bedside as my trusty “daily” use flashlight which means it’s also my emergency use flashlight. If you’re looking for a quality flashlight that won’t break the bank, this one’s for you.