LED Solar Rechargeable Area Lantern: D.Light S20

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This D.Light Solar Lantern (the d.Light S20 Lantern to be specific) was brought to my attention by the Rev. Dr. Harris who occasionally comments here. I was intrigued so I recently ordered one but haven’t had it long enough to thoroughly review the light. That said, I still wanted to point it out here today. 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.

I should point out that it is fairly lightweight and I thought it would be too top-heavy but seems to stand well on a flat surface. Even though the handle is removeable it stays in place well, though, I’m not quite sure why I would ever want to remove the handle.

I also noticed that the light doesn’t come with any instructions. That’s not really a big deal since it’s relatively straightforward to use and charge, however, I’m not quite sure how long it’s supposed to take to recharge either via the provided USB cable (connected to a computer) or via the sun. Regardless, I’m going to take it camping in a month or two for a real test.

At first glance, this d.Light S20 seems to be a quality solar powered lantern option and at less than $20, one or two won’t set you back if you want to try it yourself. The best part is that the S20 doesn’t require you to have gallons upon gallons of fuel stored, to stockpile batteries, or even to have the ability to recharge AA or AAA batteries, though, you should work towards this capability regardless. And, since it’s solar-powered it’s young-kid-friendly too.

Dorcy LED Headlamps: Remarkably Nice Lights for Hiking, Camping, Bug Out, and More

dorcy-headlampsI was sent two Dorcy LED headlight flashlights–I prefer to call them headlamps– the 41-2096 and 41-2097 a few weeks back to review and, to be frank, I’m glad I got them. They’re quite nice for the cost (at less than $20 each) and may likely supplant my current favorite headlamp, the Energizer Pro 7.

Ever since I purchased my first headlamp years ago I’ve never looked back. Gone are the days of holding a flashlight between my legs, wedged in my armpit or, dare I say… my teeth. Headlamps are wonderful inventions to say the least. If you don’t own one or several you’re missing out.

What I’ve Learned About Headlamps

Now, if you haven’t noticed there are dozens–if not hundreds–of options out there and I’ve tried a few of them over the years. Since then I’ve learned a few things including:

  • Always ensure it has an adjustable strap (I had one in the past that didn’t), these do. Most all should these days.
  • Best are headlamps that use common batteries and not funny watch style batteries (they’re not rechargeable), these use AAA batteries and the better headlamps do. Plus AAA batteries provide more light output.
  • Weight does matter and these are relatively lightweight at about 8 ounces, especially for headlamps that use AAA batteries. Compared to my previous favorite that’s about the same weight if I remember right.
  • Comfort REALLY matters! And, while I still prefer the feel of the Energizer headlamp because it has a nice foam backing, that backing has worn down a bit and will eventually give way. These Dorcy headlamps simply use the softness of the insides of the strap which is fine in most cases and should last for years to come.
  • Ensure the headlamp has a swivel (or tilt) so you can adjust the headlamp downward toward your hands rather than bending your neck. It’s save a sore neck the next day, that’s for sure. These headlamps adjust 50 degrees, perfect for this task.

Minor Differences in Dorcy Headlamps Make for a HUGE Difference in Feel

If you missed it, I received two headlamps: the 41-2096 and 41-2097. Suffice it to say that for the most part these headlamps are almost identical. They’re identical in shape, size, weight, straps, swivel function, batteries used, etc. Their one and only difference–besides the color of the light bezel–is that the 2096 has a frosted lens and the 2097 does not.

Why does this matter?

Well, it seems that it makes ALL the difference in how the light is disseminated. Whereas the 2097 has a spot beam light which is typical of most headlamps (at least all that I’ve owned) the 2096 distributes light much more evenly and, let’s call it, in a softer fashion. You can see the difference in the “soft” area lighting of the 2096 on the left versus the 2097 on the right:

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And, while I had gravitated to the direct beam of the 2097 initially, I found myself being ever-drawn to the soft and welcoming glow of the 2096. Yes, it really did make a difference to me. In fact, I much prefer that style of headlamp for most any use I can think of. Whether you purchase these headlamps or not, I suggest you look for one with a frosted lens like the 2096.

Comparing these Dorcy Headlamps to the Energizer 7

One of my complaints of the Energizer 7 (links to my original review) when I reviewed it quite a while back was that the button was obnoxiously difficult to push and that is readily apparently when compared to the ease with which the buttons can be pushed on these Dorcy headlamps; there really is a big difference in the two. Honestly, I have no idea why Energizer allowed such tolerances.

Moreover, perhaps the biggest complaint I had was that I had to cycle through four different light modes (at least one of which was not necessary) with the Energizer 7 whereas these Dorcy headlamps have three light modes. Personally, I prefer fewer modes and since the button is so stiff on the Energizer, I often found myself counting button pushes until I could turn it off. Yes, it’s that annoying but I guess I got used to it over time. Comparing to these Dorcy headlamps brought this back to the forefront.

One thing Energizer did right, however, is that they incorporated a red light as the first mode when turned on which helps to preserve night vision. These Dorcy headlamps do not have that option. Instead they’ve included a flashing third mode (in addition to high and low like most all headlamps do). If you’re a bicyclist or somebody who wants to warn others you’re there then this is a useful option. For me, I’d much prefer the red light instead. That said, the flashing mode may come in handy in some survival situations such as if you’re stranded and want to alert others to your presence. A blinking light is far more attractive than not.

About the only other mention-able difference is that the Dorcy battery compartment covers were a bit difficult to remove at first but after a few times taking them on and off they became easier to manage. I should note that the Energizer 7 headlamp’s battery cover is a much better design in that it has two latches that secure the cover in place which is nice.

Overall Conclusions

Other than one or two relatively minor annoyances (the battery cover and lack of foam cushion) as well as one preference (the inclusion of a flashing/blinking mode rather than the red light) which could actually be useful in an emergency, these headlamps are truly a very good option for whatever you choose, be it hiking, camping, bug out bags, or just everyday use.

These headlamps do everything I would expect, swivel as needed, are relatively lightweight, and run on AAA batteries which is a must. Their light output is very comparable (if not better) than most any other headlamp I’ve owned, including the Energizer 7. In all honesty, you can’t go wrong with either the  41-2096  (the one with the frosted lens for a softer light) or the 41-2097  (more like most headlamps). Personally, I prefer the 41-2096 after having used them for a while.

Do yourself a favor: purchase a headlamp for each of your bug out bags and try them out either around the house or on your next camping trip… you’ll be glad you did.

Buy These Wireless Battery Powered Ultra-Bright LED Spotlights

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About two months ago I linked to a video on these Mr. Beams MB360 Wireless Motion Sensing Spotlights which I feel are a very good deal for the price at about $20 each (a 3-pack is $50 total).

In the same post, however, I mentioned the fact that I choose to go with a more powerful Mr. Beams MB390 Wireless Motion Sensing Spotlights (3 pack) which I feel are a better upgrade.

For starters, both models run on D-cell batteries, the MB360 uses 3 D-cells whereas the MB390 uses 4 D-cells. This makes either option able to be recharged fairly easily depending on the type of battery charger you buy and if you purchase some AA to D-cell battery adapters then it’s even easier to recharge AA batteries and keep the spolights functioning.

The’re also both weatherproof, install quickly using a few screws, have auto shutoff, etc.

Now on to a few differences…

The MB390 model is 300 lumen output as opposed to 140 lumens for the MB360. I know this doesn’t mean that they’re double the brightness but from my brief research online watching videos and reading plenty of reviews, the MB390 spotlights do seem significantly brighter.

The MB390 spotlights also appear to have a larger coverage area despite the fact that their specs state 400 sq-ft of coverage area for the MB390 as opposed to 350 sq-ft of coverage area for the MB360 spotlights. From my On my way! experience, the MB390 covers quite a bit of area and is quite bright.

Honestly, if I just looked at the specs then I would probably have purchased the MB360 spotlights without question. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. In fact, some reviewers claimed they didn’t like the “extra” brightness of the MB390 model after owning the MB360! Personally, I prefer it since the entire point in a security spotlight is to see more when it’s dark out… thereby hopefully blinding any would-be bad guy into immediate and utter submission. 😉

Anyway, there are a few more slight differences. In particular, it seems the MB360 spolights auto-shutoff after 30 seconds of operation whereas the MB390 shutoff after 20 seconds. There’s also a slight difference in effective range and “degree of vision” but it’s relatively negligible, if you ask me.

Ultimately I can’t compare the two because I never purchased a set of the  Mr. Beams MB360 spotlights. I can say that I’m happy with the 3-pack of Mr. Beams MB390 Spotlights that I did purchase. I feel they provide plenty of light and were a good deal for the price. That said, I’m wondering if I could have just spent about the same amount of money and purchased two 3-packs of the Mr. Beams MB360 for about $100 and had six total lights!

Either way I’d say having a few battery-powered spotlights for if/when the power is out can be useful. And, besides, they’re easy to install and can quickly add security lighting around your house to precisely where you want it.

A Candle That WON’T Burn Your House Down!? Ok, I Had to Try It…

kevins-kandlesA few weeks back I was contacted by Kevin’s Kandles as something I may want to share you fine folks. They’re touted as “A Safer, Cost-Effective, and Environmentally Friendly Emergency Candle” and more specifically one that won’t burn your house down, well, they didn’t put it *exactly* like this but that’s the idea, after all.

And, since I’m well aware that candle fires are a HUGE source of house fires to begin with–and one of the biggest causes of fires after a power outage if not THE biggest reason–I had to try them!

So I jumped over to their website, ordered a pack of the candles for less than $10 and waited. To be honest, I had no idea what I was actually purchasing. (I really spent all of about 30 seconds at the time buying them.) I figured it was $10 so whatever it was, the purchase wasn’t going to sorely disappoint me.

That said, when the package arrived I was a bit taken aback because I actually expected to see a few candles arrive on my doorstep but, instead, wound up with a very small package that contained this:

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What you see above is a package of 100 small cotton wicks and five clear plastic floats. Again, not candles. Since I was confused I choose to consult the directions when it became obvious to me I was creating a DIY oil candle.

Ok, what gives? How was this supposed to be safer than an ordinary candle? IMO, an oil candle is likely to be LESS safe given that oil can spread quick when knocked over. This wasn’t what I expected at all!!

Well, after watching this video, I get what they’re doing now (note: the video also shows how to assemble which is super easy too)…

Here’s what my own oil candle looked like:

kevin-kandle-2

Sure, it’s not going to produce much light (no makeshift candle will) but you can definitely combine them into a larger bowl, for example, and use more than one wick/float combo at a time to make something you can actually use.

There are others reasons you may be interested in these candles, including being fairly low cost per candle-hour (one pack is supposed to provide up to 100o hours of light) and they’re also apparently environmentally-friendly since the wicks are made from cotton.

As for me, it’s all about being safer. And while Kevin’s Kandles weren’t at all what I expected to see, I’m not disappointed either. Even if the idea saves one life, these candles was well worth mentioning here. At the very least this concept could be a good one to implement for any of your own DIY oil candles in the future. Check ’em out. Help a small business. Save a few lives. 😉

 

Another Covert X-Mas Gift: The Original Glow in the Dark Nite GlowRings

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Nite GlowRing

Here’s another very cool “covert” gift idea that my buddy Doug pointed out the other day. They’re called Nite GlowRings and according to their website:

“Nite GlowRings and Firefly MiniGlows provide a safe, reliable and cost-effective visual tool for finding assets and locations in the dark. Generating continuous light output over a service life of many years and irrespective of weather conditions, temperature, altitude and humidity, a trigalight® will operate normally, helping the user locate equipment, paths and positions in the dark. Nine colour options enable markers to be assigned differing functions.”

They actually have three styles of glowrings to choose from, the Traditional Tinted Glowring as shown above, a Mini Glowring which is much shorter, and a Crystal Clear Glowring if you don’t like the tinted sort. Apparently, they never need recharging, have no battery, and last for over 10 years… which makes me wonder what they’re made of. Actually, you can read about Trigalight Technology here (and their FAQ here) about what they’re made of and plenty more but, suffice it to say, they’re tritium glowrings and completely safe.

All health considerations aside (and I’m kidding, of course) the cost is 10 British pounds for one (your choice) which equates to about $16.40 U.S. dollars. You also get a discount the more you purchase. I haven’t tried them so I cannot speak for how bright they actually are and I’m sure you could not read a book with one but if you’re in a pinch trying to find your keys in the pitch dark, well, these Nite Glowrings may just save the day.

COMMUNICATIONS: A Different Side Of The Story by MorrisB

We all recognize the importance of communications in an emergency and hopefully most of us have taken steps to address that need. Many articles, in fact have been written stressing the importance of being able to communicate for families trying to locate whereabouts of family members when a disaster hits; group link-ups, caravan coordination and tactical teams out on exploratory missions are examples. Further, effective communications are critical to determine the extent of the disaster or threat and whether buggin’ in or evacuation might be required.

CB, FRS, GMRS and Ham radios have been suggested. And to compliment that two-way capability it is necessary to monitor news and government announcements about the crisis. Emergency services scanners provide on-time responses and reports by police and other services. As important as this is in your planning and incorporation into your preparedness capability, allow me to share a different perspective. First of all, the comments above and all of the related articles focus on immediate, post-disaster needs (and do not take into consideration training and equipment capability efforts) and I need to emphasize that short of an EMP attack or regional earthquake sort of emergency, most serious threats will likely be somewhat slow in occurring. It is critical that we read the “tea leaves” to properly respond.

Now, how do we know what is really going on out in that great big world? We realize that the main stream media–TV, such as the NBC, CBS and CNN types, or the print media such as the New York Times provide a slanted view of what’s current news. Even the Fox News focus’s on the big national events or human interest stories. We preppers get most of our information from various blogs and websites on the internet as you are doing now. Okay so what, you ask? Well, let’s make believe we’re a little paranoid for a minute. What have we been reading or seeing on TV? Current coverage is about the threat of cyber warfare tapping into the computers on the major news sources, big business corporations and even government agencies,

possibly by sources in China. The government has even suggested that terrorists might utilize the internet for nefarious purposes.

Are we being de-sensitized to the government planning on taking over control of the internet? It certainly could be interpreted that way. And what might be the result of government regulation of the internet? Control! Any website that promotes independence from the scrutiny of a government agency, be committed to the U.S. Constitution or who questions governmental policies or even be affiliated with the NRA or Tea Party may be put “off line” or be required to take a more politically correct policy.

Might that happen? We’ve read of president’s having some kind of a “hit list.” The current president has untold “czar’s” regulating our federal agencies resulting in monstrous paperwork requirements or impossible objectives. Just ask some of the coal companies for an example. Yeah, but what’s that got to do with me and my preparedness efforts you may ask?

Well, you can’t adequately prepare or have enough info (spelled intelligence) to decide to bug out of the city before everyone else unless you read honest, forthright and current thoughts and information from an open internet. And an oppressive government may not be the only thing to limit meaningful information. An EMP attack may knock out our whole information-sharing system.

What can we do? Locally, we can contact our local paper and see if they can, and will share preparedness information and advise to your hometown community. The overall health of your community affects your personal ability to successfully survive the threat. Or you can approach the editor and emphasize all of the natural disasters that seem to be occurring all over the country recently and ask him if you can write a weekly column in the paper on preparedness tips. And if you’re speaking in behalf of the Red Cross or your local CERT team, you’ll have more credibility to the editor and community.

For longer range information input get in contact with your local ham radio club and arrange for a system of general information sharing to the community by sharing reports they receive. Attempting to make contact via CB radio with the long-haul truck drivers might be another source of more distant information if the regular media sources are somehow shut down. When TSHTF, I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to talk about what they’ve seen or heard. And finally, if an EMP attack or major solar flare shuts the grid down, the only means of information in the community might be regular messages posted in the town square or local super market. And finally, in the
unlikely circumstance that we see an overly oppressive government implement martial law and shut down or control all media (it is one of the current, but stand-by executive orders) you might want to utilize that means of communication used by the patriots before the Revolutionary War–Committees of Correspondence. But remember, you have to know what is going on and have a way to share that
information and it’s called communications.

MorrisB

An Expedient Long Term Lighting Option (Easier Than I Thought!)

I’ve been into lighting lately. I’ve compared popular lanterns recently, tried my hand at a Crisco candle (and again here) but one thing I haven’t figured out was how to provide expedient long term lighting that could work with my small solar setup. In fact, when I originally attempted my solar setup, I bought two 8-Ah (amp-hour) batteries but later decided that they were simply too small for running a laptop, our portable DVD player, and so on. But then I had an idea when I was going through some of our camping supplies and came across an extra LED camping light.

The setup was about as simple as it can get (pictured right). I clipped off the plug end of the camp light, split the positive and negative wires to give me something to work with, and attached two female (spade?) connectors to the wires. I used these connectors because the small 8-Ah battery that I wanted to use had male ends. I should point out that you do need to know which wire is positive and which one is negative. I guessed (sort of) and got it right but I decided to test the setup with the wires on opposite terminals and the light didn’t work, so that confirmed I was right. It’s probably best NOT to do that but I honestly didn’t know how else to be sure!

Anyway, I then decided to try it out and left the light on for a little over four hours. After taking some voltage readings (using a basic multimeter) and then doing some research I realized that I had discharged the battery WAY too far! Oops. 🙂 Here’s what I found:

  • All 12-volt batteries should read right around 12.7 volts when fully charged. When I measured my battery I found it to read about 12.75-12.8 volts (depending on at what time after charging that I measured it) which is a little higher than the expected 12.7 volts; this is likely due to me not letting the battery set long enough for everything to “settle down” because I had just finished topping the battery off using my trickle charger.
  • I then let the light stay on for slightly over four hours. Learning my lesson, I waited several minutes before taking any readings and found the voltage to read right around 11.7 volts. After consulting this deep cycle battery FAQ (and referencing a table in the State of Charge section just below in the link) I found that I had actually discharged my little 8-Ah battery to less than 30% charge… yikes! Nearly everyone says never to go below 50% charge. I went way past that and didn’t look back.
  • Only after I realized this did I choose to do more research–that I should have done beforehand–on the LED light I was powering and found it to be a 15-watt bulb. The math says that a 15-watt bulb uses 1.25 amps at 12 volts (where volts x amps = watts). Now, multiplying 1.25 amps by 4 hours means I used at least 5 amps of current out of my 8-Ah battery, which is obviously less than the 50% thresheold. While it doesn’t quite line up with the table mentioned, it is fairly close and I did run the light longer than an 4 hours I used in to do the math above.

I was actually very impressed with the setup. Here’s a comparison of what a bedroom looks like with this setup and others (click images to enlarge):

OVERHEAD LIGHTS: This is the bedroom with the overhead light on (4 lights total). NO LIGHTS: Believe it or not, this is the bedroom with the lights off (it’s not really THAT dark but the camera isn’t picking up the very little light coming through the window.) CAMP LIGHT: And here is the bedroom with the camp light setup. It’s quite bright and I’m sure I could read by the light provided. RAYOVAC LANTERN: As another comparison, here’s the bedroom lit up with only my Rayovac LED lantern.
       

In my opinion, it’s hard to tell a difference between my camp light and lantern. Since I happen to have a second 8-Ah battery and another camp light (it’s a bit different in design) then I could essentially provide descent light in more than one room. The only major problem I would have is needing to rely on my solar panel and enough sunlight to properly recharge my batteries each day. Certainly, this is not going to happen but even if I could get proper sunlight half of the time then I have effectively doubled my other lighting options. That’s worth it to me.

Crisco Candle Success

I decided to try make my own Crisco candle the other day. I was surprised at how easy it was to make and, more importantly, how long it seems to last. I actually let the candle burn two separate times for a total of about seven hours and it barely made a dent in the level of the Crisco. Granted, it’s not the brightest of lights but if I can get many dozens of hours out of it, I’m not complaining.

I did choose to use materials made for candle making, specifically candle wick and wick tabs, both of which can be had quite inexpensively from Amazon. I think I got both for less than $15 shipped and I can easily make 150 of these small Crisco candles if I wanted (I would need to buy the cans of Crisco, of course). Maybe I could use cotton string and skip the candle wick holders (or makeshift something in their place) but I figured why not buy the right stuff?

Anyway, it was fairly easy to do. I followed the simple directions here, but I should warn you that the video shows the Crisco to fairly viscous, which was not the case when I made my candle:

Here are the parts that I used (click to enlarge):

Obviously, I need the Crisco, and in the middle you’ll note a strand of candle wick (cut to about 1/4″ longer than the height of the Crisco can using the small scissors shown), a small wick tab (used for holding the wick in place at the bottom of the can), and a pair of pliers to crimp the wick tab, a lighter, and a screwdriver that I intended to use to push the wick down into the Crisco (it didn’t work out like that).

This is what the wick tab and candle wick look like when put together (click image to enlarge):

Simply insert the candle wick into the wick tab until flush and crimp with a pair of pliers. Then, push the wick tab into the center of the Crisco until is sits flush with the bottom of the can. The video made it look really easy; he must have heated the Crisco somewhat before doing this because it didn’t work out for me like shown. I had to push the wick tab down with my fingers because the Crisco was not cooperating and, thereby, made a big mess and a gaping hole in the middle. I then had to fix the hole by mushing Crisco around to fill it while holding the top of the candle wick. Like I said, I made a mess.

After seven hours this is how much of the Crisco was used (click to enlarge):

From the measurements taken, I used about 1/2″ of Crisco over 7 hours of use, which is barely a dent in the 3″ tall can. If I extrapolate, I could easily get over 40 hours of light from this single small can and that’s being conservative because I know the Crisco didn’t fill completely to the top and I had actually used some when baking saltine crackers the other day. In reality, I would imagine I could get 50-60 hours using a single wick with this can.

The cool part is that if you choose to use a large 3 pound can of Crisco (the can I used in this experiment was a 1 pound can) you could get 100+ hours of burn time without a problem. That said, the light was fairly dim. In order to use this light effectively, you would probably want to use multiple wicks which, of course, would reduce the burn time. All-in-all I would say the experiment worked out pretty good. I’m not sure if it’s worth the cost and effort to make dozens of these considering that you can still purchase candles fairly inexpensively, but at least I know I can do it.