June 05, 2010

Quick Review: K-Light Solar Lantern

M. saw this solar-powered LED lantern mentioned in Audubon magazine and wanted to try it as a summer alternative to the Coleman lanterns (both liquid and gas-fueled*) that we use in the camping trailer.

The maker, PiSAT Solar, has been working with a foundation to make these lanterns available in African villages "where people still rely mostly on air polluting and potentially dangerous kerosene lamps to light up their homes after dark."

Does it "cast a brilliant light" as the company claims? Yes and no.

Our test is whether or not we can read by it. The K-Light's design sends light up from LEDs to reflect off a mirrored cone and spread sideways and down. But even at the high setting, the light is too dim for comfortable reading unless the lantern is tipped over to give extra light on one side, leaving the person sitting opposite in the shadow.

As a flashlight--held horizontally by the legs--it will help you find your tent, but the lantern's top casts a big round shadow in the center of the beam. If you want a focused beam for searching, get a Maglite or something.

For just sitting around, dressing and undressing, cooking and eating, the lantern light would be adequate.

But in terms of light output, I do not think LED technology has caught up with the good old single-mantle Coleman lantern yet.

 My other worry is the solar panel itself, which measures about 3.5 x 6.5 inches. I had already experimented with small solar panels to serve as 12-volt trickle chargers, and I learned that those panels are fragile. You would have to pack the panel carefully when traveling and treat it like a precious jewel.

K-Light solar lantern, $59.95 with solar panel. AC charger $19.95.

* The gas canisters are convenient but do not last long. The only place that I have ever seen a recycling drop-off for them was at Yellowstone National Park—and who knows what campground-operator Xanterra actually does with them after the park visitors go home?


Heather Houlahan said...

Solar + LED not quite there yet -- but getting there, getting there! The two technologies are very promising when married, and the cost is coming down.

A cheaper alternative is a couple LED solar path lights from a big box.

I have pulled up my path lights and used them instead of candles during power outages.

Last week I bought some for $1.50 each.

Chas S. Clifton said...

We have some solar path lights too--just got them--but they look like large dragonflies, etc. I suppose they could be used as "candles," however. Interesting idea.

Chas S. Clifton said...

But my main concern about traveling with the K-Light is protecting the solar panel. Will have to reinforce the box that the lantern came in.