Accessories

Gear Review: Solar Camping Lantern

Years ago when my daughters were in the single digit years, “We” didn’t care too much for the dark. Our family lived in a tall poplar tree grove nearly isolated on the dark side of a mountain. When a storm came through the Blue Ridge and blocked out the moonlight, it would get pretty dark. When the power went out at the same time, it was really dark. Too dark for everyone’s liking. I am familiar with dark in the woods.

Where is that flashlight?

The solution I put in place was to have a solar recharging flash light on a window sill in each room. Smart right? This was a great plan because it was always charged and everyone knew where to find their light. I guess I got those about 10 years ago now. That 7 year battery will no longer hold enough charge to power the digital bulb much longer than about 20 seconds. They served their purpose well, but won’t help me now.

Basic rechargeable solar flashlights

Finding a Replacement

I discovered the charging failure on them a few weeks ago when I was preparing my gear for a camping trip. They needed to be properly discarded and replaced before my trip. I like the idea of solar charging, so I started looking over what options are on the market now. There are some that have clever engineering and smart designs. I had a lot of fun looking over features and considering pro/cons of how I thought I would use them.

After a few days of looking them over and thinking on it, I made my choice and placed my order. I’m not sure it is the ultimate lantern out there, but it covered many of my check boxes. There were several features in it that I liked and that combination of size, price and capability was nice.

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The solar panel is embossed and recessed slightly in the lantern base.

The Unboxing

When it arrived I thought about doing one of those “unboxing videos”. I don’t really get what those are all about, so I didn’t do one. Ha. We are just going to keep reading about it here like that is cool enough. Let me get most of the technical information presented here:

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Suaoki solar camping lantern

General Specifications

Dimension collapsed: 3” x 2”Dimension extended: 3” x 5”
Weight: 5.6 ouncesBattery capacity: 800mAh
Charge Time Solar: 4-6 hoursCharge Time Ext Power: 4 hours
Brightness High: 65 lumensBrightness Low: 25 lumens
Run Time High: 5 hoursRun Time Low: 10 hours

This lantern starts off out of the box as a small puck that will fit in any pocket of your pack. It extends to be a little 5” tall lantern that is very stable on the 3” base. There are four small rubber feet spaced around the solar panel square. In lantern form sitting on the feet, the glass panel is protected. The battery and small circuit controller are in the base under the panel, which adds weight to help stabilize it. There is also a semi-circular handle nestled into this end so that it can hang from a limb or tie up somewhere during use.

Lighting Modes

There is a single control button on the side. Depress it once for low brightness mode (25 lumens). Press it twice and you shift to high brightness (65 lumens). The third press of the button puts the light into an safety mode for use in emergencies. The side of the box shows this feature as a “SOS” signal in the 65 lumen mode. You may remember S.O.S. from time in the military or a youth scouts program. Maybe you used it on your Archer Space Patrol walkie talkie when the fort was being overrun in the woods. Well, this isn’t all that. The emergency signal does flash in high mode in half second cycles of on and off. It is an attention getting signal, but there is no real dit-dit-dit, dah-dah-dah to decode. Simply push the button a fourth time and the unit powers down.

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**sckeeertch**. “Break Alpha, Kebari One, Copy? This is Shaku Hunter. We Are Kawashimo Five Niner Meters. Repeat- We Are… “

But Wait! There’s More

Beside the power button is a splash resistant rubber flap cover that hides two ports. One is the small micro USB that is a secondary charge method for the lantern. You can attach the included USB cable to a charging port in your car, a wall outlet or a computer. The red signal LED in the port cover lights up when it is charging. Also tucked in there is a full size USB port. This is a really neat feature. This allow you to connect a device to the lantern for recharging.

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Auxiliary ports to recharge lantern battery, or to discharge to a USB connected device to recharge it slightly

The idea is that you can get a bit of charge for your phone or camera if you are in a pinch. I tested this by fully charging the lantern using a wall outlet. Then I connected my resting smart phone to it and recharged it until the lantern battery was dead. It was slow charging, but did give me a 21% increase in my battery charge over about an hour. A very valuable feature should your really need it.

Can You See That Bear?

Did I mention the clever flashlight that is built into this design? The top of the little device has a small circular clear plastic lens in it. When the bellows are nested and the device is in “puck” form, the light emitting diode is just below the center of the lens, which concentrates the light into a beam. In the dark of night, I set this flashlight up in high mode on a stump. I spotted a tree that dimly illuminated, but clearly lit, and I walked off paces to it. This backyard test of the light beam gave my visibility for about 27-29 paces. To be a bit more exact I taped it at 60-65 feet. Now at that distance the stump could have been a small bear, I couldn’t be sure. I could see enough to know it was there and that is a plus in the woods. This is another really nice engineering add-on.

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Simplicity in Design

Sway the decision maker

I said this lantern had some features that I liked enough to help me decide on it I think I have covered them above, but here is the nutshell.

– Small compact size/weight
– Capable light source
– Solar charging
– Hanging handle
– Aux recharging USB port
– Flashlight lens

Emergency flash mode
– Low cost

This lantern is marketed by Suaoki, a Chinese small business that started in 2015. I became familiar with this company when I sourced a portable battery generator for my CPAP machine. That product is very well made and super capable. When I was researching lantern styles and designs, I came across this one made by Suaoki. That was a name I was familiar with. They market some very interesting battery products.

You can review their product offerings at suaoki.com
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Don’t Worry, Be Happy

I know there are a lot of lighting options for camping and outdoor areas. I am really thrilled with this one. It lit the common area of our camp very nicely in the dark nights. There was a very cool experience we shared each night with the cool white light on these small lanterns. I’m looking forward to sharing that story soon also. If you are looking for a new lighting source for your adventures at woods edge, I hope you find a good one.

Years ago “we” didn’t care too much for the dark and still don’t. These two Suaoki lantern pucks are going to sit on the window sill in two bedrooms of the house. A perfect no nonsense solution to emergency lighting when the power goes out at home. Rest easy girls, Dad has you covered.


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