by Freeman Keller
When I mentioned to the editors of this website that my wife and I were going on a car camping trip through the desert Southwest, they suggested that I take the Luci rechargeable lantern and give it some product testing. We already had a little Coleman battery-powered fluorescent camp lantern, so this would be an interesting comparison.
Photo Left: Coleman battery-powered lantern (left) and the Luci solar-powered lantern (right).
Luci is quite an amazing piece of technology. It weighs just four ounces and is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Made of plastic, it collapses into a flat package with its four solar cells on the outside – we simply put it on the dash of our car to charge during the day (or hang it on the outside of a backpack). At night you inflate it by blowing into a valve – it can be set on a picnic table or hung in the tent.
Photo Right: In transport mode, Luci collapses into a flat package with a footprint the size of a CD.
Luci has a little push-button switch in the center of the photocells which provides two levels of intensity and a strobe light function which I suppose might be useful for emergency signaling but I found kind of obnoxious – you have to go through the strobe function each time you want to turn it off. On my test of the low setting the lantern was still glowing brightly after five hours, on the high setting there is easily enough light for reading or playing games in the tent. They claim that it will retain 50 percent of its charge for up to two years.
Night might fall somewhere…but not in a tent occupied by Luci.
On their website, MPowered, the maker of Luci, does not advertise the light as being for camping but rather as an affordable source of light for those places off the grid:
“MPOWERD does good by doing well. We work to abolish energy poverty through the development and manufacturing of innovative, affordable lighting and power products. Our goal is to provide access to bright light for everyone. Our products will supersede, replace and eliminate the dirty, dangerous, costly and harmful means by which people are presently forced to find light. We also serve governments and industry with our off-grid technology solutions by providing a more dependable and sustainable alternative to the power grid. Lastly, we support innovation and entrepreneurship in developing nations by establishing manufacturing and distribution opportunities for our products.”
Online prices for the Luci lantern range all over the map from $25 to $50, so shop around. Many outlets advertise that for every lantern sold, MPowered donates one to “someone living in energy poverty” – so that’s a pretty cool program. The cheapest place to get the lantern ($15 plus shipping) seems to be right from the source here at MPowered. Delivery takes one to two weeks when buying from the manufacturer.
I was impressed enough by Luci that, when our trip ended, I asked to buy the lantern I had been testing. Now Luci will accompany us on all of our future trips.