*Luci and LuminAid Inflatable Solar Lanterns*
By: Gottin_Himmel
31 October 2019

Most families rely on oil lamps, candles, flashlights and perhaps a couple of battery-power lanterns when faced with a power outage. While lighting sources with open flames are fire hazards inside the home, the battery-powered ones are safer but still have a few drawbacks. What happens when all the batteries go flat and the local stores have sold out of replacements?

I use more rechargeable AA batteries these days rather than those old stand-by alkaline types. If all else fails, I can snuggle the dead ones into a charger and recharge them using the USB port in my vehicle. But in the case of a long-term grid-down situation, that might be a bad use for gasoline.

Solar-power lights have been around for years, and most of us have at least a few of those little garden stake lights lurking beside our sidewalks and patios. You can always bring those inside if the power goes out. They provide enough light to keep you from accidentally falling down your basement steps, but you won't be reading any instruction manuals by them.

Enter the world of inflatable solar lanterns. There are several brands on the market these days, but I prefer the LuminAid and Luci varieties. I've tested a few models over the past couple of years, and I like them so much that I give them as Christmas and birthday gifts.

My first foray into inflatable solar lights was the purchase of a simple Luci light, bought on Amazon for about $20 in early 2017. It is still going strong and has a place in my emergency first-aid bag.

Original Luci Light:

From experience, the original Luci light does its job rather well as emergency lighting. As a reading light, you need to turn it to High, reducing its run time to about three or four hours. Fortunately, the light comes equipped with a small strap, so you can hang it above you as you work or read.

It takes a long time to recharge the Luci light quickly during cloudy weather. Mpowered, the company that makes it, has rolled out a newer version that can be recharged using a USB port. Unfortunately, the company still doesn't offer a version that can recharge electronic devices.

My hands-down favorites are the various LuminAid lights. Ranging in price from about $25 to $70, they are good quality and generally hold up very well even with regular (and sometimes abusive) use. I'm careful with my gear, but I will thrash things to test just how good it is.

LuminAid PackLite Nova:

I am still using the first Nova that I bought nearly two years ago. I find that it doesn't hold a charge as well as it used to, blinking out after only an hour or so on the Medium setting. On the other hand, I have used it more often than an average person and I have no complaints. I used it for a full summer as a reading light on my porch and many times afterward during short power outages.

LuminAid PackLite Max 2-in-1 Phone Charger:

This is my second Max. I killed the first one by fully inflating it and letting it hang outside on my porch during a heat wave. Uhhhhh, air expands when it is heated. Suffice it to say that the Max gave a satisfying "pop" one day when it was in the upper 90s. One seam blew out, warping the solar panel in the process.

I can't remember when I bought the second one. I've bought several of these in the past two years, handing them out like party favors to family members and friends. My eldest grandson absconded with one, put it through it paces at National Guard camp and is still using a year later. I've abused my current one only slightly less than its predecessor, losing the use of the USB port but still rechargeable using the sun.

There is little that can go wrong with either the Luci or LuminAid lights, making them nearly perfect for carrying around in your vehicle, suitcase or first aid kit when they aren't living in a box with your other emergency lighting sources. And they are totally safe for use in households with children, the elderly and rambunctious pets.

But there are a couple of things worth remembering:

Don't inflate the lights fully if they are going to be spending an extended period in a warm place.

Use the cords provided with the lights when recharging them. They are designed to deliver just the right amount of electrical current during USB charging.

There is a price point for everybody. You can pick up one of the smaller Luci lights for about $15 on Amazon sometimes. The LuminAid Max has been joined by the Hero 2-in-1 Phone Charger, which delivers more light but comes with a $69.99 price tag.

No matter which one you buy, it will be a safe investment that performs well.


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