MPOWERD Luci Aura Inflatable Solar Lantern
I admit - when my husband succumbed to the checkstand display and brought the $24.99 thing home, I was skeptical and not just a little bit annoyed...what in the world were we going to do with yet another camping contraption that we really didn't need and that would probably get destroyed at some point during the two weeks we spend every summer at the backpacking camp I run?
But I was totally and completely WRONG. Not only are the seven colors a heck of a lot of fun, but the eighth color -- a regular white light -- is bright enough to illuminate our entire tent. We acted like little kids, scrolling through the colors, trying to figure out what "mood" we were in (until some other camp staff got in on the act and decided that our tent was the Red Light District, so whenever my husband or I returned after fixing/finding/chasing bears/solving some problem or other late at night, the light was usually changed to red...but that's another story). On the rare rain-free nights this summer when the serenading chorus walked through camp, they'd always stop to ooh and aah and, as usual, act extremely goofy and inappropriate (we love inappropriate, by the way) as they ogled our awesome little lantern.
Fun and camp silliness aside, having this lantern along this year was terrific. Even after an entire week of non-stop high Sierra rain (and basically no sunlight), it was able to recharge fairly well -- enough to give us 30 minutes or so of very decent light. On days when the sun actually decided to come out, it recharged extremely well -- enough for at least a couple hours of light (probably more, but we fell asleep before the lantern gave out). We left it out every night, even in the middle of the thunderstorms that kept us busy every night for five...count em, five...very, very long nights of 24-hour watch duty. We never had any problem with condensation (which I, probably ignorantly, expected) or leakage, ever.
We haven't taken it backpacking yet, but we did take it kayaking -- so it's been squished into a drybag, which was then squished through the hatch in my kayak, and then squished again trying to get it out. Works and looks as good as new. It was wonderful to have along, as we placed it on our landing spot at our campsite while we took a night paddle. It easily guided us home, and allowed us to ditch our usual headlamps in favor of stargazing instead. Heaven.
It's perfect for cooking and dining, too -- enough light to cook or eat by, without the glare of our regular lanterns. Plus, since everything in our camping stash really needs to be as unbreakable as possible (thanks to a) the dog, b) the folks who load and unload the boats which get us into and out of camp -- usually my children, and c) my own clumsiness), this lantern fits in perfectly. And since everything has to be boated or carried into camp, every chance we get to lighten our load is welcome -- no batteries to lug around means more room for more important and lighter things like chocolate, bear spray and whoopee cushions (hey, it's a camp full of kids -- what do you expect?).
I'd love to get my hands on 17 more of these -- one for each outhouse stall at camp -- but right now that isn't in our budget. In the meantime, I'll let everyone drool over ours.