In recent years, we have all seen an explosion in the number of camping and touring accessories available on the market. Some of these products have evolved gradually while other products have made huge and very obvious improvements in a relatively short period of time. One of these categories of products is camp lights. Having a well-lit campsite after the sun goes down has huge benefits, particularly if you have a young family. We take the types of lights we use very seriously as we spend a lot of time on photo shoots and hours in the evening and nightime are spent uploading footage and working at our campsite.
We have seen huge changes in the last twenty years in the type of camp lights that are available on the market and this revolution has predominantly come down to improvements in the use of basic materials used in camp light products e.g. ABS bases for durability and silicone body for collapsible designs, solar power, USB charging, LED and battery (e.g. lithium) technologies. Many years ago, when we first got the camping bug, we started using the older gas powered lights before moving onto the battery operated lights, and we are now very happy to be using solar-powered LED lights. Sure, the gas lanterns and heavier battery-operated camp lights did the job at the time but when we look back now, we can clearly see that they certainly had a number of disadvantages. Some of these included the size of the units, their weight and the expense of keeping them powered by either using gas or expensive and bulky batteries and of course how limited they were when it comes to the amount of light they projected.
When off the grid for extended periods, it’s very useful to have an independent source of light and power. Dual Battery systems are a great solution and are covered elsewhere in this issue, and while it is possible to charge dual battery systems using solar power, they are normally best charged while driving your vehicle. If you plan to stay in a location for several days (or weeks) then an alternative and reliable source of power and light can be very useful. Solar Lighting is a great option.
Using a solar panel to charge a power hub during the day, enables you to have a reliable source of light and power in the evenings on an ongoing basis. The advancement in Solar and LED technologies in camp lights has really been a game-changer. You can now source a modern, compact and very durable solar-powered light that is a fraction of the size of the older camp lights and that projects a lot more light. Also, solar power is one of the cleanest forms of energy on the market with sunlight being a natural renewable source of power, and of course, it ‘s also environmentally friendly and free. From a safety perspective LED bulb technology does not get hot, unlike the older generation of camp lights particularly the ones powered by gas, we now have much safer options that make the new lights safer to handle and use, particularly around children.
With all of these advancements we have never had as much choice when it comes to using, compact, portable, efficient and safer camping lights, but it’s like everything, you get what you pay for. Let’s have a closer look and a couple of products on the market.
Darche Portable Lights
The DARCHE portable RTT camping lights are a relatively new addition to the market, like all DARCHE products this is a very practical bit of camping gear, it’s compact, durable and made from high-quality materials. One of the things that we love about this camp light is that you have the option to charge it during the day by facing the built-in solar panel towards the sun, but also the clever built-in USB interface allows for the internal battery to be recharged from a vehicle, dual/portable power system, computer mains or any other power source. The battery life can be between 5hrs – 20hrs depending on the brightness mode being used. Before a camping trip we normally fully charge these lights using the USB option and then while camping we let the solar panels do their job and keep the lights topped up during the day.
Other interesting features include the dual light modes, having the option to reduce the amount of light is a great idea for illuminating internal sleeping areas, this also reduces shadows visible from the outside of your tent. When outside you can change to the bright-light mode which is perfect for lighting up your campsite, preparing your night time camp feast or reading your favourite book, while sitting around your fire pit. The light modes incorporate bright white, warm white and warm white low giving you plenty of options.
The portable nature of these lights with no permanent leads attached, means that you can carry them with you should nature call in the middle of the night or should you want to look for something in the back of your vehicle before you hit the sack. These lights are small in size which allows them to be used as a handheld torch.
Another simple but very practical feature includes the foldable carabineer which allows you to easily hang your light in your preferred location, e.g. under your awning, in your swag, to one of the loops in your roof top, under the bonnet of your vehicle should you have an unexpected breakdown, or simply attach it to a branch on a tree should you need to go to the loo in the wild in the middle of the night. Constructed with an ABS base also known as Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene which is a durable thermoplastic that is very popular in the injection moulding industry, they are rugged and perfect for camping. These lights also have a silicon body which gives a collapsible design allowing them to be easily stored when not in use. Like all DARCHE products if looked after, these lights will stand the test of time.
Solar Puff Light (DRIFTA)
Here’s a product that looks more like a piece of artwork than a camping light and certainly will prompt a conversation about its unique design around the campfire. The SolarPuff is a solar-powered self-inflating lantern that is durable, flexible, waterproof and can even float. Made from a hybrid PET sailcloth, it claims to be the lightest solar lantern on the market. The oriental design is inspired by origami, the Japanese art form. This award-winning solar light now available through the DRIFTA European website www.drifta.eu is engineered with an origami inspired, self-inflating design and a clean light in 3 colours: bright white, warm and multicolour. Made from eco-friendly, recyclable PET sailcloth, the SolarPuff™ is lightweight, collapsible, waterproof and durable, even in extreme weather.
Made with the latest eco-friendly, fabric and material technology utilizing the latest in recyclable, biodegradable fabric and material technology, this product is engineered to be lighter for ease of travel and to be stronger and more durable to withstand the most extreme weather conditions.
RECHARGEABLE SOLAR LANTERN: Battery life up to 12 hours with 12-hour charging time. Ideal for camping, hiking, fishing, emergency kits, backyard decoration, pool lighting, survival gear and more–These lights are made by SOLAR PUFF in Japan.
SOLAR HUB LIGHTING
SolarHub 64 from Solar Technology International
Another interesting product includes the SolarHub 64 from Solar Technology International, this is a complete lighting and power kit in a box. These Solar Hub lighting kits provide easy to fit lighting and power for a variety of locations. Solar Technology kits are used in stables workshops, sheds, garages –anywhere there is no grid connection. These kits are also ideal for providing power or light when touring off the grid. The kit contains a high-efficiency Solar panel, an advanced lithium battery hub and 4 x super bright 300 lumen led Strips (bulbs are also available as an option) the SolarHub 64 kit provides enough light to illuminate an area of 8m x 8m (64m2)
The system is also expandable, allowing for additional solar panels and led strips or bulbs to be added into the hub setup. The SolarHubs solar panel can collect enough energy during the course of the day (even in cloudy climes) to power its lights for between 2 and 7 hours every day of the year (2 hours in the winter – 7 hours for the rest for the year based on the 3w LED bulb).
In addition to powering the included LED strips, the Hubi Hib can also be used to power a wide variety of electronic devices, including smartphones and tablets, Laptops, tyre inflators, portable showers and more. The hub contains two USB sockets and one 12V socket, two sockets to attach the lights and also an on/off switch for the lights. The SolarHub’s main battery unit has a 2-year warranty and the included solar panel has a 10-year warranty.
For more information click here.
Bonlux Strip Lighting
We also use the Bonlux 12V LED strip light when camping and it has certainly done the job, the main downside is that you need to have a power source, e.g. dual battery system to operate it without worrying about it draining your main battery. The benefits of LED strip lighting are that it’s easy to install and the power output compared to weight is pretty good.
LEDs: Super bright 5050SMD
LED QTY: 36PCS/72PCS
Luminous flux: 1300lm for 1200MM
Lighting color: Cool White 6000-6500K
Operating voltage: 12V DC
Long lifespan: 50,000hrs
Package: Black nylon bag in a white box
Package including: 1pc dimmable LED strip light with cigarette lighter and 1pc crocodile clip
With crocodile clip and cigarette lighter, can directly connect to the battery.
With touch-dimmer switch for 3 phases brightness level adjustment.
With diffussed cover, waterproof IP65 resistant to water, dust and moisture.
With high quality nylon bag for packaging,lightweight and very portable.
Applications: tent, awning, caravan, boat, truck and RV etc.
3 phases dimmer switch for brightness level adjustment;
5.5m cable and cigarette connector to your power source;
Dimmable and very portable;
Hooks at ends for very flexible installation;
Waterproof rating: IP65, resistant to water, dust and moisture;
The folding structure of this lights ensures that it is really portable.