November 30, 2016

Luci Light Review

I've been using the Luci Original by MPOWERD for the last two years. I have no idea how many days it's been used for, but it's been all over the place with me. It's a small, solar powered, inflatable lantern. I've never owned any kind of lantern before, as the time (and dollar) cost of dealing with batteries or fuel never seemed worth it. Now that I've got this one I use it a lot and would definitely buy another, they're a great value.

At first I just used Luci for car camping, and it's been great for our fall pilgrimages to Indian Creek. It makes cooking dinner at the picnic table in the dark a lot more pleasant, and we'll sometimes bring it into the tent with us for reading or hanging out. Then I realized that I can hang this unit from the hatch on the back of my truck's canopy, and that made pre-dawn starts at trail heads a lot better. It also means it's easier to get everyone's gear sorted out and back to them at the end of the day.

The Luci light gives great area illumination when hung from the hatch on my truck canopy. I don't know what's up with the "ghost light" next to the real one.
This fall I climbed The Shield on El Capitan with my colleague Chad. Chad takes his Luci light into the backcountry with him (it's 2.5cm by 12.7cm when collapsed), and brought it up El Cap with us. I was skeptical when we were packing up, but our very first night on the wall I realized that it made our bivies a lot nicer. It easily lights up all of the area covered by the portaledge so it's easier to keep track of stuff and you're less likely to drop things. Well worth 125 more grams in the haulbag (that's 4.4oz).

MPOWERD claims that the Luci Original charges in 7 hours of direct sunlight and goes for 12 hours on the brightest setting. I haven't done any timed tests, but in The Creek we typically use it for a few hours each night and it easily goes several nights without a purposeful recharge (the lantern often spends the day in our crate full of "kitchen" stuff). A few times a week I'll deflate it and set it on the dashboard while we're at the crag for the day. While we were on El Cap Chad would often clip it to his harness to let it get a little sun. Overall I don't think that much about charging it and it always works.

Another nice thing about this lantern is MPOWERD's mission. Luci sales in developed countries help them get Luci lights to folks without electricity in the developing world at lower prices.

Deflated and inflated, my breath fogged it up a little bit.

The one drawback to Luci does seem tied to it's light weight and pack-ability: it's a little flimsy. While you wouldn't want to toss this lantern in the bottom of your pack (or haulbag). It can definitely survive in the lid. Chad's unit sprung a little leak and wasn't quite as firm when inflated, but this didn't seem to effect the usable light very much.

Luci comes in 9 different models, including a smaller version, and several models that are colored or frosted. In my experience these versions seemed to have less usable light, though that light was a bit less harsh. Since I got mine I've been noticing them at every gear shop I walk into, often right by the cash register.

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