Just before I headed to Scotland I had an email from a company in the United States asking about distributors for their inflatable solar lantern. I duly responded and the company sent me a sample to try.
The MPOWERD Luci inflatable lantern is intended for outdoor leisure users including hikers, campers, anglers, kayakers, cyclists… you get the picture. It is constructed from soft clear transparent plastic, is waterproof and features a square solar panel in the base charging a slim 3.7V DC lithium polymer battery. This is sealed in the base with no facility for replacement.
Light is provided by 10 led lights arranged in a circle in the base providing a maximum of 65 lumens. In the top of the cylindrical lantern is a flexible reflective disc that helps distribute the light to a claimed area of a square metre. The top disc also features a mouthpiece with stop valve for inflation/deflation while plastic handles are located at the top and base allowing the lantern to be suspended.
A switch at the centre of the solar panel toggles the lantern between ‘bright’, ‘super bright’, and ‘flashing/beacon’ settings and powers the unit down.
The manufacturers claim 12 hours on the bright setting and this seems plausible in summer temperatures. I left the unit on all night on the hearth and it was still emitting good light in the morning after nine hours. Charge time is eight hours and the unit will still provide four hours of light if not used for a year from full charge.
Inflation and deflation can be a little tricky, though. The mouthpiece features a stiff valve making it quite difficult to inflate by blowing straight from the lungs (as if you were inflating a Thermarest). Musicians familiar with the embouchure technique will have an advantage!
I found it easier to inflate the lantern by opening it gently like an accordion (forgive the musical references) while holding the valve open with the point of a pencil or other pointed (but not sharp) implement. The lantern can then be topped up by blowing air in the mouthpiece.
This is a well-designed and well-made lantern that performs well based on early use. It may be a luxury for lightweight backpackers given that it weighs a little over 110g but I will find room for it in my cycle panniers as it illuminates the inner of my Vaude Hogan XT perfectly. It has particular practical benefits for anglers fishing at night and those who love messing around in boats.