TEST SERIES BY DAVID TAGNANI
March 08, 2009
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5' 10" (1.78 m)
160 lb (72.60 kg)
Backpacking Background: I have been camping and hiking for as long as I can remember, but I've really only been backpacking for a decade. I started off in the hills of northeastern and central Pennsylvania, have hiked trails from Maine to Georgia, and now I am exploring the incredible terrain of the inland northwest. I seldom do trips longer than three days, with most trips being overnighters. I do not own crampons, an ice axe, or a climbing harness, so if the route is technical enough to require them, you won't find me there. I simply like to walk in the woods.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: Candlelantern.com
Listed Weight: 3.8 oz (108 g), including batteries
Measured Weight: 4.1 oz (116 g), including batteries
Listed Size: 4 x 1.5 in (10.1 X 3.8 cm)
Measured Size: 4 x 1.5 in (10.1 X 3.8 cm)
Batteries: 3 AAA
Burntime: 22+ hours
Bulb: .5 watt LED
Color: Black (red, gray, blue, and yellow also available)
Included Accessories: mini-carabiner and strap
Other Features: water-resistant
The UCO MightyLite is a flashlight and a lantern combined into a single product. It comes in two versions: the XL and the Mini. I tested the XL version. The Mini version is a very similar design, but it is smaller, lighter, takes fewer batteries, and has a shorter burntime. UCO's website recommends the XL for "outdoors and camping" and the Mini for "travel and emergencies."
|Extended into lantern mode|
The MightyLite came in a plastic package designed to hang in a store display. Three AAA Duracell batteries were included. I was surprised, since the website says it requires three AA batteries, but apparently the website is wrong. It does indeed take AAA batteries. Also included in the packaging was a very small carabiner (1.75 in or 4.5 cm) and a carrying strap (8.75 in or 22.2 cm).
Upon removing the MightyLite from the packaging, I was happy to discover that it is made primarily of aluminum. The aluminum is black in color (other colors are available), and you can see from the photos that the vast majority of the body is black. As a result, it feels like a very solid product. The grey areas are plastic.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
Well, it doesn't take a college degree to operate a flashlight. Appropriately, the MightyLite comes with a simple, one-sided insert that diagrams the basic functions of the product, such as turning it on and off and changing the batteries. The only thing a bit unusual about this product is that it transforms from a flashlight
into a lantern, and that is accomplished simply by pulling the ends of the flashlight in opposite directions, which reveals a translucent plastic sheath that disperses the light 360 degrees.
|The beam at two feet|
TRYING IT OUT
Even though it was light outside when I received the MightyLite, I could tell when I turned it on that is was very bright in flashlight mode. It threw a relatively tight beam 15 feet (4.5 meters) across my living room onto the opposite wall. I then took it into my walk-in closet to get the feel for it in total darkness. In the picture to the right, you can see the beam hitting the wall from about two feet (60 cm) away.
Next, I extended the body to transform the MightyLite into a lantern. This was easy to do, but not too easy: it didn't feel like it would ever open into a lantern accidentally or when you didn't intend it to. One thing I noticed is that there appeared to me some sort of smudge or imperfection in the clear plastic that is exposed when in lantern mode. I tried to clean it off, but apparently it is on the inside. It almost looks like a fingerprint, but not quite. I don't know what it is, but it doesn't affect functionality or interfere with the
brightness of the light. It is just a little annoying now that I have noticed it.
|In lantern mode, hanging by the hook|
Still in my dark walk-in closet, the MightyLite was impressively bright in lantern mode. It was not obnoxiously bright, but lit up the surrounding area with a relatively soft glow that was adequate but not blinding. If hung by the hook on the end of the MightyLite, some light escapes through the bottom as well as the sides. I can imagine that this will be a big plus when hanging inside my tent. Instead of dispersing all of the light to the sides, some will escape directly down, allowing me to read or write. This is either an intuitive design choice or a fortuitous accident. Either way, it works.
One thing that seems odd is the fact that the hook to hang it by is not a closed loop but an open-ended hook. I assume that the included carabiner and strap are supposed to connect to this hook, but they easily slide right off. This seems like it will make it easier to knock the MightyLite from its perch when it is hanging. I cannot see the possible logic behind this design choice, since it seems to render the included accessories worthless. Perhaps my field testing will reveal something.
I currently carry both a candle lantern and a small flashlight on overnight trips. The MightyLite could be an opportunity to eliminate over 3 oz. (85 g) from my pack since the MightyLite should be able to perform the
duties of both of those products.
|On/off switch and hook|
Since I want this product to eliminate the need to carry both a lantern and a flashlight, I'll see how the MightyLite compares to my current flashlight and lantern. Once outside for the FR, I'll see if there are significant differences in the way the MightyLite handles different lighting situations as compared to my current two-light setup.
Curiously, their website designates the lantern function is for "enclosed situations." They probably mean inside a tent, but why not outside the tent? I usually use lanterns to cast a mild light around the campsite, especially since fires are usually not allowed in the backcountry in Washington. So I'll be evaluating how well the MightyLite in lantern mode substitutes for firelight when fires are banned. But I'll take it inside as well, hang it by the included carabiner, and evaluate the light: can I comfortably read and write? Play cards? Remove contact lenses?
That's it for the Initial Report. It seems like a well-designed and pragmatic product, but we'll see how it handles actual backpacking conditions. Check back in two months for the Field Report, when I'll fill in some of the missing pieces and report on how this thing treated me when I had it out in the backcountry.
FIELD LOCATIONS - January 2009
Dayhikes: I did carry this with me on all dayhikes, just in case. But since I was never unexpectedly detained in the wilderness, I cannot comment as to functionality in this context. The MightyLite is bigger and heavier that my very tiny headlamp, so I will not be carrying the MightyLite as my emergency lighting in the future.
|Hanging at camp|
Backpacking: I managed to get out for two backpacking trips before the snow hit. One was an overnight excursion to an alpine lake on the Montana/Idaho border near Highway 90. The lake sits at about 5400 feet (1646 meters), surrounded on three sides by glacier-carved peaks. It was sunny and unexpectedly warm during the day, around 55 F (13 C). We woke to a little frost on the tent, so it must have dropped below freezing overnight. The second backpacking trip was a three-day walk in the Colville National Forest, through open Ponderosa forests and dry mountain ridges. We lucked out tremendously with the weather again: highs near 60 F (15 C) and lows around 40 F (4 C). We camped at 6200 feet (1890 meters) both nights.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
In the Pack:
The MightyLite fits nicely in both my daypack and my backpack. If one takes into consideration that it is fulfilling the functions of two products (flashlight and lantern), then the MightyLite is definitely a space saver. I estimate it occupies 50% less space than the candle lantern and small flashlight I usually carry. My other alternative is a small headlamp, which is definitely smaller than the MightyLite, but is much less useful.
|Hooked on the gear loft|
Fires are seldom allowed in the backcountry in Washington, especially in the higher elevations where I like to reside. My alternative has thus far been a candle lantern. The MightyLite was not quite up to the task of adequately replacing the candle lantern in this function. The MightyLite is actually quite a bit brighter in lantern mode than my candle lantern, but it is the type of light that I have an issue with. The LEDs in the MightyLite produce a brilliant, pure white light that is rather unnatural. The flame of a candle lantern, by comparison, is dimmer yet warmer and more natural. This is a matter of my own personal taste in lighting and not an indication of functionality. Indeed, if I actually needed light to see by, the MightyLite is much more useful. But for mood lighting around camp, I prefer an actual flame.
In flashlight mode, the MightyLite exceeds my expectations. Since it is a multi-function piece of equipment, I did not expect it to excel at any of those functions. But it certainly excels in flashlight mode. I have a rather highly-regarded compact flashlight, and the MightyLite seems to me to be every bit as powerful. The beam is tight, bright white, and far reaching. While camping on the aforementioned lake, I had fun scanning the far shore in the middle of the night with it. This lake is more of a pond; I'd guess no more than 200 feet (61 meters) across.
In the Tent:
With the shorter days and colder temperatures during my excursions with the MightyLite, I had ample time to test how useful the MightyLite is for tasks inside the tent. In general, I learned two things: one, I don't like that pure white LED light; two, the MightyLite is extremely versatile and useful.
For tasks such as removing or inserting contact lenses, the MightyLite is great. I used the hook on the end of the MightyLite to hang it from the gear loft at the apex of my tent, and I had hands-free area lighting to do whatever I needed to. If I needed a bright light in a concentrated area, I used the flashlight mode; if I needed the whole tent lit up, I used the lantern mode. In this way, I finally figured out the design choice of including an open-ended hook instead of a loop (see my Initial Report for my confusion). The hook allows the MightyLite to hang from practically anywhere: tree branches, tent poles, gear lofts, etc. I still don't see any use for the included mini-carabiner or lanyard, though.
Using the MightyLite for reading in the tent led me to discover just how versatile this light is. Hanging from the gear loft, I first tried to read with the MightyLite in flashlight mode. This presented two problems: one, only a very small area was lit, so I could only read while lying in one certain position; two, even when I successfully positioned the light over my book, it was so bright that it was actually uncomfortable. So I switched to lantern mode to see if this was better. It wasn't, because now the light was too diffuse and was not quite bright enough to comfortably read by for any length of time.
Here is where I discovered a great feature of the MightyLite. As I mentioned in the IR, even when in lantern mode, the MightyLite allows some light to escape from the flashlight opening on the bottom. Well, while it was hanging from the gear loft at the top of my tent, I figured out that I could control exactly how much light escapes from the bottom by not opening the light all the way into lantern mode. You can stop at any point while lengthening the light into lantern mode, thereby controlling precisely the light that escapes from the bottom. I was therefore able to dial in the amount of light that I feel comfortable reading by.
|Half open - just right|
I'm torn. Though the MightyLite is easily versatile and light enough to replace my candle lantern/flashlight set up, I did miss the warm light of the candle. But again, this is just personal taste. The MightyLite has proven to be a great little piece of equipment. I have seen no signs of wear on this thing; it has held up to use in the field very admirably so far. I have not used it long enough to test the claims of 22 hours of burntime on the batteries; even taking into consideration home testing and use in the field, I've put less than ten hours on the batteries.
Check back in two months for my Long-term Report.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS - March 2009
No more backpacking trips with the MightyLite, unfortunately. But I did take it along on every dayhike and snowshoe over the Long-Term Testing period. The snowshoeing trips were usually at Mt. Spokane State Park . I even got to use it one night as emergency lighting at home when the electricity went out. I also brought along the MightyLite on one after-dark stroll at Riverside State Park, just to get in a little extra testing. The trail was mostly exposed at this point, the snow having retreated to the shade beneath the trees.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
Not much new to report. I still haven't killed the set of batteries it came with, which is a good sign, though I've only about twelve total hours of burn time on them.
When the electricity died in my house, the MightyLite was great to have around. The lantern feature allowed us to simply set it on the table and leave it there. It lit up our entire living room / dining room area and allowed us to go about our business without carrying around our lighting. It was much quicker to set up and cast a more useful light than candles, too. This makes me believe that the MightyLite really would make an ideal source of emergency lighting.
When I toted it along on my night hike, I found that it was a fun light to have around. I realized that I hadn't actually hiked with it at all on my backpacking trips. So I actually got the chance to walk around with it here. Experimenting with the different modes was interesting. I found that the lantern mode was pretty darn useful, but not as useful as flashlight mode. Lantern mode -- since it lit a 360-degree area -- might have been cool had I been hiking with a group, but flashlight mode was more useful for me to just see the trail ahead.
The MightyLite is still performing like new. The switch is holding up, it still operates smoothly when switching modes, and it seems like the strength of the beam has been consistent as the batteries are being used up. Since it has proved to be both reliable and versatile, I'm pretty sure the MightyLite has become my primary light source for future backpacking trips. That about says it all, I suppose.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Thanks to BackpackGearTest.org and UCO for the opportunity to test the MigthyLite.
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