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Reviews > Lighting > Flashlights - LED > UCO MightyLite XL > Test Report by Mark McLauchlin

The UCO MightyLite XL

Initial Report 2nd November 2008
By Mark McLauchlin


In packet


* Reviewer Information

Name: Mark McLauchlin
Age: 30
Gender: Male
Height: 1.76 m (5’ 9”)
Weight: 80 kg (176 lb)
Email: mark at swanvalleyit.com.au
City: Perth, Western Australia

* Backpacking Background

I have been hiking since 2006 with most of my hiking consisting of day walks averaging 16 - 22 km (10 - 14 mi) and short overnight trips where possible. Most of my hiking is along the Bibbulmun Track and Coastal Plains Trail. I consider myself to be a light hiker with an average pack weight of 13 kg (29 lb), which I am working to reduce. I generally sleep in my tarp tent or huts that are often scattered along the various hiking trails.

* Product Information

Manufacturer: Industrial Revolution
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: www.candlelantern.com
Listed Weight: 110g (3.8 oz)
Measured Weight: 110g (3.8 oz)
Listed Length Torch: 3.9 in (102 mm)
Measured Length Torch: 3.9 in (102 mm)
Listed Length Lantern: 5 in (130 mm)
Measured Length Lantern: 5 in (130 mm)
Listed Diameter: 1.2 in (30 mm)
Measured Diameter: 1.2 in (30 mm)
Battery Type: 3 x AAA
Burn Time: 22 Hours
MSRP: not listed.

* Product Description

The MightyLite XL is new to the market and is described by the manufacturer as offering a lot of light in a small package. This is a one-piece flashlight with an aluminum housing which converts into a lantern with a single pull. The compact lantern and torch burns for 22 hours+ and is perfect for outdoors and camping.

The UCO MightyLite XL Compact Lantern and Torch arrived in a plastic hanging display case. Included with the torch were 3 x AAA batteries, a lanyard and carabiner.

There are several colours available, each appears to have grey plastic in common for the end cap and lens surround. The colour I received is a highly reflective metallic green.

* Initial Impressions

Images below show size of the torch when next to my mobile phone which is 10.5 cm (4 in) in length and 5 cm (2 in) wide. Gripping the handlebars on a bike gives a good representation and feel for the actual size of the torch. The size is ideal, it’s not too big that I would be put off carrying it hiking. The main body of the torch is octagonal in shape with each alternate edge having a textured finish which assists with securing a firm grip. I will be looking to see if this attracts and retains any dust and dirt and if it does how easy it is to clean out. The contents of the packet and the torch expanded for lantern use are also depicted below.

Size and contents

The first image below shows the UCO’s hanging hook in its extended open position, which would be its in-use position. The hook is made in grey plastic and is hinged on the grey cap end of the torch allowing it to fold away so it doesn’t get caught on anything and reduces the risk for it to break. It is an open style hook, rather than a loop, similar in shape to a fishing hook, without the sharp point. I am a little curious as to how the carabiner and lanyard will work with the torch, this is something I will investigate further and report on in the field and long term reports.

lanyard

The torch emits a white light due to the 0.5 watt Nichia LED. The same LED is used for both the torch and the lantern however the two functions run independent of each other. The manufacturer indicates that the LED never needs to be replaced. This I like feature as it is one less component to worry about having to carry a replacement for.

The lantern is operated by gripping the LED end of the housing on the texture points, I use my thumb and pointer finger, and pulled or stretched apart and the switch turned on. When fully extended the lantern adds an inch or 2.5 cm to the length of the torch body. One of the great features of this is that the amount of light emitted can be changed by how far the housing is stretched which in turn relates to how much of the lantern is exposed. The lantern casing that encloses the LED is made from plastic that is slightly "foggy" and to touch this does seem tough enough to last out on the trail. When the lantern is pushed back together there is a small hole in the cap end of the housing to allow air to escape. I will be monitoring this over the life of the test to see if this affects the water resistance claim by UCO.

* Reading the Instructions

The instructions for the UCO are included on the reverse side of the packaging. They are both simple to understand and easy to read.

Operating the MightyLite is explained as:

"Twist the triangular switch at the end cap for ON/OFF"

The image below shows the on/off switch which is very easy to use and can be switched by using the same hand that the torch is being held with. This is useful when both hands are not free. The switch is a very simple design located on the cap end of the torch and slides to the on and off position locking into place so that accidental turning on of the torch does not occur. I will be monitoring this feature during the report series to see if in fact the torch can remain in various compartments of my pack without turning on and using up the battery, this would be very inconvenient while out hiking. It also has a serrated edge for better grip which assists with the ease of use.

 switch one handed

Battery replacement on the torch is very simple. The manufacturers instructions are a simple two step process as listed;

"1. Unscrew the end cap and remove it from the unit.
2. Remove the old batteries and insert 3 new AAA Alkaline batteries according to the polarity labels, glide back the end cap into the unit on its own track (Don't force), push in and screw the end cap back on."

The images below show the orientation of the batteries once inserted into the torch body and the polarity labels inside. The battery placement forms a triangular configuration with two of the batteries positive terminal directed upwards and the third batteries directed downward. They form a tight fit in the body which means they do not roll or shake around which can cause bad contacts effecting the quality and reliability of the both the torch and the light it emits. Once the MightyLite is fitted with batteries it has a relatively robust feel about it when you consider the actual size which gives me the impression the torch is well made and durable.

Looking at the images below it can be seen that the end cap does not have a complete 360 degree thread and only needs to be turned approximately one eighth of a turn. The cap is turned Anti-clockwise to open and clockwise to close and is locked firmly into place so that the compartment is sealed. There are some markings on the side of the torch and the end cap to indicate an alignment point to make it easier to join the pieces together reducing the risk of an incorrect fit. The main body of the torch also has an O-ring at the point where the end cap is secured which helps to provide the water resistant feature which I will be testing this later on in the report stage. It will also be of benefit to note if the O-ring assists with preventing dirt and dust from entering the torch thus rendering it inoperable.

batteries

There is a small diagram at the bottom of the instructions that shows a few of the features of the torch such as the location of the batteries, the switch and the hook. It also shows how the torch is stretched to reveal the lantern.

* Testing Strategy

During the test period the UCO will accompany me on all my day and overnight hikes in my home state of Western Australia and will replace my headlamp as my primary light source.

As this is a torch and is designed for night use I will endeavour to be more active at night whilst out hiking. This may include animal spotting, geocaching, cooking my meals around the camp area and reading at night whilst either in my tent or one of the huts I regularly stay in.

The torch looks like it will provide some great illumination while sitting up drinking wine and talking to my regular hiking buddy. One of the advantages I can see of the MightyLite over my conventional tea-light candles is that this cannot blow out and the intensity of the light will not be effected by the changes in environmental conditions such as the wind which often proves to be painful whilst being located in open areas of a campsite.

* Summary

At this stage I am very pleased with the initial impressions of the UCO MightyLite and look forward to putting it through its paces. Here are my overall likes and dislikes.

Things I liked
LED never needs replacing.
Replacing batteries is very simple.
One hand operation of on/off switch.
Robust feel.
Lantern and torch in one.
White light is bright in torch and lantern configuration.

Things I disliked
The hook at cap end remains open and cannot be closed.

This concludes my Initial Report. The Field report should be completed by December. Please check back then for further information.

 


Field Report
1st February 2009

Moth on wall of tunnel

Over the course of the testing period the MightyLite has accompanied me on one day walk, two night walks, one of which included navigation through an old train tunnel, and two overnight hikes. My first outing was along the Heritage Trail in the John Forrest National Park which was a round trip of 17 Km (10.5 miles). Elevation ranged from 50 m (164 ft) to 260 m (853 ft). The photo above shows the MightyLite in use as I was walking through the train tunnel, if you look closely you will see a nice sized moth. The camera and torch, in this case was approximately 3 m (10 ft) from the wall. The torch did a great job walking through here, it provided a good solid beam of white light.

The first overnight hike was along the Coastal Plains Trail in the Yanchep National Park where I camped in one of the three sided huts. I used mainly the lantern function while I was setting up for dinner and lying in my sleeping bag. I was unable to hang the lantern in a position where I was able to get enough light so the majority of the time it was sitting on the floor next to me. One great advantage I found when using it like this is that you can regulate the amount of light from the lantern by adjusting how far extended the lantern cover is. I found that with just enough light to see what I was doing the ideal position was for the lantern cover to be extended about 1/3 its full length. This also meant I was able to sit back and see the surrounding bush without too much glare.

The next overnight hike was out to my favorite place, Helena Hut on the Bibbulmun Track. This loop walk is 22 km (13.7 miles) and can be completed either in one day or the night can be spent at the campsite which consists of a shelter, toilet and fire ring. The shelter at this location is also a three sided hut, so again I used the UCO in a similar configuration to my previous outing. I was able to use the torch on this trip while out searching for firewood and generally having a look around and again found that it provided me with some good lighting.

I have noted some inconsistencies with the "burn time" of the batteries, the one supplied with the torch and others that I have purchased. The first set of batteries that came with the torch lasted approximately 8 hours, which was quite surprising as the manufacturer lists this as being 22 hours. I thought that perhaps this might have been due to the batteries being stored in their packaging for a length of time thus losing their power. The second set of batteries I purchased were the same brand as the original ones and this time without going into the field I left the torch running to see how long I would get from them, 11 hours later they were also flat. Third time lucky, this time I purchased another brand, cheaper also I might add, and to my excitement I was able to get over 20 hours out of them. Currently I have approximately 6 hours of use out of the fourth set and I will continue to log their time.

I have noticed that after less than 1 hour of run time the torch does get quite hot and after several hours the temperature does seem excessive and causes me a little concern. During the tests above I did turn it off long enough to cool down then powered it back up again and continued to record the time.

The switch on the torch has started to become loose and is now very easy to turn on and off, so much so that if it is bumped the switch easily turns the torch off. It is a little tighter in turning to the on position which does mean less risk of it turning on when inside my pack and wasting the batteries. This is something that I am not really happy with and if it continues to degrade in this way I will more than likely cease using it. The short-term durability is of concern.

During each of my trips with the UCO I have carried the carabiner that was included and have yet to find a use for this. It just doesn't make sence to me as to why the hook on the body of the lantern is an open one yet a carabiner is included. It still seems more practical to close the hook and make it a loop which would be more functional. The carabiner could then be used to hang the torch from it and also as a safety measure to secure it.

The weight of the torch has not been an issue for me and seems to be a good trade off for the robustness of the main body. I have dropped it, accidentally, onto a paved surface and other than a small scratch there are no issues. This drop was after the switch started to become loose so is not directly related to that.

I have yet to test the water resistance of the MightyLite. I will put some thoughts into how this can be done effectively. We are now entering into the Summer months here in Australia and I will not be expecting precipitation in the short-term.

* Summary
I am really enjoying using the UCO MightyLite and all going well I will continue to use it on my overnight hikes and potentially some car camping.

Likes
The same as my Initial Report.

Dislikes
The on/off switch has become loose.
Inability to accurately predict battery life.
Becomes quite hot.

 


Long-Term Report
7th March 2009


Since I last reported in on the UCO MightlyLite it has only managed to survive one more outing. This was a day walk in the Walyunga National Park located approximately 40 Km (25 miles) North East of Perth. The temperature was really quite warm at 32 C (90 F). The trail was relatively flat, with no significant rises in the landscape. As per most of the trails around the Perth area the ground was hard and covered with lots of fallen debris. According to the maps I have on the area the total distance, in a loop, should have been just over 10 Km (6 Miles), however with my GPS it came in at 15 Km (9 Miles).

One of the long-term uses I had planned for the torch was to add it to my emergency gear list. This is basically a small stuff bag that I carry with me on all my outings, regardless if they are a short day walk or a multi-day hike. The bag consists of a small first aid supply, spare shoe laces and a few water purification tables. On my last hike the torch was added to this gear list and sadly must have been subject to excessive forces as the switch is no longer serviceable.

I did note in my field report some concerns over the switch and how it had become loose. The current state of the switch means that I am unable to pack it for fear of it turning on and flattening the batteries. I have tested covering the switch with some strong sticky tape to prevent movement, and this does work, however not ideal. It no longer stays in either the on or off positions but rather moves between the two quite freely.

Over the course of the test period I did find the MightyLite to be a great little device. I was and still am excited about the ability the have an effective torch and a very useful lantern in the same piece of gear.

Apart from the switch I have not seen any other signs of wear that would impact the durability or functionality of the torch. There are several scratches on the casing but I consider that to be normal.

The LED light shows no signs of reduced efficiency which is a good thing as there is only one present, failure of one would mean total failure of both lantern and torch.

I found an internet reference to the use of LED which I feel truly sums up the UCO MightyLite. The Quote below is taken from Wikipedia.

"LED's present many advantages over traditional light sources including lower energy consumption, longer lifetime, improved robustness, smaller size and faster switching". Comparing the features of the UCO to the above statement it is obvious to see why it is to effective. Lower energy consumption means the battery life is improved, in this case over 20 hours. Longer lifetime, well so far the LED has continued to light-up and I see no way to replace it which to me means the manufacturer is confident in it.

Improved robustness of the LED can only be compared to the days of the older traditional globes whereby movement had the potential to break the battery contacts and cause the globe to flicker or even break. Smaller size and faster switching are also strong selling points for LED torches, they are indeed small and there is virtually no warm-up time for the LED.

* Summary
I really like the UCO MightyLite and had the switch not failed this would have been something that I would have continued to take out hiking.

The multi-use functions of torch and lantern, both within a robust case make it a great addition to anyone's hiking gear.

This concludes my report series on the UCO MightyLite XL.

Thank you to Industrial Revolution and BackpackGearTest.org for the privilege of testing the MightyLite XL.



Read more reviews of Industrial Revolution gear
Read more gear reviews by Mark McLauchlin

Reviews > Lighting > Flashlights - LED > UCO MightyLite XL > Test Report by Mark McLauchlin



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