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Reviews > Lighting > Lanterns > BioLite Sunlite Solar lamp > Test Report by Morgan Lypka
TEST SERIES BY MORGAN LYPKA
Initial Report - May 26, 2018
Field Report - August 12, 2018
Long Term Report - October 7, 2018
NAME: Morgan Lypka
HEIGHT: 5’4” (1.6 m)
WEIGHT: 110 lb (50 kg)
EMAIL: m DOT lypka AT yahoo.com
City, Province, Country: Fernie, British Columbia (B.C.), Canada
Backpacking Background: I started backpacking 2 years ago, when I moved to the Rocky Mountains. Most of my backpacking ventures are 1 to 3 days long, typically around Western Canada. I get cold quickly, and handle heat well. My backcountry trips involve hiking, trail running, ski touring and cross-country skiing. I am getting into kayaking, rock climbing and fly fishing. I camp with a lightweight 3-person, 3-season tent and am starting to hammock and winter camp. Decreasing my packed weight in the backcountry is a developing focus of mine (fitting everything was the first).
PRODUCT INFORMATION AND SPECS
Manufacturer: BioLite Energy
Year of Manufacture: 2018
Manufacturer’s Website: https://www.bioliteenergy.com/
MSRP: $24.95 USD
Lumens: 100 Lm
Dimmable: in white mode
Water Resistance: IPX4
Charge Up Time USB (micro USB): 2 hrs
Charge Up Time Solar: 7 hrs
Burn Time: 50 LO/3 HI + 4 hrs in reverse mode
Battery: 2.8 Wh (750 mAh) li-ion
Listed Weight: 3.4 oz (95 g)
Measured Weight: 3.2 oz (91 g)
Dimensions: 3.35 x 3.39 x 0.91 in (85 86 x 23 mm)
Colour: Testing Teal, Black also available
The SunLight came in a small box with instructions. The instructions come in 11 languages, but there is not much detail to the instructions. On the box, it had a "try me" option with a spot to push the power button, resulting in a short burst of white, red, green and blue lights, then powering off. The light has 4 different settings, white (which is dimmable), full colour, party mode (where the colours switch), and off. The side of the light is a matte teal colour, and the front of the light is a glossy white, with the back being what seems to be a durable solar pannel. There is a little metal handle attached to the sides of the light that can swing around the whole light. This metal handle also has a hook on it, so it can be used to hang the light, or used as a stand to get the right charging angle. The light only has one button, the power button, and then there is a micro USB portel that is covered with a rubber stopper. The instructions indicate that the battery status will show by different blinking lights after the light has been shut off. The light will blink red if there is <10% left, blink yellow if there is 50% left, and blink green if the battery is full. On the light, there is writing indicating it was made in China and designed in Brooklyn. There is also a sundial in the top right corner, which is used to allow for the most effective charging orientation to the sun. The instructions also include maintenance and care, indicating that light rain is okay, hanging from a tree is okay, but submerging in water is not okay. To lock the SunLight, the instructions indicate placing the wire bar over the power button so that it can not accidentally be pressed on. Lastly, there is instruction to charge the solar panel every six months for battery conditioning. In researching, charging the solar panel every six months seems to be common guidance for solar panel batteries.
I tried to play around with the light before reading the instructions, and this was not a success. It kept doing the short burst of all light cycles then off. After reading the instructions, to unlock the light, one must hold down the power button for 8 seconds (this is indicated in the FAQs on the website as well). This is something I wouldn't have figured out without looking at the instructions. I went online to watch the instructional video. It didn't provide much more detail than the paper instructions, but added some visual/actions.
It took me a couple tries to figure out the power button pushes/light changing interactions. For example, to get to the party mode light, you must turn off the light, and then hit the power button 3 times quickly. The white light dimmable feature functions once you are on the white light, by holding down the power button. You can also brighten the light (reverse the dimming) by holding the power button again after it has already been fully dimmed. To switch between the colour spectrum (yellow, green, red, blue and other shades of these colours), you simply hold the power button once you are already on the colour mode (two click pushes of the power button from its off setting) and release it once you have the shade you would like. This is a neat feature because you could choose a greeny blue if that's how you were feeling. I tried using the red light beside me as I was reading, and it was quite bright, but thankfully there is the option to easily angle the light away to decrease the intensity. I am curious if the battery would last longer if one didn't have to shut off the light in order to switch it to another setting. A nice feature about the dimmer is that the light will flash once you have fully dimmed (or re-brightened), and it won't go back up (or down) until you release the power button and press it again. I don't like that it flashes the battery colour after each use. I can see myself not liking this after I have had it on dim or red to wind down, then having to watch it flash bright green as I am turning it off to go to bed. To get away from this I suppose I would just turn the light down as I press the power button so it wouldn't be flashing right in front of my eyes.
The solar panel face seems very durable. After not very much use (some vehicle and bag transport) the glossy plastic on the face of the light seems as though there are a couple small scratches (too small to see by photo). I like that the USB port has a rubber cover; this seems like good design for outdoor use. I can hold the SunLight in one hand while making adjustments with the same hand which is a nice feature for me, having small hands. I like that the SunLight can be rotated atoany angle to best capture the sun; I was charging it through my truck's windshield and was able to set the best angle for that. I only had it sitting in the sun for a short period of time, maybe a couple of hours, and it had enough charge that the battery flashed green when turning it off, indicating that it has a full battery. I unfortunately didn't check how much charge the light started with, so I can't say that that was all from my short period of charging.
The SunLight doesn't come with a charger. For the most part I'm happy about this, as it's easy for me to grow my collection of chargers unnecessarily. However I am not sure that I have a micro USB charger, so I will scour my house for this. I'm not too concerned, as I would like my primary use of the SunLight to be solar charging, and I live in an area that gets a lot of sunlight.
In the instructions, it states that the SunLight cannot be used to charge other things. I do wish that it had this feature, if my cell phone needed charging for example, so that I wouldn't have to backpack with my other solar panel. I am not too torn up about this either, though.
So far the SunLight seems to be a well thought-out device, including a sunlight dial, water resistance, a 360 degree stand, a hook for hanging, a battery to hold charge, an optional USB charging port with a rubber cover, a dimmer and multiple lighting colours. I see durability with the solar panel, but have started to see minor scatches on the glossy face of the light. I feel much more confident in my ability to operate and fully understand the SunLight after reading the instructions and playing around with the light for 10 minutes.
Location - Nipika Mountain Resort, Kootenay National Park, B.C.
Activity - Car camping
Temperature and Weather - 24 C (75 F) and sunny
Location - Elk Lakes Hut, Elk Lakes Provincial Park, B.C.
Activity - 2 nights overnight backcountry camping
Temperature and Weather - 23 C (73 F) and overcast
Location - Jaffray, B.C. (a Rocky Mountain peak)
Activity - Overnight backcountry camping
Temperature and Weather - 28 C (82 F) and rain, thunderstorms
While at Nipika, I charged the light through the windshield of my truck during the day. I wasn't around to adjust the angle of the solar panel throughout the charging, but when I returned to my truck it was fully charged after a few hours. I used it at night while I hammock camped and read. The hook on the SunLight was a nice feature, because I was able to hang the light from my hammock string.
I then decided I was going to run the battery down and see how long it lasted. I ran it for a period of 12 hours, with the light indicating only that it had dropped a little bit of charge on the battery. I still have not run the light completely dead, and I have gotten over 16 hours of light from it, with that varying from full intensity to lower intensity. I am very impressed so far. I then wanted to see how long the light could hold a charge. I went over one month without charging the SunLight, and the power left on the light didn't drop at all.
My stay at the Elk Lakes Backcountry Hut was accessed by vehicle. The light fit easily into my bag and I used it on its stand beside my pillow on my wooden bed plank for some bed time reading again. The dimming light function was nice because I could keep the light low so as not to bother the other folk in the hut who were getting shut-eye.
I then used the light at another backcountry spot accessed by vehicle, in a mountain basin. The light had quite a bit of charge going into the backcountry, but I charged it through my windshield for another hour to build up the charge to 100%. Again, I used the light for evening reading, this time in my tent. I used it on its stand again, and it stood sturdy enough even though the tent floor surface was soft and uneven. While on this trip, my friend asked me to put on the coloured light function. I couldn't remember how to do it; I tried various patterns on the power button, but wasn't able to figure it out. Once I got back into service, I read my initial report and felt silly for not remembering. Now I know I will remember how to change colours.
+ use provided from one charge
+ charge hold
+ portability (how small and light-weight it is! I have no reservations using it backpacking)
+ bright lighting
+ lighting angle options
- light functions difficult to remember without frequent use
Coming up, I intend to use the light for playing card games in the backcountry and other functions outside of reading, as well as charging the light on my backpack while hiking.
Location - Height of the Rockies Provincial Park Wilderness Area, B.C.
Activity - Backpacking and day hiking; 2 nights, 3 days
Weight of Pack - 40 lbs (18 kg) while backpacking, 10 lbs (5 kg) while day hiking
Length and Elevation Gain - 22 km (14 mi) long with 1350 m (4400 ft) gain
Temperature and Weather - -2-18 C (28-64 F), overcast and rainy [below 0 C (32 F) during the night]
Location - East Kootenays Mountain Hike, B.C. - path was in and out of trees
Activity - Day hiking
Length and Elevation Gain - 4 km (2 mi) with 600 m (2000 ft) gain
Temperature and Weather - 8 C (46 F) and sunny
The light doesn't charge 'on the go' as readily as I hoped it would. I tried tying it to my backpack in a couple variations, but it didn't have the correct angle for charging, as seen in the photo below. The hook didn't stay well on my backpack (it even fell off as I was walking from the car to start the hike), but I was able to put a backpack strap through metal bar which held the light. When not hiking, it was easy to charge the light while placing it on any angle on the rocks/ground. During a two hour day hike in and out of the trees with the light hanging off of my backpack, the charge didn't move up at all (it stayed on red, the lowest charge). I would guess that the light was exposed to sun maybe half of this time, and it wasn't at the best angle either.
I used the light while playing cards in the backcountry at night, and it provided enough light to sit in a close-knit circle, with the light on the brightest setting. I relied on the light while backpacking particularly because my headlamp died. Although not as convenient as a headlamp when walking around, I was able to hold it in my hand easily. So far, I have noticed no additional wear on tear on the light, apart from the couple small scratches noted in the initial report. I have been impressed with the durability of the solar panel, and have not noticed any further wear and tear.
In summary, the light has proven to be a very reliable piece of gear on my backcountry treks. I love that it holds charge for a long period of time (lasting over one month), and that it gives a significant amount of light hours (lasting over 16 light hours). Charging on the go was not as easy, but stationary charging with the panel facing the sun worked very well. The adjustability of the light is very useful, and the light itself is quite portable. I foresee the BioLite coming with me on many more adventures.
Thank you BackpackGearTest.org and BioLite Energy for allowing me to test the Solar Light in the backcountry! This concludes my test reports.
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Reviews > Lighting > Lanterns > BioLite Sunlite Solar lamp > Test Report by Morgan Lypka
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