TEST SERIES BY JERRY ADAMS
October 01, 2018
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6' 2" (1.88 m)
195 lb (88.50 kg)
I started hiking about 50 years ago. My first backpacking trip was about 45 years ago. I currently try to do one backpack trip of 1 to 5 nights every month (which can be tricky in the winter). Mostly I stay in the Western half of Oregon and Washington. In recent years I have shifted to lightweight - my pack weight without food and water is about 12 lb (6 kg). I make a lot of my own gear - silnylon tarp-tent, bivy, down bag, simple bag style pack.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: BioLite, Inc.
Year of Manufacture: 2018
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.bioliteenergy.com/
Listed Weight: 3.4 oz (95 g)
Measured Weight: 3.5 oz (100 g)
Dimensions: 3 1/8 x 3 1/8 x 7/8 inch (78 x 78 x 22 mm) (not including the hanging clip)
3 3/8 x 3 3/8 x 7/8 inch (87 x 86 x 22 mm) (including the hanging clip)
The BioLite SunLight is an LED lamp with solar panel for charging. It is intended for camping or just for fun. There's also a micro USB connector so the SunLight can be charged from a USB port. It doesn't go the other direction - power from SunLight to charge some other device.
On the top are the LED lights covered by a white plastic cover. On the bottom is the solar panel. There's a power switch on one side. There's a hanging clip connected to two sides. It swivels and there's a small clip to hang.
To "unlock" the device, the power switch has to be pushed and held for 8 seconds. This has to be done just one time. Before this the light is in demo mode where pushing the button just turns the light on briefly, then off, to demo it for potential buyers.
To turn on the light in white mode, push the power button and release. Immediately push and release again to turn on the light in color mode. Immediately push and release again to turn the light on in party mode, where it cycles through colors - red, green, blue, etc.
To turn off the light, push button and release. After it turns off it will quickly blink to show charge level: red - low charge, yellow - half charged, green - fully charged.
When the light is in white mode, push and hold the button and the intensity will change. Release the button when the intensity is as desired. From then on, whenever the light is turned on it will go to that intensity level.
When the light is on in color mode, push and hold the button and the color will change. Release the button when the color is as desired. From then on, whenever the light is turned on in color, it will go to that color.
It has a 750 mAh lithium ion battery. The solar panel is 0.45 W and will charge the battery in 7 hours. The light is 100 lumens maximum and can be dimmed to less than this. It has a micro USB connector which can be used to charge. It takes 2 hours to fully charge from the USB.
The run time is 50 hours on low, and 3 hours on high with an additional 4 hours in reserve mode (low brightness).
The SunLight is water resistant to IPX4. Hopefully, it'll rain some during my testing so I can test that.
I'll test the SunLight at home and verify some of these specs.
In one corner there is an "analog sundial" to verify the solar panel is directly facing the sun, which maximizes the charging.
The light cover is white plastic. Black plastic covers the solar panel. The sides are a blue/green plastic. The power button and micro USB cover are gray plastic. The hanging clip is stainless steel. There's a small blue/green plastic hook on the hanging clip.
BioLite is a New York City company. They initially developed a cooking stove powered by wood that also produces electricity. They have branched into small solar panels and lights. Their targeted users are developed country outdoors people and developing countries without a power grid. A portion of each sale goes to providing products to people in India and Africa. Products are manufactured in China.
Pushing the power button:
Light with clip in "kickstand" mode:
The solar panel with a micro USB plugged in:
The SunLite doesn't come with any cables. This is a good thing because I already have many micro USB cables.
The BioLite Sunlight seems well made. All the plastic pieces fit together well. The clip rotates smoothly. The light stands up well in "kickstand mode". The power button pushes nicely. A micro USB plugs in well.
The BioLite Sunlight is an LED lamp with incorporated solar panel for charging it. It can also be charged with a micro USB cable.
I'll test this at home, then take it on several backpacking trips during the Field Report and Long Term report periods.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
First, I did some testing of charge time and run time at home:
I fully charged the SunLight with USB, then turned it on high. It ran for 2.5 hours, then shifted to "reserve mode" (low intensity) and ran for 8.5 hours. They spec'd it at 3 hours at full intensity, then 4 hours in reserve mode. That's pretty close even though it didn't quite meet spec for high intensity.
I charged with the USB again. It drew 0.5 amps which is within the capability of most USB power supplies. It took 2.5 hours to fully charge (current dropped to zero). I measured the current with a USB power meter. They spec'd USB charge time at 2 hours. Actually, it was almost totally charged at 2 hours. The extra 0.5 hours of charging was at very low current, just topping off the battery.
I turned the SunLight on low intensity and it ran for 54 hours. That exceeded the spec of 50 hours.
I charged the SunLight in the sun from 9:30 AM to 5 PM (daylight savings time). That's 7.5 hours, slightly longer than the spec'd 7 hours. I then ran the Sunlight on high and it ran for 2 hours, so that would indicate the solar panel had been charged to 80% of capacity. That was a little less than spec'd, but normally solar panel specs are for the sun in an ideal situation, which includes being high in the sky (noon). Since I started well before noon and went well after, it makes sense it wasn't totally charged.
I compared the light output with another lamp that's rated at 150 lumen. The Sunlight is rated at 100 lumen and was somewhat dimmer, so I think the 100 lumen rating is close to correct. Compared to other LED lights I have, the Sunlight has a broad illumination. I found this broader illumination to be better for something like reading, and not as good for something like finding a trail walking at night.
Then I took it on several trips:
June 1, 2018 - 2 day backpack, and 1 day car camp in Black Canyon in central Oregon. 12 miles (19 km), 1700 feet (500 m) elevation gain, 36 to 72 F (2 to 22 C).
June 18, 2018 - 5 day backpack and 1 day car camp on Mt Hood in north central Oregon. 45 miles (72 km), 7600 feet (2300 m) elevation gain, 45 to 80 F (7 to 27 C).
July 28, 2018 - 5 day car camp at the ocean beach in southwest Washington state. 55 to 70 F (13 to 21 C).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
At home I verified the specs:
- 3 hour run time on high (I got 2.5 hours)
- 50 hour run time on low (I got 54 hours)
- 2 hour charge time with USB (it took me 2.5 hours but after 2 hours it was almost totally charged)
- 7 hour charge time in sunlight (it charged to 80% after 7.5 hours)
- 100 lumen brightness on high (it roughly compared to another LED lamp)
I attached the Biolite to my pack while hiking so it would charge:
It got knocked around a little and got rained on but kept working.
I used it at night after it got dark. I just held it with my hand. This worked okay, but I really prefer a headlamp because the light goes where needed without requiring a hand to hold it. I'll have to think about how to clip it to me so a can use it without having to hold it in my hand. The lowest intensity level was sufficient for doing things around camp.
I found this lamp worked well for general illumination. I clipped it to a branch so it would shine down on me when it got dark:
On my last trip I spent more time after dark in my tent. I attached the Biolite to the center pole of my tent with a small piece of wire. This worked pretty good for general illumination:
My testing was during the shortest nights of the year, so I didn't do that much testing. I'll do more during the long term test. One thing I'd like to test is reading under the light. Another thing I'll try is hiking on a trail at night, but I think a headlamp will be much better for this.
Overall, I was quite satisfied with the Biolite Sunlight.
- It provided good light for around camp.
- The clip was good for clipping to branches so it would shine down on me for general illumination.
- The clip was good for attaching to my pack during the day to charge. It survived being knocked around and rained on.
- The only negative is it's less convenient to have to hold it in my hand, as compared to a headlamp that I usually use.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I did one more test at home.
August 12, 2018 - 5 day car camp and 1 night backpack in northwest Washington. 30 miles (48 km), 1500 feet (500 m) elevation gain, 50 to 75 F (10 to 24 C)
September 26 to October 1, 2018 - 4 day backpack and 1 day car camp on Mt Hood in north central Oregon. 32 miles (51 km), 5000 feet (1500 m) elevation gain, 40 to 70 F (4 to 21 C)
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
In the Long Term test period I did a little more testing at home, then I took the BioLite on two more trips, one a backpack, the other a car camping trip. I carried the BioLite attached to the top of my backpack so it would charge as I went along. I think it charged enough to use the BioLite a couple hours each night.
From my at-home discharge testing, it appears that when the BioLite gets below about 20% charge, it goes to a dim level, which I think is what they call reserve mode. This is bright enough for around camp use but not very good for finding a trail at night. It stays at this dim level until it's totally discharged at which point it turns off. This reserve mode period is about 8 hours. I don't think during this period that it gets gradually dimmer like some lights I've used. When it gets to about 5% charge, when I turned it off it wouldn't turn back on, so in order to get that last 5% of light I have to just leave it on.
On my Mt Hood trip I attached the BioLite to my backpack, above and to the rear of my sleeping bag. Then, at night, it provided good illumination. I read a book for a while.
Also on my Mt Hood trip, I tried a short night hike using the BioLite as a flashlight, holding the wire handle in my hand. It worked quite well, although it did require a hand to hold it as opposed to a headlamp like I usually use. Also, the BioLite has a broad field of illumination which isn't as good for finding a trail, but better for reading.
Overall, I was satisfied with the BioLite SunLight. It provided good illumination and the solar panel kept it charged up. Charging one hour in the sun allows me to use the light on the low setting for about 6 hours.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2018. All rights reserved.
I attached it to the back top of my pack while hiking to keep it exposed to the sun to keep the battery charged. It survived being bumped around, rained on, and subjected to dust.
I was happy with the amount of light produced on the low setting which would run a long time before battery discharge. I turned up the intensity if I wanted a lot of light for a short time.
The BioLite is pretty good for being made out of plastic. It looks pretty solid and held up to my abuse.
My only complaint is it required a hand to hold it to use it. I prefer a headlamp. Although when I could set the light so that it lit up the area I needed, like for reading, that worked pretty good.
In the future, I probably won't use the BioLite backpacking but will put it somewhere handy, like in my RV, where the solar panel will keep it charged, ready when I need some light.
Thanks to BioLite and BackpackGearTest.org for letting me test this.
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