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Reviews > Lighting > Lanterns > Solight Design SolarHelix > Test Report by Kara Stanley

SOLAR HELIX
TEST SERIES BY KARA STANLEY
LONG-TERM REPORT
November 20, 2016

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Kara Stanley
EMAIL: karguo at yahoo dot com
AGE: 33
LOCATION: Phoenix, Arizona
GENDER: F
HEIGHT: 5' 10" (1.80 m)
WEIGHT: 165 lb (74.80 kg)

I have been hiking most of my life and backpacking since 2006. I have hiked mostly on the east coast, doing weekend trips in the Appalachian Mountains. Since moving to Arizona, my hikes have ranged from short desert hikes to overnight backpacking trips in the mountains. Recently I have taken up canyoneering and off-trail hiking/backpacking to spice things up. I currently use a solo non-free standing tent, canister stove, purification tabs, and lightweight trail runners, conditions permitting, to cut down on weight. My hikes are solo and range from an overnight trip to 4-5 nights on the trail.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Solight Design, Inc.
IMAGE 2
View of the inflated light

Year of Manufacture: 2016
Manufacturer's Website: www.solight-design.com/
MSRP: US$22.50
Listed Weight: 2.6 oz (74 g) per the packaging
Measured Weight: 3.4 oz (96 g)
Listed Size: Open - 4 1/3 in (11 cm) cube; Closed - not listed
Measured Size: Open - 4 1/4 in (10.8 cm) cube; Closed - 4.25 in x 0.66 in (10.8 cm x 1.7 cm)
Warranty: One year for light function only
Specifications: 10 LED lights - 60 lumens on low and 90 lumens on high
Battery: Lithium Polymer
Material: PET (polyethylene terephthalate - per the packaging)

Notes: It is worth mentioning that there are discrepancies between what is listed on the product website and what is listed on the packaging. The packaging lists the material the Helix is made from TPU, recycable a thermoplastic , while the package lists the material as PET.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The Solar Helix light arrived in small zippered pouch with directions and information about the light printed on the outside.
IMAGE 4
Closed light and solar panel


The light is water resistant, but should not be submerged. I have already washed the light as a bird pooped on it while it was outside charging. I'm counting that as good luck for the duration of this test series! The light will also float, but I haven't tried that out yet.

To open the light - simply twist the light 90 degrees while lifting up. The cube self inflates through the hole in one side on the cube. The cube is easy to open and close, but I do wonder how the fold lines will hold up over time. I do like the fact that the cube is self-inflating, so it is easy to share without sharing germs!
IMAGE 3
Side and inflation hole


To charge the light - place in the sun for 8 hours for 8-12 hours of light or 5 hours for 5-8 hours of light. For best results while charging, place the solar panels in direct sun with the panel tilted towards the sun. Charging time may vary depending on clouds and sun angle.

The light has three settings, low, high, and blinking/distress signal. Simply press the on/off switch until the desired desired setting is reached. To turn off, press the on/off switch until the light turns off.

The top of the light has a solar panel for charging, an on/off button, and a handle for easy carrying or hanging. The sides of the cube are a soft material that reminds me of vinyl blow-up toys. The bottom is made from a stiffer material and allows the cube to sit flat either open or closed.

At just over 3 oz (85 gm), I think the weight is very reasonable for a solar light which can provide almost limitless light, assuming sunny skies for charging.

TRYING IT OUT

I charged the light over 8 hours before testing. To test out how long the battery would last, I turned the light on high and placed in it a dark drawer and checked on it every 2 hours. The light died somewhere between 6 and 8 hours.

I also tested it out as a reading light, and found that on high it provides enough light to read by with the light about 4 ft (1.2 m) from the reading material. The light is brightest directly below the light. The light from the sides is more muted and harder to read by. The solar panel blocks most of the light from the top.

I can fit three fingers through the handle on the top of the light, making it easy to carry. When backpacking, I plan to attach the light to the outside of my pack using a small carabiner hooked through the handle.
IMAGE 1
Holding the inflated light


SUMMARY

I am excited to hit the trail with this light. I do wonder how durable it will be and how well it will stand up to repeated opening and closing.

Likes:
* Self inflating
* Bright enough to read by

Things to watch:
* Durability
* At the end of the test period, will the battery still hold 6 + hours of light on high


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Backpacking:

Location: Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA

When: July 2016
Length: 2 day/1 night backpack
Mileage: 20 miles/32 km
Elevation: 2,500 ft/762 m to 7,000 ft/2,134 m
Weather: Sunny and hot, high around 110 F (43 C) low around 90 F (32 C)
Trail Conditions: well-maintained trail

Cusco Area, Peru

When: August 2016
Length: 4 day/3 night
Mileage:
Elevation: 15,090 ft (4,599 m) to 6,000 ft (1,829 m)
Weather: Sunny, temps ranged from below freezing to warm in the 80s F (~26 C)
Trail Conditions: Well used trail with loose rocks, some dirt road, and trails along the train tracks.

Car Camping:

Mogollon Rim, Arizona, USA
When: August 2016
Length 2 day/1 night
Elevation: 7,000 ft (2,134 m)
Weather: Rain and thunderstorms followed by periods of sun and patchy clouds.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Lighting
Using the Solar Helix to light the way
Due to the extreme summer heat, we started hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon about 6 pm. We hiked through sunset and then used headlamps to finish the hike. I decided to try and hike by the light from the Solar Helix using the high setting. At first I held it in my hand while hiking, but this didn't work out so well since I swing my arms while hiking. Next I used a small carabiner to attach the carrying strap of the Solar Helix to the hip belt of my pack. This worked out quite well as I was to see several feet (~ one meter) directly in front of me as well as on either side of the trail. I hiked this way for about 30 minutes until the battery died as I'd forgotten to charge it in the sun before starting this hike.

I took the Solar Helix on my trip to Peru. This was a supported trek, so I just carried a day pack. I kept the Solar Helix hooked to the outside of my pack with a small carabiner. My friend and I shared a 4-person A-frame tent and at night and in the morning we hung the Solar Helix up from the end of the tent. On the high setting it provided enough light to unpack and pack out stuff. The first night, we only got about 1 hour of light from the Solar Helix as it was strapped to the side of my pack and did not get much direct sun light while hiking and I did not charge this before leaving on my trip. For the second and third days, I made sure that the Solar Helix received direct sun light as much as in order to charge and did not run out of charge on either the second or third nights.

On the third night we needed to walk from our tent to the dining area and bathroom. I carried the Solar Helix instead of wearing a headlamp. It was also night to be able to hang this above the sink while brushing my teeth.

Also, this light was a huge hit among the local guides as well as some other hikers. The local guide liked the light and offered to buy it from me at the end of the trek. I provided anyone who asked with the website, which was easy to do since it is printed on the top of the Solar Helix.

The third time that I used the Solar Helix, was on a weekend car camping trip. This time I was smart enough to put it outside to charge the day before I left. Since I got to the campsite after dark, I used the Solar Helix to scout out the best location for my tent as well as to light up my car so my friend could find the site. Again I hung this light from top of the tent and it provided enough light to unpack. Since it rained much of the first night and morning and the tent did leak a bit, it was nice to know that the Solar Helix is water resistant. That night I used the Solar Helix while I was making dinner. I set it on the table with the solar panel down as it seemed to produce the most light this way. It would have been better to have this hanging over the table, but this wasn't an option at this site.

SUMMARY

I have used the Solar Helix on three trips now and really enjoy it overall. The only setting that I use for this light is high as it provides the most light and generally I am camping in remote settings with little ambient light. I like using this light to walk around camp as it is hard to shine this light directly in someone's face, something that I do along when wearing a headlamp.

Pros:
Light Weight
Self-Inflating
Rechargeable
Easy to carry

Cons:
Can only be recharged by the sun (so if I forgot to charge it during the day, I am out of luck at night)


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

IMAGE 2
Lighting up a 4 person tent
Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona, USA
Length: 2 nights wilderness car camping
Weather: Sunny Skies during the day

Sitgreaves National Forest, Arizona, USA
Length: 3 day/2 night backpack
Mileage: ~ 8 miles/13 km with packs and about 6 miles (9.5 km) without packs
Elevation: around 7,000 ft/2,134 m
Weather: Sunny and cool, high around 70 F (21 C) low around 40 F (4 C)
Trail Conditions: well-maintained trail

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

For both trips I made sure to charge the light before leaving on the trips because I knew I would arrive at the camp site after dark.

IMAGE 1
Hanging the light from the tent roof
For the trip in the Chiricahua Mountains, I left the Solar Helix hooked to the top of the tent since I wasn't using the rainfly and tent top was mesh. The tent was set up in the open without much shade. The light charged well and I had enough light for 4+ hours as I left it on in the tent to make it easy to find the tent in the dark .

In the Sitgreaves National Forest, I did move the light out into the sun since our campsite was in a clump of evergreens and therefore in deep shade.

I have used the Solar Helix in 2, 3, and 4 person tents and this light has lit them up without a problem. I like that I can read by in since I often take a book with me car camping. I also like having my whole tent lit-up, it makes it easy to set up my sleeping system, find things in my bag, and organize stuff in the tent.

SUMMARY

I really like this light and it's been added to my camping gear bag - both for backpacking and car camping. As long as I remember to charge the light, it has provided all the light I need at nights. I can read by the light of the Solar Helix when it's hung from the top of the tent. This light still holds a charge well and if I charge it in direct sun for several hours, it still provides all the light I need at night.

I do make sure that I carry a second (and usually third) source of light in case I forget to charge the light or if the cloud cover prevents the light from fully charging.

It would be nice if there was some type of gauge show how much charge the light had/how many hours of light the charge would last. This way I would know if it was charged or not before I started a trip, especially if I am going to be hiking in the dark to arrive at camp in the dark.

Thank you so much SoLight Design and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to light up my nights with the Solar Helix!

This concludes my test series.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.

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Reviews > Lighting > Lanterns > Solight Design SolarHelix > Test Report by Kara Stanley



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