SOLIGHT SOLAR HELIX LIGHT
TEST SERIES BY NANCY GRIFFITH
November 06, 2016
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Northern California, USA
5' 6" (1.68 m)
126 lb (57.20 kg)
My outdoor experience began in high school with a canoeing/camping group which made a 10-day voyage through the Quebec wilds. I've been backpacking since my college days in Pennsylvania. I have hiked all of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. My typical trip now is in the Sierra Nevada in California and is from a few days to a few weeks long. Over the past few years I have lowered my pack weight to a lightweight base weight of 15 lb (6.8 kg) while still using a tent, stove and quilt.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Solight Design, Inc.
Year of Manufacture: 2016
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.solight-design.com
MSRP: $22.50 US
Listed Weight: 2.6 oz (74 g)
Measured Weight: 3.4 oz (96 g)
Listed Size (when opened): 4-1/3 in cube (11 cm)
Listed Size (when closed): Not listed
Actual Size: Cube size verified as accurate
Actual Size (when closed): 4-1/3 in x 0.5 in thick (11 cm x 1.2 cm)
The Solight Design Solar Helix lamp is a solar-powered cube of light. The top side has solar panels, the power switch and a strap for hanging. On the opposite side of the solar panels are rows of 10 LED lights which are inside the collapsible cube. The cube material is listed as PET (polyethylene) on the packaging but as TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) on the website. The cube diffuses the light to create a lamp-like product. The cube is uniquely shaped with 'folds' that allow the cube to sit flat for packing or storage.
The power switch has three settings besides off: low (60 lumen), high (90 lumen) and flashing. To toggle between the settings, I simply keep pressing the switch.
The lithium polymer battery is charged by facing the solar panels (top of the cube) toward the sun for 8 hours for a maximum charge. This is supposed to power the lamp for 8-12 hours. The packaging also notes that a 5 hours charge will power the lamp for 5-6 hours and that cloudy days may cause variation. Full sun is recommended for a full charge.
INITIAL IMPRESSIONS & TRYING IT OUT
I was surprised to see such a small package arrive in the mail. When I opened it, the Helix was packaged inside a heavy-duty plastic pouch with a zipper edge. I wasn't expecting this because the FAQ's on the website state that the Puff comes in a pouch like this, but the Helix comes in a paper pouch. So, I was pleasantly surprised! While I'll probably be carrying the Helix on my backpack for charging during the day, I wasn't too concerned with packaging. But the pouch will be nice for storage between trips. And I love that there is essentially no packaging trash since the pouch is a useful item.
The Helix was easy to use so I untwisted the unit 1/4 turn and it opened easily and formed a cube. Then I started pressing the power switch and toggled through the low, high and flashing options. The Helix had enough charge as-received that I could see how it works and was able to easily read even on low light. I slowly closed the Helix by twisting while pushing and allowing the air to push out of a small hole in the cube material. Then I put the Helix outside in full sun to charge all day in preparation for an upcoming backpacking trip next week. I'm sure that it will be sunny on the trail for charging, but I wanted to top it off to start.
When I weighed the Helix I was a little disappointed to see that the actual weight was 30% over the weight listed on the package. Granted this light only weighs a few ounces but in backpacking we can be pretty weight-conscious. I make many of my buying decisions based on weight and really count on manufacturers to list accurate weights.
The packaging notes that the recommended storage is 32 - 82 F (0 to 28 C). Certainly the lamp will see more extreme conditions during backpacking trips, but this recommendation seems to be addressing long-term storage and not short-term extremes.
The website claims that the lamp will remain fully charged for three months or at 50% charge after two years in an emergency kit. Unfortunately since I'll be out using mine, I won't be able to validate this.
I used the Helix for reading at bedtime and it cast a nice glow in the bedroom and plenty of light for reading. There isn't any problem with glare since the cube dissipates the light.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
The back of the packaging includes use instructions in English along with visual cues for how to form the cube shape, what the power settings are and how to charge for a desired amount of lighting time. It's all pretty self-explanatory but it's nice to have the reminder right on the packaging and not as a separate manual.
There a one-year warranty noted for light function only.
It notes that the lamp is water resistant but should not be submerged.
The battery needs to be properly disposed of.
The Solight Design Solar Helix light is a unique solar-powered cube for creating ambiance and useful reading light in camp situations.
Bright enough light to read
Strap for hanging
High and low light settings
Cool storage pouch
Weighs 30% more than listed
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I used the Helix during two backpacking trips for a total of six days and at home for various lighting needs such as reading before bed and as a night light.
Pacific Crest Trail, Section N, Belden to Chester, California: 3 nights; 45 mi (72 km); 2,254 to 7,631 ft (687 to 2,326 m) elevation; 57 to 82 F (14 to 28 C). Long daylight hours. Used Helix 1 hour per night.
South Fork Rubicon River, Sierra Nevada, California: overnight; 11 mi (18 km); 4,250 to 4,970 ft (1,295 to 1,515 m) elevation; 38 to 85 F (3 to 29 C). Used Helix 1 hour in tent.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I used the Helix while backpacking to light the tent by hanging it with a carabiner from the strap to a line inside the peak of my tent. It provides a good amount of light even on the low setting but I prefer to read with it on the high setting. I didn't find a use for the third setting of flashing and toggled through it every time while turning it off.
|Hanging in tent|
On our first night out with the Helix we hiked until dark. After getting into the tent we found that my husband's side of the sleeping pad had a major leak. We were able to find the leak and patch it using both our headlamps and the Helix. The dispersed light of the Helix was a big help since the headlamps provide much more pinpoint lighting.
I typically used the Helix in the tent in camp at night for about an hour or so. With the long summer daylight hours, I didn't have that much need for lighting in general since I was tired by the time it got dark. Since the Helix stays charged so long, I carried it inside my pack on the first trip to protect it from the bushwhacking sections of the trail.
I then fully recharged it at home and tested how long it would stay lit in a single use. On the low setting it stayed on for 13 hours with the light level being noticeably less at about 12 hours. I then fully recharged again and tested it on the high setting. After 9 hours it had gone out, so I recharged it again. I repeated this charging and discharging cycle multiple times and the lamp seemed to degrade with each attempt. After about nine cycles, the lamp lasted approximately 3 hours on high or 4 hours on low. This hasn't been any issue since I don't need lighting for that length of time while backpacking in summer, but it certainly hasn't lived up to the advertised 8 -12 hours of lighting per charge anymore. I'm aware that lithium batteries prefer a partial discharge versus a complete discharge so it's possible that I damaged the batteries by doing this. However, I did not see any warning on the packaging or website to avoid this type of use.
On the second backpacking trip I wasn't sure how charged the Helix was, so I carried it on the outside of my pack. Again the daylight hours were fairly long and I was tired, so I only needed lighting for an hour in the tent before falling asleep. I hung the Helix in the center peak of the tent for general lighting while getting ready for bed using the low setting. Then when we were all settled, I moved it to a little hook just above my head where it works perfectly for reading using the high setting.
|Charging while hiking|
The physical durability of the Helix has been good with no signs of tears or abrasion. The only degradation seems to be in the lighting time per charge. I'll continue to monitor this and report in the next test period when the daylight hours will be shorter and I should need more hours of lighting on the trail.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
During this test period I used the lamp for one 5-day backpacking trip, one 3-day boat camping trip and on the deck for hanging out with friends and family.
|Charging on pack|
Like in the Field Report, I used a small carabiner around the strap to allow me to hang the lamp from my backpack or tent.
Pacific Crest Trail, Cascade Range, Northern California: 5 days; 65 mi (105 km); 4,355 to 6,684 ft (1,327 to 2,037 m) elevation; 31 to 64 F (-0.5 to 18 C). Conditions ranged from clear and sunny to cloudy with strong winds and light rain.
Loon Lake, Sierra Nevada, California: 3 days; 52 to 82 F (11 to 28 C); 6,327 ft (1,928 m) elevation; mostly sunny with afternoon breezes
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
With the shorter daylight hours, I was able to use the light for a longer period in the evenings and mornings on the trail. On the backpacking trip I used the lamp for 1-2 hours in the evening in camp and for 1/2 -1 hour in the morning when we were getting an early start before the sun came up.
|Probably not charging!|
I carried the lamp on my backpack during the days in order to keep it fully charged. However, on the third night I found that the lamp was too low even on the high setting for me to comfortably read my book. I ended up using my headlamp instead. Then in the morning I turned the lamp on for light while quickly breaking camp and it turned off by itself after just 10 minutes or so. Again the headlamp had to be used.
Since I had been charging the lamp every day while hiking, I wasn't sure if the lamp was getting flipped over during my hike and wasn't positioned facing the sun all day. So the next day I was careful to position it toward the sun as much as possible on my pack and during breaks.
I also used my umbrella during one hot exposed section of trail and found it to be the perfect way to charge the lamp. I hung the lamp from the loop on the end cap of the umbrella. This allowed for the solar charging panel to perfectly face the sun since I was automatically moving it to protect myself from the sun. That night the lamp seemed to be much more charged and I used it for 1-1/2 hours in the tent for reading and could easily see.
|Ideal charging option|
I typically hung the lamp from the top center loop inside the tent when we first set up camp. It helped us to find the tent after dark while we were cooking dinner or making hot drinks away from our camp. Then it provided a nice diffused flood light while my husband and I were getting ready for bed. Then once we were settled in the tent, I would move it to a hang loop just above my head to allow for better reading lighting.
I really like having a rechargeable lighting option for longer backpacking trips. I typically hike in the Sierra Nevada where there is plenty of sunshine so having a solar-charged light that I can count on is a great addition to my pack. While I didn't get the lighting time that was advertised, I did get enough light per charge to allow me to perform my evening tasks along with some reading in the tent and still have charge left for breaking camp pre-dawn. I called Customer Service to inquire about why I was having the issue with the reduced lighting time per charge. However, despite multiple call attempts during business hours, I never had a human answer the phone and only got a voice mailbox for leaving a message. I didn't choose to use this option, so I didn't get any information as to what might be the problem.
One downside is that it isn't able to replace my headlamp so it's an addition to my pack. For now I find the weight to be worthwhile.
I used the lamp on our deck after dinner with friends which provided great ambiance as the sun went down. I just left the lamp sitting on the table and the light was bright enough to see each other without glaring into our eyes.
The Helix is a convenient method of providing solar re-chargeable lighting for ambiance, area lighting and reading light while backpacking.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.
Provides enough light for reading
Stays charged for a long time while in storage
Nice ambiance with no glare
Don't get the advertised lighting time per charge
Doesn't replace my headlamp so it's another item in my pack
This concludes my Long-Term Report and this test series. Thanks to Solight Design and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this innovative product.
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