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Reviews > Lighting > Lanterns > Solight Design SolarPuff > Test Report by Andrea Murland

Solight Design SolarPuff
Test Series by Andrea Murland

Initial Report - July 7, 2016
Field Report - September 12, 2016
Long Term Report - November 8, 2016

Tester Information

Name: Andrea Murland
Email: amurland AT shaw DOT ca
Age: 31
Location: Elkford, British Columbia, Canada
Gender: Female
Height: 5 ft 2 in (1.57 m)
Weight: 130 lb (59 kg)

I began hiking frequently in 2006 and have since hiked in Western Canada, Australia, and spent 2 months backpacking in the Alps. I spend most weekends either day-hiking or on 2-3 day backpacking trips, with some longer trips when I can manage them. I also snowshoe and ski in the winter, but don’t have a lot of experience with winter in the backcountry yet. Elevation is typically 500-3,000 m (1,600-10,000 ft), in the Canadian Rockies and the Selkirk, Purcell, and Monashee ranges. I try for a light pack, but I don’t consider myself a lightweight backpacker.

Initial Report – July 7, 2016

Product Information

Manufacturer: Solight Design
Manufacturer's URL: www.solight-design.com
Model: SolarPuff
Year of Manufacture: 2016
MSRP: US $30.00
Listed Weight: 2.6 oz (74 g)
Measured Weight: 2.65 oz (75 g)
Listed Dimensions: 4.3 in (10.9 cm) cube, 0.25 in (0.6 cm) thick when flattened
Measured Dimensions: 4.5 in (11.4 cm) cube, 0.4 in (1.0 cm) thick when flattened
Warranty: 1 year for solar circuit only

Description & Initial Impressions

The Solight Design SolarPuff is a collapsible LED lantern powered by a solar panel and lithium-ion battery. When expanded, it is cube-shaped, with a solar panel on the bottom of the lantern and a nylon handle on top. On the underside of the solar panel, inside the cube, are 10 white LED lights in a circle. The 5 sides not covered by the solar panel are made from a translucent plastic woven with white thread. The website tells me the plastic is thermoplastic polyurethane and the thread is a sail cloth fabric. The solar panel itself is set under a layer of protective plastic and has the on/off button in the centre. One side of the cube has the item logo as well as a small hole that allows air in and out of the cube for expanding and collapsing it. The website indicates that SolarPuff is waterproof and floats, so I’ll have to try that out!

The light has a low and a high setting, which are specified as 60 and 90 lumens respectively. There is also a flashing setting. Pressing the on/off button once gives low light, pressing it a second time gives high light, and a third press makes it flash. A fourth button press turns the light off. The instructions for the light specify that an 8-hour charge in sunlight gives 8-12 hours of lighting, while a 5-hour charge gives 5-8 hours of lighting.
The SolarPuff

Trying It Out

After charging the SolarPuff for a day in the sun, I tried it out briefly. The cube was easy to expand by simply holding onto the edges of the solar panel base and pulling the handle out. To collapse it, so far I find it easiest to do by pushing in the sides that fold in. After a few tries I figured out that the side with the logo and hole is one of the points of the collapsed shape, so now it’s easy to figure out which way it collapses. I sometimes have to poke a couple of spots into their nice folded shapes, but it’s easy overall to collapse it.

Turning on the light and cycling through the settings was easy and intuitive. The light seems to provide a decent amount of light at short range or in a closed room; enough to navigate by or do simple tasks, or maybe a very small amount of reading. I’ll have to see how well it lights up an area or tent out in the woods! The light pattern is interesting because of the woven pattern in the sides of the cube. The picture below shows what it looks like on my ceiling.
Trying it out and light pattern

Summary

The SolarPuff looks like a bright, easy-to-use solar lantern. I am looking forward to stringing it up in camp and ditching my headlamp while I’m cooking! I am very interested to see how much light it provides and what I think of the light pattern.

Field Report – September 12, 2016

Field Conditions

Over the past two months, I have used the SolarPuff on five nights while backpacking in the Rockies, as well as several nights in a small campervan in Scandinavia.

The first three nights of use were on a basecamp-type trip (luxury backpacking), with temperatures ranging from about 5 C (41 F) at night to 20 C (68 F) during the day. Weather was a mix of rain and sunshine and everything in between. The lantern was used in the evenings to provide some lighting while cooking in shelters (hiding from the rain) before it was dark. It was also used one evening for a bit of tent lighting while heading to bed, and spent the other evenings as the outside lantern under our tarp while we were getting ready for bed. I carried the lantern on my daypack for charging one day while out hiking in good weather.

The second two nights were on a backpacking trip where the weather was also mixed and temperatures were in about the same range. On this trip the lantern was mostly used while playing cards in the tent in the evening after it had started to rain and we were hiding from the weather. I carried the lantern on the outside of my backpack on the way in and out from camp but not on our “summit” hikes from camp.

I took the SolarPuff with me on vacation to light up our campervan, and it found a bit of use for playing cards in the van and some for personal reading once I was in my sleeping bag. However, I eventually got lazy and started using the van’s reading lights instead. In total, it was used on 4-6 nights before it got packed away to await the return home, all of them indoors and in warm temperatures. I carried it on a day hike one day to charge it.
Field Use

Observations

Lighting & General Function:
Overall, I have been happy with the function of the SolarPuff. It seems to provide sufficient light for general camp tasks. Due to long daylight hours on my trips so far, I haven’t really used it in full darkness for much yet, or for doing complicated things like cooking. It provides sufficient light when hanging in a 3-person tent for playing cards, but it was a bit dim for reading unless it was sitting right next to me, even on high.

Hanging up the light or having it sitting on a table has given me a few interesting observations. I’ve used a small carabiner in the carry loop to hang the lantern, and that works ok. The LEDs point upwards in that situation, which I think works better in an enclosed space where the light can reflect back down. When putting the lantern on a table, I haven’t decided which orientation I prefer. With the carry loop up and the LEDs point up, the light is bright but with the transparent fabric it’s almost too bright if I look directly at it. Putting it with the LEDs point down is less blinding, but also provides noticeably less light as it is all directed straight at the table.
Charging on packs
Charging:
Charging the SolarPuff has been relatively straightforward. I haven’t really timed how long I’ve used the light or charged it for to see how those times compare to the manufacturer’s stated claims (a task for the next testing phase…), but I have generally carried it when convenient.

To carry the lantern on my pack, I’ve used a small carabiner clipped through the carry handle and then to something on the back of my pack. Due to the position of the handle, I have noticed that the solar panels actually are slightly tilted towards the ground while on my pack while I’m hiking. This doesn’t seem ideal for charging but I haven’t sorted out a solution yet. The pictures I have here of it on my pack don’t really show this, so I’ll try to get a better picture for the next report. I also noted on my most recent hike that the lantern inflated itself while I was hiking, leaving the solar panels fully pointing towards the ground. I plan to keep an eye on if this becomes a recurring problem.

Waterproofness & Durability:
So far the SolarPuff shows no signs of wear. It looks as good as new! The several evenings of use in the rain don’t appear to have done the lantern any harm, but I haven’t tested if it floats yet.

Summary

The SolarPuff lantern has so far been a welcome addition to my backpacking kit. I am looking forward to some darker nights to get some extended use from the lantern. I hope to refine my hanging and carrying methods to get optimum use from the light!

Long Term Report – November 8, 2016

Field Conditions

During the Long Term testing phase, I used the SolarPuff on two more overnight hikes. On the first hike I camped at 2100 m (6890 ft) and the overnight temperature was about 5 C (41 F), with torrential rain for the second day of the hike. On the second the elevation was 1800 m (5900 ft) and the temperature right around freezing, but conditions dry. I also carried the SolarPuff on a day hike that was supposed to be an overnight hike (we turned around), and the weather was cool and raining/snowing, but the lantern was under my pack’s rain cover.

On both overnights I was camping solo so I used the lantern under my tarp for lighting while getting ready for bed, as well as for general camp tasks.
Long Term Use

Observations

Lighting & General Function:
Overall, I like the SolarPuff lantern, particularly inside my shelter when going to bed. It was nice to be able to hang up the lantern inside the tent and have light for organizing and changing clothes, without my headlamp getting in the way. It was also nice for playing cards in the tent, as the tent occupants weren’t all blinding each other with headlamps.

I seem to camp very rarely in places with good overhead locations to hang the lantern, so for cooking and around camp it ended up being set on the ground. Again, this time I had the dilemma of whether to put the solar panels facing up and blocking light, or with a transparent face up which could be a bit blinding. I eventually settled on having the solar panels on one of the sides so that the LEDs weren’t facing me directly if I looked at the lantern.

I liked the lantern light when sitting around camp chatting, but found the amount of light a bit insufficient for doing detailed tasks. I also prefer to be hands-free if I’m doing tasks that require me to change locations.
Tarp Lighting

Charging:
Charging the SolarPuff has remained easy. I did find that the weather this year seemed to be insufficient for charging the lantern while hiking, as it often ended up under a rain cover. I had to remember to charge it at home between trips as well. On my first overnight hike in the Long Term Testing phase, the lantern died just as I was going to bed, and I was unable to charge it at all in the pouring rain the next day, so I was happy to not need it the next night. I had two more instances of finding that the lantern had self-inflated while carrying it on my pack, pointing the solar panels at the ground. It was easy to deflate it before continuing to hike.

Waterproofness & Durability:
The SolarPuff is still in good condition. Rain doesn’t seem to have had any detrimental effect on the function. I did put it in a lake for a few minutes and confirmed that it floats. It prefers to sit with the solar panels down when in the water, and if tipped, will take water in through the air holes on the side. It was easy to get the water back out by deflating the lantern.

Summary

I have enjoyed testing the SolarPuff lantern for some extra night-time lighting. I have found the additional light hanging inside my shelter to be welcome. I haven’t found it to be particularly bright or as useful for general camp tasks, and it will always be an additional lighting tool rather than replacing a headlamp.

Thumbs Up:
Good lighting inside a shelter
Waterproof
Easy to charge (as long as the weather cooperates!)

Thumbs Down:
Not hands-free around camp
Transparent fabric meant looking at LEDs was blinding
Dim lighting for detailed tasks

Thanks to Solight Design and BackpackGearTest.org for the chance to test this interesting lantern! It will remain a part of my backpacking kit!


Read more reviews of Solight Design gear
Read more gear reviews by Andrea Murland

Reviews > Lighting > Lanterns > Solight Design SolarPuff > Test Report by Andrea Murland



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