LuminAID makes solar-powered, LED lights that pack down small and weigh almost nothing. They’ve also distributed more than 25,000 of their lights to third world people who, until now, did not have any portable way to light up the night. And, they’re part-owned by Mark Cuban after a successful Shark Tank episode. We took the LuminAID Packlite 16 out for a test run.
Buying options: MSRP is $19.99, but if you add $10, you can send a matching LuminAID Packlite 16 to a charity. Win, WIN!
The LuminAID Packlite 16
The Packlite 16 arrives in a small package, folded up with the solar panel exposed on the front. It came fully charged and ready to rock, so we opened it up, unfolded it, inflated it, and turned it on. Total time from package to lamp-pillow, under a minute.
At only 4.75″ x 2.75″ and under 1″ thick when folded, the Packlite 16 doesn’t take up much room in your pack. Unfolded, it’s 8.25″ x 12″. Weight is listed at 2.9 oz. LuminAID tested their lights to operate in temperatures from -4° to 140° F (-20° to 60° C) but recommends you store them at around normal room temperature.
LuminAID uses a normal air valve – like one you’d find on a beach ball or pool float – to make inflation simple and, for anyone in a western country, extremely familiar.
The battery pack and solar panel are combined into one piece which takes up about 1/9 of the surface area on the front of the Packlite. There’s one control button that cycles through four settings – low, medium, high, and flash. It’s all simple and intuitive.
In addition to the inflated section, there’s a strip across the top that has a handle and two holes for carabiners or cords. It makes for easy, convenient carrying while inflated. LuminAID also includes a small loop at the top of the solar panel that remains exposed when the Packlite is folded. You can keep the Packlite hanging off your pack during the day and it will be fully charged when you get to camp.
Our Packlite 16 came fully charged. When it is charging, a small LED on the front panel lights up red. When the LED turns green, the battery is full. Don’t worry – the battery indicator LED is only on when the solar panel is exposed to sunlight, so it won’t drain the battery.
We took it out on an overnight trip. Hanging from a tree at about eye level and set on high, the Packlite 16 illuminated most of camp with a healthy glow.
LuminAID claims 6 hours on the high setting. Medium gets you 10 hours, low last for 30 hours, and flash lasts for 32. We didn’t test those after confirming the run time for the high setting.
When we first posted about LuminAID on Facebook, we were asked if it would work as a pillow. It might be a bit small for that, but wrapped in a shirt, it will cushion your dome in a pinch. We were very slightly worried that the on button might accidentally activate in pillow mode. No such problem. Just makes sure to keep the solar panel face down.
As for storage and operating temperature, we kept the Packlite 16 in direct sun on our dashboard for a few days before taking it out to go camping. The heat didn’t seem to damage it at all, which bodes well for long term storage in a trunk-stored bug-out bag or similar.
We really dig the LuminAID Packlite 16. It’s small, light, and unobtrusive enough that you can keep one stashed just about anywhere. $20 gets you a Packlite 16 and use our special discount code – ENGEARMENT – for 10% off your entire order.