Reviewing and testing solid lights for the survival/prepper/bush crafter
by Jesse Mathewson
January 2016, a purchase was made of over 20 solar powered, crank powered and alternative powered hand held lights. These flashlights all underwent extensive testing. This testing included the following steps for my personal use.
1. Drop testing (from 4 feet and 6 feet using different angles and surfaces) – I live in the high desert, if they can’t handle being banged around a bit I cannot use them, regardless what it is.
2. Water survivability – just because I live in the high desert, does not mean things cannot or will not get wet! I use from several inches through 4 feet of water and leave the products submerged for several minutes through overnight depending on their rated survivability.
3. Overall durability/ quality– I always test multiple versions of the same product, like testing accuracy using a full magazine or expansion using 5 rounds minimum, etc., a test is only as good as the amount of items used to ensure overall quality.
4. Battery life in use and stored – (this was originally going to be a year-long test, however, as of this writing only one flashlight has survived all testing and still retains a charge!)
The following lights were tested in full, using a minimum of two identical lights per test for each brand, maximum of four. (Donations always accepted of course, this gets expensive!)
· MECO emergency hand-cranked/solar powered light. (Four lights were tested, I had two fail using cranks, and one crank snapped off after just two cranks, however, they were relatively bright.)
· Thorfire LED solar and hand cranked light. (Being an avid fan of Thorlight battery powered LED lights, I expected great things. Sadly, after testing just 2, I was quickly put in my place. Where they as a company have excelled at building strong, bright small pocket lights, their foray into alternative energy approaches and unfortunately leaves much to be desired. I didn’t have a light last longer than an hour with full charge, and had one crank break, maybe a pattern in cranking lights?)
· Bear Motion – motion powered light with solar backup/ radio and ports to charge other devices (I have never used a Bear Motion product, however, have owned several motion activated watches and really enjoy the idea. Sadly, the charge barely lasted out a week in both lights tested, and when on they gave me between 45 minutes and an hour of light. Also, drop testing shattered one into a thousand pieces, so a definite NO for this light, except as a possible addition for your vehicle?)
· ECEEN solar torch, with port for charging using usb – (My son took one to England, used it well and had it work quite nicely. Sadly, when charged fully it retains battery power for only around 3 days. This means without direct continuous sunlight you will eventually lose charge. I do not use this model in my packs and would not recommend it, my son, however, loves the light and since we live in a VERY sunny area, it will work for him for now. It is both water-resistant and relatively shockproof having been through multiple baggage handlers and the like and lasted fine!)
· Hybrid Solar – Solar powered flashlight with emergency battery backup (This light is the clear winner, and the rest of the review will go into detail as to why with pictures and video attached.)
The rest of this review will focus solely on the Hybrid Solar, solar powered flashlight with emergency battery backup. First I want to review the factory specifications with you.
a. Recharges with any light source
b. 8 hours of light from one full charge
c. Holds a charge for up to 3 years
d. Water resistant to 3 meters
e. 40 lumens
f. 72 meter light beam
h. 3 click operation, one click is solar battery/charge light source, two clicks puts it in charge mode, three clicks puts it in backup battery mode
Now it’s my turn based on testing 4 identical lights from this manufacturer.
· It will charge if there is any ambient light in the room, however, full sunlight will charge it in under 3 hrs.
· My max life of light on solar powered side, without battery backup was 6.5 hours approximately, (plus or minus a minute or two) the minimum life was 5.5 hours (plus or minus a minute or two) I was never able to get a full 8 hours, however, I have never had a flashlight that met fully this particular claim regardless.
· As of right now I have one that I charged put through testing and charged again that has been sitting since the 20th of January of this year in a closet with no light, every week I test it just to see if it still lights up, so far it continues, NONE of the other lights tested lasted over a month.
· Because it DOES float, I had to hold it under water, which I did before and after drop testing. Without ANY ill effects and this was on all four being tested. One light I used in a pools deep end of 10 feet and had no problems, I have seen reviews from others that this is a light they used for snorkeling and took it to 40+ feet without any ill effects.
· The 40 lumens are closer to 100 for the first hour or so- however, again this averages out to 40 over the entire length of life lit. It is quite bright and while it cannot come close to my sun like de.Power 1000 lumen lights or an expensive 4000 lumen LED spotlight I have, it functions extremely well for the purposes it is designed. As a survival/ lightweight/ backpacking light!
· Measured beam averaged 70 meters, so this claim from the manufacturer is correct.
· I have used the clicker on one light specifically every day several times a day since purchasing and have had no failures, this was a weak point in a few other lights.
· There were no specific claims to drop testing, though they stated it was durable, my testing dropped it sideways and end over end onto concrete, gravel, dirt and tile. I had no major breakages and only one minor scuff mark on one flashlight as a result. While I would not use it as a baton, it is after all made entirely of polymers, I would not hesitate to rely on it while mountain climbing at this time.
· There is very little information about the power sources for this light, I am not even sure if you can replace the backup battery. However, from what I gather and can tell after breaking one down completely, the solar cells charge a capacitor style bank which stores the initial charge. The backup battery has the average shelf life of most batteries of 7 years and once it’s used up can be changed, using two CR2032 3v button cell. However, I did not test this feature, simply because I did not need too as the solar side/capacitors continue to work very well!
· The factory does not state the weight of this flashlight, so I weighed it myself, as weight is of course always an issue! It came out to right at 6 ounces.
· My children and wife both LOVED this light, and as a result, we are replacing all of our go bag/ vehicle lights with this light.
· Temperatures that it safely operates at, I left one of mine in the sunlight on the dashboard of my 4 Runner Sport in Tucson, Arizona since January. Quite literally it took temperatures from freezing through close to 150 degrees (inside the car) and didn’t waver for second, the polymer build means it will not necessarily burn your hands if you pick it up from being in the sun charging, versus other models which use aluminum casings meaning they get quite a bit hotter.
In conclusion, it is my educated opinion based on extreme testing that the Hybrid Solar flashlight (40-lumen model) is the overall best solar/ alternative energy powered light available at this time. Amazon carries these at a great price of under $20 apiece. Given the lack of need to change batteries, or bulbs due to the LED setup, this is an absolutely amazing price and because it weighs about half as much as most battery powered lights of the same size, carrying two would not be a bad thing and would essentially double your ability for the same weight requirements.
This light also comes in 120-lumen model as well, which is quite a bit brighter, however, again, for the weight savings and pricing, the 40-lumen model is sufficient in every way.
If you have any questions or would like to add your experiences, please feel free to do so. And as always, free the mind and the body will follow.
Jesse Mathewson bio:
- BSCJA / Alpha Phi Sigma
- Massad Ayoob graduate
- Multiple advanced firearms schools
- NRA range safety instructor
Currently volunteers time writing reviews and educational articles based on his experience and background, as well as being a disabled father at home.
He taught LE/Mil/Fed programs ranging from firearms safety through active use as well as surveillance/counter-surveillance as paid contractor and volunteer instructor
He has lived in and immersed himself in the Arizona high desert for over 25 years, experienced bushcrafter with extensive knowledge both taught and learned in the state/le/mil approach to the same.
Is an active non-voting, freedom loving, non-religious (in normal sense) human being with a desire to share freedom through knowledge with others.