The BioLite PowerLight Mini has great versatility. In the front country, it comes in handy on nighttime walks, car emergencies, power outages, and evening bike rides. It is small and compact enough that, on trail, it is great for reading time in the tent and navigating around your campsite in the dark. It works best for personal use, so you shouldn't count on it for a holiday car camping weekend with friends, but on the whole, we are really pleased with its performance. Its USB charge out port provides an option for a quick boost of power to a smartphone or e-reader. It's the kind of rechargeable light that we would want accessible in our day packs or work bags.
BioLite PowerLight Mini Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Compact, versatile, bright for its size
Cons: Single direction beam, harsh light quality
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Our Analysis and Test Results
This lantern separates itself from the competition because it appears to be equally well-designed for front country and backcountry use. It comes with a bike mount and is charged via micro-USB. It's a good option to have on hand in a variety of situations.
Topping out at 135 lumens, this lantern is right on par with other personal use models. It has continuous dimming, so it also comes with a wide range of brightnesses (as opposed to discrete settings).
It's not without a couple of drawbacks, however. The light has no cover, so it hurts your eyes to look at directly. It also has a fairly harsh light quality; it's very blue/white compared to some other models in this review. Its max brightness runtime of just over 5 hours leaves a little to be desired since you have to remember to plug it in to charge it (as opposed to a solar-powered option).
This little light is durable enough to take some knocks. It earns an IPX4 rating, meaning that it can withstand splashing water without issue. It is also compact enough that it can sustain a drop onto dirt from any reasonable height below about 8 feet. That is, it will probably still work just fine afterward if you trip over a root and the light goes flying. With that in mind, its stainless steel backing and hard plastic cover are liable to get scratched. In our experience, this doesn't affect performance.
One of the weak spots on this model in terms of its weather resistance is the USB/mini-USB port cover. It just doesn't secure as snuggly as some other models, so it is liable to collect dust and moisture if it is not carefully sealed.
This light looks super simple but comes with a few more features than it initially appears. You can cycle through a variety of settings by clicking the single power button. Holding down the power button engages the dimming feature. It also comes with red and flashing red modes to see and be seen in the darkness. A bike mount comes included with this light, significantly increasing its front country versatility.
The stand has about 300 degrees of mobility, meaning that you can position it on a flat surface in a variety of ways (though the poor directionality of the light is somewhat of an issue). It can also be hung from a hook overhead, though it doesn't seem particularly well-suited for that. It has four charge indicator lights that illuminate depending on the amount of charge left in the built-in battery, and the charge out port is a nice add-on. It boosted our smartphones by 50% in less than 2 hours before running out of juice itself. Because this lantern can only be charged via micro-USB, it's not going to be a long term backcountry option (that is, you will always be forced to choose between having a charged light, or having a charged phone, without the flexibility that a solar-powered model has).
Ease of Use
This light is relatively easy to use. It has just one power button, so turning it on is as intuitive as it gets. However, cycling through the handful of settings is a little annoying. The pattern is not as obvious as 'high, medium, low' and it's made a little more disorienting by the fact that two of the modes are flashing strobe.
We also struggle with the angle of the light and the light stand. If you have it on a flat surface, it either shines at a downward or upward angle, meaning that the brightest part of the light is often not shining on whatever is directly in front of it.
This 3.14 oz. lantern is the lightest model in this review. It weighs in at less than most headlamps (including their batteries) and takes up about as much space. Its 3.35" x 2" x 0.6" dimensions mean that it fits easily in almost any clothing or gear pocket and would be a great addition to an indoor or outdoor kit.
This light offers decent value. We really like what we get with its versatility, and for a bike-commuter or committed weekend camper, we think that it is well worth the investment. It's a high-quality product that should pay off in a variety of ways. Having said that, if you need a general-purpose light, there are other options in this review that are less expensive, but equally capable. This is all to say, we think that this model is priced a little high, but it wouldn't prevent us from making the purchase.
The BioLite PowerLight Mini is a compact, lightweight, versatile model. It is plenty bright for personal use and comes with a variety of modes that are good for camping and front country situations alike.
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch