Goal Zero Crush Light Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Lightweight, solar-powered, durable, inexpensive, packs flat
Cons: Low lumen output, can't fit in pocket
Manufacturer: Goal Zero
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Our Analysis and Test Results
This product is unique among solar-powered lights because instead of requiring inflation like other models, it collapses and expands like a fancy camping bowl. It also comes with a mini-USB 5V port for an alternative to solar-charging. Its 5" x 5" x 0.6" dimensions (collapsed), make it slim enough to fit into an auxiliary pocket of a hiking backpack.
For everything this lantern has going for it, brightness is not part of it. Topping out at 60 lumens, it's on par with other solar-powered options, but not nearly as bright as other top contenders. Its main panel is made up of 5 LEDs. Though it's not very bright, its shine radius appears to be consistent from the center to the edges, which makes it a good option for small groups, sitting in a tent playing cards.
Also, what it lacks in power, it makes up for in light quality. LEDs tend to give off a white/blue light that can feel a little unnatural and make your tent a little less cozy. It's not perfect, but we enjoy the warmer, yellow glow of the Crush Light, especially on flicker mode. Once we accepted that this model wasn't going to play a central role underneath the tailgate tent, we were really happy with how it performed for smaller groups. In theory, we like it for power outages as well; it's helpful both when on the move around the house as well as hanging over the couch in the living room. However, its stunted runtime, discussed below, could be a limiting factor if you experience extended outages in your area.
We love the sturdiness of this model, especially considering the price point. The handle is solid and would take quite a bit of force to break. We think that the accordion design is superior to other solar-powered models that have an inflatable body and are susceptible to puncture. When collapsed, we tossed it around the campsite with the justified confidence that it wouldn't crack on us if we dropped it. When it's expanded, if you happen to drop it as we did, it falls harmlessly to the ground, cushioned by its design.
It is rated to IPX4, meaning that it can withstand splashing water from all directions. Testing proved that this was true, and in fact, it endured even more than that, getting left out in the rain on at least one occasion. The seal on the USB port, which is always a potential weak point, actually secures very well. Though the solar panel itself could get scuffed up in the backcountry, the jury is still out on exactly what that means in terms of its ability to charge. If this model gets knocks against it for its durability, that would be because of its run time.
This lantern is light on features, but what it does come with just works. The removable handle is solid. It attaches and detaches easily, in case you want to hang the light from a fixed-line or tree branch. It has two subtle notches in the middle to help it stay centered while it hangs, and it collapses flush against the rest of the light for storage. There is no obvious indication that this is what it was designed for, but the loops at the base secure the charging cable when not in use, making it easy to keep track of the tiny cord. Convenient!
If there is a modest improvement that could be made to this lantern, it would be to include a charge indicator. Given its limited runtime on high, mode, and the amount of time it takes to charge in direct sunlight, knowing how much juice it has left would be a big plus. Low mode offers a respectable 30+ hours on one charge. However, there is a steep drop off from there. Medium clocks in at around 7 hours, and the high setting runs out around 3 hours. That might be plenty of light for one night's worth of activity, especially in the summer, but it means that it has to be charged daily, either while your hiking or for a couple of hours parked by an outlet.
Ease of Use
This lantern is truly simple to use. Without any battery compartment, there is nothing to fuss around with. Just use your thumbs to expand the accordion light cover and turn it on. Cycle through the high, medium, and low settings with successive presses of the power button. Holding down the power button for a couple of seconds in any of the three modes transitions the light to a candle flicker. We thought this was sort of gimmicky at first, but it turns out to actually be a really nice light quality if you just need a little light while you stay up talking in your tent.
Charging via solar power is, of course, totally passive if you just leave it by a window or strapped to the back of your pack. If you need a faster burst, just plug the light into a USB port with the included cable.
It's not the most compact, but this model is one of the lightest in this review. Weighing barely over 3 oz., this lantern won't weigh you down in the backcountry. In fact, it is lighter than many headlamps.
When collapsed, it measures in at 5" x 5" x 0.6" and slides easily into an exterior pocket of a backpack. Expanded, it pops up to 4" high. It's a solid companion on a backcountry adventure.
This lantern is worth the cost. It is comparable to or less than other similar solar-powered models, and we think that it comes from high-quality stuff. Its materials are relatively durable, and there are so few moving parts that you would have to put some effort into breaking it. With that in mind, we think that with reasonable care, there is no reason that the rest of the device shouldn't last the lifespan of the LEDs inside of it.
The Goal Zero Crush Light is a simple, durable lantern that is great for kids or weekend campers. It earns a Best Buy Award for its solar-powered prime performance. Though it could definitely be brighter, we like the durability of the straightforward design. It can be had for a reasonable price, and its dual charging options make it a versatile choice for both frontcountry and backcountry camping.
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch