The LuminAID PackLite Max could be a traveler's best friend. If you often find yourself in remote parts of the world on long treks or backpacking trips, this lantern will serve you well. It can be charged quickly via micro USB, but also comes with a built-in solar panel for when a reliable outlet is nowhere in sight. Its USB charge out port can also be a potential (literal) lifesaver if your smartphone or other small devices need a battery boost. Because it's inflatable, it also packs down fairly compactly and can be hung from the back of a pack to charge in the sun during the day. If you are willing to try ditching a headlamp, it is a viable option in the backcountry.
LuminAID PackLite Max 2-in-1 Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: USB charge out port, waterproof, compact, solar powered
Cons: Could be punctured, not very bright
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Our Analysis and Test Results
We took it out camping and tested it in tents, cabins, and cars. This light could be indispensable if you find yourself deep in the backcountry on a regular basis.
It lacks the brightness of many other lanterns in this review and it could be prone to punctures, but it otherwise scores well. We are especially in love with its practical and thoughtful feature set.
This lantern will do an admirable job of lighting up the night if you and a friend want to stay up playing cards in your tent. Its turbo mode shines at 150 lumens, comparable to non-solar-powered lantern models. There are four other modes as well: high, at 75 lumens; medium, at 18 lumens; low, at 15 lumens; and flashing, also at 15 lumens.
In our testing, its runtime was a bit of a disappointment. Its advertised 50 hours (on low), lasted just about 42 hours. On its highest setting, this light will last only about 2-5 hours. In our testing, turbo-mode runtime typically fell at the lower end of that range.
One drawback we noticed is that if you look directly at the light, there seems to be a very rapid flicker, which can be a little disorienting. If it's overhead though, as it would be most of the time, the light quality is smooth. The opaque vinyl casing makes for a nice, diffuse even light, which offsets the whiteness of the LEDs.
Despite its inflatability, we do generally like the durability of the PackLite Max. Though the solar panel shouldn't take repeated blows, it passed our standard drop test easily, falling from 7 feet unscathed. We even tossed it off of a 15-foot porch onto asphalt and it survived just fine.
Regarding its light longevity, LuminAID also claims that it has a potential for 10,000 lifetime hours of burn time, presumably the estimated lifespan of the LEDs.
We do have a couple of words of caution. If you go camping with a dog, be sure they don't mistake it for a toy, since it is anything but puncture-proof. We also found that the USB/micro USB port cover pops up pretty easily, so even though the light unit itself is waterproof, we wouldn't trust that cover to keep the ports clean in the long run.
Ease of Use
Similar to many other lanterns, there is just one primary button. One press will turn it on at its highest setting. Successive presses will cycle through each of the other settings, getting progressively dimmer. A sixth press will turn it off again.
This lantern also comes with a secondary power level indicator button. When pressed, a sequence of 1-4 green LEDs will illuminate, indicating the charge left in the battery. An accompanying red LED will light up when the lantern is receiving solar input. We found that this red light was especially useful because for lack of direct, bright sunshine, it is never quite clear when a solar panel has enough exposure to the sun to charge.
The hanging strap with three adjustable snaps is easy to use as well. It's also wider than the straps found on other solar-powered models, which makes it easier to carry.
The PackLite Max has a simple, but essential set of features. It's inflatable, blowing up in about 20 seconds. We did find it to be slightly more difficult to inflate and plug than other solar-powered models, but this is a marginal inconvenience. Along with its inflatability, it also boasts an ingress protection rating of IP67, meaning that it is dustproof (6 out of 6) and waterproof up to 1 meter (7 out of 8). Because it is inflatable, it also floats, so it would be a good addition to a boater's kit as well.
Its 3-way adjustable strap makes it easy to hang from above on a branch or rope. It also comes with a rigid plastic square on the bottom so that it can stand up on a flat surface like a shelf or picnic table. Because there are no feet, it is not feasible to balance it on uneven surfaces.
There are two ways to charge the PackLite Max, by micro USB, which fully charges it in 2 hours, or by solar, which takes a full 14 hours. Beyond its function as a light, it is a backup power source for other electronic devices like smartphones. Its USB charge out port can fully charge a smartphone. Just be sure that you won't need the light again right away since it will require at least a few hours of solar time to charge back up.
This lantern is one of the more compact in this review. Deflated, it measures in at 6"x6"x1". Inflated, it's a 6"x6"x6" cube. It weighs in at 8.5 ounces.
Qualitatively, we found that it was straightforward to pack away. It's not going to slide in most clothing pockets, but can either fit down the side or at the top of a pack. Most times, we would use the strap to attach it to a piece of exterior webbing or cord on our packs so it could charge throughout the day.
This light is considerably more of an investment than similar solar-powered competitors. For those who will take advantage of the USB charge out feature to power up their smartphones, we think it is worth it. If you consider the price of a separate light source and durable solar pad, we think there is a great value to be had with the LuminAID PackLite Max.
The LuminAID PackLite Max is an inflatable, waterproof, fairly compact, solar-powered powerhouse. It's not going to knock your socks off with its brightness, but it casts a nice light when hung from above. We also think that the USB charge out port makes it a standout from other similar competitors. It's a solid option in the backcountry or anywhere far from a reliable electrical outlet.
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch