The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

LuminAID PackLite Max 2-in-1 Review

A solar powered, inflatable light best used in the backcountry
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Price:  $50 List | $37.84 at Amazon
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Pros:  USB charge out port, waterproof, compact, solar powered
Cons:  Could be punctured, not very bright
Manufacturer:   LuminAID
By Ben Applebaum-Bauch ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 19, 2018
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Our Verdict

The LuminAID PackLite Max is a traveler's dream. If you often find yourself in remote parts of the world on long treks or backpacking trips, this lantern will serve you very 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.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

We took it out camping and tested it in tents, cabins, and cars. This light is all but indispensable if you find yourself deep in the backcountry on a regular basis.

Performance Comparison


It lacks the brightness of many other lanterns in this review but otherwise scores well across the board. We are especially in love with its practical and thoughtful feature set.

Brightness


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 compact lantern models like the Black Diamond Zip. 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.

The PackLite Max (left) outshines its close competitor the MPOWERD Luci Outdoor 2.0 (right)
The PackLite Max (left) outshines its close competitor the MPOWERD Luci Outdoor 2.0 (right)

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.


This lantern isn't super bright  but we really enjoy the soft and even light quality.
This lantern isn't super bright, but we really enjoy the soft and even light quality.

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.

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.

Even inside of a tent with the fly on and doors closed in the early evening  the solar panel is still able to charge (as indicated by the red light in the upper right corner).
Even inside of a tent with the fly on and doors closed in the early evening, the solar panel is still able to charge (as indicated by the red light in the upper right corner).

The hanging strap with three adjustable snaps is easy to use as well. It's also wider than the straps on the MPOWERD Luci Outdoor 2.0, which makes it easier to carry.

Durability


We love 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 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 quickly, so even though the light unit itself is waterproof, we wouldn't trust that cover to keep the ports clean in the long run.

Size/Weight


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, like the Black Diamond Zip, 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.

Features


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 the MPOWERD Luci Outdoor 2.0, 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.

Fully encased in inflatable vinyl  this light has no problem being left out in the rain overnight.
Fully encased in inflatable vinyl, this light has no problem being left out in the rain overnight.

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, 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 a few hours of solar time to charge back up.

Charging a smartphone while charging in the sunlight. You have to press the red button next to the charge level indicator LEDs to activate the USB charge out port.
Charging a smartphone while charging in the sunlight. You have to press the red button next to the charge level indicator LEDs to activate the USB charge out port.

Best Applications


We strongly recommend this light to anyone traveling to remote parts of the world or spending more than one smartphone charge's worth of time in the backcountry. Because it doesn't necessarily rely on an electrical outlet to charge devices or be charged itself, it would be an excellent addition to a severe weather emergency kit.

For more regular use, it also makes a fun addition to a backyard barbecue. If you buy a couple, they can liven up the atmosphere of a patio or porch as well.

Value


At $50, this light is considerably more of an investment than its closest competitor, the MPOWERD Luci Outdoor 2.0. 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 PackLite Max on the left is slightly larger than its closest competitor  the MPOWERD Luci Outdoor 2.0. It also comes with an opaque vinyl casing and a larger hanging strap.
The PackLite Max on the left is slightly larger than its closest competitor, the MPOWERD Luci Outdoor 2.0. It also comes with an opaque vinyl casing and a larger hanging strap.

Conclusion


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