The ECO Solar Lantern charging a Nexus 7

ECO Solar Lantern Provides Light and Power

Gadgets Products Reviews
The ECO Solar Lantern open, showing its solar panels
The ECO Solar Lantern open, showing its solar panels. Image by Rob Huddleston.

There are lots of devices these days that use solar power to charge your devices. And at least as many, if not more, solar-powered lanterns and flashlights are on the market as well. But the ECO Solar Lantern combines these into a single, eminently usable device.

The lantern is compact–it’s only about a foot tall–and because it’s entirely plastic it’s both light-weight and durable. The frosted lamp shade provides bright white, nicely diffused light.

The lantern has three brightness settings. The dim one was, to my eyes, a little too dim to be practical for reading, but I could see it providing a nice night-light in a tent for younger kids. The brightest setting provided enough light to read by.

ECO Solar Lantern
The ECO Solar Lantern. Image by Rob Huddleston.

What really makes the lantern cool, though, is that it comes with a 5-in-1 USB connector, allowing you to use the lantern to charge your iOS or Android devices. It has a newer lightning connector and micro-USB for newer devices, along with a mini-USB and a 30-pin connector for older devices. It took me a little while to figure out what the fifth connector–a tiny round one–was for, but it turns out it’s for the lantern itself, so you can charge it off a standard wall outlet or even a computer with USB.

Charging it with the sun involves simply opening the lantern to expose its two solar panels. I had some difficulty gauging exactly how long it takes to charge, but that wasn’t the lanterns fault, but rather uncooperative Northern California weather. I can say that the lantern will charge without direct sunlight, so while it took a while it did end up charging itself through our stretch of overcast days. Once fully charged, I was able to use it to fully charge an Android phone, which I had allowed to completely drain its battery for the purposes of the test. According to the lantern’s manual, it can provide light for 7 hours at the brightest setting or 60 hours at the dimmest. I haven’t fully tested those times.

All in all, the lantern is really a great device. I definitely look forward to bringing it along on camping trips this spring and fall. It’ll be great to have a lantern I can safely take into a tent, while also allowing me to keep my phone charged during the day.

The lantern is currently available from Amazon for $46.94. Nature Power, the company that makes the lantern, provided me with a unit for review purposes.

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