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.
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.