A solar-powered flashlight works by converting sunlight into energy using a photovoltaic cell. These are normally silicon semiconductors which free electrons as they absorb some of the collected sunlight. Those electrons are then channeled into an electric current, which is used to charge a battery cell or set of rechargeable batteries in the flashlight. With recent advances in LED technology, the solar lighting of today is brighter and more affordable than ever, making it practical for many uses, including survival & emergency lighting, camping, hiking, etc…
The advantages of a solar-powered flashlight are fairly obvious:
- Endless free power supply.
- No need to keep or carry extra batteries.
- No pollution from discarded batteries.
- Well suited to remote areas, off the power grid.
- LED diodes are extremely durable.
Probably the biggest disadvantage of any solar-powered equipment is the fact that you cant always count on the sun to shine. If you discharge your solar-powered flashlight one night and then have rainy cloudy weather the next day, you will find yourself with a poorly charged flashlight the next night. For this reason, you should always have a backup light source if you choose to incorporate solar lights into your survival gear or camping gear. I actually bring a solar landscape light with me when I go camping. It works great for lighting up an area and lasts nearly all night.
A lot of the solar-powered flashlights available today are cheaply made junk. There are some however that actually deliver a quality flashlight. Here are some of your better choices:
Brinkmann Solar rechargeable LED flashlight
Brinkmann has been in the flashlight business for over 30 years, so they have that going for them right off the bat. This Solar Brinkmann model is Shock Resistant and weatherproof, qualities not common in most solar-powered flashlights. With 10 hours runtime per charge, you should be able to make it through the night on a full charge. A 120v charger is also provided for AC charging. I own several Brinkmann products, and I have been very happy with the quality. I will probably buy this flashlight the next time I run across it.
- LED life: 100,000 hours.
- Weight: 4.2 oz Length 6.75 inches $24.00
Everlite solar-powered LED headlamp
Solar and LED technology combined with a hands-free adjustable headband makes the Everlite EL8 solar headlamp a unique and useful tool. If you have ever done any night hiking or backpacking, you appreciate the freedom of having both hands free. Another cool feature on the EL8 is the ability to charge electronic devices such as cell phones, GPS receivers, etc via the power pack. (Note: These adapters are sold separately and do not come with the unit.) The 5 white LEDs will burn for 12 hours on a 6-hour charge, or 24 hours in power save mode. There is also a strobe function and a charge indicator light. the lith-ion battery is provided with the unit, and an optional 12V AC power adapter can be purchased separately. $49.00
The SL-1 and SL-2 Bogo lights from SunNight Solar are quality, field-tested flashlights. They utilize Nickel Metal Hydride batteries, which are much more environmentally safe than NiCad and other types of batteries. The really cool thing about the BOGO light is when you buy one, they will donate another one to a family in need, or village in Africa with no power, or a charity of your choosing.
sunlight solar founder Mark Bent and his organization have given thousands of solar-powered flashlights to people in dark areas of the world, and to our troops to give to Iraqi and Afghan Families where power is scarce. The new BOGO light (SL-2) set to arrive this summer has 3 power settings with 6 LEDs, and an additional 3 LEDs in “Room illumination” mode. A six-hour exposure to sunlight gives 5 to 10 hours of light, depending of course on the power setting used. The SL-1 costs $25, and the SL-2 costs $30.
From Hybrid Lite LC, the hybrid solar lite is an impressive value for several reasons. First, it floats and is waterproof up to 80 feet deep, that is always a plus if you are outdoors. Second, the hybrid lite comes with a lifetime guarantee against defects, so you get peace of mind with it. The hybrid lite delivers 16 hours of bright light on a full charge and comes with a fully charged backup lithium battery good for 50 hours. Colors available are Camo / black / white. For a solar flashlight, this light has an impressive 3-year charge life, so you can charge it and put it away in a drawer and just use it as a regular flashlight. It does not need to be kept in a sunny spot like a houseplant every day.