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A solar flashlight that actually works

Old solar flashlight

In 2012, Mark and I invested in two solar flashlights for camping and power outages. They lasted an amazingly long time, but eventually the batteries stopped holding a charge. Rather than crack open the plastic to try to replace the batteries, I decided to see how much a decade has improved the technology.

TOMETC solar flashlight

After poking around on Amazon for a while, I settled on the TOMETC Solar Power Bank. It had a lot of good reviews, a large battery capacity, and a large solar panel…all for under twenty bucks. Sounds like a winner, right?

Wrong! I’m guessing something about the frosting they put over the solar panel to waterproof it blocks light. Whatever the reason, two full days in the sun resulted in absolutely no change in the charge level of the battery. When I dug deeper into the reviews, it turned out I wasn’t the only one who had this problem, so it wasn’t a defective unit.

Meanwhile, the flashlight is way too bright for what I usually use it for (reading in my tent). An overpowered light drains the battery faster than it should. I estimate I got about eight hours of use out of a full charge. To cut a long story short, I sent this one back.

HybridLight Journey 300 flashlight

Next up, I decided to return to the model that served us so well for eleven years. Unfortunately, the original flashlight had been discontinued, but HybridLight has a replacement available. Their offering doesn’t look as flashy as some of the alternatives and costs $10 more than the competition. But they wisely included the option of a low-light setting so I won’t drain the battery bank too quickly while reading and their longevity track record speaks for itself.

How did the actual flashlight do in the field? I wasn’t as thrilled as I’d hoped to be. On low, I estimate I’ll get about twelve hours of use out of a full charge, far less than the fifty hours they promise but still better than the competition. Meanwhile, a day in the sun did little to top the battery up.

I’m starting to suspect that my goal — being able to set a flashlight in the sun for the day then read for a couple of hours at night using that solar energy — is a pipe dream. But perhaps I just haven’t found the right solar flashlight yet. Have you tried a different model with better results?

(For the record, I decided to keep the HybridLight flashlight. It works well charged from the wall and will presumably help us through power outages if left in the sun to trickle charge when grid electricity is available.)



4 thoughts on “A solar flashlight that actually works

  1. Welcome to The Real World after having dreamt awhile in Fantasyland. I’ve been following the Alternative Energy field since I was a kid in ther 1950s– it ain’t never gunna work . While technology has certainly improved over the last 65 yrs, going from really, really, really lousy & expensive to really lousy & expensive is not enough…I think your solar flashlights are meant to serve as only a temporary light source in emergencies– not for regular service….Batteries have a life limited to only so many disharge/recharge cycles, so regular use wears them out quickly…Water -proof matches and a candle are a better solutiion from the cost/effectiveness/reliability standpoint for emergencies. For everday life, if the lights go out, do as the Romans did– wake up at sunrise and go to sleep at sunset.

    1. I prefer my fantasy world to the real world! Thanks for chiming in, though. It’s good to know I don’t need to keep hunting for a better solar flashlight.

  2. Are you sure that the ” TOMETC Solar Power Bank” has actual solar cells? From your picture it looks kind of fake. Like frosted plastic with lines screenprinted on the inside. 🙂

    BTW, repairing electronics is a very worthwhile endeavour IMO. A couple of years ago I put new batteries in my ancient Philishave, and it has been going strong ever since.

    1. That would be pretty devious if the solar cells were fake!

      I have kept the old solar flashlight because I really loved it. Maybe I’ll see if Mark can break into it to get at the (inaccessible) battery and replace it.

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