It is no secret that I am fond of the affordable [cheap] gear from ShamShuiPo, Kooloon-side in Hong Kong. The vast majority of items I have acquired from there easily meet my 90%/50% criteria for usability versus cost.
One of the better providers I have found is EDC Gear. Their only downside is that the products quite frequently are only available for a very short period of time. This little hanging lantern is a perfect example of that. Within a couple of weeks of placing my order, they had gone completely out of stock and have not returned. I’m glad that I picked it up from DX.com while it was available. It came not only with a nice little nylon neck lanyard, but also with the extra endcap and O ring shown below. Not too shabby for under $8, shipping and handling included. This is why I like ShamShuiPo.
It is a sturdy acrylic/resin tube with an aluminum insert that holds a single AAA battery. Four LEDs are placed at the upper end so that their light reflects off of the cone on the top of the battery housing. The light is turned on by twisting the black battery cap. Giving it a second quick twist off and back on dims the light by 50%, and the third off/on cycle sets it to a strobe mode. It defaults to full light, so there is never a problem with finding the correct mode.
While these two photos do not make it abundantly clear, this unit does feature red LEDs. I have plenty of flashlights that provide clear white light. However, I wanted something additional that would preserve my night vision and allow me to read star charts, or make my way along a darkened trail. This little unit achieves that perfectly.
With the battery installed it appears to weigh in right at one ounce. The spec sheet claims the lighting range to be 80~130lumens. I can easily attest that it fills a tent or sleeping space with plenty of light to go about your bedtime activities.
The lanyard is a nice little addition. I didn’t realize initially how convenient it would be to have this simply hanging in front of you for hands-free use. [I added the swivel clip myself for convenience]
2] My other little “easy-on-the-eyes” light is a solar powered mini glow-lantern.
Last summer I found some solar powered garden stakes down at the dollar store for… you got it… $1. What was great about these particular ones was that they have an actual on/off switch, rather than just lighting up when the sun went down. Now, this makes very little sense for a simple garden light-stake. Seriously, who wants to remember to wander around turning on all your lights every night? For a Mod-Gnome like me though, they are absolutely perfect. They will also charge fully even when the lighting feature is switched off. The net result is a small lantern that will always be fully charged when you need it.
All I needed to do was remove the ground stake and the provided clear plastic diffuser. Then it was just a question of slipping it snugly into the neck of the little opaque jar and securing it with a double wrap of vinyl electricians tape. [in this case I used the leftover container from bouillon cubes and I had to take just the thinnest, fingernail-sized peel of plastic off the interior lip of the jar to obtain a perfect fit… A second option for an even smaller light would be to glue half of a ping-pong ball over the LED, and simply use the unit with the solar panel facing downward].
Not only did these incredibly cheap lights have an on/off switch, but they’re also powered by a Ni-Cd AAA rechargeable battery. The ones that came included were rather low powered… only 200mAh. However all it took was a few moments time to remove the screws and substitute a much better, more powerful, 800mAh Ni-Mh Eneloop battery for the original. With that small change I have never seen this lantern run out of power, even when left on overnight. It seems to gain a completely usable charge with only about four hours of sun… It doesn’t even seem to require full sunlight to take up a sufficient charge. This means it’s perfect to strap to the top of your pack and allow it to charge as you walk or wander in and out of full sunlight. When you settle down for the night it has more than enough power to last through the evening.
Conclusion: either one of these little units combined with a small EDC flashlight provides excellent, and versatile, lighting around the campsite at a very minimal weight addition. The only other thing I add into my kit and pocket carry for out in the woods is a microlight similar to the ones shown in the photo below.
I have bought them in lots of 10 or a dozen from a variety of vendors in ShamShuiPo for as little as $6 or $7 per dozen, and you can frequently find single units at the dollar stores. I like to get the ones that have an on/off switch as opposed to those that have a press-and-hold button. One of these in my pocket means that even if the batteries fail on one of my more high-tech, brighter flashlights, I will always have a “walk out” light with a battery that will provide dozens of hours of constant illumination without my having to hold the button down.