Living and adventuring in Arizona there are often times when there is a strict fire ban in place. In fact there are places like the Grand Canyon, where you are never able to have a fire below the rim. In the past I have gotten creative and brought along Party Lights (AKA: battery powered Christmas lights) to help bright up the evenings. Not having a fire creates earlier bed times, and often even earlier wake ups. At the shop I work at we have been selling Luci lights for a few years, in fact we are often out of stock because they sell so well. I finally decided to give the light a chance and picked one up for a upcoming adventure.
Initial Thoughts- The Luci brand produces multiple versions of their inflatable, solar powered lights. All the lights have the same general build, with a few exceptions. The version I picked up was the Luci Aura/Color. This version differs from the other models by having eight different colors to set the appropriate mood. The tiny light packs 10 LEDS that put out 50 Lumens. The Luci houses a solar panel that needs 7 hours to fully recharge the battery. That charge gives the user 6 hours of run time. The whole lantern weights in at 4.4oz and packs down like a pancake when not in use. Inside the inflatable chamber there is a frosted piece that helps to diffuse the light. By design the entire lantern is waterproof (IP67) so it can follow you anywhere your adventure leads.
Actual Use- The Luci Aura/Color is a luxury item. There is no doubt about it. Ultralight trips will probably not include this light simply because of the 4 oz penalty. But for most my trips the lantern is coming. I found it to be a perfect way to allow everyone to have dinner and not be blinding each other with our headlamps. The multi-colors are fun, but I find myself using the red the most often, in an attempt to maintain night vision. Besides using it around the dinner circle, I found it even more useful when in a tent. Often times headlamps provide too much light and end up blinding your partner. The Luci hangs perfectly in the center and provides enough light for both people with out being over bearing. If you like to do night shots the light will also be your friend. The soft light that it throws is excellent for night time portraits, or catching the group dynamic in the evenings. I also found it is excellent for light painting. Although I have not experienced any issues with durability, I have seen a few returned to the shop. Most often then not they have been because they just stop working. It is hard to say if it is user error/care or if it was a defective batch. Either way the design does not lend itself to be abused. The two straps also seem fragile and I would expect them to break over time, although mine are showing no signs of wear currently.
Final Thoughts- The Luci Aura/Color is here to change the way we utilize the sun on outdoor adventures, backyard parties, and any other event. Using a solar panel and inflatable diffuser this little lantern can toss a surprising amount of light for any activity. Forget candle lanterns, or having to carry extra batteries on backcountry trips. If the colorful version isn't for you Luci manufactures four other models, including a lighter weight version for all you weight weenies. To see more of the Luci family visit their website here.
*This product was purchased for testing.