If you're shopping for an inexpensive solar-powered lantern for your next adventure, look no further than the BioLite SunLight. This model offers several features that set it apart from the competition, including an array of different color tones to select from and a dimming feature. The SunLight is small enough to slip in your pants pocket and so lightweight that you won't even notice it on your back. We love that it has a large solar panel so that you can bankroll the sun's energy to be used at night rather than depend on a power source to charge the lantern.Editor's Note: We updated this review on December 2, 2022, to include additional testing information about battery life.
BioLite SunLight Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Affordable, several light tone settings, 360-degree kickstand, clever sundial
Cons: Not submersible, no USB output
Compare to Similar Products
|Price||Check Price at Backcountry|
Compare at 2 sellers
$23.99 at Amazon
|$18.88 at Amazon||$13.00 List|
$12.99 at Amazon
$15.89 at REI
|Pros||Affordable, several light tone settings, 360-degree kickstand, clever sundial||Super bright, three light tones, dimmable, rubberized base, affordable||Affordable, compact, easy to use||Inexpensive, lightweight, small||Solar-powered, packs flat, lightweight|
|Cons||Not submersible, no USB output||Heavy for its size, not waterproof, lacks USB output||Lacks versatility, no legs for elevation||Questionable durability, limited light output||Low light output, compact but not small|
|Bottom Line||A lightweight, compact, and versatile lantern that is easy on your bank account||A great option if you're looking to keep a lantern stored in the closet for emergency outages||A durable, compact lantern that is a great option for small backpacking groups||A compact lantern-flashlight combo that is convenient as an emergency option||A durable lantern that is affordable enough for the average weekend camper|
|Rating Categories||BioLite SunLight||Lighting Ever Camping||Black Diamond Moji||UCO Leschi||Goal Zero Crush Light|
|Battery Life (20%)|
|Ease of Use (15%)|
|Specs||BioLite SunLight||Lighting Ever Camping||Black Diamond Moji||UCO Leschi||Goal Zero Crush Light|
|Weight (with Batteries)||3.4 oz||14.0 oz||4.4 oz||2.5 oz||3.7 oz|
|Manufacturer Listed Runtimes||Low: 50 hrs
High: 3 hrs + 4 hrs reserve mode
|12 hrs||Low: 70 hrs||Low: 4 hrs
High: 2.5 hrs
|Low: 3.5 hrs|
|Measured Runtime (Highest Setting)||4.5 hrs||10.5 hrs||N/O||N/O||3.5 hrs|
|Size (inches)||3.35 x 3.39 x .91||3.7 x 3.5 x 7.2||3 x 3 x 2.5||5.2 x 1.3 x 1.3 in||4.95 x 4.95 x 4|
|Number of Batteries||1||3||3||1||1|
|Battery Type||Rechargable Li-Ion||D||AAA||AA||Rechargeable|
Our Analysis and Test Results
This lightweight, compact, solar-powered device is impressively bright while remaining small enough to slip into a pocket. It's ideal for anyone seeking a lithium-ion battery-powered lantern that won't wreck their bank account.
For the first section of our review process, we considered the strength and quality of light emitted from each lantern. All of the bells and whistles in the world won't make a difference if the device isn't performing its primary function, so we put the most weight of our overall score into this metric.
The BioLite SunLight is far from the brightest lantern in our review. With a maximum output of 100 lumens, it's not the right model if you're looking for a lantern strong enough to light up your house in a power outage or illuminate a late-night cornhole game at the campsite. However, we found that the 1000-lumen models are often overbearing (even annoying) for camping and that the SunLight is more than bright enough for campsite cooking or reading a book in the tent. This model has a dimming feature, which allows you to select the exact brightness you'd like.
It is important to consider how long you need your lantern to last. If you're looking for a model for power outages or roadside recoveries, you're likely going to want something that lasts more than a couple of hours. However, if you need a lamp that will light up your tent or your backpacking kitchen in the hours in between sunset and bedtime, one with a shorter lifespan should suffice – especially one like the SunLight that can recharge itself with solar energy during the day.
We tested these lanterns on their highest setting because during our years of testing, we've found that many of their lowest settings are too dim to be of any real use. The BioLite SunLight did reasonably well during this assessment, lasting 4.5 hours on high. This is actually longer than the manufacturer claims that it will run on its highest setting. It's always a welcome surprise when we learn that a manufacturer underestimates rather than overestimates the performance of their products.
Ease of Use
For the next portion of the overall score, we examined the difficulty of operating each model. We found that certain models were easy enough for a toddler to turn on, while others required gas canisters and skinny matches where even a lighter couldn't do the trick.
The BioLite SunLight is incredibly easy to use. There is only one button that selects between the three various settings. When in normal mode, holding the button down adjusts the brightness or "dims" the light. Double-clicking the button sets the lantern to color tone mode. Once in this mode, holding the button down fades between the colors. Finally, triple-clicking the button sets it to "cycle mode," where the lantern automatically fades between all of the available colors.
It is important to consider the overall functionality of each lantern before you make a purchase. If you're looking for a model with a long-lasting light time, you're going to want a larger battery-powered or propane model that accepts large canisters. Perhaps you're heading out on a backpacking trip and would like a model that recharges while you hike with a solar panel. Some smaller fuel-canister models are super light and compact but also emit heat which can be critical on those crispy nights and frosty mornings. The next portion of our total score is dedicated to the features offered by each individual lantern.
The BioLite Sunlight has several attractive features. We love the 360-degree kickstand that allows you to angle the solar panel directly into the sun or to angle the light up or down, depending on what you'd like to illuminate. To ensure that you're maximizing charge time, the designers of the BioLite thought to add an integrated sundial to help with sunlight alignment.
Rather than a hook for attaching the lantern to wire or cord, the BioLite has a small plastic clip that is permanently affixed to the kickstand. We found this feature to be very innovative and simplistic. This model is also IPX4 rated, meaning it can withstand a reasonable amount of splashing and rain.
One of our favorite features of this model is its array of colored lights. The SunLight can be set to green, red, blue, or any combination of the three. It also has a setting that constantly automatically cycles through every tone it can produce.
The last bit of our final score is dedicated to weight. If you're looking for a lantern to store in the basement for power outages or want a large model to use while car camping, this metric may not be very important. If you're trying to count ounces before a big backpacking trip, weight is critical. We weighed every lantern in our review to keep the manufacturers honest with their claims.
The BioLite Sunlight is incredibly light. At a mere 3.6 ounces, not only is this model more than welcome on any of your backpacking trips, you won't even notice that it's there. This metric is a very strong suit for the SunLight.
Should You Buy the BioLite SunLight?
The BioLite SunLight is a great option if you're shopping for a versatile lantern on a budget. It has a commendable amount of water resistance, is easy to use, and is relatively bright. For those concerned about weight for backpacking trips, the SunLight is an excellent choice. Not only can it be charged by USB, but it also uses one of the largest solar panels we've seen on a lantern to date. This is a solid buy.
What Other Lanterns Should You Consider?
If you don't think the SunLight is the right model for you, we have several other suggestions. If you're going backpacking and want a gas-powered model that runs on the same fuel canisters as your stove, check out the Primus Micron. If you want a lantern that is bright, weather resistant, and can also charge your phone, check out the Black Diamond Apollo. For those in the market for a super-bright model with long-lasting battery life, check out the UST 30-Day Duro. If you're just looking for that dad-style classic propane model, you really can't beat the Coleman Deluxe Propane.
— Ross Patton
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