Setup was remarkably easy on these things—take them out of the boxes and you’re ready to cut through the darkness. Well, you might want to put them out in the sun and charge them first. You could also put some D-batteries in the lantern for backup. It’s pretty easy with a flat-head screwdriver or just a thumbnail.
These little orange marvels of the plastic age are surprisingly hardy. We rattled all three lights around while using them and poked around inside to verify that their simple circuitry is secure and wouldn’t give out if the lights were dropped on occasion.
The Solar 9-LED Lantern seems a likely candidate for car or boat use. It’s too heavy for backpacking, but could be really nice to have at a picnic table or in a tent (don’t forget the cute little orange on-board nightlight!) when staying at campgrounds. You could also use it to illuminate a task (like changing a tire) that requires your hands to be free.
The Solar 4-LED Spotlight, on the other hand, is feather-light and easy to simply hold in one’s hand while walking. Its included car lighter power adapter also makes it a candidate for car use. Put it in the trunk for unexpected roadside events.
The 3-LED Flashlight is handy and dandy, though we lost confidence in its little battery hand crank when we started spinning it. It is fitted with a tiny knob of a handle that seems like it will break off at any second. The light it puts out is nice, though—just try to charge it with the sun whenever possible.
These lights deliver just what they promise at a competitive price range. All are capable of running entirely without batteries—ever–if you use the onboard solar cells to charge them all the time. Backup options are included, yes, but won’t it feel good to never have to buy energy for your flashlights again? Strangely, Energizer is betting it will. Pricing: Solar 9-LED Lantern – $43; Solar 4-LED Spotlight – $43; 3-LED Flashlight – $25 (Note that prices may be lower at various retailers)