Luci – Outdoor inflatable lantern

Another camping light. Yawn. Switch it on. See things in the dark. Switch it off. Zzzzz.

BUT NO! WAIT RIGHT THERE! This solar-powered inflatable Luci light is actually pretty nifty, and even though the valve on ours has become somewhat troublesome and Mrs Muz has managed to burst it* I’m recommending that everyone orders one immediately. And I’m not even joking.

20141007143125-LuciOriginal-3Inflating_hr_Luci’s beauty is in her simplicity – other than a flashing mode that nobody has ever had any actual use for in the history of artificial light, there’s no fancy nonsense to contend with, no batteries to mess about with and no space taken up in your camping gear. Well, hardly any space, anyway.

Let me set it out for you:

The Luci Outdoor is, to all intents and purposes, a waterproof magic bag full of light.

The bag itself is a transparent, lightweight-but-tough-feeling PVC-type material with a five-inch disc featuring a tiny on/off button and a couple of solar panels on one end and a five-inch disc with a simple valve for you to inflate it on the other (and a handle). Inside are 10 tiny LED bulbs on the underside of the disc with the solar panel… and that’s it.

The whole thing can be deflated and squashed down like an old-fashioned squeezebox so all you’re left with is a disc that’s just five inches across and an inch or so thick. That means it’s easy to slip down the side of an overfull box of camping stuff or hang on the back of your rucksack to charge during the day without even knowing it’s there because, at four ounces, it weighs about as much as a mouse’s toothbrush.

The button offers three settings: bright, a bit less bright and flashing. And the light given off is lovely and white (and amazingly powerful at 80 lumens), with the creases in the four-inch tall inflated clear body adding a dappled effect which somehow makes it less harsh and really rather pleasing. To me anyway – and I’m not easy to please.

Given that this uses LEDs it drains very little power from the unobtrusive rechargeable battery that’s in there somewhere (I’ve never actually looked for it but it hasn’t jumped out at me either) and the power lasts for aaaaages. Certainly more than you’ll realistically need it for each night, and if you leave it somewhere in the light next day you’ll never have an issue with it running out of juice. If left unused it holds its charge for a claimed two months.

* But let’s be honest here, there are problems.

The first is that after only a handful of uses, our light developed a hole in the side and wouldn’t inflate fully. I don’t think it really was Mrs Muz’s fault, but I genuinely don’t know how it happened. Maybe it got caught on something sharp or it didn’t like one of the creases I had put in it when it was deflated one day, but a hole is a hole and no matter how much gaffa tape I used I’m afraid that it eventually had to go in the bin. On the plus side the damage didn’t put it out of action altogether like it could have done for many other lights out there and it still functioned until I decided that enough was enough. So in a squeeze (if we were a long way from civilisation, for example) it would have kept on going.

There’s also the valve thing. One minute it was fine when I was blowing it up and the next I was bursting the blood vessels in my eyes. Again, I’m not sure how this happened but it developed a quirk where I had to bite the valve in Just The Right Spot for any air to go in at all, which involved a lot of trial, error and swearing to find.

These two things would normally put me off anything else, but I’m sure they’re not common issues and there’s just something about this light that I really, really like.

This is helped significantly by the price – the Luci Outdoor COSTS LESS THAN A TENNER!

And that, dear GWA readers, is why you have to buy one. If you don’t burst it and the valve works as it should you’ll have a superb camping light for very little money, and even if those things do happen little Luci is guaranteed for a year by manufacturer Mpowerd – which is using the same light to fight energy poverty in undeveloped countries – so you’ve got nothing at all to lose.

5-hammersPrice: $14.99 (RRP)
More: Mpowerd