Solar Air Lantern… Really?

   12.09.14

Solar Air Lantern… Really?

I recently saw this thing called a solar air lantern, and thought it looked interesting. The more I look at it, the more I think it’s a cheesy, gimmicky product that won’t be around for very long. But hey, I’ve been wrong before.

Basically, it’s a small disk, maybe 4 inches or so in diameter, with LED lights embedded on the inside. The outside of the disk features a solar panel and a switch.

The disk is encased inside of a small inflatable cylinder made of flexible plastic. When collapsed, it’s pretty thin. One review said it’ll fit in your back pocket. Each end has a plastic strap to act as a handle of sorts.

Collapsed solar air lantern.
Collapsed solar air lantern.

When you open the air valve and pull the little straps to expand the lamp, air can get in. Once you’ve gotten it opened up, blow on the valve to fill it taut, and close the air valve.

The better ones have a reflective surface on the inside of the opposite end to increase the light output.

Inflated solar air lantern.
Inflated solar air lantern.

These things were reportedly invented to be used in areas without electricity, such as third-world nations. They claim that a 6- or 8-hour solar change will provide 12 hours of light. Real-world accounts say it’s more like one a 1 to 1 ratio, with roughly one hour of light available for each hour of solar charging under bright sunshine.


It’s a neat idea, but for must of us it’s just not practical, especially at the current cost of $15-$20 apiece. There appear to be nine of them in the camping photo below–that’s about $150-$200 worth of these flimsy lights–and I think you’d get more light from one old-school Coleman lantern. You can certainly get much better camping lights for much less cash.

Solar air lanterns in use.
Solar air lanterns in use.

But they’re still kinda cool, and you don’t have to buy mantles, batteries, bulbs, or fuel for them.

What do you think? Are they worthwhile? Do you think they’ll last?

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