Review: GMT Solar Lantern [Verdict: Works]

gmt solar.jpg

The SL900 is a relatively-lightweight, dead-simple-to-use lantern that sports two solar panels, LEDs and a 6V 4AH sealed lead acid battery. You simply leave it in direct sunlight while hiking, hanging or whatever, and it will charge up enough to provide at least 2-4 hours of nocturnal glow.

At about 12" x 7", the SL900 isn't the most packable torch ever, but for car camping, it works great. I've used it on two car-based camping trips this spring/summer, and have very very minor complaints. One little issue is the fact the top opens indiscriminately, i.e. the top cover hatch tends to open all the way due to a frisky hinge. Thus, if you're trying to position part of the solar panel so that it gets optimal, direct sun at certain times of the day, you won't always achieve your goal — in other worse, you'll need to brace the top against a rock or, more likely, wedge the carrying handle against the back of the panel to hold it at the perfect sun-kissed angle.

All in all, that's a pretty minor complaint. The lantern is $85 (a bit pricey), weighs just 7 lbs (not totally unreasonably), and works well (it should, for that kind of money). After an afternoon of charging, we wound up getting 2 hours with the lamp on high, then another hour or so with the lamp set to medium/low — and while it was not exactly a task light, the lantern provide enough visibility to cook desert, make our way around the camp site, etc.

It's worth noting higher-end solar lanterns include AM/FM, 9-watt fluorescent bulbs, and stobe light features, to name just a few perks. Eh, spending more than $85 — let alone $75 — on a lantern seems potentially gauche. Also, before any solar charging, you'll need to give the lantern a full charge from a standard wall outlet/power source. So, if you're thinking of going off the grid completely with this thing, well, sorry.

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