Solar lights are a great addition to your RV, as they give you a replenishable source of light when you are not hooked up to shore power. They also give you more lighting options to vary the lighting levels and improve the ambience in your rig. In this video and post, we compare three different portable solar lights, with price points ranging from $25 to $9. This is the second in our series of Simple RV Upgrades! These are upgrades which are easy (and usually cheap), but which can make your life in an RV even better.
First, here is our video, where we show off the lights, and discuss which one we thought was the best, and why.
Camping without Hook-Ups
On our RV adventure, Joe and I have set ourselves a goal of doing as much boondocking (camping with no hook-ups) as we can. Not only to stretch our budget, but also to get completely “off the grid” and experience the peace of wilderness settings. To that end, we have been trying out products that are solar charged so that we can have as much comfort as possible while off-grid. Of course, lights are essential, so we started by testing out three different solar lights.
Uses for Solar Lights in RVs
The primary use for solar lights in RVs is of course to have a source of light when you are not hooked up to shore power. These lights have been life savers for us when we have been over-nighting without electric hook-ups, because we don’t want to drain our batteries by using our rig’s lights. And if we are staying off shore power for a couple of days, we can just charge them with solar power during the day. We spent three weeks on Santispac Beach in Baja California Sur, Mexico, and these lights were invaluable. We had no hookups at all on the beach, and relied on our solar panels for power. We only barely had enough power to get by, so it was great to use all of our solar lights at night, and then put them out on the bumper of our RV to charge during the day.
Extra lights are also just useful to have more choices in your lighting. Even when we have electricity, we find most of the LED lights are just too bright. Joe jokes that the lights are so bright, we could rent out the fifth wheel to surgeons!
So, we dot these lights around the interior at night while we are relaxing, to provide softer lighting in all areas of our fifth wheel. Joe also uses one of the Solar Station table lamps (our favorites) as a night light beside the bed. He uses the low light setting, so that it does not disturb my sleep at all.
Best of all, these lights are cute and really quite cheap! All of these lights also weigh very little, which is an important consideration for us to minimize the load in our RV. As you can see from our video review, our favorite is just under $10. We liked this one so much that we bought three more of them.
Suaoki Camping Lantern vs. BioLite Lantern vs. Solar Station Table Lamp
Here is our comparison of the Suaoki camping lantern, BioLite lantern, and Solar Station table lamp that we tested. Basically, all are excellent solar lights. All can be charged indoors or outdoors by angling their solar panels towards the light. Of course, solar charging works faster when you put them outdoors in direct sunlight. All have a brighter and a less bright setting. All three can also be charged with a micro USB cable. This is probably the fastest way to charge them. But of course, the point is that if you are not hooked up to shore power, you can have lights all night, and then put the lights outside to charge during the day!
The three lights range from a price point of less than $10, to around $16, to around $24. What do you get for the extra money? Well, basically, the more expensive ones have more features.
Features of the BioLite Lantern
The most expensive, the trendy and incredibly popular BioLite lantern, has a range of different colored lights. These are fun, but for us, not practical. It does not often happen that we want colored lights. Pretty much never, really. Also, when you switch off the BioLite lantern, it will send out a flash of light – red, orange or green. Red or orange means it needs charging, while green means it is fully charged. This is actually pretty handy, but really not essential.
This light also has a clip that you can use to hang it up, or to dangle it from your belt, or to angle it for bed-time reading. It is said to be more water-proof and robust than many other solar lights.
Features of the Suaoki Camping Lantern
The light at the middle of the price range, the Suaoki camping lantern, has the extra feature that it can be used as a flashlight as well as a lantern. This is also pretty handy. But it is not essential if you just want a table lamp. Also, it is very light, and can easily be hung up anywhere, inside and outside your RV. This light also has a clip that you can use to hang it up, or to dangle it from your belt.
The Suaoki camping lantern also has a USB socket, that can be used to charge a smart phone. However, it does not do this particularly well. We find it quicker to use the truck, if we are desperate for charging.
Plus, the Suaoki camping lantern can be flattened like an accordion for storage, then pulled out when you need it. The catch is that it tends to lose its shape over time. Plus, all of these lights are all so small, that storage space is not really a pressing concern.
Our Favorite Solar Light for RV Living – Solar Station Table Lamp
The cheapest lights turned out to be our favorite. Solar Station Table Lamps are very simple. Basically, they have three settings – bright, less bright, and flashing. The color of the light is not bright white – it is a little softer, which we welcome in our RV that is full of super white LED lights. The light is very well designed – on the one side it is a great low-profile table lamp, and then you can flip it over and it angles beautifully towards the light so you can charge it. It’s super cute, and just does the job so well that it is our no. 1 choice for solar lights for your RV. Note that it comes in other colors too – orange and yellow.
For many more technical details about these lights, please click on the Amazon links. Doing so will help us out too, if you decide to buy!
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