March 9, 2013

SO IN OUR POWER OUTAGE THE OTHER NIGHT, I used a couple of these Ray-O-Vac lanterns. They’re fairly bright (adjustable to two intensities), last a long, long time on 4 D batteries, feel quite sturdily made, and have a nice handle, and a hook on the bottom for hanging upside down. There’s also a nifty LED blinker that blinks once every 5 seconds or so to make them easier to find in the dark.

Afterward, I thought it would be nice to have a couple more, but I decided to try out something different. I ordered this Coast LED lantern which puts out 375 lumens to the Ray-O-Vac’s 240, and I ordered this Energizer solar-rechargeable LED lantern.

The Coast is noticeably brighter than the Ray-O-Vac at full intensity, and the light is a bit more pleasing, probably because of the much bigger diffuser. It’s adjustable, and there are also settings to make it a steady or flashing red light. It doesn’t feel quite as solid or sturdy as the Ray-O-Vac, but build quality seems quite adequate. It’s easier to open and install batteries than the Ray-O-Vac or the Energizer.

The Energizer is the least bright, at 66 lumens. The light quality is fine, and it can be opened for 360-degree light, or closed with a semi-mirrored surface behind the lamps for somewhat brighter 180-degree light. The angle of the solar panel is adjustable. It can operate off of either 3 D batteries or the rechargeable solar battery, and the choice is switch-selectable. There’s a nightlight setting either way. I didn’t test the solar-charging, but it’s supposed to give 2.5 hours of light on a 5-hour charge. At 66 lumens, it’s noticeably dimmer than the others, and is mostly useful, I think, for general area lighting at a low level — a don’t-bump-into-things lamp, not something you could easily read or work by much except maybe in a small tent. But for those purposes it’s good, and the solar power angle means it’ll work even if you don’t have batteries, so long as you can expose it to some sun first.

Of the three, I think the Ray-O-Vac is the overall winner for sturdiness and light. The other two are useful, and the solar angle on the Energizer is kind of cool and likely to find favor with preppers. Although I love flashlights, I do think that these area lanterns are more useful for extended power outages, since they let you do something without holding a flashlight all the time. People who are made nervous by power outages seem more comforted by area lighting, too.

That said, the single best thing to have is several of these emergency lamps, which come on instantly when the power goes out, and which can be placed in hallways, at the bottom of stairs, etc. so that you can easily navigate to the place where you keep the flashlights and lanterns. You might also consider this model, which I haven’t tried but which looks good.