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August 12, 2009 Comments (0) Gear & Equipment

Industrial Revolution’s UCO MightyLites

IMG_4090cIndustrial Revolution has been bringing innovative outdoors products to the market since they were founded back in 1971 as UCO Corporation. Probably best known for their compact candle lanterns, which have been adored by campers and backpackers ever since, they’ve taken that concept of compact reliable lighting into the 21st Century with their new MightyLite LED lanterns.

 

 

 

IMG_4087aLike the UCO candle lanterns, the MightyLites are compact and designed for folks on the go. Woods Monkey received both the Mini and XL versions for testing. Both share some common features.  They both use 0.5 Nichia LED’s and both put out 26 Lumens of light.  They use similar aluminum housings and have a plastic D ring located on the base of the lantern next to the lights switch.  The MightyLites come with both a carabiner and carry strap.  The lights are water resistant as well.  Both transform from basic flashlights into lanterns by simply pulling up on the bezel.  This move’s the reflector from providing a focused beam of light in flashlight mode, to allowing a flood of light for lantern mode.

The differences between the Mini and the XL can be found in their size, battery type, and light duration.  The Mini weighs a mere 2.5 ounces with batteries, and is 1 inch wide by 3.75 inches long closed and 4.75 inches opened.  The Mini uses a single AA battery and has a runtime between 5 and 12 hours depending on the battery type used.  The XL is a bit heavier and bigger at 3.8 ounces with batteries and 4 inches by 1.25 inches closed, and 5 inches opened.  The XL uses 3 AAA batteries and this boosts the run time up to 22 hours.

The Mini – Tim Stetzer

IMG_4106aThe Mini Mightylite comes in a clamshell packaging complete with 1 Duracell AA battery so it’s ready to go as soon as you get it. Also included in the package is a small carabiner and carry strap as mentioned above. The carry strap attaches easily to the D ring on the light, and you can still fold the D ring over with it installed. You can snap the carabiner to the ring as well, but you can’t fold the ring down with the carabiner installed. An east solution for this was to just clip the carabiner onto the strap instead of the ring, that way you have both handy, but can still keep the light as compact as possible while carrying it.  I frequently use a carabiner of S-biner with my flashlights so having one provided from the factory is a nice bonus in my opinion.

My first impression of the Mightylite was pretty favorable.  It seems to be a solidly built light that was quit compact. Not much larger than many other single AA lights I’ve used, and this one had the added versatility of converting to a lantern.  It pockets easily and the D ring and carabiner make it easy to clip to your pack or other gear.  Have a two in one device saves you from carrying both a flashlight and a lantern in the field.  That’s convenient for anyone, but especially nice for folks who really watch their gear weight while on the trail.  The 1 inch base is wide enough to allow the light to stand up steadily in lantern mode, and the D ring made hanging the Mini with the carabiner attached from the gear loft of my tent a breeze.  Being able to clip the light up out of the way in your tent is a great luxury.  It’s out of the way and keeps your hands free to put away gear, get dressed, or just get your sleeping bag and pad laid out right.  It’s also great for reading. I pack a book almost everywhere I go and always like to read a bit at night, or on a trip when foul weather hits and you’re stuck inside your tent for a while.  I’ve done it a lot with a flashlight over the years and that works, but having a hanging light works a lot better.  If you have the Mightylite in flashlight mode while it’s hanging it directs a nice spot right down on your book making for easy reading.  The other nice thing about having the light clipped in your tenth is that it’s easy to find if you wake up in the middle of the night and need to tend to natures call. Just reach up and grab your light, unclip it, and roll out into the night and find a tree.

In flashlight mode, you have a compact, handy light that spits out 26 lumens.  Now, that isn’t a super bright eye searing death ray, but it’s more than enough to navigate a trail, set up camp, dig around your tent and identify what’s snuffling around the pack that forgot to take food out of.  You can find brighter lights that use one AA battery but you’re going to pay for that power with reduced run times.  The Mini is a good balance of usable light and decent runtime.  I don’t know about you but I don’t want to carry any more spare batteries in the woods than I have to.

100_2483aAside from the obvious utility of a great combination camping light I think the Mightylite Mini would be a great choice for emergency use to.  Whether packed in a 72 hour kit, left in your car, or kept in the house in case of power outages the Mini has a lot to offer.  The fact that’s its compact enough for hiking means that you can stash it anywhere. That may not matter so much at home, but it’s a bonus in the car, or especially in a kit stuffed full of other emergency gear.  Aside from the obvious basic utility of having a light during a storm or power outage, it also provides some psychological comfort as well, especially if you have young kids like I do.  Being able to pull open the lantern and light up a room can make a big difference between having a room full of scared, crying children, and being able to play a family board game or being able to read to them to keep them occupied and entertained.  The fact that the Min uses common AA batteries is also a big bonus in my book. I’m slowly but surely converting much of my gear over to AA’s.  They pretty cheap, especially in bulk packs from places like Costco or Sam’s Club; you have the option of using everything from rechargeable NiMH batteries, to basic alkaline types, or high end Lithium batteries; and you can salvage AA’s from almost anything.  Lots of common gadgets like kid’s toys, remote controls, and portable batteries use AA’s so you can often scrounge for some in a pinch. Try doing that with a CR123 battery!

IMG_4104aNow, there were a couple of minor things to note about the Mightylite Mini.  These aren’t deal breakers by any means, but they are a couple of things to watch out for.  One thing I noted early on was the plastic D ring on the base of the light.  While I love having the ring to hang the light, I was a little hesitant about the plastic construction.  I was wondering how it would hold up under hard use.  I’m going to keep an eye on and I can’t help but wishing that it was a steel ring instead.  We’ll see how it holds up long term but so far its chugging away without issue so perhaps my fears are unfounded. The other thing I ran into at one point was the light flickering, dimming, and going out on me.  At first I thought it might have been a loose connection since jarring the light would cause fluctuations or the light to go on or off.  A closer examination revealed that my kids had turned the butt cap over the batteries just slightly.  Not so much that it felt loose but enough that it wasn’t making positive contact apparently.  A slight turn on the butt cap and everything was good to go from there on out.  Not a major issue, but something to be aware of if your light acts up on you. I don’t really think it’s a big deal but if you hand your light out to a 4 and 6 year old (or your buddies with similar mentalities) then you might want to check it to be sure everything is snug.

So, is there anything else that might be nice on a compact lantern/flashlight? Maybe a little bit longer runtime, which leads us to the other Mightylite…

The XL – Scott Wickham Jr.

This is definitely one of the best lights I have ever had on a camping trip.  It’s a light, it’s a lantern, and it’s water resistant!   The fact that it runs on a battery size you can get at the grocery store is a big plus too.  Three AAA batteries will keep the light running for a claimed 22 hours.  I have had it on a few outings and have yet to put another set of batteries in it.  On with the show…

100_2471aI was invited to the Gould Farm for the weekend, a 7th generation estate that encompasses approximately 300 acres.  It has a few buildings, access to the Allegheny River right in the front yard, and wonderful paths for hiking.  One of the buildings even predates the Civil War and a relative who lived there fought at Gettysburg.  This was a great camping location to test some items for the ‘Monkey.  One item in my pack for the weekend was the Mightylite XL.  Everyone slept in the house while I wanted to rough it more so I slept under my tarp behind the garage building.  Unpacking the truck was much easier with the XL used in its flashlight mode.  Just laying it on the tailgate of the truck, which was parked on a small slope, worked great, as the body of the light isn’t round, it’s octagonal shaped so it won’t roll away.

100_2472aTwenty-six Lumens doesn’t sound like much but it really lights things up.  I next used the Mightylite to help set up my hooch.  Propped up on a Pelican case, it threw light in a bit of a flood pattern and helped light my work area for setup of the tarp.  After that, I used the connected hook on the top and hooked it on one of the pieces of paracord and pulled it open to use the lantern feature.  I used a longer piece of cord and hung the light lower to act as a dome light at the end of the tarp.  I had it on at least 3 hours while I finished setting up my camp and rummaging through other gear, laying out what were test items for tomorrow.  This particular light is red but it also comes in blue, black, gray, and khaki.  Like the Mini, the XL comes with a small wrist lanyard and a little carabiner to clip it wherever you want. So, ok, this light seems to work pretty good right out of the box.  But how will it stand up to some stress testing?

100_2484aI mean, $20 some bucks for a light, I want it to work for a good while.  It ended up raining half of one day and I left the light out by the tarp getting wet.  At times it rained pretty hard, other times just a light mist but it never really stopped.  Sunday morning, the light still worked.  It does have o-ring seals and they must be doing their job.  Score one for the Mightylite XL.  The next test was a bit of an accident but a test is a test.  I had it underneath my Toyota while fixing the leaf spring.  Both flashlight mode and lantern mode worked a treat under the truck.  I was able to hang it places and pull the end out for the lantern and it worked almost as good as my real drop light (but without the chance of getting singed on the tin surround of said drop light).  On and off, in and out of my BDU thigh pocket.  Well, it must have fallen out when I was getting up one time and I didn’t notice it.  I was done and lowered the truck and pulled out of my work area.  Parked the truck and walked back to start putting the tools away and I see something red in the grass.  It’s the light.  The new test light and I ran the thing over.  It sort of smooshed into the ground and was none the worse for wear.  Still works.  Granted, the ground was a bit wet here too and it’s just a little Toyota truck, not some dualie tow truck but still, it held up!  That impressed me; I might start running everything over just to check its integrity.  Ok, maybe not…

100_2478aI used it to work on the Rover as well.  Again, the hook on the end and the lantern mode was a real winner.  This model differs from the Mini in that the hook is open ended, not a continuous loop.  I wish it was a continuous loop and like Tim, I wish it were metal.  Oh well, maybe some of this feed back will be looked at over at UCO and they will change it.  This is aimed at the camping crowd but I feel it has real potential as a light to keep in the glove box and use it to work on the car with.  I can see it shine (pun intended) in the role as a “night time flat tire change in the rain” companion light that won’t roll under the car when you least need it to.  It would be great as the open bonnet light hanging from the spring or hook, what ever your rig has.  It would be ok as a light to keep in the drawer at home for when the power goes out too.  I prefer a CR123 powered light for that role as the batteries keep their charge on the shelf for quite some time.  This is a great little light though, and lots of bang for the buck.

Conclusion:

100_2479aWhile keeping with the spirit of the UCO candle lanterns, Industrial Revolution has given us a 21st Century option for folks who want a more modern take on the compact camp lantern.  While the Mightylite’s may not have the nostalgic charm of the candle lantern’s flickering flame, they make up for it in a tough weather resistant package capable of both navigating a trail as well as lighting up a campsite.  With street prices running under $20 with some judicious online shopping you have a concept that’s pretty hard to beat whether your gearing up for the woods, or just preparing for emergencies around the house.

Visit: www.industrialrev.com

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