One of the things that is becoming a popular venture for companies is to combine tried and true items that we have all used for years, with something else of a modern convenience. With modern technology making everybody’s lives easier, it’s not hard to see why companies are looking at ways to change some of the basic everyday items we’ve been taking advantage of by breathing new life into them. Imagine if you will, a flashlight that doubles into a lantern, both with a varying degree of brightness, along with a built in smartphone charger as well. Not possible you might say? In this review, I have the pleasure of taking a closer look at one such items to boast both claims, the UCO Arka LED Rechargeable Lantern.
UCO (short for Utility-Comfort-Originality) is a specialized outdoor company that has been in business since 1971 and was founded in Redmond Washington, a short way down the road from where I was born and raised. All of the products in their line essentially focus on warmth and lighting for both indoor and outdoor needs. Their website will offer you items like windproof/waterproof matches, candles, various lantern models and other accessories. They actually have some rather neat things, so I’m planning and looking more at their site in the near future.
The packaging for the UCO Arka does a very good job on explaining all of the on-board features that you can expect from the lantern, along with everything being nice and straight forward to understand. As for the listed features, you may as well get some popcorn because this little lantern come stocked with things that you should expect from a CREE LED light, to things that you may have never expected. After easily extracting the Arka from packaging (also a breeze) I started checking it over and reading about everything I should expect while in the field with this little guy.
Using the supplied wall outlet to USB adapter, I let the Arka charge for as long as it wanted. After just over six hours, the LED was a solid green, indicating that the Arka was charged and ready for action. Since it was just after 10PM and the sun was down, I figured it would be the perfect time to run out and do some basic testing. Before I go much further, you should be aware that the Arka has three primary functions, both a flashlight and a lantern that is variable in intensity, as well as a built in 4AH USB charging battery. On the highest setting, the Arka blasted a beam of at least the listed 180 lumens of light down the length of my back yard, easily lighting up everything in front of me and attracting every moth within a few hundred feet. By holding down the on-off button on the base of the unit, you can lower the intensity of the lights bream and take it down to a mere 15 lumens. I found that level to be just fine for close quarters searching and navigation.
Switching to lantern mode is as easy as pulling the both ends of the unit away from each other, which turns the handle of the flashlight into the lantern itself. Adjusting the intensity of the lantern is the same exact way as the flashlights’ adjustment. At full brightness, the lantern easily lights an entirely dark 12×15 room to the point where you can (with effort) read on one end of the room and find items in a drawer at the other end. Minimal brightness gives you a lantern that works just fine for a more confined space, like a small tent or a smaller bathroom. I’m already imagining that this would be my wifes best friend if we ever had an extended power outage at home.
The UCO Arka doesn’t stop there when it comes to lighting features. You also get three red LED’s for folks who want a low light solution at night, that won’t disturb those around you. Another click of the push-button on/off and you have a multi-hour functioning S.O.S strobe light that can easily be seen for a very long distance around. If deployed at night and up high, I would wager this could be seen for miles. For hikers or car campers, this could be the tool that saves your life if you get stranded in the rough and need a way communicate a need for help.
The icing on the cake for the UCO Arka is the fact that it comes with the ability to recharge a large majority of today’s popular USB devices with its built-in 3.7V, 4AH Li-Ion battery. The upside to this feature is that you have enough juice to charge your smartphone from empty to full (varies with manufactures) at least twice. I haven’t tried to charge other devices yet such as USB ported GPS’s, cameras, or other items. Even after two full smartphone charges, I was able to use the flashlight/lantern on the lowest setting for just over five hours before the solid red light told me that a full drain was imminent. While this has several different obvious advantages, the big drawback is that to charge your device, you’re also using the same battery life that powers the unit and allows you to use the other functions of the Arka. If you are on a seven day hike with no electrical options, using the Arka to recharge your electronics will leave you without the other usable options the unit has. So, plan your outing well and consider all of you options when planning a multi-day trip.
If all that wasn’t enough, you also get two options for setting up the unit once the light or lantern is deployed. On the base of the Arka, you will find three cleverly hidden away feet that fold out. This provides a very sturdy base for setting up the lantern on any flat surface. Likewise, if you want to hang the lantern from your pack or within a tent, you have the option of using the two provided hooks that when used together will secure the unit and allow it to hang.
Combine the above features with the fact that you’re getting a unit with a water resistant housing that can take some bumps, necessary cords and plugs for charging needs and an adapter for wall charging and you have a very unique tool that is hybrid in nature and will supply you with hours of light in most daily situations. The MSRP for the UCO Arka comes in at $69.99, but a little searching around and you will find one for just over $55 dollars.
Factory YouTube video on product – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GoA3dcY0g5s