There is a reason that the term “Going Dark” contains ominous overtones no matter how it’s applied. But the worst is when it is literal. A majority of the human brain is dedicated to the eyes and the hands with the remaining tiny portion covering all the rest of the senses and those functions necessary for life and decoding its challenges. And in case it wasn’t obvious, eyes need light to function. So light must be a key ingredient in all aspects of your survival kit and survival plan. And everyday life for that matter.
Light The Way
I’m no stranger to the spectrum of survival lighting, and offered up solutions from large tool-battery lighting to tiny keyfob lights. From high end flashlights, to the nuances of gun lights. So I was especially happy to get a chance to the PSL or Personal Solar Light for a ride.
A major player in the lightweight expandable solar-powered area lighting solution has been something called the Luci Light. It was an inflatable cylinder that offered a mildly bright LED lantern for general camp situations and inner tent lighting. While the Luci Light has many drawbacks, its first-on-the-scene popularity made it the Kleenex of its inflatable lighting space. But being popular certainly doesn’t make it the best. As the only game in town for a while, the Luci Light was impressive, but now that the particular space the Luci Light popularized is getting crowded, we can ask for more. And more has certainly showed up in the form of the PSL or Personal Solar Light.
Covering the Bases
By crossing a flashlight and an area lighting lantern, the Personal Solar Light provides a single solution for many situations. Years ago Black Diamond addressed the combination of diffuse and point light sources with its products reviewed here. But looking back, that was just a combination solutions where a directional flashlight was bolted onto an area light lantern. Compared to the PSL, the downfalls of the Black Diamonds were that the BDs took batteries, were of larger form factor, no solar options, no in-house recharging option, and they sink if you drop them in the water as if that even matters since they were only slightly water resistant to begin with.
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Further survival lighting solutions addressed the Milwaukee Tool Lights and their high-capacity albeit heavy batteries and worksite durability. By leveraging powerful rechargeable tool batteries, there is much to be gained if your budget for weight and price is within Milwaukee specs. And while it would be nice to have the 861 lumens of a white gas Coleman lantern at your fingertips, the cost of liquid fuel, pressurized steel tank, and dangerously hot glowing mantels is just not worth it anymore. The 107 lumens of the PSL area lighting is plenty for a localized span of geography about the size of a picnic table. By pointing the bottom of the light forward, the entire front-end power of the LED generates a smoothly lit undiffused circle of light that is plenty bright enough to jog through the woods with reasonable confidence. And that same circle scales with the size of the accordion diffusion shade. When compressed, the circle of light is about twice as big as the distance from what it’s shining on. With the shade extended, the ratio is about 1:1 meaning the diameter of the circle of light is about the same size as the distance from the illuminated surface.
A Light Light
At only 4.2 ounces, the Personal Solar Light provides four modes of lighting, three of different intensities of steady output, and one of a bright SOS signaling. The big red button on the side of the PSL toggles from off through the three light descending light volumes and back off. If the button is held down for three seconds, the SOS mode kicks in blinking out the three-short, three-long, three-short distress signal. Holding the button down in the SOS mode stops the blinking signal and lands on the brightest output.
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A few hours of sunlight can be stored in the 2000 mAh battery housing up to 30 hours of lighting runtime. It turns out the PSL battery is about the same capacity as the battery in the iPhone 7. In other words, this is a serious battery in a serious light.
And also like the iPhone, you can charge the PSL with a cable and USB port. The included charging cable has a small circular pin connector rather than the industry-standard microUSB connector. So again like the iPhone, you will need the specific charging cable if you want to pump electrons into your PSL battery from the grid, an auto battery or a cell phone backup battery. But quite unlike the iPhone, the PSL costs less than $30.
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The onboard solar panel is about four square inches (2” x 2”) and resides on the top of the PSL under the removable strap. So a natural gravity fed hanging by the strap places the solar panel in a good to great position to absorb as much sunlight as possible.
The PSL Personal Solar Light floats, is solar powered, and can be hardwire recharged but best of all the PSL provides a very clean, white light both over a 360 degree area and a short throw spot option firing out unobstructed from the bottom of the light.
The single super bright LED creates a uniform, shadow-free flow of photons that is ultimately dependent only on the energy of the same powerplant that keeps our earth alive…the sun. Having an efficient solar charging system and large battery built into the bombproof PSL unit is what secures this performer’s place on the bug out lighting list.