Review: PackLite Max Phone Charger
It’s rare to come across such a simple, effective and world changing product, but LuminAID have created just that.
My journey with LuminAID goes back almost a whole year, to when my wife sent me an article on the founders Anna & Andrea, and the whole story around the creation of LuminAID. Being someone who has worked in the not-for-profit industry, and particularly the disaster relief sector, for a fair few years of my life, their tale inspired me and I bookmarked their site to explore in more depth.
Months later I picked up a PackLite Max, which offers the ability to charge the light via a USB cable. While I found it to be a great product, I felt charging the light via USB sort of defeated the point of it being solar powered. Especially as it could easily last long enough for a few hours of camping lighting, before being charged again the next day.
Enter the PackLite Max Phone Charger (which I’ll refer to as Max PC). I was recently sent this more recent model by LuminAID that also has a USB outlet, enabling the solar power to charge other USB devices. This model seems to have replaced the Max USB model that I had, with their “Nova” model now being a smaller alternative to the Max USB. For me this is definitely a worthwhile extra feature, especially as the ability to charge is the one thing my friends all thought the Max lacked.
There were a number of differences I spotted between the two, some good and one not so good in my opinion. As the Max PC is their most expensive model I thought it would be worth outlining what changed from their previously high-end PackLite product.
There are some minor finishing tweaks like the charging icon size, a slightly textured pattern to the edge of the front and back panels on the Max PC and also the orange attachment loop looks and feels more finished. The USB charging port is obviously bigger on the Max PC, but little things like the enclosure goes right up to the edge of the port, demonstrate that a little more thought has gone into it. The lead included works fine and charges the PackLite as expected.
They claim these ports, as well as the whole device is waterproof. Now I’ve not tested this to the extreme, it’s survived some light rain and being dumped in soaking wet long grass while a friend and I set up camp in the dark.
They’re designed to be attachable to the outside of your pack for charging during the day and the attachment loop works really well to achieve this.
There are three adjustment sizes which range from snug to generous, allowing easy fixing to anything I’ve tried. It works great attaching to two rows of PALS webbing and even just a strap or handle. It’s easy to use and as secure as it needs to be before being difficult to undo. Great execution on that element.
Another noticeable change is the “blower” that is used to inflate. On the Max, when popped inwards, this is seriously low profile, basically not noticeable. But on the Max PC when it’s pushed in the whole back panel is lifted outwards, rather than condensing up. I’m left choosing between the mouthpiece sticking up or a bulkier unit.
However, this new larger mouthpiece is so much easier to get your mouth around and seems to let the air out faster too. It speeds up inflating and deflating enough that to me, it’s worth the trade off in extra bulk. Hands down.
To inflate you just pop out the mouthpiece and blow. But I’ve found you can get most of the way there by gradually pulling it open while squeezing the mouthpiece and then just give it a small puff to reach full size.
To deflate is even easier thanks to the soft fabric of the side panels. Each side has a diagonal crease across it, so that the front and back panels can simply be twisted and pushed together to deflate the light fully within seconds. It’s a really great design!
With the two sat side by side I have noticed the ‘charging’ indicator light up on the Max PC when the Max USB’s indicator has been off (even when I put it in the same position) so clearly they’ve updated some hardware elements too!
This is, however one of the negatives of the design, in that 12-14 hours is a long time to get a full charge via the solar panel. If you’re hiking all day this shouldn’t be too much of a problem, plus it really doesn’t take much light to begin charging (living in the gloomy UK this is a bonus).
I’m not massively concerned about making sure I have a fully charged phone, but I have had situations where my phone has run out of juice by looking for signal all day. So something that can give it that extra boost to make a call home or send a goodnight text might be all I need.
However if I’m sharing that same charge with the light used to make camp, I would be tempted to either pack a backup light and/or power bank. This then makes me consider if, by offering both features in one, I’ll actually be adding more items to my packing list rather than less. Only more testing will tell. For now I’d trust this on its own for a day hike, but would add something else for anything longer.
Variable brightness settings are a good addition as in the dark, a small amount of light can usually be enough. The ‘turbo’ setting of 150 lumens isn’t going to break any records, but the inflated box does a great job to maximise its effectiveness and it’s perfect for tent use. I’ve even used it to light my dark office a few times. The interface is simple, effective and requires no instructions, and ending the sequence on an SOS pattern is a good idea too.
It’s not often that you find a company so investing in helping others on so many levels. I not going to go into all the good they do, instead I strongly encourage you to check out their website. They’ve explained it all far better than I could. Definitely start with their Give Light, Get Light program.
This is a great product. For a solar powered light and device charger and the cleverness of the blowup design, the price is about right. I’d also highly recommend checking out their other models if this particular model seems to pricey. If I’m honest their original Kickstarter model would be plenty for me, but I do love this 6” square design too.
Anyone who’s seen mine and listened to my 5 second explanation of the features has instantly been interested and if they’re an outdoorsy person, they’ve been sold on the idea. This is a great piece of kit that, in my opinion, barely needs a recommendation. It has it anyway, of course!