weird thought

10:46 p.m. on February 1, 2012 (EST)
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i work with at risk youth at a group home and every summer myself and a couple of other staff take groups of these kids out backpacking to introduce them to the backcountry.  alot of these kids are afraid of the dark and wear the hell outta flashlights and headlamps. the other day while at Lowe's i had a strange idea and thought i would see what kinda thoughts or suggestions you guys could give me. 

the thought i had was while at lowe's i saw those solar lights that people place jammed down in the ground along the sidewalks.  they are in expensive, very light, and if strapped to the outside of packs could charge up and give off light enough for the kids at night if one or two were placed around the camp, especially in spots where we can't have fires.  i may be crazy but what does everyone think.

11:04 p.m. on February 1, 2012 (EST)
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The solution I would recommend here is not a product sold at lowes but a solution to this problem that was made for backpacking. Look into GoalZero products ( ). I have personally used a number of GoalZero products ( I work for one of their retailers) and have been very impressed with their performance. They make a number of solar panel products that range in output and also sell lights that can be charged by their panels. They even sell one hand held LED flash light that can be charged via an integrated solar panel and a mechanical crank. Best of all, they manufacture large rechargeable batteries in a number of sizes that can be used for charging anything from headlamps to MP3players to Laptops (in the higher end). Check them out man. They make some expeditionary stuff too, might be up your alley for an extended basecamp.


11:28 p.m. on February 1, 2012 (EST)
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If you go the solar spike rout, try Walgreen's...I have seen them there ULTRA cheap. I think it is a great idea.

11:35 p.m. on February 1, 2012 (EST)
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5:54 a.m. on February 2, 2012 (EST)
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I love being in the dark when camping.


My wife likes a little light around camp at night.


Solution - hang up a couple chem light sticks.

 They are pretty bright and illuminate the area well.


You can also night hike with them. If held in the hand down by your thigh, you can see the trail 4 feet ahead of you.


Cheap, lightweight, can go inside the pack and sold at Lowes.


If you have reflective tacks in the trees, blue light sticks will reflect at about 10 feet away.  Green doesn't reflect at all.

6:38 a.m. on February 2, 2012 (EST)
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While we were in CA, my wife bought a hand crank AM/FM/Weather radio at Radio Shack. It would only go for about 5 minutes between crankings, regardless of how much you cranked -- not much of a battery in there I guess. Eventually the crank broke, she got it replaced under warranty, then gave it to a friend in CT when we came back to Norway where the weather band isn't the same.

All of which is to say, I would want to be sure that any hand crank/solar device I  would hold enough of a charge to be actually useful before I would pay good money for it. As it is, a set of rechargeable NiMHs in an LED headlamp will go for 30+ hours, sometimes much longer depending on the make and model of the headlamp and the light setting you use. That sets a pretty high standard.

There may also be durability issues if you're going to put these in kids' hands...

8:59 a.m. on February 2, 2012 (EST)
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Seems a little bit of his point is slipping away here. These are at risk kids and it is more than one kid. One hand crank may not cover his needs. If a kid needs to have a way to get light now, then the solar thing is good because they can charg it in the day, have it with them at night. Being a kid and afraid of the dark is not fun. I think cheap solar lights for each kid that wants one is an excellent idea. Furthermore, it puts them in control of their problem. Once you start getting into multiple headlamps and rechargeable batteries the cost becomes prohibitive for the purposes he originally stated. The other suggestion..Chem Light sticks is a good, cheap alternative as well.  Those glo light sticks trick or treaters use are a buck. But they would need to last all through the dark, which the solar lights do.

1:54 p.m. on February 2, 2012 (EST)
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It sounds to me that for your purpose the cheap solar lights would be perfect. 

2:07 p.m. on February 2, 2012 (EST)
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Chris while hiking the Shenandoah National Park and tenting my group had solar lights around our tent openings. They cost about a buck a piece at wally world. They were the christmas theme but they worked..

2:17 p.m. on February 2, 2012 (EST)
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thanks for all the great suggestions guys.  i really appreciate the input.

3:06 p.m. on February 2, 2012 (EST)
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I'm a little rougher than all that.

Turn it into a lesson; give them one extra set of batterys and tell them to manage them carefully. 

Either they will learn to manage their resources or they will get over thier fear of the dark.  Its a win-win.

3:27 p.m. on February 2, 2012 (EST)
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My friend who lives in his van uses a solar powered light like you are talking about at night in his campervan for light. He leaves it outside all day to recharge.

I use rechargeable batterys in all my stuff (camera, electric lantern, flashlights,etc) I charge up all the batterys before each overnight trip.

3:32 p.m. on February 2, 2012 (EST)
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The light sticks and the solar-charged "Tiki Torches" are a cheap solution for the at-risk and other youth-group situations. The Goal-Zero route is a very expensive solution for the at-risk and other youth-group situations. I have a Brunton solar panel and a Goal-Zero panel (Goal-Zero's HQ is located fairly close to me, as is Eton, which has several lines of solar-chargeable and crank-charge radios and lights). And I work with youth groups.

Sage's idea of turning it into a learning experience is excellent. One thing we have used is to use the light sticks as necklaces when it gets dark. In the ScoutReach program, it allows the leaders to track the kids readily, while giving them a bit of independence with a "safety leash" of sorts.

I have used the Brunton foldable solar panel on expeditions to Antarctica, Alaska, the Andes, and Africa to keep camera, netbook, and other rechargeable batteries charged. Goal-zero's storage batteries are good for some purposes (charge them during the day and subject them to heavy use during the dark/night hours), but they are really heavy when you get to the sizes lager than the pocket storage units, as well as being expensive (we are talking hundreds of dollars for the panels rated at more than 15 or 20 watts plus the equivalent storage units).

Great you are doing this, Chris.

3:40 p.m. on February 2, 2012 (EST)
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one thing I forgot to mention about the light sticks...

they become toys... even for the older "kids"

You'll see many a lightstick being thrown into the air and tossed between campers - and it won't break when it hits the ground.


Depending on the temp, I've had lightsticks glow brightly for 8 hours or more.

I have to cover them up if I bring them into the tent with me.

4:49 p.m. on February 2, 2012 (EST)
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The best bet may be these:

They're a Photon clone, and come with a set of batteries. One of these lights would last longer than a couple dozen chem lights, and be a heck of a lot cheaper. I've heard really good reports as to their performance, but have not yet used them personally.

4:54 p.m. on February 2, 2012 (EST)
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A 10pk for under $5? I may place an order just to have them on tap.

Thanks for posting that link pillowthread.

7:17 p.m. on February 2, 2012 (EST)
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DealExtreme is an awesome site.  I've been buying stuff from them for years, with nary a problem.

FYI, those solar lights everyone is talking about don't burn for very long - a couple hours tops.

7:29 p.m. on February 2, 2012 (EST)
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Jim: Mine burn all night after a days charging...

8:25 p.m. on February 2, 2012 (EST)
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i suppose that strolling around the campsite in a hockey mask wouldn't solve this....

most simple LED headlamps, like a 20 dollar black diamond gizmo, will run 50-75 hours on a new pair of AAA alkaline batteries.    my larger one, more like 60-120 hours.  should be plenty for a weekend trip.

11:16 p.m. on February 2, 2012 (EST)
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I would also reccomend the glow sticks, pretty decent amount of light, cheap, and durable considering, last 4-8 hours depending on temps.

2:37 p.m. on February 3, 2012 (EST)
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good idea

3:18 p.m. on February 3, 2012 (EST)
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Dont know the ages of the kids. But how about the UCO candle lanterns? They burn 6-8 hrs and can be safely hung inside a tent adding warmth. Of course with some kids fire wouldnt be a good idea. But for some of them it might be the right type of light. Or maybe hang one over each tent in a tree. You would have the control of blowing them out at night, and they could easly fine their tents. This would give a warm glow over the camping area.

4:26 p.m. on February 3, 2012 (EST)
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Rick-Pittsburgh said:

A 10pk for under $5? I may place an order just to have them on tap.

I know, right? At that price, I'd keep one in every nook of the truck, one in every gear bag, one on every key fob...

May 25, 2018
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