As part of our National Preparedness Month campaign, we try to share products and gear that are as at home for outdoor use as they are in your emergency kit. The Clip-Mini from Solio is a perfect example. For readers not familiar with the Solio brand, they offer a variety of solar solutions, in the form of both solar chargers with batteries, and solar or USB-powered lights, with the goal of reducing or eliminating the need for disposable batteries. You can read more about their other products and applications here.
With a name like Clip-Mini, it should come as no surprise that this small flashlight is equipped with a built-in, carabiner style spring loaded clip. This makes it simple enough to attach to a tent or backpack when used for camping, so it can capture some sunlight. But it’s handy enough that we’d keep one around the house too, either hanging by the clip, or at least someplace easy to find when it’s needed. That clip takes up a bit more than a third of the unit’s 6-1/8th inch length, with the rest being a credit card sized (well, close enough) solar panel on one side, and a power button on the other, surrounded by attractive red plastic, which contrasts nicely with the clear body. Power is stored in a 3.7 volt, 360mAh lithium polymer battery which charges in six hours of sunlight, or an hour via USB. A tap of the power button activates a small red LED which indicates the level of charge by flashing 1-5 times. Four fairly bright white LEDs with a hinged red cover are at the end opposite the clip. As expected, there’s also a micro USB port along one edge. The Clip-Mini has five different lighting modes. Output is 8.4 lumens on high, for a 3 hour run time. Click to reduce output to 50%, and you’ve got 11 hours run time. For the 10% output, S.O.S. and flashing modes, expect up to 33 hours.
Our Clip-Mini included a USB cord for charging, which is recommended before use, even though it ships with a 50% charge. Once it was ready to go, we took it for a spin. After testing flashlights with over 1,000 lumens, 8.4 might not seem like much, but it’s exactly the right amount for lighting your way when walking in the dark. In a talk I had with Solio CEO Andy Howe at Outdoor Retailer last month, he mentioned that they’re not chasing crazy outputs with their LED lights. What they are really after is the kind of light we need for simple, every day use. To that end, they’ve certainly succeeded. We found the Clip-Mini to be ideal for finding things in the dark, and the red lens swings into place for preserving night vision. Despite the flat design (as opposed to traditional round flashlights), the location of the power button makes it very difficult to accidentally shine it in your own face. When held properly, the button falls naturally beneath your thumb.
Solio lists the retail price of the Clip-Mini at $25 on their site. REI offers it for a little less. Unless you buy your batteries in bulk, the Clip-Mini should outlast $25 worth of disposables. More importantly, owning a Clip-Mini will keep a lot of AA batteries from being used in the first place. Sure, you can drop the dead ones off at a recycling center, or use rechargeables, but why not eliminate them completely? And the last thing you want in your emergency kit is a flashlight with dead batteries. solio.com
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the Solio Clip-Mini for free directly from Andy Howe, CEO of Solio, in consideration for review publication.