At IndustryOutsider, we love to promote products that not only are useful for your outdoor adventures, but also help good causes around the globe. d.light fits this mold well by not only keeping batteries from landfills and fossil fuels in the ground, but also helping people live better lives by providing them with a safe source of lighting for their homes. Inspiration for the company came while one co-founder was serving in the Peace Corps in Benin, Africa. His neighbor’s son was seriously injured due to a fire started by the kerosene lantern used to provide light for their home. That experience helped formed the mission of d.light: transforming lives through light.
Although a for-profit company, d.light uses the income from their U.S. sales to further their social goal of providing light to millions in countries where there is little or no access to electricity. Their website even features a dashboard, updated monthly, that provides data on everything from the amount of money saved on fuel costs to the productive hours gained for their customers in developing countries. For example, as of February, 2013, well over 13 million people in developing countries now have a renewable light source thanks to d.light. And since most families save enough in fuel costs within two months to pay for their d.light, they are not only enjoying better and safer lighting, but now have more money for things they need. Good intentions are great, but you also need to have a great product.
At Outdoor Retailer Summer Market last August, I was given a sample of the d.light S1 Solar Lantern. The first thing that struck me was that the design of the S1 was very different from any of the dozens of solar products on display at OR. With a removable stand and a unique puck-like shape, the S1 doesn’t look like traditional solar lights. These elements serve more purpose than just making their product stand out, however.
With the flexible stand, users are able to get the perfect angle – either for getting a better charge or for seeing what they are doing. The somewhat unusual shape not only helps make the S1 more portable and versatile, but the puck design also lends itself well to ruggedness. Unlike a lot of compact lighting options, I found that there were very few awkward moments using the S1. No putting a flashlight in my mouth while fighting a tent zipper, or having to keep my head completely still so that the headlamp isn’t pointing in the wrong direction. Just set the S1 down, hang it on a peg, put it in the mesh storage loft or pocket in your tent, or any of a dozen other places. There are certainly more situations to use the S1 than a typical solar flashlight. The improved usability that the stand provides more than makes up for the extra space it takes up (and with a little bit of creativity, you won’t even notice it in your backpack).
My experience with this product was very pleasing. Sometimes, companies will fabricate or use noble causes in order to mask the fact that they make poor products or overcharge for what they offer. This is not the case with d.light. Their products are solid additions to the solar lighting category, particularly considering their social goals and exceptional pricing.
Since August, d.light has come out with the new S2, which directly replaces the S1. In addition to all the features that made the original adaptable to any situation, they have also improved the overall strength of the exterior (making it much more shock resistant), developed a higher quality battery, increased the overall life of the lantern, and added a glow in the dark power button. The upgraded S2 is currently on offer for $14 through the d.light website. While you’re there, check out the S20 and S300, particularly if you’re looking for something for your emergency preparedness plans.