HighGear SmartLite – What You Need, Without the Fluff

There are many fears that each backpacker has when they are on the trail, from injuries to severe weather conditions.  One such fear (especially for someone with an emergency preparedness mindset) is not having something that you need when you need it.  Of course, you can’t bring everything with you.  The SmartLite from HighGear is designed to help you maximize the space in your backpack while keeping the weight manageable.  By replacing your heavy, space-hogging, battery-draining lantern with a SmartLite, you’ll have extra space and weight for other important things.

The HighGear SmartLite is not the most powerful lantern on the market, nor is it the smallest.  Instead, this compact lantern is designed to be right in the middle – the 95-lumen output is powerful enough to allow you to perform basic tasks around the campsite while still being half the size (or less than half) of many other camp lanterns.  Of course, your tent is where the SmartLite will perform best, as it is designed to hang from the middle of your tent and provide light – both in standard lantern style or by making some quick adjustments so that the light faces directly down (making it great for reading or detail work).  Besides being versatile, the HighGear SmartLite can be powered by either charging it with the provided USB cable (using either your computer or a USB capable solar panel – like the Solio Bolt or Joos Orange, or by using the hand-crank.  Not only will this give you power anywhere, but it also keeps dozens of your batteries from ending up in landfills each year.  The internal battery stores enough power to run on the high setting for 4 hours or 10 hours on low.

This lantern does a great job of accomplishing what it was designed for – providing light at your campsite in a small, efficient package.  While it is not going to illuminate your entire campsite, the SmartLite will do an excellent job giving you enough light to find items in your pack, play a game of cards in your tent, or even read a book.  The fact that it has two power settings and two different configurations gives it a good amount of versatility for such a small lantern.  When you want more direct light, you can quickly (we’re talking about 5 seconds) switch it over to provide light directly below where it is hanging.  The exterior of the SmartLite is rubberized, which makes it very easy to grip, (even with wet hands) and tough.  In fact, it has survived several attempts from a one year-old boy to completely destroy it, with only a few slight marks (but we suggest you not house it in the toy bin – the plastic globe probably won’t make it through a huge amount of abuse).  So, what do we not like about it? Not a deal breaker, but during charging, the indicator on our test unit never seemed to change color to indicate a full charge, even though the light ran for the expect time after charging. Not sure if this is a  design flaw or just something wrong with our particular lantern.  Other than that, this lantern is perfect for giving a good amount of light in a small space.

At $35, the HighGear SmartLite is a great way to lighten your load without breaking the bank, and could also be invaluable in an emergency.  As long as you can spin the crank handle, you’ll have light.  Order from the HighGear website or check out some of their other products.  If the SmartLite still isn’t small enough for you or doesn’t have a long enough burn time, check out the TrailLite Mini,  which has a 110 hour burn time and weighs only 6.6 ounces.

– David

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