Solar camping lanterns are a great camping item that can also be easily adapted for at-home use. For example, you can keep the Mesqool Solar Hand Crank Camping Lantern around the house in case of power outages. But when it comes to camping situations, does this lamp hold up against the competition?
We tried it out in a real-life camping situation to gauge its quality. We also tried out each charging method to see how well they worked.
The Main Light
The big draw of this lamp is the main light, and we’re happy to say it lives up to the hype. We’ve seen a lot of “lift and drop” camping light models over the years, most of which have a pretty similar design. You get the metal folding handles that sit comfortably on the side and fold up to hang the light from a tree or post. These handles can also pull up and close the lamp to shine its light.
Frankly, we love this simple design because of its ease of use. Even a very young child could master using this light, which makes it great for many camping out outdoor situations. We’ve used it during hunting trips to light the day to our blind or when the power goes out at night. Furthermore, we’ve caught our kids using it to read or play video games late at night when they’re supposed to be sleeping.
The main light includes 12 LED light bulbs that, when fully deployed, produce a 360-degree range of light. It’s equivalent to about a 2.4-watt, 200-lumens bulb. While that’s not exactly overpowering, it should be enough for your basic camping needs. A fully charged battery should last 35 hours or more, meaning you should have more than enough light when camping or in power outages.
One of the big reasons we wanted to review this light was its combination of a 360-degree lamp and a more focused flashlight. This light is located on the bottom of the lamp and has a three-watt charge with 350 lumens of brightness. There’s a small button just beneath one of the metal handles that you can push in to turn the light on and off. One thing to note about this switch before using it is its sensitivity.
Pressing it in without clicking the switch fully will turn on the light only as long as you keep the button pressed. The second you let go, the bulb turns off. However, if you push it in all the way (you’ll hear and feel a click), the lamp stays on and provides a steady beam. This obviously isn’t a major problem but should be understood if you plan on buying and using this lamp regularly.
The Charging Systems
This light’s main charging systems are easy enough to understand. The 5V2A plug near the top of the lamp is adaptable with a basic USB cord. One USB power cord comes with the lamp itself, though you need to provide the charging wall unit yourself. Simply plug the USB cord into the unit and the wall and check the small light on the bottom of the unit (near an extra DC in 5V plug) to gauge your charge. Unplug the unit once this light turns green.
The solar panel requires you to do nothing more than place it in the sun. The panel will then capture UV rays and convert them into energy. There’s no indicator on the unit that this is taking place, which might throw off some users. Thankfully, we found that this method kept our battery well charged and powerful during the night, though solar charging from a dead battery is far less efficient.
Naturally, the crank is probably going to be most people’s least favorite charging method because you need to continually turn the crank for at least 10 minutes to get the best results. The whirring whine caused by the crank might annoy some people, though we liked it because it indicated the crank was working. Even better, the charging light goes on while you’re cranking. Keep cranking if it’s red, and stop once it reaches green. Thankfully, the crank runs smoothly to minimize arm strain.
Expectations From Each Charging Method
The Mesqool boasts three different charging styles: a 5V2A adapter, a hand crank, and a solar panel. That’s an impressive array of options but with a catch: the 5V2A adapter is by far the most efficient option. The lamp’s instructions claim that it’s “difficult to fully charge” the battery with the solar panel or crank. The included specs back this up, particularly when it comes to usage time.
While it takes two hours to fully charge with the 5V2A adapter, you get over 35 hours of main light and 30 hours of flashlight time. By contrast, the hand crank (with a 10-minute charging time) and the solar panel (with a 30-minute charging time) provide 20-30 minutes on the main light and 20-25 minutes for the flashlight! The manual says both options are best for maintaining the rechargeable battery.
In other words, you should fully charge it up before you go camping and keep the lamp out in the sun during the day to recharge the battery from your use the night before. On cloudy days or at night, you can use the crank to boost the battery but should avoid relying on either to fully recharge the battery. That’s a little disappointing but understandable. It’s just the reality of any solar lamp.
The Mesqool Solar Hand Crank Camping Lantern is a great addition to your camping gear. Each of the lights is powerful enough to light up a darkened campsite and are very easy to turn on and control. The three charging methods give you more than enough ways to keep your battery charged. In our field tests, we found the battery lasted a five-day camping trip when maintained with cranking or solar charging. We recommend this lamp for mid-level campers and as a backup light for power outages.
Blair Witkowski is an avid watch nut, loves pocket knives and flashlights, and when he is not trying to be a good dad to his nine kids, you will find him running or posting pics on Instagram. Besides writing articles for Tech Writer EDC he is also the founder of Lowcountry Style & Living. In addition to writing, he is focused on improving his client’s websites for his other passion, Search Engine Optimization. His wife Jennifer and he live in coastal South Carolina.