Sunday, July 7, 2019

Hybridlight Journey

One of my sources for inspiration for articles (what we like to call “blogfodder”) is a weekly newsletter called The Woodpile Report. The host of this newsletter goes by the name of Remus and, like me, is a man of varied interests. The topics tend to wander from great works of art to old cars to modern-day world events, but there is always something of interest for me in each issue. Remus doesn't archive any of his posts, so the old ones disappear as they get replaced by newer ones. This means that you'll have to save your own bookmarks of interest if you want to come back to it later.

Remus recently mentioned a flashlight that he'd picked up and how well it lived up to its advertising, so I decided to get one and try it out.

The Hybridlight Journey is a small, simple flashlight with a few features that make it a good candidate for a prepper's shopping list. Here's what I've found in the first week or so of use:

Made of hard plastic with a waterproof switch and sealed lens, it's listed as being waterproof to 1 meter in the instructions and 3 meters in the Amazon listing. I've held it underwater in a bucket for 15 minutes with no problems.

It Floats
This made the waterproof test a challenge. It does float and, being bright yellow, it would be easy to see if it fell out of a boat. They are also sold in black, camo, and red/white/blue colors.

Solar Charging Panel
About an inch wide and 4 inches long, this is a fairly small panel. It's covered with a thick, clear cover so it should keep working for a long time. I'm going to estimate it at about 100 mA output based on the size.

Simple Switch
Push once for a low beam (about 30 lumens, plenty of light for seeing where you're walking), push twice for high beam (160 lumens, good for lighting up a small area), push again to turn it off. Hold in the switch for 2 seconds to activate a slow (2 pulse/second) strobe.

It weighs 4.5 ounces (135 g) and fits in a pocket nicely. My work pants have a pliers pocket on the leg and I barely notice that it's there.

USB Ports
This is a nice feature. Unscrew the gasketed, waterproof cap on the tail end and you'll find a standard USB A port and a mini-A port. The standard port lets you use the flashlight to charge a cell phone or other device, while the mini-A port allows you to charge the flashlight from a common charger.

The plastic case is sturdy and the cover over the solar panel is pretty thick. I've not intentionally dropped it, but it has met the ground a few times and it hasn't picked up any dings or scratches. Being lightweight, it isn't going to be prone to damage from falls.

Things I am testing

Long-Term Storage
Both Remus and the instructions mention that the battery will hold a charge for years. Remus has tested his for a year; the factory claims 7 years and still holding 90% charge. That, coupled with the claim that you can't overcharge the battery by using the solar panel, make this a good cache light.

Battery Life in Use
8 hours of battery life when using the high beam is confirmed: I left it on over night and it was still working when I got up about 8 hours later. The 30 hours on low beam is going to take a few days to set up and test. I mainly need to remember to check it every few hours towards the end.

Battery Capacity
The maker mention that it contains a Lithium-ion battery, but the capacity is listed variably as 2200 or 2400 mAhr. I'm going to test it by using it to charge a cell phone with a known battery to get a general idea of the capacity. Reading up on it, the manufacturer states that is has a 20% reserve set aside for the LED, so only about 1800 mAhr is available from the USB port.

Solar Charge Time
I set the flashlight on the dashboard of my pickup for a full 12 hours and it didn't register a full charge. This is going to take a few charge/discharge cycles to measure, and when working with a light that can last all night the discharge takes time.

Things that need improvement

It Rolls
I prefer having at least one flat side on a flashlight, so I can set it down and have it stay where I put it.

A Lanyard
I'd like to see a lanyard, or at least a way to attach one. There are time when I like to be able to secure my gear with a carabiner, and other times where I'm working with my hands and like to have a light available without digging in a pocket.

Charging Indicator
There is a simple red/green LED between the switch and the front cap. Red means charging, green means charged. The LED is set too deep into the case to be easily seen and could be a bit brighter.

Better Solar Panel Protection 
The cover is good, but the edges of the case could be raised a bit more to protect it from scratches. As it sits now, the cover is almost flush with the edges of the case, which leaves it vulnerable to damage.

All in all, I'm happy with the $30 that I spent on this light so far. The battery is not replaceable, so this is a throw-away light once the battery dies. It will likely end up in my parts bin when that happens, or I'll perform surgery on it with a hacksaw and some epoxy if I can find a battery that will fit.

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