Luci lightingBack in January at CES 2014/Showstoppers, John and I managed to obtain some early versions of the inflatable solar powered lanterns dubbed the Luci Aura. Since then they’ve had a bit of a design change in the Aura and also released a reading lantern version called the Lux.

The new lanterns look a little more polished than the ones we got back in January but have the same basic design: an inflatable, waterproof, lightweight lantern perfect for camping, dorm rooms, or any party involving mood altering substances.

On the new Luci Aura, the seven color changing routine has been slowed down a bit from the old. The old ones would flick to a color and then flick to another – it was a nice demonstration in how they could achieve multiple colors, but it got kind of annoying with the speeds at which it would transition.

The new Luci Lux is more of a night reading light. It’s a bit brighter than the Aura when the Aura is on white, has two brightness levels for reading comfort, and also flashes like a very slow strobe light. I’m uncertain what the need of a flashing white light is, but if you want that it’s available.

The website allows you to either order one of these products for yourself, or order one or more for people in developing countries so they can have light at night in a program they called Solar Justice, which seems like a superhero name to me, but it’s a cool concept if you want to donate this product to people who need it.

There are pictures of people playing with the Luci Aura in a pool to demonstrate the waterproof abilities of it, and while I have not had my old Luci Auras in a pool, I did take them camping and then leave them in the elements for approximately eight months. They survived fine and other than the sticker top (which is not present on the new Aura line,) do not show any evidence that they were left out.

Luci Aura old vs newPictured above – Old Luci Aura (left,) new (right)

I hosed mine off and decided to put them in a head to head with the new Luci Aura to see which would last longer. I didn’t expect the test to run more than a couple of hours, which was my mistake. All lanterns, new, old, and the Lux, lasted three hours at which point I went to bed. They were all running at some point probably six hours into the test when a baby woke me up. At hour ten I noticed that the Lux and the two old Auras had shut off, but the new one was still running.

Sometime around 12 hours into the test, the new Aura stopped. I assumed this meant all were now dead, but on each unit I pressed they kicked right back on and proceeded to run for another hour or two.

I’ve come to the conclusion that these are the ideal camping lanterns as you can deflate them to the size of two Eggos and stick in your backpack.

Several Luci products lighting a roomLeft to right: old Aura, old Aura, new Aura, Lux

It’s possible to read with the Lux, although you might want to rig up something to direct the lighting more toward your subject matter. It works as a decent light. It’s nearly impossible to take a picture of them when they’re pulsing with the cameras I have as the LED lights tend to make a banding effect. They’re mostly weatherproof (up to eight months at least).

They’ve made real improvements on the Luci Aura from when we received them in January, although the lumen rating has decreased on the Aura from 80 (according to John’s article) to 65 (packaging,) it’s actually a lot better looking light.


Above: color cycling of old vs new.

The only reason you might not want one of these is if you have no sun to charge from or a place to sit them in the sun for an hour or so unguarded. There’s no alternative charging method, so if you’re inside all the time there’s not a lot of a chance these are going to be much use to you. Update: I have been informed they charge under incandescent lamps, ignore this.

I’m uncertain what happened to the Luci Aura in the past few months, but it went from being able to be ordered back in January (John’s article) to pre-ordering them now. Perhaps the first batch was a small test run before they made the new and improved Luci Aura that they’re shipping next month. According to my contact they were never available for orders until last month with the official launch.

The Luci Aura and the Luci Lux are available for preorder (Aura) and order (Lux,) at the manufacturer’s website. They are listed at $24.99 and $19.99 respectively. The Aura is expected to ship Mid-October.