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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Transition to the boondocking lifestyle with low-cost solar task lights

Many RVers that are new to boondocking shudder at the expense of putting in a solar charging system. They love getting away to the back country, enjoy the solitude and quiet, but find it hard to cough up the big bucks. Here's a thought on how you may be able to still enjoy your boondocking and while you save up your shekels for an alternative power system.

Every boondocker is different in terms of what they use their power for. Some have laptops or other e-devices that they "just gotta have." Others can't do without a bit of television. Some find it important to fire up the furnace (and associated electric fan) to take the chill off. But there is a common denominator – most everybody needs to run the lights at night.

Yes, you can install LED lighting – that will cut some of the electrical "cost" in terms of how much battery power you chew up between dusk and dawn. But here's another approach you might like: Portable, solar charging work lights. These little critters charge up in the sun by day, and can be lugged around anywhere you need light – inside or outside the RV.

They aren't big – standing only about 7" in height, with a "lamp" area about 3" in diameter. But as a 'task light' you can sit the device down where you need it, then point the light where the light is required. Great for reading, cooking, caring for 'personal needs' by night. And at about $16 each, they're pretty easy on the pocketbook. 

Now, we've had "experience" with some budget solar lights, those you see folks lining the garden path or the border of the sidewalk with. Those $1 cheapies are just that – they last a couple months, maybe a couple of weeks, and they're done for. We were concerned that this might be the same here, but customer reviews of this particular light are favorable, and the design itself was originally put together to help folks in impoverished lands have lighting that didn't require batteries or liquid fuels to run, so some thoughtfulness was put into this product.

According to users, running time on these lights works out like this: Brilliant light for the first three or four hours of operation. Dimming down from then on, but still usable after seven hours of operation, after a full charge by day. A "glow in the dark" power switch makes it easy to flip the light on or off, and of course, without continuous use, the battery storage on these should make your light last longer.

Pick up a couple, or a few, try them out. See how you like boondocking, then consider making the jump to solar panels up roof-top. This may be a way to help make the transition.

Russ and Tiña are "on air" with weekly podcasts at

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