The One Piece of Road Gear You Can't Live Without

By Aaron Gulley, originally published by Outside Magazine here    

In a 23-foot Airstream like Artemis, it’s possible to carry a lifetime’s supply of gear: four bikes and all our riding equipment, fly rods and waders, hunting gear with rifle and bows, running shoes, climbing rope and rack, computers and electronics for powering them, and all the day-to-day sundries.

My absolute favorite of anything we have, and the one item we could not go without, is the Luci Lux.

I’ve been testing gear professionally for 20 years, and this simple, inflatable, solar-powered lantern is, in my humble opinion, the finest piece of equipment I’ve ever owned. With 10 LEDs that produce 50 lumens, the device has a frosted plastic body that casts prettier light than most fixtures at five-star resorts. It has three settings (low, medium, and high), a separate button to check the remaining power, and a strap for carrying or hanging up the light. Best of all, the whole thing is inflatable, so it deflates from the size of a roll of paper towels cut in half all the way down to a saucer-size disc. It fully charges in about seven hours of sun and lasts up to 12 on full power, though we’ve gotten a week of nightly usage running it mostly on low.

The Luci Lux is an affordable, solar-powered lantern fitting for wherever you go.

When Jen bought our first one a few weeks after we moved into Artemis, I chastised her: Why would we ever use solar lights now that we had a camper equipped with dimmer-switch LEDs? But we quickly found that running the lights in the Airstream while boondocking was an unnecessary drag on battery power. Besides, we dine outside as much as possible, and some light to cook and eat by other than the harsh, cold beam of a headlamp is welcome. Two weeks after we bought that first Luci, we picked up another two-pack to make it a trio. At $20 a pop, these lights represent some of the best value going in gear. And while one lights up the main room in the trailer just fine, it’s nice to have a couple outside for ambiance.

About a month after we got the Lucis, I was won over further by this amazing device when I took one on an eight-day ride on the AZT. Light is a big issue on a big ride like this, as batteries are heavy and you don’t want to use up more power than necessary from your bike lights. I never noticed the four ounces the little disc added to my pack or seat bag. But at night, I had soft, warm light to pitch camp and eat by without the time and energy of building a fire.  

The Lucis are now part of our everyday routine, as we carry them out each morning, usually with a coffee in the other hand, to find a good spot for collecting sun. One word from experience: be careful where you charge. We designed an excellent system to clip the lanterns to the grill vent on the outside of Airstream so they could power without blowing away. What we didn’t factor was that the vent is the exhaust for our hot-water heater, which proceeded to melt one hapless Luci beyond function the first time we decided to shower while charging. 

And yes, the next time we were in town, we found the nearest REI and bought ourselves another Luci.

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