Solio products consistently impress us, as they are compact, efficient, affordable, and revolve around the simple goal of harnessing sunlight for energy. We’ve got several of their solar chargers in regular rotation among our contributors and testers, as they provide portable power for recharging while camping, traveling, or even at work. (You could plug your phone into the wall or a computer, but that’s not a portable solution) When Solio offered to let us review their ALVA LED lamp, which plugs into any USB port, we were curious to see how well this light with a $20 MSRP would perform.
The ALVA consists of a three meter orange cable with a USB plug on one end, and a light assembly containing several LED bulbs on the other end. For the sake of simplicity (and probably to keep the price so low), there’s no switch of any sort. As a matter of fact, the only adjustment of any kind is via the Nite Ize carabiner, which can be used to clip it inside your tent, to a tree branch, or whatever else is handy. Solio designed the ALVA to be used with their BOLT, CLASSIC2, and Xcellerator+Hub battery/charging units, but it will work with other manufacturer’s products as well. If it’s got a USB out, you can probably plug the ALVA in.
Replacing disposable batteries is the goal here, so the Solio designers made sure the ALVA was super efficient. That means run times of up to nine hours from the 2000mAh Li-Poly battery found in the BOLT and Xcellerator+Hub, and fifteen hours from the CLASSIC2′s 3200mAh battery. In more practical terms, that means a day of sunshine will easily provide a top up or full charge to your phone or GPS, and still leave enough juice in your Solio device’s battery to run your ALVA from dusk to bedtime.
Our testing was done with a Solio CLASSIC2 as the power supply (you can get them bundled at a great price from REI.com), and it never let us down. Even if we forgot to set it in the sun for a day, the ALVA is so efficient, we couldn’t get it to deplete our battery. For emergency use or extended camping trips, this setup would make a great compact lighting setup that wouldn’t make you choose between having light and recharging your devices. And while it’s ideal for hanging inside your tent, we didn’t limit the ALVA’s testing to just camping. The more time we spent with it, the more uses we found for it. Any place that requires some localized lighting that’s wider than a flashlight spot, but not as broad as a lantern’s flood, is a good spot for the ALVA. It was put into use by the fire, to illuminate the table containing s’mores ingredients. The adjustable carabiner allowed it to be mounted high enough over a grill that we could cook at night, without burning our food or the lamp. Indoors, it would make a great emergency light as well, since you can hang it, or use it as a portable light. Output is about equal to a 10 watt bulb, making it perfect for small areas. Any brighter, and it would probably be too much inside a tent.
Although it doesn’t apply so much to the lamp as the their chargers and batteries, it’s worth noting that Solio does extensive testing with their products, and they get the stamp of approval from wireless retailers. Not every company is able to make that claim, as some of them offer direct charging, which can damage your gear. Solio chargers use heat sinks, and place the battery between the solar panel and your device for added protection. That’s just one of the reasons you can trust them for your off the grid charging needs. solio.com