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Solar-Powered Flashlight from THRIVE Solar Lanterns

May 23rd, 2015 · No Comments · Amazon

Late breaking news: THRIVE Solar Lanterns is raising funds through IndieGoGo to help victims of the recent earthquake in Nepal. You can help by going here.

Please spread the word! And read more about this amazing organization below.

As a wanna-be comedian growing up, I once came up with a little routine where I’d think of silly products. There was instant water (just add water). There was bottled air. And of course, there was the solar powered flashlight. The joke as a kid, of course, was that if you already had sunlight to power your flashlight, why would you need the flashlight?

Well, a lot has changed since I was a kid. They actually do sell water in bottles now, and in some places I hear tell they even sell air. But the innovation I find the most useful and practical turns out to the solar-powered flashlight.

Of course, solar flashlights aren’t only on when the sun is on. A solar cell charges a battery, and it’s the battery that powers the flashlight. Over the years I’ve always been fascinated by solar technology, and have purchased a number of solar devices, mostly radios and incandescent flashlights and cell phone chargers. In most cases I’d been disappointed. I’d charge an emergency light for three days and then when I’d switch the light on maybe it’d last 20 seconds.

But a few technical advancements in the past few years have gotten us to the point where the technology is pretty impressive–and pretty cheap. THRIVE Solar Energy has done something remarkable with this. They created the Thrive Solar Lantern, which happens to be one of the best reviewed solar flashlights on Amazon. It’s a nifty portable lantern that uses LED lights, meaning that not only do the bulbs draw less power, they also don’t burn out or need to be replaced. Even the batteries don’t need to be replaced, as the built-in battery is charged during the day.

This is by far the best product you can have handy for emergencies like blackouts or power outages. Rather than running to the store and trying to fight with your neighbors to get that last set of batteries, all you need to do with the Thrive Solar Lantern is to leave it in the sun and by the time the sun goes down you’ll have light to help you get through the night for however long a power outage lasts.

I had the opportunity to try the Thrive Lantern out for myself. At first I admit I was a little taken aback because it didn’t look exactly like a “high-end” product. I’ve gotten accustomed to flashlights being in slick packaging and having slick designs like the Maglite. So when I saw a generic-looking box…

solar powered flashlight box

…and the unit itself in bright green plastic…

solar powered flashlight

…I wondered to myself how high the quality really was.

The answer came to me in a flash. Literally. I pressed the black button in front and then a blinding light came out of the unit.

powerful solar flashlight


It was quite literally one of the brightest flashlights I’ve seen, easily brighter than any of the other flashlights I have around the house. It easily lit up my whole living room. Something else I like about it is that as a “lantern”, I could place it down or hang it from my belt, something not as easily done with handheld flashlights.

As for my initial perceptions of it not being high quality, it dawned on me that this was just the result of years of marketing brainwashing which convinced me that flashlights somehow had to be heavy, metallic, and as slick-looking as luxury cars and to come in slick, over-produced packaging to be any “good”.

But that’s just silly–a flashlight above all needs to have substance over style and function over form, and in this case the plastic made the unit extremely lightweight and portable and useful in any situation you can think of, not just lighting a room during a blackout, but also useful when working on the car, hiking, camping, finding something in the closet, and any other situation that needs illumination. As someone who’s lugged heavy lanterns on hiking trails, let me say that weighing in at only 3 ounces, the lightweight nature of this lantern literally takes a big load off.

And it dawned on me that I really appreciate that they don’t waste money on slick packaging and marketing to keep the price amazingly affordable at under $20. How they do this is fascinating and brilliant. They do it by cutting out the middleman. They set up facilities in developing nations (currently India, Kenya, and Ghana) and as much as possible source its raw materials and equipment locally. They help local communities by providing jobs (one of the facilities in India employs 320 people, 260 of which are women) which provide them with livelihoods and help them support their families. It’s so rare to see an organization where whatever profit they make go towards directly to helping build economic opportunities in the developing world, not to governments and corporations that maximize profits at the expense of human rights.

I equally was pretty impressed by the unit’s engineering. The entire back of the unit consists of the solar cells that charge the batteries that power the LEDs.

solar cells

The LED itself is new technology that was invented by Shuji Nakamura, who received the 2014 Nobel Prize for Physics for inventing a new kind of efficient and bright light emitting diode. The unit will provide 8-10 hours of light in its normal mode, or 5 hours in its bright mode.

But what impressed me the most was the note I got from Maria Caluag, the owner of Cosas AutoSuficientes, LLC, who partners with THRIVE Solar to sell their products online. Marisa herself was a Peace Corps volunteer who worked in the developing world and runs the Amazon shop that sells THRIVE lanterns.

THRIVE’s itself has an amazing history. It was formed in 2001 as an NGO in India aimed at tackling the issue common to many developing countries of children and families without electricity who relied on dangerous, expensive, and hazardous kerosene lamps just to do basic things after the sun goes down. We take it for granted here, but just the ability to have light to study at night is a luxury many children don’t have.

They started out by purchasing and distributing solar lamps, but there simply weren’t any products out there that lasted more than a few weeks before breaking. That’s when the founder of THRIVE started a company to manufacture its own solar lamps that were more durable, brighter, and lasted longer than any other.

To date, they have helped well over half a million school children receive study lights, and have helped over 1 million families benefit from solar lighting systems off the grid.

It’s rare to see a company that started as a charity and created innovative technology that creates a virtuous circle of helping not just people who use their product, but also entire communities who make their product and the many, many people who benefit from their philanthropic mission.

And best of all, the product is absolutely fantastic. It’ll be the flashlight of choice I use in my household moving forward an I don’t say this out of “charity”, I say it because this is truly the best flashlight I’ve ever owned.



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