New York City-based Mpowerd introduced the Luci solar-powered inflatable lantern earlier this month. The lantern folds like an accordion and shines with the force of 10 LED bulbs. Its integrated solar panels also means you should never have the hassle of switching out batteries.
The Luci is designed for maximum portability. It folds into a 3.8-ounce (108-gram) disc that measures about 5-inches across and an inch thick (12.7 x 2.5 cm). With the help of a pop-out blow valve, it inflates into cylindrical lantern form in under a minute.
The Luci's base houses a total of 10 LED lights. It has two brightness settings and a flash mode that are accessed by a small push button. The 3.7-volt lithium- polymer battery provides power for between six and 12 hours of light and takes about seven hours to charge. It can be charged with both sunlight and incandescent light.
The Luci's inflatable, waterproof design lends itself to outdoor use for primary or back-up purposes. It can easily fit in a backpack pocket or large jacket pocket. Mpowerd also suggests using it as an emergency back-up light in a car or home and a party/accent light.
The Luci isn't the first inflatable lantern we've seen. In fact, the Luminaid inflatable lantern that we covered in 2011 was on display right next to the Luci at the recent Outdoor Retailer Winter Market show. The Luminaid folds into a smaller 5 x 3 x 0.25-inch (12.7 x 7.6 x 0.6 cm), 3-ounce (85 gram) rectangular package. Both designs are very easy to inflate and deflate, and both include handles for carrying and hanging. The Luci has a leak-proof valve, making it easy to fully inflate, and its hard bottom suggests that it should stand more stably than the pillow-like Luminaid.
The Luci is available for US$15.95. Mpowerd also plans to launch a buy-one-give-one social campaign, similar to the one Luminaid hosts.