Gear Review: LuminAID PackLite Nova solar lantern

This is a review of the PackLite Nova inflatable USB lantern from LuminAID. The Nova USB lantern is the model we reviewed. The Max USB is the same lantern, only larger. 

The LuminAid solar lantern is a convenient lantern you can take with you anywhere. This lantern is small enough to take backpacking and camping, or simply just to keep in your car. It retails for under $20. 

The design is a convenient, waterproof and dustproof plastic with USB lights inside. The lantern blows up, allowing the USB lights to become dispersed, creating ambient light. The light created is actually quite bright, and is enough to read by in the dark. There are four different light settings, and even the lowest setting, the lights are very bright.

The lantern was tested for waterproofness, and it stands up well. We used it for several days in the pouring rain on Haida Gwaii, remote islands off the west coast of BC, with no issues. 

The lantern is very easy to store, simply deflate it.

The design is simply an inflatable air bladder made of TPU, a safe, sustainable plastic that is 100% PVC free and phthalate free. Light is diffused through this plastic from several LEDs. The unit we tested contains 12 LED lights while the larger one has more. The lights are powered by lithium-ion polymer battery, which is like a cell phone battery. The battery is rechargeable with the built in high-efficiency solar panel. The unit also comes with a USB cable that you can use to plug in and charge with electricity.

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The lantern packs flat and includes a strap for hanging on a tree or holding in your hands.

How it works

The lantern is simple to use. When you purchase it, it will arrive fully charged with the red LED charge indicator on. You can test the battery by pressing the battery button, and the level of battery power will be displayed. Inflate the lantern by pinching out the bite valve and blowing. Press the red on/off button to cycle through the settings. There are four light settings, extra bright, high, low and flashing.

According to LuminAID, the run times for all four settings are:

  • Extra bright: 45 lumens, 6 hours
  • High: 35 lumens, 8 hours
  • Low: 20 lumens, 16 hours
  • Flashing: 20 lumens, 32 hours.
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LuminAID Packlite Nova lantern.

The lantern is solar powered, which makes it a great choice for a backcountry safety kit or even for home use. Make sure the lantern is charged, and store it. The unit holds charge for a long time. 

The lantern provides nice ambient light and is easy to transport and store. The solar panels mean you don’t have to worry about carrying around extra batteries. It takes about 7 hours to fully charge it in direct sunlight. The solar panels will hold the charge for about 4 months, after which you’ll need to recharge the lantern again.

Recommended uses

This is a great backcountry camping item, car camping item, or emergency light. Take it camping, keep it in the car, or keep it at home in case the lights go out. We tested the until while canoeing on the remote islands of Haida Gwaii, and found this is great to have for canoe or kayak camping, and great in the rain as well. It’s recommended for wet and stormy weather.

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The LumiAID floating in water.

About LuminAID

The product was developed by Anna Stork and Andrea Sreschta. Did you know that LuminAID was started as a Shark Tank appearance? They were successful at their bid on the popular TV show which features emerging products, and grew from there. They have expanded their product line-up, including a lamp that doubles as a phone charger. Some people have reportedly even used it as a pillow, given its pillow-like shape! Other items include lanterns with multi-colored LED lights, which would be great for outdoor ambience, particularly the red LED which helps preserve night vision.

LuminAID is also a very socially responsible company. They are working with non-profit companies to provide disaster relief following the recent natural disasters Hurricane Irma, Harvey and Maria, along with the recent earthquake in Mexico. Over 10,000 lights have been pledged for people living in the aftermath of these and other disasters. You can donate a lantern for $10, and the rest is matched by LuminAID and their partners. Read more about disaster relief efforts here

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Fly fishing by lantern light and moonlight by the Bow River.


There are few disadvantages to this design, except perhaps the very bright setting is almost too bright for ambient lighting, for example like what you would need in a tent.

Considering the products unique design, reputation for high quality products with consumers, excellent customer service, these lanterns are highly recommended. They’ll make a great addition to your car kit in case of emergency, a backcountry trip, hiking trip, or simply as a unique way of providing outdoor lighting for social events.

Similar products

This lantern is very unique because of it’s solar charging capability and waterproofness. For a more compact light, the BioLite lantern is comparable. The LuminAID produces better ambient (diffused) light. Read the review of the BioLite lantern here

Where to buy LuminAid

The lantern is available at the LuminAID store. Use this exclusive luminaid coupon code to get 10% site wide until October 31st.



Alicja is an economist, enjoys climbing, mountaineering, backcountry skiing, cycling and gets out into the backcountry as much as possible. See all of Alicja's Blog Posts