While having light in darkness is not absolutely essential to our surviving an emergency, it can make life more pleasant, give us needed flexibility, and contribute to our safety and security. Solar lanterns are lightweight and inexpensive to run and are a great addition to your emergency supplies.
The first lantern shown is one that my parents purchased and my dad ran a number of tests on it, charging in various circumstances and observing how long before the light dimmed. He found that direct sunlight provided the quickest and most complete charge (about equal hours light as charging time), but that some charge could be obtained in south-facing windows or overcast conditions. He says that the light output is about equivalent to an oil lamp, bright enough to read by if the lantern in reasonably close to the book or to light a 12 x 12 room sufficiently to function in it. He concluded that it was a reasonable and cost-effective lighting option that could help conserve the batteries and fuel of other light sources when there was sufficient daytime sunlight to charge the unit. Potential problems: test unit immediately upon receiving as bad units are shipped occasionally.
The second lantern pictured is one that my family purchased. There are three different light settings so you can adjust the light level to your activities. The highest light level is bright enough to read by, even 24” away. In addition to the solar charging option, it also has a hand-crank generator. Anyone who has spent time cranking one of these devices knows that this is not a good option for producing more than a few minutes of light, but it is nice to have that option in an emergency. A fully charged unit gives off at least 10 hours of light at the highest setting, gradually decreasing thereafter. Others report getting at least 12 hours on medium. While I haven’t done extensive testing on it, we were happy enough with the duration and quality of the light that we purchased another couple of units. Potential problems: some units have a USB output for charging cellphones and the like. Several reviewers have found them non-functioning, so it might be best to test this feature immediately upon receipt or simply not to count on it as a phone charging station.