The Everlite EL8 Solar Headlamp (*Est. $50)is getting well-deserved attention right now. It's already earned the 2008 Editors' Choice award from Backpacker Magazine, whose editors chose it based on thorough comparison field tests of new headlamps. This innovative solar headlamp uses a 5-LED array to provide a wide beam in several modes, including a strobe light for alerting rescuers. Testers say the brightest setting provides enough light for night hiking, while the low setting is fine for campsite tasks.
The 3-ounce headlamp is powered by a small external 3-ounce solar panel that can be attached to a backpack or jacket. Both headlamp and solar panel are water-resistant. Charging the solar panel in full sun for eight to ten hours provides 12 hours of bright light, then 12 to 18 more hours at a dimmer level. A battery meter tells how much charge is available. The solar panel also charges the headlamp even under tree cover or on an overcast day, but takes twice as long to do so. Optional accessories (*est. $17) let you charge the headlamp from AC or 12-volt outlets.
Unlike most rechargeable headlamps, this one uses lithium-ion batteries that can hold their charge for a year - making this an option for disaster preparation and household power outages as well as for hiking. For even more uses, you can set the Everlite solar headlamp to a photocell mode that automatically turns the light on at dusk and off at dawn. Since you never need to replace batteries, this headlamp is also an option for travel. Optional accessories (*est. $17) let you use the solar panel to charge a cell phone or digital camera - even while the solar panel continues to collect energy. The main drawback is the lack of red light for night vision, but the manufacturer tells us this is a feature they plan to add.
Aside from the endorsement at Backpacker Magazine, we haven't yet seen any user comments on this interesting headlamp, however.