A solar flashlight is a flashlight which can store energy from the sun, using solar power as a source of illumination when it is turned on. Typically, the flashlight has a small solar array embedded into the handle, making the flashlight easy to charge and use. Many outdoor supply stores sell solar flashlights, and it is also possible to order them directly from manufacturers, or to obtain them at hardware stores. A good solar flashlight can last for many years, making it a useful addition to the tool chest.
Solar flashlights can work in several different ways. A basic solar flashlight charges during the day when it is left in the sun, discharging the energy when it is turned on and lasting for four to seven hours, depending on the design. Some companies also make hybrid flashlights, which use solar power and power from another source, like a handcrank or a set of batteries. Hybrid flashlights last much longer because they combine two sources of energy. It is also possible to find a solar flashlight/radio, which can be very useful in emergencies.
The advantage to a solar powered flashlight is that it eliminates the need to replace the batteries on a regular basis. For people like campers, carrying a solar flashlight means that batteries do not need to be packed in the camping supplies. Solar flashlights are also very helpful in an emergency kit, since people can be assured that the flashlight will work after a few hours in the sun, whether or not batteries are available. For people who need a flashlight on a regular basis, using a solar flashlight cuts down on battery replacement costs, along with the accompanying environmental problems associated with disposable batteries.
Some companies make ruggedized solar flashlights which are specifically designed for hard use outdoors. Ruggedizing the flashlight also protects the solar array, ensuring that it cannot be damaged by dropping or rough handling. Rubber grips for protection also make the flashlight easy to handle, providing some traction for wet or cold hands, which makes it more difficult to fumble or drop the flashlight.
Solar technology is constantly improving, which means that solar flashlights are also getting better every year. Newer designs tend to last longer on each charge, and to have longer overall lifespans. Several companies also make replacement batteries for their solar flashlights so that if the flashlight is no longer able to hold a charge, new batteries can be inserted to make it like new again.