Cat Eye Orbit Bike Light

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For the past 6 months I have been using the cat eye orbit wheel light. It clips onto my bicycle wheel spokes. By squeezing the housing the light turns on. It makes a soft, but bright, illuminated glow which spins with my bike wheel while riding down the road. I have seen car drivers noticing the lights.

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There are two remarkable things about the orbit. First, in 6 months of parking my bike on the street I have not had to change the battery once. Second, ask any cyclist in San Francisco how long they expect their bike to last before it’s stolen by some thieving hipster. The answer is “not long.” I don’t have to worry about the orbits being stolen because they look like old fashioned reflectors.

I love ‘em.

There is a similar product from Nite Ize called the Spoke Lit, but I haven’t tried it.

-- Andy Bot  

[Note: Some people have complained about these being shipped in "try me" mode. To turn it off simply push and hold the button for 10 seconds or until the light flashes rapidly and then let go.-- OH Tips from the comments: Placing the Cat Eye on the seatpost back and headtube front rather than the spokes makes them visible from behind and head-on. This diffuses the beam over a wide area so it's visible from all directions. To prevent theft you can seal off the gap with epoxy and make them permanently attached, since the battery goes in on the non-spoke side. Also, flash mode makes the batteries last much longer.]

Cat Eye Orbit Bike Light
$18

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by CatEye

To see them in action along with CatEye's other product the Loop, check out this video:



Coleman Lantern Hanger

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The single best piece of gear in my camp pack is the Coleman Lantern Hanger. It’s nothing more than a length of chain you wrap around a tree and a clever, stable hook from which you hang your lantern. It ain’t high-tech, but at eight bucks it provides unbelievable utility. Getting your light source up off the ground not only provides better light at your campsite, it’s also safer.

-- Steve Yaeger  

Coleman Lantern Hanger
$8

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Coleman



 

f.lux

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f.lux is a free piece of software that slowly shifts the color temperature of your computer monitor throughout the day in order to adapt it to the natural rhythm of light. I first downloaded it after reading about Seth Robert’s self-experimentation involving sleep. As Roberts points out, research indicates that certain color temperatures stimulate wakefulness and affect circadian rhythms. This is why people with Seasonal Affective Disorder use blue light devices that supposedly mimic the blue sky of summer. By using f.lux to shift the temperature of a computer monitor away from blue light and towards red after natural light has faded the idea is that it will diminish the unintended wakefulness caused by the screen and allow for a more restful sleep.

While I am not as careful a self-experimenter as Seth Roberts, I have noticed that when I use f.lux not only do I get sleepier sooner but that I also awake earlier. By simply disabling the program for an hour (an option that is built into the software) I also notice an immediate sense of renewed wakefulness. The shift in color temperature is significant and immediately noticeable when I use my computer at night, but not in a way that negatively impacts the quality of the image on screen (and when it does, or if I need to edit photos, I simply disable it).

The program is available for Mac OS X and Windows XP/Vista/7. A similar program called Redshift is available for Linux users.

-- Oliver Hulland  

f.lux
Free

Available from f.lux Produced by stereopsis



D.light Lantern

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I live in India, where power failure is common. I’ve tried a few similar lanterns of Indian and Chinese make, and they were inferior to this D.Light model. Some took too long to charge and operated for short periods; others were easily damaged. The really good ones tend to cost about $75 to $100. The replacement batteries for those are either very expensive or not available at all, so they have to be abandoned when batteries fail.

This D. Light can be charged with either an AC adapter or an included solar panel. I’ve found it to be sturdy and reliable in the few months I’ve had it. It can also charge older, simpler mobile phones, though not smart phones.

-- Deva Sagayam  

D.light Nova Mobile S201 Solar LED Lantern
$45

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by D.Light



Calumet Multi Clip

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These double-sided clips from Calumet are perfect for controlling light within small-scale or tabletop photography setups. The sprung clips rotate on the steel U that connects them, so they’re easily manipulated to stand on their own, with one clip acting as a foot while the other clasps the reflector. They’re sized to hold small homemade reflectors (Mylar glued to cardboard is one of my favorites, see below) in order to bounce light precisely where you need it on your miniature set. They can be used with something like a small piece of black foamcore to block light (flag), as well.

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These little clips are among my most valuable tools for food photography; my ideal setup is a single large light source (often a window) and a bunch of 3″x3″ reflectors on these clips to redirect the light within the scene (see below).

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They’re superb for shooting jewelry, Lego constructions, anything small, putting highlights exactly where you want them or just bouncing bits of light to illuminate your subject.

-- Elon Schoenholz  

Calumet Multiclip
$10
$9 (3 or more)

Available from Calumet Photo



Philips SpotOn

When I bought my refrigerator it wasn’t until it had been delivered that I realized there was no light in the freezer compartment. It wasn’t enough of a pain to go through exchanging refrigerators, but for the past 15 or so years, it’s been a minor annoyance, requiring me to turn on a kitchen light to see what’s in there. Until I remembered these motion-sensing LED lights I’d already placed in about a dozen spots throughout my house. Who says I can’t put one of those in the freezer compartment, such that the motion of opening the door turns on the light? So I did just that and darned if it doesn’t work beautifully. Better 15 years late than never.

These small Philips lights (3.1 x 2.7 x 0.8 in ) automatically go on when something in their motion-sensing field moves, give a nice bright light, and automatically turn off after 15-20 seconds without detectable motion. I’ve found them great for closets, cupboards and cabinets — much better than those press-to-turn-on iterations that automatically go off but require you to first find them in the dark to turn them on.

You have three ways to mount them if you choose that option: included double-sided adhesive pad; included magnets; screws/nails through the pre-drilled holes in the back panel. Battery replacements are simple and don’t require dismounting. The one change I’d like to see would be an off switch to disable them during daylight hours.

-- Joseph Stirt  

Philips SpotOn LED Motion Sensing Portable Light
$14

Available from Amazon



Lupine Bike & Adventure Lights

In the winter I mountain bike one to two nights a week after dark on fast technical single track trails. I have built my own lights and purchased commercially-available lighting systems upwards of $400. I have tried halogen, HID, and LED lighting systems. Until now they were all a compromise. I am now using the Lupine Tesla 700 LED light, and I have to say it makes everything I have used up to this point seem like a silly toy. Weighing a mere 102g, this light outshines my brightest HID system, is more efficient than my smallest halogen, and has the best construction, controls, and mounting system I have seen in a light.

Lupine Lighting Systems is a German company that has been around for a while, and I have always heard they make the best lights in the industry. Because of the exchange rate, shipping distance, and their base cost, however, I could never afford to even try their products. At the Interbike show in Vegas, I met their new US distributor Gretna Bikes, and got to see their new products priced and supported for the US market. I was really amazed and, after saving up, finally was able to buy one of their lights which I am now riding with. The one I bought, the Tesla 700, is their new “entry level” light which costs $300 just for the head unit or $488 for a complete package with battery, charger, etc. It is worth every cent. This unit puts out an amazing 700 Lumens (more than the previously-reviewed Dinotte) in a pattern and color temperature that is perfect for outdoor sports or caving. This is in stark contrast to most LED-based products I have tried which have a weirdly tinged light that even when bright enough, do not give good definition. Lupine makes larger and brighter lights, but I could not imagine what you would need more light for, short of landing a helicopter.

Since I have a bunch of good batteries and chargers already, I bought just the lamp unit and head-mount. I then used one of my own small (3 oz) 2000Mah LiPoly batteries and made a velcro mount right on my helmet for it. Now I don’t even have the usual annoying cord hanging down my back into my pocket, but I still get over eight hours of light on the lowest setting, and more than an hour on the highest before swapping batteries. LED technical lights have truly arrived.

Lupine & Adventure Lights
Tesla 700
$475
(includes charger/battery)
Available fromGretna Bikes



Down Low Glow

The Down Low Glow is a super-bright bicycle running light embedded in a shatterproof tube with reflective mylar coating. Both a safety device and a fashion accessory, the Down Low Glow is possibly the most fun safety light I’ve ever seen. Even the persistence-of-vision LED spoke lights we have on our tandem don’t get as many appreciative comments. Having skater kids comment on how awesome my bike is has been particularly fun. I’ve even had total strangers come up to me and say they saw me the other night on the road. Unlike the previously-reviewed DiNotte lights, which are certainly bright, the wide glow from these things makes you look HUGE. Cars give me more passing room, and my wife feels better about my evening commute knowing that I’m highly visible from all directions, including the side.

The system comes in single- or dual-tube configurations and in a variety of colors including street-legal amber, blue, red, pink and purple (mine is green). The rechargeable battery is good for at least three hours on a dual-tube system, more on a single-tube (they also sell an “All Nighter” battery that lasts 14 hours on a single-tube, 7 hours on a double-tube). Mounting the lights to your frame is very easy, and requires no tools. There’s a plastic clip which straps to your down tube with adjustable rubber bands and retains the larger diameter glowing tube. The smaller tube is held to the chainstay with velcro straps and rubber spacers. The battery pack can be attached with a sturdy velcro strap to virtually any part of the frame, including the seat tube or top tube. However, I keep my battery in a Jandd frame pack, along with a multitool, spare tube, patch kit, Adventure Medical Ultralight & Watertight .9 first aid kit, keys, and cellphone — i.e. it’s not like I bought the bag just for the batteries. Keeping mine in the frame bag also helps protect the battery when it rains, which is a lot here in Seattle (note: I believe the newer generation of battery packs are more waterproof).

Until fairly recently, I was able to park my bike in my office, so I didn’t have to worry about people trying to steal them while parked during the day. At night, I am never away from the bike for much longer than it takes to buy groceries, so I haven’t been too worried about them then, either (I’ve been using them since Christmas of 2006 with no issues). Since I don’t have secure bicycle parking at my new job, the use of a hose clamp looks like an excellent idea for preventing theft of the tubes. The battery pack removes quite easily, so it’d probably be a good idea to take it with you if you’re worried.

-- Josh Larios  

Down Low Glow
$115 (single tube, various colors)
$144 (dual tubes, various colors)

Available from Rock The Bike

Previously available from Amazon



Dinotte Bike Lights

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I’m of the belief that if cyclists want to be treated as vehicles, they should make every effort to be visible at night. I chose Dinotte because their LED tail lights alone are, by far, brighter than any others I’ve tried. Although they actually sell a 600L* tail light (that’s 600 lumens!), the 140L tail light, which I use in combination with a 600L headlight, is bright enough for my purposes. My 19-mile commute is on rural roads that are dark in the fall and winter. More dangerous than dark is dawn and dusk. People can see you if they are looking for you, but a lot of drivers on my route are in a hurry as they rush to and from work, so they cut across the country roads looking for a shortcut, talking on their phones, eating breakfast, etc.

Now that I have my lights, I run them on flash mode when it is dusk — the bicycle equivalent of daytime running lights. I notice cars pass at a greater distance than bikes with standard blinkers. I have also found I get comments from people. One person actually thought there were police flashers coming from around the bend in the road! The instructions even caution you to mount the tail light to prevent aiming it directly up at the drivers behind you. After years of wondering if the cars coming up behind me actually notice my tail light (and me), I now have confidence they do. With the blinking headlight, I can see speed limit signs 200 meters ahead flashing in the distance.

The big advantage of the 600L over HID and halogen systems is the battery life — 3.5 hours on high and 7 hours on medium with the rechargeable lithium ion batteries. Since I have two battery packs — one for the front and one for the rear — I feel good that should I have any problems in transit, I can always string a cord and tap into the other. Bulb life of an LED is also a big advantage to these lights, obviously. One of the questions I had when ordering the headlight was whether the beam pattern would be wide enough to take a steep downhill S-turn that is part of my route. I considered the wide lens option, but the company’s excellent support counseled against it for road use. When I first took that S-turn at 25 mph one night during a new moon, I was impressed. Unless you’re a mountain bike rider, the wide lens isn’t too necessary.

The biggest downside to these lights is the cost. Cheaper lights are certainly adequate, depending on your situation and usage. I admit these are an awful lot of money, but people spend much more money on cars with power doors, locks, and windows. Add in cruise control and keyless entry. These are all conveniences. By comparison, a reliable and powerful bike light set is very practical. I think of it as insurance. In a few years, these lights will likely come down in price substantially as LED technology improves. If you can wait, you’ll be able to save money. I simply didn’t want to wait for the market to mature. My lights prevent accidents and they provide a degree of independence, allowing me to bike places I wouldn’t otherwise be able to go.

-- Tim Langeman  

[*Since this review originally posted in 2008, the 600L model has been replaced by the 800. According to DiNotte, this is "due to the progress in LED technology." -- SL]

Dinotte Bike Lights
$130+

Available from Dinotte



Powerbank Torch

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I still have vivid memories of the Northeast blackout of 2003, so a few years ago I decided to get prepared by purchasing one of those emergency flashlights which stays plugged in and switches on automatically when the power is cut, thus guiding you right to a fully-charged unit. Oddly enough, the best plug-in emergency flashlight I’ve found — which uses standard AA batteries — isn’t even marketed as a flashlight! The manufacturer refers to this unit as a battery charger with a built-in light, but it’s exactly what I was looking for. There is a three-way switch: always off, a smaller LED night light on the bottom, and automatically turn-on four LEDs when the power fails. Mine sits in a wall outlet in the bathroom, waiting to turn on during the next blackout. In the meantime, I use it regularly as a battery charger. It comes with four 1300 mAh batteries, but I actually use 2000 mAh batteries, which I switch out as I use them in other devices. All for the better, since I’m told batteries should be allowed to discharge on occasion anyway.

-- Allan Peda  

Powerbank Torch
$28
Available from Green Batteries