Having reached Khankwe 04 campsite in the very late afternoon, we cautiously watched the charcoal grey clouds creep in from the North and the South bringing the darkness with it much sooner than we had hoped. As the dark clouds loomed, the plastic wrapping that held our firewood was getting wet on the outside as the drizzle began. No sense in lighting the fire as the rain fell, but we did need some sort of lighting to make us feel safe in the pitch black of the Khutse Game Reserve. That's where the LightFORCE LED Strip Light, foldable and waterproof camplight comes in!
*Disclaimer: The product in review was loaned to us to use, test and give our honest opinion about it. RBOF is not affiliated in any way with this brand or product and our review is based purely on our honest experience of the product.
Having left our fellow traveling companions, Venturesome Overland, out by the Khutse gate earlier that afternoon as they had some car troubles, the pouring rain on our first night of camping, alone, in the darkness of the Khutse Game Reserve in south-east Botswana was not something we had expected or looked forward to. But when you're out in the middle of the bush, you must, as they say, "make a plan". Which is exactly what we did.
We opened up our roof top tent and the base that hung over the side of the vehicle gave us enough protection from the rain that we were able to setup our camp table and gas cylinder underneath it, so we could make our dinner. Thankfully, the Lightforce LED Strip Light, which was loaned to us by Hi-Range Safari City in Gaborone, has caribiner-like hooks on each end to allow you to hook it where ever you desire on your vehicle, inside or out.
With the LED Strip Light strung above our make-shift kitchen area and plugged into the 12-volt plug in the rear of our Prado, we had enough lighting to calm our nerves and make us (almost) forget the memory of our rain-wrecked road trip around Botswana a couple of years ago.
The LED strip not only gives off 1600 lumens, whose brightness can be adjusted at the touch of a button, but is also encased in a see-through flexible plastic cover that is foldable, allowing the lights to be rolled up and stored away neatly.
The following morning after breakfast we began to pack up our gear before we moved on to Moreswe 1 campsite. Once you quickly and easily roll up the LED strip, it stores conveniently in its own carry bag, along with a set of small battery clamps, which allow you to connect the LED's directly to your primary battery (or secondary if you have one). Seeing as we were alone on this trip, we didn't want to run the risk of draining the battery, so we kept the camplight on for about ten minutes at a time, turning the car contact off for five to six minute breaks in between. After our trip, I spoke with my dad, an auto-electrician by trade, and he assured me that the 15W draw of the LED Strip Light will not drain the battery even if it's kept on for hours at a time.
Our second night was a dry one, so the firewood was put to good use, but I found the Lightforce LED Strip Light to be quite convenient and kept it on, above the back door of our Cruiser while we prepped our dinner or whenever we came to get a drink from the cool box. The dimmer-switch is a nice touch as it allows you to keep the lights at a minimum for that whole romantic-camping ambience (which is what I kept it on that night) or boost the brightness to light up a stadium....well, not quite, but you get my point.
The versatility of this camplight is one of it's main selling points in our opinion. Aside from the caribiner-like hooks on each side, the back of the LED strip has velcro straps that allow you to attach the LED strip virtually anywhere on your vehicle, in your tent, or on your trailer. Its cable is 5.5m in length so you do have quite a bit of freedom to maneuver with it around your camp setup.
We used the LightFORCE on our third night as well seeing as how much better it lights up the interior of the vehicle as compared to the normal lights on the car ceiling. On our final morning we unstrapped the velcro straps of the LED strip from our roof rack where we had left it the night before. There had been a decent wind that night, but the lights were still in place and the velcro had not even loosened it's grip. I presume that after more frequent use, dust will collect on the velcro straps, so do try clean your light strip after each trip to prolong the lifespan of the velcro.
A few days after we got back from our camping trip to Khutse, I went to return the LightFORCE LED Strip Light to the guys at Hi-Range Safari City and chatted with Brendon, their Sales & Operations Manager about it. This model was just recently reintroduced to the market by the Australian light specialists LightFORCE. According to Brendon there had been a model before but LightFORCE has ceased production on it as it wasn't waterproof. I shared with him the story about our first night in Khutse with the clouds and the rains and agreed that the waterproof casing was a big plus for this camp light.
As far as camping lights go, I was quite impressed with the LightFORCE LED Strip Light for its sheer practicality, durability, versatility and compactness. In fact, my wife had suffered through a number of my rants and raves about this camp light, that she actually bought me one for my birthday not too long ago. I do, however, wish that the dimmer switch was a bit easier to use, as you have to glide your thumb along the surface to turn it on, adjust the brightness and turn it off, all with the stealth of a ninja. I'd want to turn the lights down a bit but ended up turning them off completely, or wanting to increase the brightness but accidentally dimming them. I do think that with regular use though, one can and will get the hang of it, even me. The LightFORCE LED Strip Light retails for P1,400, has a 3-year warranty and is available from Hi-Range Safari City, based in Gaborone. Check out their website: www.hirange.co.bw or give them a call on (+267 3187003).
Pros & Cons
"We are a young, married, Botswana-based couple with a passion for going out into nature and the bush any chance we get!"