Giving the Gift of Light


I’ve been in an engineer for more than 25 years and have designed a lot of products during that time. So every time I get a new product, I look at it from a design engineer’s standpoint. Sometimes I am pleased to the point that I wish I could meet the engineers who designed the product just to get their story on all that went into designing it. Other times I think engineer must have been inexperienced, or possibly under pressure to meet a cost goal or time deadline.

When I ordered a Bogolight a few months ago, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I was intrigued, yet a little skeptical, because I never had seen a similar business model for selling products. The letters BOGO stand for ‘Buy one, Give one’. The flashlight is sold in such a way that when you pay $25 for one light, you’re actually buying two of them, one for you and another for a charity. In this case, the Bogolights going to charity are heading for developing regions in Africa.

The Bogolight is the brainchild of Mark Bent, CEO and President of SunNight Solar who conceived of designing a solar rechargeable flashlight and selling it in a way that would get flashlights to go to a place where they are desperately needed yet without the resources to purchase them. Mark spent over twenty years in the developing world and understands their needs better than most. He realized that in most of the developing world, there is no reliable electricity and so any reading at night must be done by a kerosene lantern, which is expensive and very inefficient. Imagine if all of your night time reading or studying had to be illuminated with the dim light of a kerosene lantern. You’d have probably done a lot less of it. I know I would have.

The Bogolight provides reading light with high efficiency white LEDs powered by solar rechargeable batteries. The solar cells are built right into the flashlight. For every hour that it’s charged, it provides about 30 minutes of brilliant white light. With an 8 hour charge, it can provide sufficient illumination to last for an entire evening’s worth of reading. Best of all, you don’t need to continually replace batteries. It uses 3 readily available rechargeable AA batteries that are capable of more than 750 charge-discharge cycles. I’ve often found that rechargeable products have either built-in batteries or else they use custom-designed batteries that are dreadfully expensive to replace. So my hat is off to the Bogolight designers who chose to use standard rechargeable AA batteries.

The 6 LEDs have a life expectancy of about 100,000 hours of continuous use and the integrated solar panel is designed to last 20 years. When the average life expectancy of consumer electronics products seems to shrink every year, it’s refreshing to see something like this that is obviously ‘built to last’.

I really appreciate the rugged design, complete with moisture seals. Another pleasant surprise was the glow-in-the dark accent to makes it easy to locate in the dark. Its bright orange color makes it easy to find during the day too. It also has a built-in hook to hang it from overhead to make task lighting easier. The hook has a spring-loaded clip so you can attach it to a backpack and carry it around without fear of losing it. I am very impressed with the attention to detail that was obviously put into its design.

Now that I’ve had the chance to use it for several months, I can say with confidence that Mark Bent and the people at SunNight Solar are doing something truly wonderful and if you’re looking for a unique Christmas gift, you can rest assured that the recipient will find nothing else like it. Better yet, when you buy one, you’ll also have the satisfaction of knowing that someone in Africa will be getting a highly-valued and useful Christmas gift, and it’s hard to put a price on that.