Mark V reviews: BioLite PowerLight Mini

Occasionally I happen upon an item that completely takes me by surprise. At first glance the PowerLight Mini from BioLite looks like an odd tail light masquerading as almost-vintage flip phone. BioLite is a company that is perhaps better known for making clever devices such as a camp stove that smokelessly burns wood to generate heat for cooking while simultaneously providing electricity to charge a phone, GoPro, or other electronic device. I thought so they’re making a bicycle tail light, ho hum. It turns out that the PowerLight Mini is so much more than just that.

The 80gr PowerLight Mini is 80x51x15mm. You can choose to run the light as either red or white LED, with about 4/5ths of the face lighting up. Theoretically you could use the PowerLight Mini as a headlight on a bike, as the included mounting bracket allows the light to be mounted either parallel to a tubular structure (as a tail light on a seatpost) or perpendicular (as you would on a handlebar), but the PowerLight Mini’s light is not really designed to project a concentrated beam a great distance away. Instead the face’s array lights up as a glowing source of evenly diffused light. Of course, that works just fine for a tail light when set to red LED, but that white light works great for a variety of situations off the bike. Since it produces a broad light pattern with no hotspots, it works nicely as miniature work light or camp lantern. The wire clip that at first seemed like an odd manner of attaching the PowerLight Mini to the mounting bracket, turns out to double as a flip stand, so you can set the PowerLIght Mini down. You can also use the clip to affix the light to your clothing, like on your chest if you needed to do detailed work with your hands. You can even use the light in red mode if you want to maintain your night vision. If you’ve ever tried to change a flat in the darkness of winter, you can well imagine how useful this light is. Usually when you try to use the typical bike light for the same task, you blind yourself looking at the hotspot from the beam and then can’t see anything unless you shine that hotspot directly on the target. As a lantern on hi setting, it will give 5hours of 135lumen light; in strobe it should give up to 52hours.

I was so delighted over those features above that I almost forgot that the significance of the “power” in the PowerLight Mini moniker. The BioLite product also functions as a 1350mAh power source for personal electronic devices. It has a mini-USB port for power in, and USB port for output.

The $45 PowerLite Mini is new for Spring 2016. You can pre-order now; shipments begin February 16th.