WakaWaka might seem like a strange name, but thew Swahili term, loosely translated, becomes “Shine Bright”. This is a fitting name for the company who is looking to, in their words, shed light in the darkest of places. The WakaWaka product stack is laden with solar panel lights and chargers with an aim to deliver energy to all those without the comfort of excess electricity delivered straight to their homes. We’re taking a look at a few products in a product round-up.
WakaWaka have some pedigree in this are already with numerous projects under their belt and more that are in progress, all with the same aim. Projects such as light donation for off-grid villages, using solar torches to improve night-time safety for families in Africa, as well as providing energy for lights so that children in Nepal can begin, and continue education. All noble causes. However if the devices themselves aren’t up to scratch then they largely benefit nobody long-term, which is why WakaWaka have been very careful to provide quality, and that’s exactly what we’re testing out.
To get an idea for the driving force behind WakaWaka, take a look at this short video below. It’s not necessarily an easy watch but it demonstrates just how devices from their line up can provide improvements in standards of living, for, in this case, Syrian refugees.
As you can probably tell, the key to the WakaWaka products is sustainable energy. The ability to be able to have electricity at your fingertips, in small amounts, when required to achieve tasks otherwise out of reach. The products we’re looking at are the Waterproof Pouch, Light, Power+ and the Pocket Light, which is the only device that requires energy and is not solar charged.
The WakaWaka Light is the product that, for us, defines WakaWaka’s missions statement. The ability to bring sustainable energy to those without, with quality, in a simplistic design.
The outer casing is all plastic with a 750 mWatt solar panel sitting proudly on the front face of the unit. To the bottom is the hinge that is sturdy enough in our testing not to weaken, and provides standing ability for the rear side light. On the backside is where the power harnessed by that solar panel is utilised. A large rubberised four stage power button to allow different lighting modes is slap bang in the middle of the back, with the dual LEDs above it capable of delivering a maximum 75 lumen. The stand also has a large cut out which WakaWaka suggests is to be used to sit upon a water bottle, or to hang from a ceiling.
The LEDs are bright. At peak power, they are powerful enough to leave you seeing weird shapes for a good 10 minutes if you are stupid enough to look directly at them (hand up here!). Luckily there are other brightness that allow around a 5 lumen output instead up to the maximum 75. Press and hold the power button and you get the SOS mode also.
Weighing just 130 grams means that it’s absolutely portable which fits in well for the intended audience, and it’s built-in 800mAh battery can deliver up to 80 hours of light in the low power mode. Helpfully the brightest mode is decreased by 30% after the first 30 seconds of use also so as not to waste battery for no need. Even on max settings WakaWaka state 8 hours of battery life. Not too shabby.
The only aspect we found a little strange was the positioning ring. The idea of sitting this upon a water bottle or similar seemed a little bit strange. We can buy the need to hand it from a ceiling or nearby tree for outside use. Perhaps the bottle stand aspect was aimed more at the outdoors types than the refugees and rangers they are donating devices too. This device is ideal for the outdoor survivalist too, and in the UK at least, that’s no doubt the market.
A great product for campers, trekkers, or the energy-deprived alike; the capacity of the battery and the efficiency of the solar panel all make for a compelling product. It’s the best example of a solar powered product we’ve reviewed, albeit it is limited to just delivering light – there is no external charging ports. At £24.95 it might be worth looking at before your next trip to shove in the bag, or more logically, tie to the outside to charge! Head over to Amazon UK to grab on.
The most simplistic product of the bunch is the little Pocket Light. Guess what it does? There are no solar panels on this little thing, but again covered in a yellow plastic as it’s predecessor, this time with grey accented handle, the device is equally effective.
There’s a small rubberised power button to control the four different LED lighting stages, as well as the ability to use SOS mode, just like the WakaWaka Light. On the top and bottom sides of the device are a 1A microUSB input and a 1A Type-A USB output. Both ports are hidden behind a rubberised silicon cover.
With only slightly less power than the Light product, delivering from 5 to 40 lumen in its different stages, the Pocket Light is a powerful little device that can, as the name implies, sit nicely in a pocket. It’s equally at home being hung from its handle for some overhead light too.
The Pocket Light can deliver up to 80 hours of light on the energy-saving light setting, with 10 hours of light at the 40 lumen setting which is still impressive. The flexibility here is lessened by the lack of a solar panel, however due to the svelte design we can absolutely understand why on would be difficult and inefficient on a device with this footprint. Nevertheless, charging this device will mean the use of another external power supply (keep reading!) rather than the Sun’s generous rays.
It’s the lightest of the bunch too at just 60 grams, and the battery is almost as big as the WakaWaka Light, at 700mAh whicih is why it nearly matches the Light in terms of its life on a single charge. At under £20 this is a great option for anybody wishing to have something with them in an emergency. Fotr example, here in the UK, you might want to throw one of these into the glove compartment of your care – just in case! It’s there for when you need it. Head over to the WakaWaka shop to check it out.
The WakaWaka Power+ is a product that combines solar power input and not just light output, but electric output too. Yes folks, this one has USB output – rejoice!
The device is covered in a matte black plastic finish, although if you’re hankering for the full set, it does indeed come in a yellow colour variant. A kickstand is provided and is similar to that found on the WakaWaka Light, however the implementation here is not quite as sturdy as a ratcheted notch system seemingly keeps the unit in place. It weighs only slightly more than the Light at 200 grams so we don’t see this as an issue. On each edge are a microUSB and Type-A USB slot for charging both in and out respectively, and once more, with the stand closed, the slots are hidden behind silicon covers which might stop a spill or two. Speaking of spills, that strange bottle top hanger aspect is here once more as well as a lanyard loop for more “hanging” options.
The solar panel is a 1050 mWatt panel at 22% efficiency (a slight increase on the Light’s 18% efficiency) and uses a slightly different cell technology too. The built-in 2200mAh battery can be charged to full in 12-24 hours of direct sunlight. In our testing, again in the beginning of Spring here in the UK, it took a good 8 days to charge fully, averaging around 5 hours of what we’d consider to be “sunlight” a day. When you do the math, that’s still not too bad at all. However, you do’t have to rely on Mr Sun to be out in force, as the microUSB input can be used to charge the device in a little over 6 hours. We didn’t even have to be great at estimating here, we could tell when the device was full due to the four included LED notification lights.
Once more the LEDs included on this device are similar to the WakaWaka Light, and are stupidly bright to look at (stop doing that!), delivering up to 75 lumen at its brightest which would last approximately 10 hours according to WakaWaka. We got slightly less, but within the realms of tolerance.
This would be our go to WakaWaka device as it delivers the ability to be wire free and off the grid thanks to the solar panel, however if you absolutely must have poiwer to other devices, you can tether it to a phone and juice it up. Likewise, if you want to power it up quickly for a weekend away, you won’t have to plan a fortnight in advance. Simply hook it up to a wall outlet and charge it over night.
At £59.95 it is a little pricey for the battery capacity, but the sustainable materials it’s made out of as well as the story behind it can provide a slight warm glow to offset the extra mullah. Plus it’s got that bottle top aspect! Head on over to Amazon UK to grab one.
WakaWaka Waterproof Pouch
Finally we come to a little product that just might help save those fishermen out there. Pop your phone (if it’s small enough) or indeed the Pocket Light in this pouch and you’ll be covered! The pouch is kept sealed thanks to two plastic rotating clips that seal the two sides of the plastic together (think zip bags for sandwiches).
It fits the Pocket Light or the Power+ device with no issue, and we tested its resistance to water. It’s what you’d expect. 100% waterproof. Handily it also comes with an included lanyard and lanyard hoop so you can secure it as you’re likely to have something of value in there!
At £7.95 from Amazon UK, it’s an ideal accompaniment to the other devices here, but strangely only a couple of the WakaWaka products fit in it!
Products like this are always more than the sum of their parts. They help to bring improvements to lives all over the world and with sustainability at the heart of the company’s ethos, crucially don’t go out of their way to harm the planet whilst doing so.
Whether its providing more light for kids to have education, or whether you want to have a load of these for your camping buddies, there’s a good and varied use case for all the WakaWaka products. Buying one of these is not only delivering the required functionality for yourself, but you’re also helping a company that continues to deliver to the areas of the world that are less fortunate, and lightens lives.