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Gear talk: silicone light diffusers

Three Points of the Compass takes a glance at cheap silicone diffusers that are used to provide a 360° pool of light, potentially useful in the home or tent.

Silicone light diffusers
Silicone light diffusers

Three Points of the Compass has previously looked at the Nitecore 21700 Intelligent Battery System that combined a 21700 i series battery with either a magnetic powerbank (MPB21) or a magnetic silicone light diffuser (ML21). That set up wasn’t quite right for my personal use when backpacking though may suit others. But it did get me wondering about using a rigid plastic diffuser of some type over an existing light. The intention being to provide a more general 360 degree spread of diffused light, rather than the directed focused light normally emitted. I hoped that I might find something cheap, lightweight, easy to use, that might suit household or backpacking use. Typically, there were options available to buy online and just a few quid obtained me the widest range I could easily find.

Nitecore 21700 Intelligent Battery System, with plastic light diffuser
Nitecore 21700 Intelligent Battery System, with plastic light diffuser
Even the limited lumen from the incandescent bulb in an old Mini Maglite produces a modest spread of light
Even the limited lumen from the incandescent bulb in an old Mini Maglite produces a modest spread of light through a silicone diffuser

Made in China and purchased off AliExpress, these are semi rigid translucent silicone light diffusers.

Different sizes are available. I bought five though I note there other sizes available. None are particularly small however. The cheapest was £1.03, the most expensive £1.36. They will each fit a limited diameter range and simply stretch slightly to slip over the end of a torch/flashlight. I could find no way of happily combining one of these with my Olight H1R Nova head torch as this has a right angle head.

  • S size: L 48mm. 20.5mm – 24mm. 6g
  • M size: L 45mm. 26mm – 30mm. 7g
  • M2 size: L 45mm. 32.5mm – 37mm. 8g
  • L size: L 46mm. 38mm – 44mm. 10g
  • L2 size: L 50mm. 44mm – 48mm. 12g

I am not sure how far I will attempt to integrate one of these little silicone diffusers into my backpacking regime going forward. It was interesting to look at options and there will certainly be some people for which such a little accessory would be useful. However I don’t tend to carry the type of light that these diffusers suit. Even my RovyVon A5 (shown below) has additional LEDs in the side of it’s body that are usually more than sufficient for the interior of a tent. But for an upright end-standing light in the home, in the event of a power outage, I can see a place for one or more of these diffusers.

Quite lightweight tent lantern set-ups are possible with a light diffuser
Quite lightweight tent lantern set-ups are possible with a light diffuser
The spread of light from the 390 lumen Nitecore MT25 is unsurprisingly both extensive and useful
The spread of bright light from the 390 lumen Nitecore MT25 is unsurprisingly both extensive and useful

These diffusers are made from silicone so will withstand some heat. I am unsure how they might handle particularly high lumen lights and suspect they might get extremely hot and potentially deform or worse under extreme circumstances. Most of the LED lights I tried have quite modest output and I experienced no issues. Trial and error is everything methinks and best to experiment at home before venturing out on trail and laying one of these on an expensive tent footprint and finding a hole has burned through!

None of the silicone diffusers I purchased were small enough to fit anything with a diameter less than 20.5mm, which includes many smaller handheld lights. I was able to use a small 3g soft silicone finger cot from the home First Aid Kit with the excellent RovyVon A5. It isn’t ideal as it has a flattened profile, but these could prove to be a potential double-duty item.

Soft silicone finger cots
Soft silicone finger cots
Diffused light from soft silicone finger cot slipped onto a RovyVon A5 6500K handheld light
Diffused light from soft silicone finger cot slipped onto a RovyVon A5 6500K handheld light
Surprisingly, my largest silicone diffuser would fit over my Nitecore NU25 headlight. It isn't a particularly great fit, but still works
Surprisingly, my largest silicone diffuser would also fit over my Nitecore NU25 headlight. It isn’t a particularly great fit, but still works. The crushable lantern shade from Montbell is a better option

This has been part of a series of blogs looking at small lanterns suited for lightweight backpacking, or for use in the home and elsewhere:

13 replies »

  1. A very good aspect to include in the series, Jools, and very relevant to the good number of people who wouldn’t have use (or just enough carry space) for a larger lantern.
    I would have liked to see some area shots, perhaps from outside a tent through the open door, to get an idea of how far the emitted diffused light spreads. The closeups give a staring point, but I think what matters most is how much space you can illuminate with these things.

    Side note – One cheap little torch that is popular among the EDC crowds, the Lumintop Tool AA, even comes with a diffuser included in the box.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fair comment Tasky. I felt it was largely irrelevant to show ‘on trail’ images as the output will vary for everyone depending on what original light source they are using. At the low per unit cost, it is probably an option for most, to measure the diameter of their preferred light, and spend just a few pence on the appropriate size diffuser and try it out. Thanks for pointing out the Lumintop option, I see the ti version (sans battery) comes in at only 24g

      Like

      • For any exact representation of the effect, yes, but a couple of shots would still give enough of an idea what a diffuser can do compared to other lights and lanterns. If you wanted to get really fancy, a single composite shot showing the same torch at all brightness levels would definitely show how well the diffuser worked. Some torch geek websites do this with their beam shots, to great effect.
        For the price, ie 20 quid on Amazon UK, the Lumintop has a lot to offer. Even my 70-year-old father-in-law nabbed one after seeing mine.

        Liked by 1 person

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