Tough LED Awning Lights - Tough Toys
LED lights have made a big impact in the market for lightbars and work lights. With their shock resistance and long life it’s the perfect technology for vehicle mounting, and older style halogen and HID lights are quickly becoming obsolete. LEDs have a few other advantages too, though. They’re compact and don’t drain a lot of power, and this makes them ideal for some other uses. For example we’re a big fan of awnings when we’re camping at the end of a day, but it can be tricky getting decent light under them. Trying to hang a flashlight or lantern so you can see what you’re doing but it won’t get knocked down every time somebody heads for the cooler is a hassle we could do without, and LEDs suggest a few ways of doing that. We’ve just been looking at some LED awning light kits by 4wd specialist Tough Toys.
The basic idea of these kits is that, because LEDs are so compact, it’s possible to look at new ways of mounting them. If small LEDs are used they have hardly any bulk, so they can be permanently mounted in spaces that normally wouldn’t work. Of course small LEDs put out less light, but it’s easy to solve that by using more of them. Tough Toys came up with the idea of fitting a strip of small LEDs to the aluminium extrusions at either end of your awning. They’re low profile enough that the awning can be stowed as usual with the lighting kit in place, and that also makes them dead easy to set up when you’re making camp – once the awning is up your lights are already installed and all you need to do is plug them in.
The heart of the lighting kit is a flexible plastic strip with the LEDs themselves and all their control electronics embedded. This is only about half an inch wide and the thickness is less than half of that, so it adds hardly any bulk to awning poles. The strips are available in 1.4 metre or 2 metre lengths, and there’s also a double kit with two 2m strips. As long as your awning has a strut that’s at least as long as the strip you choose you’re good to go. Each kit comes with 3m of high-strength adhesive backing, so all you have to do is cut that to length, stick it to the back of the strip then mount it on the awning frame in a position that will throw the light where you want it. Once that’s done just set the awning up as normal, plug one end of the supplied lead into your vehicle’s cigarette lighter socket and the other into the end of the light strip.
One tip here is make sure you fit the strip with the power socket closer to the lighter socket. The power lead is 3m long and we’d really prefer to see it a bit longer than that, perhaps 5m. Of course if you really have to you can always get an extension, but it would be nice not to need one.
So what’s our overall opinion? Well, it’s positive. This is a clever product that works very well. The LEDs cast a cool white light that’s perfect for reading, playing cards or any tasks you have to get done. Because it’s coming from lots of small LEDs (we didn’t count them) it’s also evenly distributed under your awning, cutting shadows to a minimum. The kits are sized to fit Tough Toys’ own 1.4m and 2, awnings, but as long as yours has a strut long enough it will fit fine. There really isn’t much not to like about this.