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Reviews > Lighting > Flashlights - LED > Energizer Carabiner LED Area Light > Test Report by Kerri Larkin
TEST SERIES BY KERRI LARKIN
Let's get this out of the way right off the bat: I love torches, lights, lanterns, in fact anything that makes light. So, I leapt at the chance to test the Energizer LED Area Light. After all, there are very few lights which look so compact, yet offer such versatility. This light promises to deliver the option of 360° area lighting or to work equally well as a hand held flash. Does it work? Come with me on an adventure as I test this light thoroughly over the next four months...
My light arrived in a card and plastic blister pack which was fairly understated. One of the things that made me feel I was going to be testing a quality product was that Energizer have included a tab to open the packaging, and it worked. No need to resort to a machete or angle grinder here! Once the packaging was open, it was easy to extract the light, carabiner and batteries. I have to say, this light is much bigger than I imagined, bit it still falls easily into the hand and is, in fact, more comfortable to hold than many flashlights. I guess the oval shaping has something to do with that; no hard edges, and a hand naturally closes to the shape of this light. Nice.
Let's do a walk-around. At the tip of the light is an LED which is used when in flashlight mode. On each side there's a translucent lens which seems to be made of a hard plastic. The three LEDs on each side can just be seen through the lens. On one side, there's an easy to see (and feel) switch at the top of the lens area. I imagine there would be no problems operating this light while wearing gloves. The main body of the light appears to be made from some type of plastic but it's not slippery-smooth like the lens area, and actually makes the light feel pretty solid in the hand. There's a huge hole in the bottom area where the carabiner slips in, making it easy to suspend above a table or in a tent. This looks to be pretty strong, so I don't foresee it breaking easily.
The bottom area of the light is also where the clips to open the battery compartment are. There's one on each side marked with a couple of ridges for finger grip and a little logo with a battery and an arrow showing the direction of use. Years of using things that take batteries would suggest that these clips should slide down to unlock the case, but that's not how it works here. The part with the ridges needs to be pressed inwards to release the battery compartment. Because they are spring loaded, they both need to be operated at the same time. I found it pretty natural to curl one hand around the light area, and the other over the ridges. Tightening my grip popped the clips open and a firm pull slides the inner light assembly out of the outer lens and protective case. Unlike most torches, there's no dark cavity with illegible graphics to put the batteries in. The Energizer batteries are mounted along the sides of the torch. A little graphic on one of the tabs shows the correct polarity for insertion. It's very simple to insert the batteries.
With the light opened up, it's easy to see the three LEDs on each side of the assembly, and the switch at the far end of the light. This is the only tricky bit in putting it all together as the battery/light assembly must be inserted into the lens/case assembly so that the switch mechanism is on the correct side of the light. Unfortunately, it is possible to insert the battery assembly so that the switch is on the opposite side from the big rubber switch that operates the light. Perhaps this is an area where the manufacturer could make a small change so that it would only be possible to assemble the light in the correct orientation. After all, if this is my main light source, and I have to change the batteries at night, it would make it easier to know I had it the right way around the first time.
One of the things that sets this light apart from a lot of lanterns is that it has an 'O' ring to seal the battery compartment, thus making the light 'waterproof'. There's no information on submersion depths or ISO ratings, so my guess is that this light is more weather resistant than waterproof. It looks as though it would certainly be safe to leave hanging in a tree during a rainstorm though.
There were no instructions included with the light, but I have to say it is fairly intuitive to use. The battery compartment access requires a moments thought, but otherwise operation of the light is as simple as pushing the switch
Once the batteries were installed and the light reassembled, it was a simple matter of pushing the button to cycle the light through its operating modes. The first push turns on the area light in "high" (bright) mode. Push again and the area light switches to "low" (less bright) mode. Push again and the area light is turned off but the torch LED in the tip of the light comes on (there are no brightness modes with the torch - it's on or off). A fourth push of the button turns the light off. Pretty simple really. There's no option to have only one side of the area light lit, but then it really doesn't need it. After all, this is what it says, an area light, rather than a directional light.
The LEDs give a very bright light which is quite dazzling if looked at directly. To me, this seems like a light which should be used as intended, suspended above the area, to get maximum benefit. Although I haven't used the light outside in the dark yet, I can see it will be plenty bright enough for most camp chores. Unless I'm actively preparing food or some other chore which needs a lot of light, I'll probably run it in "low" mode most of the time. I have a feeling that even low mode will be very bright in my hammock!
The Energizer comes with a standard non-climbing rated carabiner. The spring-loaded gate allows it to be clipped through the hole in the light base, making it easy to hang the area light. Whether hung from a tree or inside a tent, this carabiner will keep the light secure. My concern with it is that the metal-on-plastic of the carabiner and light will scratch or mark the plastic of the light. Perhaps it will be best to separate the light and carabiner when packing. It's also noisy! When carrying the light in torch mode, the carabiner rattles and clanks around. My first thought was to replace the metal carabiner with some parachute cord. While that would only save 20 grams (0.7 oz) in weight, it might save a lot of sanity!
I guess my other big concern about the longevity of this light is the hard plastic lens area: it looks like it will scratch easily. That probably won't affect the function, only the aesthetics of the light but I'll be interested to see how it survives my testing.
This is a great concept torch. It gives out plenty of light, feels great in the hand, and will survive outside in the rain. It's simple to put together, even easier to operate, and has a real idiot-proof feel about it. I'm really looking forward to testing this product and hope you'll join me on the journey.
That concludes my Initial Report on the Energizer LED Area Light. I'd like to thank both Energizer and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this item.
I took the Energizer on a fourteen day camping trip to Kangaroo Island, South Australia, which involved a mixture of car-based camping and hiking around the island. It rained one night on the trip but otherwise conditions were fine and mild. This trip was mostly at, or near, sea level with the highest camp being at about 335 metres (1100 feet). Temperatures varied from overnight lows around 5 C (41 F) to highs of 32 C (90 F). Most nights were very damp with lots of condensation, but the days were warm and dry.
My second trip was to Bongil Bongil State Forest, just outside Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, for an overnight camp. Again, there was plenty of condensation and dew in the morning. The overnight low was 5 C (41 F) and the high during the day was 26 C (79 F).
My final trip in the test period was another overnight trip to the Grey Cliff camp area in the Yuragir National Park, mid-northern New South Wales. Temperatures ranged from an overnight low of 19 C (66 F) to a high of 26 C (79 F) during the day.
Due to extreme weather (total fire bans and wildfires, to recurrent floods) it has been difficult to get many more opportunities to test the Energizer in the wild!
The Energizer has done everything I've needed it to. Although I used it every night on the fourteen day trip, the light didn't actually get a lot of use each night due to late sunsets in mid-summer. The light was used as a site marker when going for night walks, to read with before bed, and as a torch for nocturnal nature calls.
Most nights on the Kangaroo Island trip the torch saw only about 10-15 minutes of use while I was settling in to my hammock and for a brief read - sleep came very quickly those nights. I found I only needed to use the low power mode, or 'torch' mode in the hammock as full power was just too strong. Having said that, there's really not too much noticeable difference between the high power and low power modes. My last night, at Brooms Head, I purposely left the Energizer on for about two hours and there's still no sign of the batteries going flat.
I left the torch out in the rain one night with no problem - the waterproofing appears to work well enough.
My only two quibbles with this light are that it doesn't have a flat end to stand it on, and that the low power setting really doesn't seem much dimmer than the high power setting.
With regard to the first quibble; there's not always a convenient tree to suspend the light from when using it over the camp kitchen. That's why a flat end which the light could be stood on would be a benefit. This light, as the name implies, is an area light, and consequently benefits from being up high. Otherwise it just creates a harsh glare and doesn't illuminate such a wide area. For best use, I've found it needs to be suspended at least an arms-length above my head. A rope thrown over a higher branch, allowing the Energizer to be suspended over a camp kitchen, strikes me as another way to get best effect from this light.
With respect to the second quibble; I've pretty much only used this light on low power as there seemed no real benefit in using high power. As I said above, the low power mode is still, for me, too bright for use as a reading light in the confines of my hammock. Personally, I'd like the low power mode to be about half as bright as it currently is. There is a difference between the two modes, but only just. I'd love a low power mode that would allow me to leave the light on as a night light for little ones (or big ones that get easily spooked), or as a site marker for my camp to make it easier to find in the dark. The long, thin, shape of this light would make it easy to spot my tent at a crowded campsite or at a festival as it is quite unique.
I was initially worried that the lenses would scratch, but I'm pleased to say that has not been the case. The Energizer has hung by its carabiner from my pack for the last four months, swinging around and bashing against the pack, trees, the back of the car, and anything else my pack has been near, and there's no sign of marking.
I haven't needed to change the batteries yet with roughly five hours total use in the field.
I've used a number of lantern-style LED lights and although they may seem physically smaller, when open and working, they are all larger than the Energizer. Plus, they all seem bulky in comparison; the Energizer just falls so easily into the hand, it's really a pleasure to use. The carabiner clip seems a bit large perhaps, but it has proven versatile enough to hang from a tree or from the ridgeline of my hammock.
The Energizer LED Area light is a nice piece of gear. It works well as an area light, falls easily to the hand for use as a torch, and has both high and low power modes, even though there really isn't much difference between the two. In terms of backpacking, it's a bit of a strange fish: it's probably too heavy for the ultralight purists, and doesn't have a base stand for using on a table when car-camping, however, the versatility of the light makes up for these minor quibbles. All in all, this is a very nice light. As I said, it hangs easily from my pack, and, it seems to me that's exactly where it's going to stay. I like this light enough for it to become a permanent addition to my camp kit.
That concludes my Long term Report on the Energizer LED Area Light and I'd like to take this opportunity to extend my thanks to Energizer and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to be a part of this test series.
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Reviews > Lighting > Flashlights - LED > Energizer Carabiner LED Area Light > Test Report by Kerri Larkin