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Reviews > Lighting > Lanterns > Black Diamond Equipment Orbit Lantern > Test Report by Brian Hartman

BLACK DIAMOND ORBIT LANTERN
TEST SERIES BY BRIAN HARTMAN
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - April 05, 2009
FIELD REPORT - June 08, 2009
LONG TERM REPORT - August 06, 2009

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Brian Hartman
EMAIL: bhart1426ATyahooDOT com
AGE: 41
LOCATION: Noblesville, Indiana
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 145 lb (65.80 kg)

I have been hiking and camping for over 20 years and enjoy backpacking solo and with my kids in Scouting. I especially enjoy fall and winter backpacking and camping. My backpack and gear are older and weigh 40+ lbs (18 kg). This has limited the distances I have been able to cover while hiking. My goal over the next several years is to replace my existing clothing and gear with more suitable and lighter weight alternatives.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Black Diamond
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.blackdiamondequipment.com/
Lantern MSRP: US $29.95
Listed Weight: 3 oz (84 g)
Measured Weight: 3 oz (84 g)
Measured Weight with 4AAA batteries (not included): 4.5 oz (127 g)

NRG2 Battery Kit (sold separately) MSRP: US $29.95
Listed Weight of NRG2 battery: N/A
Measured Weight of NRG2 battery: 2.3 oz (65 g)

Other details provided on package and in instruction booklet:
Diameter: 2.25 in (57 mm)
Collapsed Height: 4.0 in ( 102 mm)
Extended Height: 5.5 in (140 mm)
Light Output: 32 Lumens
Battery Life: 10 hours (High)
Battery Life: 24 hours (Low)
Light Radius: 6.5 ft (2 m)

Black Diamond calls the Orbit a "pocket-sized, collapsible backcountry mini lantern, perfect for trekking and backpacking excursions where gram shaving is crucial."

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

IMAGE 1
Photo courtesy of Black Diamond
The Black Diamond Orbit lantern and NRG2 battery kit arrived in good condition in separately packaged boxes. Included with each item was a multi-language instruction booklet with detailed instructions for use. The NRG2 battery kit included a 4.8V NiMH rechargeable battery, wall charger, and several interchangeable adapters to accommodate wall outlets in the US, UK, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Europe. According to the manufacturer, a car charger is available as well.

Upon removing the lantern from its container, I immediately noticed how lightweight and compact it was. The lantern consists of three parts: a base, body and globe. The lantern base is made of hard plastic with three small rubber feet. I unscrewed the base from the lantern and this revealed the battery compartment and a holder for 4 AAA batteries. Inside the battery compartment was a note which read "when battery power decreases to the point where the Orbit will no longer stay on the brightest level, adjust the dimmer to a mid-level for an additional 5 to 10 hours of run time." The body of the lantern includes a one watt LED lamp, reflector, circuit board and dimming switch. A telescoping globe slides over the body of the lantern and is made of frosted plastic. A second reflector is inside the globe while double hooks for hanging the lantern are on top. The lantern feels sturdy and appears to be very well made. Black Diamond has done a great job designing this lantern in a very small housing with a lot of great features.

The NRG2 rechargeable battery is identical in shape and size to the standard lantern base. The obvious difference between the two is that the standard lantern base is black with orange rubber feet while the rechargeable battery is white with black rubber feet. To change from alkaline batteries to the rechargeable battery, simply unscrew the lantern base and remove the battery holder, then screw in the rechargeable battery. There is a small LED on the rechargeable battery which indicates battery status. The wall charger plugs into a small circular port on the rechargeable battery which is concealed by a rubber cover strip. My initial impression of the NRG2 battery kit is that it too has been very well thought out.

Features:
- Lantern and rechargeable battery are lightweight at 5.3 ounces (150 g)
- Globe compacts to 4 inches during storage and extends in height to 5.5 inches during use, and casts a broad, 6.5 foot (2 m) radius of light
- 1-watt LED brightness can be adjusted using the dimming switch
- Dual reflectors and frosted globe maximize light output and minimize lantern's shadow
- Double hooks on top of the Orbit allow it to be quickly and securely attached to a tent or tree branch
- The lantern runs on 4 AAA alkaline batteries or Black Diamond's NRG2 Rechargeable Battery Kit

IMAGE 2
Photo courtesy of Black Diamond

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

Instructions for the Black Diamond Orbit lantern and NRG2 battery kit are printed in English, Dutch, French, Italian, Spanish and Japanese. They are concise and easy to follow. The lantern instructions cover operation of the lantern including inserting the batteries, opening and closing the globe, and operating the dimming switch. They also discuss cleaning, care and troubleshooting of the lantern. While reading the lantern instructions I came across two things of particular interest: First of all, the Orbit will always turn on at the brightest setting. Holding down the switch will dim the LED until it is at its lowest light output setting at which point it will flash and then begin to brighten. Second, the lantern is considered stormproof but should not be submerged in water.

Instructions for the rechargeable battery were straight forward and easy to follow. A few highlights are that the battery should be fully charged before initial use. Battery charging will take approximately eight hours if the battery is fully discharged. The battery does not need to be fully discharged prior to be recharged. The charger will automatically stop charging once the battery is fully charged. The LED light will change colors from red to yellow and from yellow to green as charging proceeds.

TRYING IT OUT

Upon receiving the lantern and NRG2 battery kit, I first inserted the rechargeable battery into the lantern and then plugged in the AC charger. The LED on the battery immediately glowed red. As indicated, it took approximately 8 hours for the battery to charge. Later that night, in my first home test, the Orbit performed admirably, illuminating our front staircase and then my bedroom from total darkness. The light output was considerably brighter than I expected and should be very useful for late night camp chores. Pressing and holding the dimming switch brought the lantern to its lowest setting, which was still bright enough for me to use while reading in bed. The reflectors and frosted globe do a remarkable job of maximizing light output and minimizing glare and shadows. The dimming switch let me adjust the lantern to the exact light output I needed while conserving battery life.

SUMMARY

The Black Diamond Orbit lantern is lightweight, compact and bright! The telescoping globe and dimming switch have been easy to operate and the lantern seems to be well constructed. My initial impression of this lantern is very favorable. I am looking forward to trying this lantern out while backpacking and camping. I expect it will prove very handy while preparing dinner, organizing gear, and reading or playing games while rain-bound in a tent.

This concludes my Initial Report for the Black Diamond Orbit lantern. I will post a Field Report in approximately two months. Please check back then for further information. I would like to thank Black Diamond and BackpackGearTest.org for providing me with the opportunity to test the Orbit lantern.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

The Black Diamond Orbit Lantern is a great piece of gear for backpacking. I have enjoyed using it very much during the past two months. Over this time period, I've used this lantern extensively. This includes several overnight backpacking and camping trips, as well as general usage around my house. While outdoors, I've typically hung it on a tree branch or inside my tent. On occasion I have set it on a flat surface or held it in my hand. The details of two trips and its performance in the field are provided below.

Trip #1:
Location: Oldenburg, IN
Elevation: 615 ft (187 m) - 842 ft (256 m)
Temperature: 72-78 F (22-25 C) day, 60 F (15 C) night
Weather Conditions: Sunny with light breeze. No rain.
Duration of Trip: 3 days, 2 nights
Length of Trip: 3 miles (5 km)
Approximate Usage: 5 hours total (not continuous, varying times of high/low on and off)
Report: I used this lantern while collecting firewood in the woods, building a campfire and cooking. I used it on both the high and low light output settings. My kids used it to light their tackle box while fishing after dusk and to light their way from the pond back to our campsite. We also used it while playing cards and in the tent at night while reading and getting ready for bed.

IMAGE 1

Trip #2:
Location: Brookville, IN
Elevation: 748 ft (228 m)
Temperature: 69 F (21 C) day, 54 F (12 C) night
Weather Conditions: Cloudy and breezy.
Duration of Trip: 2 days, 2 nights
Length of Trip: 8 miles (13 km) total
Approximate Usage: 5.5 hours (not continuous, varying times of high/low on and off)
Report: I used the lantern at its highest setting around camp doing various tasks including pitching my tent, starting a campfire and cooking dinner. Once I retired to my tent for the night, the lowest setting seemed to provide enough light while I dug through my backpack for a change of clothes.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

BRIGHTNESS: The light output of the Orbit lantern is very good for its size and weight. On the lowest setting, the mini lantern provides enough light for most tent activities such as changing clothes or finding gear. I found the highest setting adequate for most of my tasks around camp as well as reading and playing cards. On our Memorial Day camping trip, the lantern provided good illumination throughout our eight person tent. The two reflectors provide a lot of light while the frosted globe casts an even glow with no dark patterns. In comparison to the UCO candle lantern I previously carried while backpacking, both lanterns have similar weights, but the Orbit lantern is much brighter at its highest setting and never gets hot.

IMAGE 2 IMAGE 3

BATTERY LIFE: The rechargeable battery lasts a long time inbetween charges and I have never run out of battery life while on a trip. Battery life has exceeded my expectations for as much as I have used the lantern. The lantern batteries have provided consistent light output during all of my outdoor pursuits. I noticed no change in light output while on both multi-day trips above. However, that is to be expected as the packaging lists battery life at 10 hours on the high setting and 24 hours on the low setting. Recharging the battery pack with the AC adapter is a simple procedure and requires no more than a few hours as long as the batteries aren't drained completely.

DURABILITY: So far the Black Diamond Orbit lantern has done everything I've asked of it and has been a completely reliable companion on my trips and hikes and other activities. The lantern is well made and has held up well to being bounced around in my backpack and at camp. It has a smooth design with no exposed pieces to get caught or broken when it is not in use. I have seen no signs of wear on the globe or dimming switch.

I have only dropped it once but no harm was done to the globe or reflectors and it still works fine. I have not had it in the rain so I cannot comment on whether it is stormproof. So far, I would call the durability of this mini lantern excellent.

EASE OF USE: While using the Orbit lantern around camp to gather firewood, cook dinner, dig through my backpack and read in my tent, I was able to easily suspend it from a tree branch or tent using the dual metal hooks. However, due to the small footprint of the lantern, it does not stand very well on uneven surfaces. This is not a major concern as it is designed to be hung or placed on a hard, flat surface.

When backpacking, it was most convenient for me to carry this lantern in the side pocket of my pack. Since the lantern collapses when not in use and thus covers the dimming switch, there was no concern that the lantern might turn on by itself in my pack.

I found the dimming switch to be a fine design, letting me quickly turn on the lantern and adjust its brightness levels. Since the weather has been mild, I have not tried opening and turning on the switch with gloves although I intend to try this during my long term testing.

SIZE AND WEIGHT: I have found the weight of the Orbit Lantern to be negligible - it weighs about the same as the UCO Candle lantern I had previous used for backpacking. I find that the exceptional housing design with a bright 1-watt LED, frosted globe and dual reflectors gives the Orbit lantern much more even and usable light. Its compact size means that it doesn't consume valuable space in my backpack.

SUMMARY

The Orbit Lantern by Black Diamond is an amazing little lantern. It's reliable, has good light output, and creates a great "camping" ambience. It is a good source of light to illuminate an area for setting up camp in the dark. It also works well to light up the inside of my tent. On the trail, the Orbit Lantern has excellent portability since it's extremely small and lightweight. On its highest setting, it provides adequate light for hiking at night. The fact that it runs a long time on a set of 4 AAA batteries makes it very useful for longer trips.

Things I like:

Small size of lantern
Easy-to-use dimming switch for on/off/brightness
Durable and reliable
Quality of construction
No shadows or dark spots in the light
Optional rechargeable battery kit

TESTING STRATEGY

I'll continue to use the Orbit lantern for all of my outdoor activities over the coming two months. This includes a week-long backpacking and fishing trip to Western Pennsylvania and a week-long backpacking trip in Brown County State Park, Indiana. My night-time activities will include hiking, sometimes with trekking poles; cooking around camp; use inside my tent for task lighting, reading and general illumination; and occasional tasks such as gear repair etc.

This concludes my Field Report on the Black Diamond Orbit lantern. Please check back in two months for my final report.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

During the past two months I've used the Orbit Lantern on several backpacking trips, two camping trips, and several nights at home and around our yard.

Testing Locations:

Brown County, Indiana: This was a three day camping trip to visit my son and his Boy Scout Troop at Ransburg Summer Camp. I used the lantern around camp at night as well as in my tent. The lantern also came in handy while hiking to and from the showers in the dark. Temperatures were in the mid 70's F (24 C).

Brookville, Indiana: I used the Orbit Lantern extensively during this weekend backpacking trip. On its brightest setting, it provided plenty of light each night for setting up my tent and cooking dinner. Once in my tent I switched to a lower setting to do some reading. On the last night of my trip, I left the lantern on all night on the lowest setting. As expected, it was still going strong in the morning.

Ashtabula County, Ohio: This was a week long trip to Northeast Ohio. The lantern came in very handy on several occasions, including one night when the navigation lights on our fishing boat went out. My son had to sit in the front of the boat holding the lantern so other boats could see us. Daytime temperatures were in the 70's F (24 C).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The Black Diamond Orbit Lantern continues to perform very well. I have not had any problems with it since my last report. For backpacking trips, I continue to take both the lantern and my headlamp as I feel these two items compliment each other. My headlamp provides hands-free task lighting for use while gathering firewood or hiking in the woods after dark. The lantern in contrast provides great area lighting for things such as setting up camp, cooking dinner and reading in my tent at night. The bottom line for me is that the lantern's compact size and lightweight design encourage me to pack it along.

Regarding durability, the Orbit Lantern has held up well and looks almost as it did when it arrived. The Orbit receives plenty of use while I'm on the trail and has been stuffed, dropped and squashed on numerous occasions. With all of this abuse, it is no worse for wear. Its sturdy design and rugged feel inspires confidence.

Battery life continues to be excellent and charge times are very reasonable. Before going on a trip, I always recharge the lantern, regardless of how much or little I used it during the previous week. My frequent recharges seem to have had no ill effect on battery life. While backpacking, I am always careful to turn the lantern off before going to sleep and have yet to close the globe with the light on.

One of my primary interests during the Long Term portion of the test was continued testing of the Orbit's on/off switch for long term reliability. My experience with some lights is that the switch becomes intermittent over time and eventually stops working or is no longer reliable. I am happy to report that after months of testing, the Black Diamond Orbit Lantern has yet to display any signs of wearing out. My other interest was how easy or difficult it would be to operate the switch while wearing gloves. I admit it is difficult to locate and turn on the switch with gloves but this is not a deal breaker. Unlike a flashlight, I typically use the lantern for extended periods of time, so removing my gloves to turn it on is a small inconvenience.

SUMMARY

The Black Diamond Orbit Lantern is well designed and extremely durable. It is a lot of fun to use and I will continue to take it on all of my outings while backpacking or anywhere that I need area lighting. It is compact and lightweight but still provides outstanding light output. It is easy to turn on in the dark and provides even lighting without shadows. I have also been very impressed with its runtime.

CONTINUED USE

The Black Diamond Orbit Lantern has earned a permanent spot in my backpack alongside my LED headlamp. I will continue to use it for general lighting around camp and while reading in my tent at night.

I'd like to thank BackpackGearTest.org and Black Diamond for letting me participate in this test.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

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