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Reviews > Lighting > Lanterns > Black Diamond Equipment Orbit Lantern > Test Report by David Baxter

BLACK DIAMOND ORBIT LANTERN
TEST SERIES BY DAVID BAXTER
LONG-TERM REPORT
August 07, 2009

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: David Baxter
EMAIL: binkly99 at yahoo dot com
AGE: 29
LOCATION: Seattle, Washington, USA
GENDER: m
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 180 lb (81.60 kg)

Backpacking background: I have been hiking for six years and backpacking for five. I get out on the trails or snow every weekend, regardless of the weather. My trips range anywhere from fairly short dayhikes to longer multi-day backpacking trips. In the winter I snowshoe or snow-climb in moderate terrain and occasionally participate in a glaciated climb. My typical winter pack is about 15 lb (6.8 kg) for a day trip, and 35 - 45 lb (16 - 20 kg) for a glacier climb with an overnight camp. In the summer my pack is around 25 lb (11 kg).


INITIAL REPORT (April 2nd 2009)

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Black Diamond Equipment
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: Black Diamond Equipment
Orbit Lantern MSRP: US$29.95
NRG2 Battery Kit MSRP : US$29.95

Listed Weight (no batteries): 3 oz (84 g)
Measured Weight (no batteries): 3 oz (84 g)

Measured weight with batteries (4 AAA Duracell): 4.6 oz (127 g)
Measured weight with NRG2 battery: 5.2 oz (145 g)
Measured weight of NRG2 battery (without cover): 2.9 oz (81 g)

Measured height, retracted: 4 in ( cm)
Measured height, extended: 5.5 in ( cm)

Listed battery life (fresh AAA alkalines): 10 hours on "HI", 24 hours on "LO"
Listed brightness: 32 lumens
Listed light radius: 2 m (6.5 ft)
* Black Diamond provides no stats for use with the NRG2 battery.

Other details: Lantern requires either 4 AAA batteries (not included) or the optional NRG2 rechargeable battery (sold separately)

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

Out of the box I found the Orbit lantern and NRG2 Battery kit packaged separately. Included below the lantern was a small folded instruction manual printed in English, French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish and Japanese. Inside the battery compartment I also found a small slip of paper with a tip about battery life. The NRG2 Battery kit was packed in a plastic blister pack with cardboard covering. A logo on the bottom corner shows it is compatible with the Orbit lantern. Included in the kit is the battery itself, a battery cover, the charger cord and a set of four interchangeable adapters to fit outlets in the US, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Hong Kong, China, Singapore and Europe. A similar instruction sheet explains how to use and charge the battery.
packaging
Packaging


The lantern is made of various plastics with a clear segment housing the LED and reflectors. Three small rubberized feet protrude from the bottom. Two hinged metal hooks on the top swivel up and meet to form a U-shape from which the lantern can be hung. Seams are tight and the plastic substantial. The clear plastic is slightly frosted and not completely transparent. The lantern is extended by simply gripping the bottom and pulling up on the top half until it releases. At full extension it clicks into place. Extending the lantern reveals the power / dimmer button, a square piece of slightly raised orange rubber. The battery compartment is accessed by unscrewing the bottom of the lantern. The end cap comes off revealing a plastic battery caddy which holds the four AAA batteries and slides into the lantern. There is no rubberized gasket for the battery compartment, but it does close tightly. Black Diamond claims it is stormproof, but has a warning not to submerge the lantern.
lantern
Lantern extended and retracted
lantern plus battery
Lantern with NRG2


The NRG2 battery kit contains the charger, adapters and the battery itself. The battery is black and white, as opposed to the orange and black lantern. The battery electrical contacts are protected by a cover which screws over the top. On the side is a small port for the charger prong, covered by a rubberized flap. A small status LED next to this gives charging information. Warnings in English and French are printed on the battery. Construction is very solid and the charger is surprisingly compact given its ability to charge from outlets in various countries. The adapters slide into place on the charger easily and lock into place very solidly. They are released with a small push tab.
charger
NRG2 battery kit

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

The lantern instructions are self explanatory and cover the basics of installing and removing batteries, turning the lantern on and off, hanging it and a few troubleshooting tips. The NRG2 Battery Kit instructions provide more information and illustrations covering the charge, installation and use of the battery. The same instruction sheet covers the NRG and NRG2 batteries. A small insert in the lantern battery compartment states: "When battery power decreases to the point where the Orbit will no longer stay on at the brightest level, adjust the dimmer to a mid-level for an additional 5 - 10 hours run time."

TRYING IT OUT

Trying out the Orbit, I first charged the rechargeable battery. After plugging the battery into the charger the LED indicator glowed red. The instructions state that red means

Later in the evening when it was dark I tried out the lantern in my living room. The output is very impressive for such a small lantern! On high it lit most of my living room. The lantern is operated by a single button and very easy to use. I dimmed the light by holding down the button. It gradually dimmed over a few seconds, then the light blinked to let me know it hard reached the lowest setting. I was also able to pick any intermediate setting with no noticeable flickering.
light pattern
Light output: off, high, and low from left to right

SUMMARY

The Orbit lantern and NRG2 battery pack make a very compact 1-watt LED light source. It is quite bright for its size and seems very well constructed. I am looking forward to trying it out in the wilderness!

This concludes my initial report for the Orbit lantern. Thank you to Black Diamond and Backpackgeartest.org for this opportunity. Check back in two months for my field report.


FIELD REPORT (June 15th 2009)

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I have used the Orbit Lantern on many occasions around my apartment and for several backpacking trips. My first use of the lantern was camped high in the snow on Sourdough Mountain. My camp was at 6000 ft (1829 m) on the ridge top. I used the lantern inside my small solo tent to read primarily. Winds were light and temperatures were around 60 F (15.5 C) during the day dipping to near freezing at night. Weather was sunny during the day with some clouds at night. I used the lantern again a week later snow camping further north on a three day traverse from Yellow Aster Butte to Excelsior Pass. Camps were between 5000 ft (1524 m) and 6000 ft (1829 m). Temperatures were very warm, above 60 F (15.5 C) during the day, and I dont believe it reached freezing overnight. The days were very sunny and nights clear. I used the lantern again two weeks later bivying on top of Colchuck peak at 8500 ft (2591 m). Temperatures and conditions were similar to the other trips. I again used the lantern for reading and I also used it while melting snow around a stove after dark.

I also used the lantern on one dayhike. While descending the Mt. Si trail in the evening I decided to see how well the lantern would work while hiking. This was around 10 pm and it was quite dark on the dry forested trail.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I really am impressed with this little lantern. It is now a standard piece of equipment for me on any backpacking trip. For such a small lantern it puts off a great amount of light and offers very good battery life. I used it extensively on all three backpacking trips without recharging it between trips and did not have it die. On full power it illuminates a very large circular area and provides plenty of light for a small group to gather for cards or around a few stoves. The light pattern is very uniform with no distortion or dim spots. On Colchuck peak four of us gathered around two stoves after dark to melt snow and found the single Orbit lantern to provide plenty of light without adding output from our headlamps. I have also used the lantern inside my tent for reading and found the lowest setting perfect for this. The light is flicker free and when hung behind my head provides plenty of illumination.

Lantern light
Melting snow on Colchuck Peak


The Orbit is easy to hang from the hooks in my tent by simply flipping up the built in hanging hooks. The light certainly is designed to hang and does not stand up on the ground very stably. This posed a slight problem while on Colchuck since I was in a bivy bag with nowhere to hang it. Several times it fell over and would roll downhill out of reach. Thankfully the lantern construction is very good. Despite bouncing over some rocks there is not even a scratch on the clear plastic or any appreciable damage. The telescoping design also works well for packing the lantern. Because the power switch is covered when the lantern is closed I am not worried about it accidentally activating in the pack and draining the battery. I do wish, however, the power switch was slightly more raised or perhaps glow-in-the-dark. At night I have fumbled a bit trying to find it, especially while wearing thin gloves.

I also used the lantern on one dayhike. The trail was smooth and wide but it was very dark in the trees. I'd planned to hike out in the dark and was prepared with both my usual LED headlamp and the Orbit lantern. The Orbit did provide very good illumination in all directions but did not project nearly as far as the headlamp. While I could hike with its output easily I found the directed light and longer distance illumination of the headlamp to be more useful.

In addition I have used the lantern on my balcony several times. I do not have an outdoor light. The Orbit provides plenty of light to illuminate the small area with a folding table for grilling or just sitting outside.

SUMMARY

I am very happy with the performance of the Orbit lantern. It is lightweight, compact, has excellent battery life, and produces a very useful and bright light pattern. While the design is a little tippy to stand up on unlevel ground, it works very well when hung from anything. On full power it gives enough light for a small group to gather around. Dimmed to the lowest setting it still illuminates a tent interior nicely.

I plan to carry the Orbit lantern on all of my backpacking trips for the rest of the summer. Check back in two months for my final report and see how well it performed. Thank you to Black Diamond and Backpackgeartest.org.


LONG-TERM REPORT (August 11th 2009)

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I have used the Black Diamond Orbit Lantern several times over the long-term report time frame:

1. Fourth of July holiday during a four day trip to the Pasayten wilderness in north central Washington. Temperatures were near 90 F (32 C) during the day, dropping to about 50 F (10 C) overnight. Conditions were very dry with stagnant air. We made camp in Horseshoe basin at 7000 ft (2134 m) after hiking in about 8 miles (12.9 km).

2. Two nights at Robin lakes. Robin lakes sits at 6100 ft (1859 m) and requires a one way hike of 7 miles (11.3 km) to reach, gaining about 3000 ft (915 m). Daytime temperatures were around 75 F (24 C) and at night around 45 F (7 C). Weather was sunny with slight breezes.

3. One night at Deception Lakes August 1st. I camped at 5100 ft (1554 m) after hiking in about 16 miles (25.7 km) as part of a one-way through hike. Daytime temperatures were around 85 F (29.4 C), dropping to about 60 F (15.6 C) at night with sunny skies and stagnant air.

While not technically a backpacking trip I also used the lantern several times while camped on a lawn at a company retreat in Montana for four days.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I am still very happy with the performance of the Orbit lantern. It provides plenty of light in a very small package and the dimmer function provides great flexibility. I have used it primarily as a light source in my tent after dark and while reading but also for gathering outside to play cards or sit around it in places where campfires are not allowed. The battery life is very good and I can take several trips before having to recharge it.

The lantern on low provides plenty of light for me to read. On high it casts a large circular pattern of light that is great for people to gather around. I have used the folding hooks to secure it to the loops on my trekking pole and stood the extended pole in the center of the group, sort of like a make-shift street light, to give a nice lighted area. While I still prefer the directional light from my headlamp for walking around in the dark, the Orbit provides enough light to carry in my hand walking to a bathroom spot in the dark. While camped at a company retreat in Montana I made extensive use of the Orbit walking the road between the two houses on the property.

Outside light
Walking around with the Orbit lantern


The only problem I have had with the Orbit is an inexplicably dead battery while camped in the Pasayten wilderness over Fourth of July. I had charged the light overnight before leaving and placed it in my backpack early in the morning. We then drove to the trailhead and pitched camp here before hiking into Horseshoe basin the next morning. After setting up my tent and pulling out my book I discovered the light would not turn on. When I returned home I plugged it into the charger and it turned on with no issues. Since then it has worked flawlessly. I have no explanation for how this happend and have not been able to replicate the problem. The telescoping upper globe of the lantern completely covers the power switch when it is retracted, making it fairly unlikely that it somehow became activated while inside my pack.

SUMMARY

I am very happy with the Orbit Lantern. It is a compact LED lantern but provides a larger light source than one would expect from something so small. The rechargeable battery is very nice and provides plenty of run time for multiple day trips. It is also quite durable. Over the four months of usage I have only caused minor cosmetic scratches from stuffing it into my backpack or dropping it. The small hooks on the top are great for hanging it from tent ceilings, tree branches, and anything else. It is, however, a little unstable when standing up on unlevel surfaces.

CONTINUED USE

The Orbit Lantern will continue to come with me on backpacking trips, especially when I am sharing a tent or with a group. It is great for gathering around to play cards or cook dinner in the dark. I am sure I will use it much more often in the fall when sunset is earlier. It wont replace my LED headlamp, which I prefer for hiking in the dark and as an emergency light source, but I really like the Orbit as a tent and bivy light source.

Thank you to Backpackgeartest.org and Black Diamond for this opportunity!

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

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