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Reviews > Lighting > Lanterns > Black Diamond Equipment Orbit Lantern > Test Report by Jennifer Koles

Black Diamond Orbit Lantern

Test Series by Jennifer Koles

August 11, 2009

Skip to my Initial Report- April 2, 2009
Skip to my Field Report- June 16, 2009
Skip to my Long Term Report- August 11, 2009


Personal Information

Name:  Jennifer Koles
Age:  34
Gender:  Female
Height:  5 ft 5 in (1.65 m)
Weight: 140 lb (64 kg)
Email address: jennksnowy at yahoo dot com
City, State, and Country: Orange County, California, United States


Backpacking Background

After getting into the outdoors scene camping while 4-wheeling and day-hiking, I switched to backpacking in the early 2000's. I have backpacked extensively in Utah, Wyoming and Idaho along with California, Pennsylvania and Nevada. I have slowly been cutting my base weight to be able to go longer in duration and distance. I have done so mainly by using better gear and dumping heavy luxuries. (I also married a Sherpa to help.) I backpack year round in all weather, and usually take a free standing tent and a gas stove on all my trips. I love trying out new gear.

The author

The author in the Narrows at Zion National Park, Utah.


Initial Report

April 2, 2009

Product Information

Product: Black Diamond Orbit 1-Watt LED Lantern and NRG2 Rechargeable Battery Kit (sold separately)
Manufacturer: Black Diamond Ltd.
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer Website: www.blackdiamondequipment.com
Guarantee: 3 year

Listed Weight: 3 oz (84 g) for the lantern as packaged with the alkaline battery holder. Weight not listed for the rechargeable base.
Actual Weight: 3 oz (84 g) for the lantern as packaged with the alkaline battery holder. 4.60 oz (130 g) with alkaline batteries. 5.15 oz with the lantern and the rechargeable battery base.
Listed Dimensions: Compacts to 102 mm (4 in) and extends in height to 140 mm (5.5 in).
Actual Dimensions: Compacts to 102 mm (4 in) and extends in height to 140 mm (5.5 in) with the included alkaline base. With the rechargeable battery base attached the lantern has a collapsed height of 4.25 in (108 mm) and an extended height of 5.75 in (146 mm). Largest diameter point 2.25 in (57 mm).

Available Colors: Phantom (black) and Ultra White
Color Tested: Ultra White

MSRP: $29.95 USD for the lantern and $29.95 USD for the rechargeable battery kit

Orbit

The manufacturer stated that the Orbit is "A pocket-sized, collapsible backcountry mini lantern, and is perfect for trekking and backpacking excursions where gram shaving is crucial." The Orbit can be powered by 4 AAA alkaline batteries or with the NRG2 Rechargeable Battery Kit (sold separately). The base of the lantern screws off to reveal the battery compartment. I did notice that the rechargeable battery base is 0.25 in (6 mm) higher than the alkaline battery base.

battery kit
plugs

 

When the Orbit is collapsed the orange colored on/off switch is covered by the frosted globe. The lantern has the Black Diamond logo on the top debossed in an orange color. There are three screws at the top of the lantern globe cover. There are two arced metal hooks that pivot so the lantern can be hung from an object. These only pivot up and down and do not turn on a side angle. The Orbit has dual reflectors inside the globe at the bottom and the top. These reflectors help create more light output.

Orbit top

Top of the Orbit

The bottom of the frosted globe has a black rubber-like band with the company name and log debossed on it. To extend the base I held on to the battery base of the Orbit and I pulled up on the black band around the globe. To collapse the Orbit I held on to the base and pushed the globe downward from the top of the lantern.

There are three black rubber feet on the alkaline and the rechargeable battery base. This rubber extends down the sides of the battery bases and projects outward slightly at the base. In addition to the rubber fee the bottom of the alkaline battery base has 3 smaller rubber feet points and a circular rubber ring.

Alkaline battery base

Alkaline battery base

The rechargeable battery base has only rubber on the bottom for each foot. Each rubber foot is approximately 0.25 in (6 mm) long at the base. The bottoms of both bases have the Black Diamond logo debossed in the same color of the lantern. The rechargeable battery base has two screws on the bottom. Both bases are threaded so as to be screwed into the lantern body. Inside the lantern base are the battery terminal points. The alkaline battery holder is orange in color and slides into the base opening of the lantern, and then the bottom is screwed on to hold the battery holder against the terminal points. Both bases are easily removed by turning the base counter clockwise. The bases are tightened by turning them clockwise.

Rechargeable battery base

Rechargeable battery base

On the instructions included with the Orbit the manufacturer claims that the battery life on high power is 10 hours. It is also claimed that the battery life on low power is 24 hours. The claimed amount of lumens with new batteries is 32 and the claimed light radius is 2 m (6.56 ft). The instruction paper states to clean and dry the lantern before and after each use. It is also suggested not to store the Orbit wet. The Orbit should not be submerged. However, it is storm proof.

There was a piece of paper inside the alkaline battery base stating: "When the 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 to 10 hours of run time."

The Orbit turns on by pressing the orange button on the lantern. The lantern always turns on to the highest setting. If I hold the button in the Orbit will dim and flash at the lowest setting then return to the highest setting. If I release the button it will remain at the dimmed state. To turn off the Orbit I pressed the orange button one time.


NRG2 Rechargeable Battery Kit

The rechargeable battery kit comes supplied with a AC battery charger, the rechargeable battery base, a terminal protector, and adapters with four adapters for various countries (United States; Australia, New Zealand; UK, Hong Kong, China, Singapore; and Europe). The rechargeable battery base has a rubber port-cover that when it is lifted reveals the connection port for the charger to connect to. There is an indicator light on the base to designate the status of the charging. A red light indicates that the unit is less than 30% charged. A yellow light means that the Orbit is less than 85% charged. A green light means that the unit is 85-100% charged. The charger shuts off when a full charge is achieved. There is a sticker on the rechargeable battery with some battery care and warning information. This charger is only designed to be used with the Orbit.


Initial Impressions

I am very pleased with my initial impressions of the Orbit. I could not believe how compact it is when the base is collapsed. I was also pleased with the light output. On the highest setting my entire spare room was illuminated.

The manufacturer's website has basic information on the Orbit and the charger. It also has listed some measurements and the weight of the lantern.

The instructions supplied with the Orbit and the charger are descriptive and have all the basic information I need to operate and care for the product.

 

Orbit on tree branch

Field Report

June 16, 2009

Testing Locations

During the past two months the Orbit was used on two backpacking trips, two hiking trips, a night beach BBQ, and in my home for two nights when the power was out.

La Jolla, California: I used the Orbit on my first night in La Jolla. I used it walking on the beach path and on the beach at around midnight to look for Grunion. The temperature was in the upper 50's F (10 C).

Corona del Mar, California: I used the Orbit on the beach for a fire pit BBQ.

San Gorgonio Wilderness, California: This was an overnight backpacking trip. Camp was at about 8,400 ft (2,560 m) of elevation. The temperature was around 40 F (4 C).

San Jacinto State Park, California: I used the Orbit on an overnight backpacking trip. The low temperature was around 40 F (7 C).

Wasatch-Cache Mountain National Forest, Utah: I used the lantern on an early morning day-hike before the sun came up. The temperatures were in the mid 40's (7 C) with light rain.

Glowing green tent


Performance in the Field

I must say that this is one bright little lantern. I was quite surprised that there is so much light from this small compact lantern. The Orbit illuminates a tent brightly on both high and low power. For walking outside and completing camp chores the lantern was used on high power. I found this gave the most adequate illumination. There are no shadows when using the lantern and the light has an even illumination. I like the functionality of the dimmer switch. This enabled me to get a larger range of brightness than just a high and low setting.

Upon receiving the Orbit one of the battery terminal connection coils broke off the alkaline battery holder. I emailed Black Diamond and they quickly sent me a new alkaline battery holder with no questions asked.

I have used the lantern with the rechargeable battery on high power for about 8 hours and on low power for about three hours. After my last use of the lantern I tried to turn it on and the globe light was flashing. I could not switch it to low power, so I assumed the battery was drained. I recharged it and the Orbit is working fine. I wish there was an indicator when the battery power was getting low.

Hanging out in the tent

I love the hooks on the lantern. They can be easily positioned to hang the lantern on the gear hooks in a tent or from a tree or shrub branch. It would be nice if the hooks rotated instead of just extending upward and collapsing. This would add more versatility to where I can hang the lantern.

There has not been any difficulty finding the switch to operate the light in the dark. I believe this is because the orange button is darker in color than my lantern and the texture of the button is softer than the plastic housing. Plus the button is set in from the rest of the base. This area also has a small ridge surrounding it, which heightens my tactile sensation when trying to find the switch.

The globe has not become stuck when expanding it to expose the on/off switch or when collapsing it. However, I do have a grippe about collapsing the globe. If the Orbit is turned on when the globe is collapsed it remains on. This can be a major drain on the batteries if I forget to turn off the Orbit before collapsing the globe. I like that the switch is protected from being accidentally turned on when the globe is collapsed. I would like to see an automatic shut off function when the globe is collapsed.

The lantern is stable on flat surfaces. However, on rocky or uneven surfaces it tends to want to tip over. The lantern base is stable in sand when pushed down slightly. The rubber feet help the lantern from sliding on smooth surfaces as they provide some friction. When on a flat surface, the Orbit balances well enough on its three feet to withstand a light tap or bump. However, it rocks back and forth for a few moments before regaining its balance. Any amount of force will push the lantern over.

After the Orbit is on for a period of time the rubber ring at the base of the globe and the plastic housing surrounding the switch becomes warm to the touch. This is not an issue as far as I am concerned. At no point did the Orbit overheat and shut off.

The Orbit was used on a pre-dawn day hike in a light rain. The lantern worked fine and no water leaked into globe or any other part of the lantern.

The Orbit is showing some small scratches on the globe and they mostly appear to be on the inside. They are straight lines and this makes me believe the scratches are from extending and retracting the globe. They do not seem to be interfering with the light projection. Other than these scratches the Orbit looks and operates like it is just out of the box.

Long Term Report

August 11, 2009

Testing Locations

During the past two months the Orbit was used on one backpacking trip, two hiking trips, and around the outside of my home at night.

Wasatch-Cache Mountain National Forest, Utah: I used the Orbit here on two day hikes that turned into night hikes. There were downpours of heavy rain in the area and the Orbit became wet. On one of the hikes I used the Orbit as a flashlight. The hikes ranged from 4 to 6 mi (6 to 10 km) in length. The temperatures ranged from the upper 50 F (10 C) range to the upper 60 F (16 C) range.

San Jacinto State Park, California: This was originally a backpacking trip that turned into a day hike, due to me having an injured toe. The high temperature was 78 F (26 C). I carried the lantern in my backpack that was ready for an overnight trip.

Yosemite National Park, California: Three days backpacking in Yosemite National Park. The temperatures ranged from 43 to 80 F (6 to 27 C) mostly sunny skies except for a thunder, rain, and graupel storm our first afternoon. The trails were mostly dirt, rock, and wet rock down the Mist Trail. The trip was approximately 20 mi (32 km).


Performance in the Field

During the entire testing period I enjoyed using the Orbit. The Orbit illuminates well enough for me to see in the dark at camp, in a tent, and on the trail. I have enough light from the Orbit to read at camp and in my tent. The battery life proved long enough to last on a three day backpacking trip with some extra battery life remaining. The Orbit was used on the backpacking trip for two to three hours per night on both the high and low setting.

I have found some new functionality with the Orbit that I no longer have the fear of not having a headlamp with me. This is what I would call the flashlight functionality. In Utah during my evening hike it was raining, actually it was more like a downpour. The Orbit became wet, and I failed to completely dry the cylindrical base when I collapsed the globe. There were water droplets inside the globe and that concerned me. I extended the globe and pulled it completely off the base. This enabled me to dry the inside of the globe. I then turned on the Orbit without the globe in place and I discovered that I could use it as a flashlight. As a flashlight the Orbit was more functional for me to use while hiking at night. It gave me a more pointed light like my headlamps. This enabled me to better navigate terrain at night and better see rocks and shadowed areas.

Orbit as a flashlight

Globe removed. Instant flashlight functionality.

While using the Orbit in the downpour I encountered an issue. Some water leaked inside the rechargeable battery port and the battery indicator light was flashing red and the lantern would not light. Then it would stop. I shook the water out of the port. I then waited about 30 minutes and the lantern worked fine. I am perplexed as to how water got into the port when the rubber seal was fully covering the opening.

The Orbit was used at camp to illuminate a table while five of us were hanging out by the fire and some of the group was preparing a meal. The Orbit was placed in the center of the table and the entire table was illuminated.

Summary

I am very happy with the Orbit lantern. It is a small compact lantern that has a significant output of light for my backpacking needs. One of my favorite features is the hooks. This allows me to hang the Orbit in my tent to read or just have comfort of the light in my tent. Even though I encountered a few minor issues with the Orbit (the battery terminal connection coil and water entering the rechargeable battery port), I find the Orbit to be a durable lantern. I plan on using this product for many years to come.


Things That Rock:

  • Bright
  • Compact
  • Hooks to hang the lantern
  • No shadows
  • Makes a great flashlight

Things That Are So-So:

  • The lantern does not turn off when it is collapsed
  • Unstable on uneven surfaces
  • There is no battery indicator to tell how much power is remaining
  • The rechargeable base power port did not seal properly in the rain

Remarks

This concludes my reporting on the Orbit. Thank you Black Diamond and backpackgeartest.org for providing me with the opportunity to test this product.

 



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Reviews > Lighting > Lanterns > Black Diamond Equipment Orbit Lantern > Test Report by Jennifer Koles



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