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Reviews > Lighting > Lanterns > Black Diamond Orbit Lantern 2010 > Test Report by Derek Hansen
Photo courtesy www.bdel.com
Black Diamond Equipment, Ltd.
|Manufacturer||Black Diamond Equipment, Ltd. (Salt Lake City, Utah, USA)|
|Year of Manufacture||2010, made in China|
|Listed Dimensions||Compactable to 102 mm (4 in); extended height is 140 mm (5.5 in)|
|Measured Dimensions||Top Diameter: 2.125 in (5.4 cm); Bottom Diameter: 1.75 in (4.4 cm); Height Collapsed: 4 in (10 cm); Height Extended: 5.5 in (14 cm)|
|Color||Dark Chocolate, Lava, Lime Green|
|Listed Weight||3 oz (85 g) without batteries|
|Measured Weight||2.95 oz (84 g) without batteries; 4.55 oz (129 g) with alkaline batteries|
♦ "DoublePower LED with 45 lumens (max setting) enclosed inside a frosted globe produces bright, non-glaring light
Black Diamond Equipment, Ltd. offers a three year limited warranty to the original buyer for defects in manufacturing and materials on lighting products. Products will be repaired or replaced at the company's discretion.
|Care and Use||Stormproof, do not submerge, max temperature 140 F (60 C)|
2 Nov 2010
The Black Diamond Equipment, Ltd. Orbit lantern (hereafter Orbit or lantern) is one in a line of three lanterns offered by Black Diamond and the one specifically targeted at “ounce-conscious backpackers, climbers and travelers”.
The lantern collapses to 4 in (102 mm) for storage and expands to 5.5 in (140 mm) when in use, with hooks/clips folded down (the hooks add another 5/8 in (1.6 cm) to the height). The globe is frosted but has a smooth, soft feel. The Orbit boasts a 45-lumen light using a DoublePower LED, producing a non-glaring light. There are reflectors on the top and bottom that help maximize light output, and the multi-function button can dim the light to different settings for adjustable brightness and battery conservation.
On the top of the lantern are two fold-down metal attachment point that provide an attach point for the Orbit to hang from the inside of a shelter, for example. On the bottom of the lantern are three fixed rubberized “legs”.
This lower “leg” portion of the lantern unscrews, revealing a battery pack that takes four (4) AAA batteries. Black Diamond recommends using “alkaline or lithium batteries, or the Black Diamond NRG2 Rechargeable Battery Kit (sold separately)”.
The DoublePower LED light is stated to have a maximum 45 lumens and a minimum 10 lumens. On the max setting, the battery life is stated at 15 hours. On low, battery life should extend to 24 hours. The maximum illumination is 4 m (13 ft), and the minimum is 2 m (6.5 ft).
There is a small depression that extends the full length of the lower portion of the lantern body where the button is located. The button functions as a simple on/off switch, but when held, it dims the LED. The LED will dim to a point and then “blink” when the lower or upper limits of the LED have been reached.
The included battery case has been expertly engineered to include clips for each battery. Both battery terminals are located at the top of the case. The battery case must be inserted with the terminals “up” for the lantern to work correctly, but the case can be inserted upside down, preventing the batteries from accidental drain.
The website describes one of the colors as “Dark Chocolate” and the lantern I received has no brown color, in contrast to the photo off the website. I would describe the color as dark grey.
The folks at Black Diamond have done a great job engineering this simple yet effective little lantern. For example, the lantern is bottom heavy, helping stabilize the lantern without adding fold-out legs; the depression around the switch is helpful in locating the button when visibility is low (on my lantern, the orange button contrasts nicely with the dark grey plastic); the fold-out clips or hooks on the top make it easy to attach the lantern to an overhead line or branch; the location of the reflectors in the globe keeps the glare down (I have to tip the lantern to the side to actually get a full beam of light in my eye).
I have to say, I really like the reflector system and frosted globe in how it reflects the light out and down. It seems no light is lost in odd, useless directions.
The Orbit has some sort of clipping mechanism that keeps the lantern open and closed. On close inspection, it is clear that there is a small groove around the bottom and top of the lower portion of the lantern. In the bottom ring in the top globe, there are small plastic bumps that clip into these grooves. The lower portion of the top globe is made of a flexible rubber material that can flex to allow the bumps to get into position. I am sure Black Diamond has a more technical explanation. This is definitely something to feel rather than read about.
I discovered the dimming quite by accident by simply holding down the switch. The process works very easily and intuitively. The bright DoublePower LED worked great to illuminate my living room and I can’t wait to take this out in the field. With minimal daylight hours this time of year, I know I will be using the Orbit a lot to light up my campsites.
One thing I may look into is the rechargeable battery system that is sold by Black Diamond specifically for the Orbit. Knowing the expected battery life is about 10 hours (on the max setting); I can see myself replacing batteries quite often. Having a rechargeable station would be nice.
PRO—Compactable, lightweight, bright light.
8 Feb 2011
During the field test, I have used the lantern on four separate overnight camping trips and at least five backyard sleepovers. I even used the Orbit during a 12-mile bicycle commute. Two highlighted trips include:
Nov 26-27 ~ Snow Canyon State Park, St. George, Utah. Hiking the Red Mountain Trail has long been on my to-do list (because of the amazing views above the canyon) and I finally got a chance to do it, although it was a lot colder than I expected. The overnight low was in the teens (-9 C) with scattered snow drifts and a prevailing nighttime wind gusting from the south west. Elevation was 5000 ft (1524 m). We backpacked about 6 miles (10 km) total.
Dec 17-18 ~ Two Guns, Arizona. I joined the Boy Scouts on an overnight camping trip to see the Canyon Diablo and Two Guns ghost towns, along with the Apache Death Cave. Our camp site was about as dull and nondescript as I've ever seen, but we enjoyed swapping stories around the campfire and doing day hikes and geocaching around the ruins. Overnight low was around 32 F (0 C) at an elevation of 5500 ft (1676 m).
During my trip in Snow Canyon and in Two Guns, I used the lantern as my exclusive means of light at night. In both locations I slept in a floor-less tent and hung the lantern from loops tied inside the tent. I loved the hooks on the lantern. The dual hook design made it easy to attach the lantern anywhere I had a loop available. I liked that I didn’t need a separate carabiner or cord to tie the light to the tent.
While I don’t have a photo of the lantern, this photo depicts our camp site, right near the edge of the canyon. It was cold and dark and the Orbit gave plenty of light to our camp.
I found the button easy to find and use. Even in pitch dark, I was able to sense the indentation where the button is located and depress the button. While it has been cold, I have only worn liner gloves when I’ve had to turn on the lantern, and this has worked fine in terms of feeling and finding the button.
As for the light output, the highest setting was almost too bright in most cases. I have grown more accustomed to the lowest setting in most uses. It is really easy to adjust the light to the low setting by holding down the button and waiting for the double flash of light letting me know the low setting has been reached.
Here is a photo I snapped using a phone. This photo shows the Orbit at its highest setting, which provided near daytime light inside my tent (this low-quality photo doesn't really do the Orbit justice).
I read another review of the Orbit where the user popped off the top and used the lantern as a flashlight. I tried this and found that it does work, but I haven’t done this often, as I am worried about breaking down the plastic connectors over time.
In Two Guns, we arrived in the middle of nowhere (our campsite) an hour after sunset. The entire area was dark and I had to cook my dinner with only the Orbit as my guide. I used the low setting and had plenty of light to cook and eat.
During a night-time commute, I brought along the Orbit to add more light to my ride. My commute goes through town and then along a busy highway 89 that is not lit. I clipped the lantern to my messenger bag, which hung across my chest. I used the brightest setting and found that the light didn’t illuminate far enough ahead to help me navigate, but it lit me and the surrounding area enough that I was very visible to passing traffic. This was another time when I was grateful for the double hook design on the Orbit.
It is difficult to estimate how many hours I’ve used the lantern since I have also used it a lot at home (my kids have used it several times for indoor “campouts”). I would guess that during my camping trips I had the Orbit on low setting for about 6 hours and maybe 3 hours on high. Amazingly, the first set of alkaline batteries I put in have lasted almost the entire testing period.
During a trip to Utah, I noticed that when I turned on the light, it would flicker and then shut down. At first I was worried I had damaged the lantern, but I later guessed that this must be the Orbit’s way of letting me know the batteries are too low to operate. I switched out the batteries with rechargeable batteries and the flickering stopped and I was able to use the light again.
Overall, I am very impressed with this light. I love that it compacts and packs so well. I love the dual hooks. I am impressed by the battery life and brightness of the lantern. If I had to make up a “con”, it would be that the lantern has no directional support. In other words, it lights equally on all sides. I found that when I was cooking or working in my tent, I often wished I could shade one side so the light wasn’t glaring in my eyes. I have another lantern that does this with a simple plastic slider to shield one side. But really, that is a lazy wish of mine and I don’t think it is really necessary; I can think of ways I can create a light shield if I really wanted it.
PRO—Bright light; sustained battery life; very packable; easy-attach hooks.
30 Mar 2011
Over this final test period I was able to get out on two overnight camping and backpacking trips in varying conditions.
Mar 4-5 ~ West Fork of Oak Creek, near Sedona, Arizona. About a 6 mi (10 km) hike with an elevation of about 5000 ft (1500 m). Snow and ice along the trail and high, cold water in the river. The temperatures were in the upper 40s F (5 C).
Mar 12-13 ~ Wet Beaver Creek, near Camp Verde, Arizona. Overnight camping trip with the Boy Scouts. We camped at an elevation of 3800 ft (1160 m) and did a few day hikes, including ascending a small mesa at 4120 ft (1256 m). We hiked about 2.5 mi (4 km) total. Temperatures during the day were in the upper 60s F (16 C) and low 40s F (4 C) at night.
After reviewing reports from my fellow testers, I realized that one aspect of this lantern I hadn’t really tested was how well it stands up by itself. Most of my testing has been by hanging the light from a ridgeline or inside a tent. I remember standing the lantern up during my camping trip to Two Guns, Arizona, while I was cooking my evening meal, but I took a little more care on my trip to the West Fork of Oak Creek to try the lantern on its little legs.
The lantern stands up on its own when on a nice flat surface, otherwise the lantern easily falls over. But even on a flat surface I've had to be careful because slight bumps can send it careening -- the legs simply do not add much stability. While I used the light on the ground for a while while preparing a fire on my hike up Oak Creek, this light really shines when elevated. Once I hung the lantern on my hammock ridgeline, the light shown much better (obviously) and more people benefited from the light than just me.
The computer control inside the lantern does a great job regulating the light to get a consistent brightness until the batteries are spent. The lantern flickers and shuts off when the battery level is too low. I used a pair of rechargeable batteries and noticed they drained much faster than alkaline. For my two trips I made sure to have fresh batteries. I have worn out a few batteries at home because my kids and I often have family sleep overs in their room (we have hammocks installed inside the house for just such occasions). I feel confident that the lantern lives up to the 15 hour battery life.
I find, however, that I prefer the light at one of the dimmer settings when I’m out in the field, or at home. The brightest setting really illuminates far, and is often wasted light. Inside my hammock shelter, the high setting was too bright in an enclosed space so I quickly turned down the light to a more reasonable level for me.
During my trip to Wet Beaver Creek, I used the lantern to read a book at night. I read for a good hour and the light provided great diffused lighting above my head, hanging from a ridgeline.
The double hooks work great and make attaching the light a breeze, even with gloves on. The light switch can sometimes be difficult to find, but I just spin the light a bit and find the indentation eventually.
The Black Diamond Orbit Lantern has edged its way into my regular pack, even though I try to keep “luxury” items like this to a minimum. Its bright, adjustable light, easy-to-hang hooks, and slim, collapsed stature make this lantern a great backpacking companion. It’s a keeper.
PRO—Great light and battery life.
CON—Requires flat, smooth surface to stand on its own. Best when hung.
I would like to thank Black Diamond Equipment, Ltd. and BackpackGearTest.org for providing me with the opportunity to test this product.
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