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Reviews > Lighting > Lanterns > Black Diamond Orbit Lantern 2010 > Test Report by Pamela Wyant

BLACK DIAMOND ORBIT LANTERN




Tester Information:

Name:  Pam Wyant
Age:  53
Gender:  Female
Height:  5 ft 5 in (1.65 m)
Weight:  175 lb (79 kg)

E-mail address:  pamwyant(at)yahoo(dot)com
Location:  Western West Virginia, U.S.A.

Backpacking Background:

I enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, including backpacking,
day-hiking, car camping, and canoeing.  Most of my excursions
are confined to weekends, although I try to fit in at least one
longer backpacking trip each year, and have started section
hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT), accruing a little over 300 mi
(483 km) so far.  My style varies with the activity, but since
becoming a lightweight backpacker, I've noticed I tend to pack
somewhat minimally even on trips where I have more space.
Still, I don't like to sacrifice warmth, comfort, or safety.

Orbit lantern

Initial Report - November 15, 2010

Product Information:

Manufacturer: Black Diamond Equipment
Model:  Orbit
Type:  LED
Year of manufacture:  2010

Advertised weight:  84 g (3 oz) without batteries

Measured weight:   84 g (2.9 oz) without batteries
                              130g (4.6 oz) with batteries



Advertised dimensions:  102 mm (4 in) closed, 140 mm (5.5 in) open
Measured dimensions:  consistent with those advertised.
                             
Lumens:  45 max/10 min

Power source:  4 AAA alkaline or lithium batteries
         or NRG2 rechargeable battery kit

Advertised max burn time:  24 hours on max/15 hours on min

MSRP:  $29.95 USD

Website:  www.blackdiamondequipment.com

Collapsed OrbitProduct Description:

The Black Diamond Orbit is a light weight lantern that is designed to pack small.  The globe can be pressed down over the base for transport, then extended for use.   One clever feature I noted was that the globe covers the power button when collapsed, which will prevent the lantern from accidentally being switched on in my pack.  The globe portion of the lantern is a little over 2 in (5 cm) high.  It extends simply by pulling on it.  At first try it was a little stiff, but after a dozen or so openings/closings, it works a little more freely.  The globe has reflectors built into both the bottom and top, with the lamp recessed in a small hole in the center of the lower reflector.  The lamp cannot be seen, and the directions do not indicate whether it can be replaced, although they do state that some replacement parts are available for the lantern.

The base of the lantern has three integrated legs that extend out slightly beyond the bottom edge.  Three smaller support feet that do not extend beyond the base are spaced between the legs.  Both the lantern housing and globe are smooth plastic, with the transparent globe having a slightly frosted appearance.  The lantern I am testing has a charcoal colored housing and base.  The power button and the three legs on the base are orange, and they have a slightly rubbery feel.  The power button is recessed into a slight groove.  The base of the lantern unscrews to reveal the battery holder.  The holder can be freely inserted into the housing; it does not require any special placement.  The battery holder is of typical design with a small spring at one end of each compartment and a base plate at the other, and is clearly marked with + and - symbols to facilitate proper placement of the batteries.

The top of the lantern is charcoal in color, and is embellished with the Black Diamond Equipment logo.  A unique split hanging system folds down into the top for transport, with a portion being pulled up from each side to form a complete semi-circular hanger.  This provides the ability to slip the hanger over my hammock ridgeline or a loop in the top of a tent, then push it closed to stay securely in place without the need for a separate hook to connect hanger to loop or line.

Trying it out:

Although a detailed set of instructions were included in the lantern packaging, I found the smaller lettering hard to read, so relied on intuition to open the lantern and the battery compartment, both of which were easily accomplished.  The batteries were easy to insert in the pack, and I liked not having to line the battery pack up a special way to insert it, which I have found a nuisance with other small collapsible lanterns that I have used in the past.  Turning the lantern on was easily accomplished by just pressing on the power button. 

The light was nice and bright, and of course I immediately blinded myself by peering into the lantern trying to see the bulb.  An even bigger mistake was turning the lantern up to look at the top reflector, which immediately created a nice set of spots before my eyes that hung around for several minutes.  Trust me, this light is bright!  But when one is not making an idiot of themselves trying to peer directly into it, it's nice and diffuse; creating a bright, even glow.

Unique Hanging System

Hanging system views


Preliminary Impressions:

The Orbit was smaller and more compact than I had visualized, but I find that a good thing.  I am really impressed with how bright it is for its size and weight.   The lantern I received is similar in appearance to the Black Diamond website photos other than its color, which does not seem to be one of the current options.

I really like that the power button can't be pressed when the lantern is collapsed, so it won't drain batteries by accidentally turning itself on when jostled around in my pack.  I also really like the split hook hanging system, so I don't have to remember to pack along an extra hook or carabiner to hang it.  The lantern appears to be well made and of quality materials.  It has a pleasant feel in hand, and seems to be nicely balanced, with a heavier base and lighter top, that along with the support legs should provide good stability.

Summary:

The Black Diamond Orbit is a bright, compact, and light weight lantern that is well designed for backpacking use.  Clever features such as the power button being covered when collapsed and the split hook hanging system make it well suited for backpacking.  The ability to use light weight, yet widely available AAA batteries is an additional plus.

This concludes my Initial Report.  Please check back in mid-January for field testing results.

Field Report - February 8, 2011

Orbit in field use


Field Locations and Conditions:

Rocky Mount area of Shenandoah National Park, Virginia - November 2010 ~ 9.5 mi (15 km) overnight backpacking trip.  Night temperatures were  around 30 F (-1 C) range, very little wind overnight while the lantern was in use.

A nice circle of lightUse and Conclusions:

As this was a fireless trip emphasizing Leave No Trace principles, the Orbit was put to good use.  Our group of 7 backpackers settled in around dusk to begin dinner preparations.  As darkness soon fell, the Orbit was put to good use for final food preparation, eating, and collecting/filtering water from a nearby stream.  Although other members had headlamps, another small battery operated lantern, and candle lanterns, the Orbit was by far the brightest, and did not noticeably dim in over 2 hours of use.

We did find that the somewhat narrow base of the lantern means it needs a fairly flat area to sit, and put an extra pouch of freeze dried food to good use to provide a slightly raised, flat surface, which allowed the lantern to put out an amazingly large circle of light.  The photo at the top of this field report was taken with a flash and shows our makeshift lantern 'table'.  The photo at the right was taken without flash, and while out of focus shows the nice size of the circle of light. 

The lantern served just as well when we pumped water from a nearby stream, providing a nice large area of light that allowed us to see the stream, filter, inlet line end, and water containers.  Again, the photo below was taken without flash, producing a fuzzy picture, but showing how well the area was illuminated.

Water filtration illuminated by the Orbit
I also used the Orbit in my hammock to settle in and to read for a while.  I really like the clever design of the split ring in the top, which made it a breeze to hang from my hammock ridgeline.  For use in the hammock, I depressed and held the switch for a lower level of light that was more pleasant to read by.

Altogether I used the Orbit for around 3 hours that night.  I also used it another couple of hours at home to read and navigate around during a brief power failure.

Given that the switch is situated in an indented groove, I was a little surprised to find I had to turn the lantern several times to find the switch in the dark.  The indentation apparently just is not deep enough for me to easily differentiate between it and the remainder of the body.  I do really like that the switch is covered when the lantern is collapsed for transporting, which prevents any possibility of it accidentally turning on and draining the batteries.


Summary:

Overall I really like this little lantern so far, especially for winter trips when darkness falls too early to go straight to sleep.  It is super bright for its weight, compact, and easy to carry in the pack.  I love the convenience of the split ring hanger at the top, and that it cannot be accidentally switched on while collapsed for transport.  One possible improvement would be to have feet that can be extended from the base which would make it a little more stable on uneven surfaces.

Long Term Report - September 12, 2011


Hammocking with the OrbitField Locations and Conditions:

Appalachian Trail near Pearisburg, Virginia - May 2011 ~ 25 mi (40 km) weekend (2-night) backpacking trip.  Night temperatures when the lantern was in use were around the 60 F (15 C) range, with little to no wind, and some moderate rain sprinkles the first night.  I used a hammock with ridge line as my shelter.

Camp Sandy Bend, near Elizabeth, West Virginia - May 2011 ~ weekend (2-night) camping trip at Girl Scout Camp.  Night temperatures were around the 60 F (15 C) range, there was little wind and no rain, and I slept in a canvas platform tent.

Grayson Highland State Park, Virginia - June 2011 ~ weekend (2-night) camping trip with day hikes.  Night temperatures were in the mid 60's to low 70s F (18-23 C) range, with moderate to breezy wind, and steady moderate rain one night.  My shelter was a small car camping style tent.

Camp Sandy Bend, near Elizabeth, West Virginia - June and July 2011 ~ one overnight and two weekend (2-night) camping trips at Girl Scout Camp.  Night temperatures were in the mid to upper 70's F (24-26 C) range, calm winds, with light rain on one night of one of the weekend trips.  I slept in canvas platform tents.

George Washington National Forest, Virginia - September 2011 ~ overnight backpacking trip.  Night temperatures in the low to mid 70's F (22-24 C) range.  Clear and calm weather conditions.  I slept in my hammock.

Use and Conclusions:

Nice and brightAs the day light hours lengthened over the course of the test, I found I did not need the lantern for cooking or camp chores, but that did not mean it wasn't useful.  All of the backpacking trips turned out to be fireless, and the lantern made a nice focal point when sitting around in the late evening hours before retiring to my hammock.  In my hammock I enjoyed being able to hang the lantern from the split ring, but I did find that if I bumped it very much that the ring would separate and the lantern would fall.  This wasn't a huge problem in the hammock, as it doesn't fall very far, but it was a little annoying.  A small clip of some sort that would secure the rings together when desired might be a useful feature.  One thing I really appreciated was being able to leave the lantern hanging in my hammock for those middle of the night bathroom trips.  I am near-sighted, and when I take my contacts out at night, I can't see very far at all.  It was reassuring to turn the Orbit on and have a nice beacon to guide me back in the right direction.  The photo above was taken in my hammock, using a flash to show the details of the Orbit in focus, while the photo to the right was taken without flash to show how bright the lantern is.

And I adored the Orbit for car camping.  It was so small and compact that it was a pleasure to pack, and I could throw it in a daypack that I carried about with me back and forth to the shower house, or in my clothing duffle to keep it handy in my tent.  The base with the integrated legs was sturdy enough on the relatively level area of my tent floor that I never experienced problems with the lantern wanting to tip over, as long as I used reasonable care not to bump it.  It was ideal on the floor boards of the platform tents, which provided a very level and sturdy surface to use the lantern.

I really like the way the globe slides over the base.  This makes the lantern more compact to store, serves to strengthen the globe while it is in transit to prevent shattering or breakage, and prevents the on button from accidentally being depressed and draining the battery.  The only drawback I've found with the Orbit is that the on switch is not very prominent, and I have often had to switch on a headlamp or pinch light to find the switch.  Since I would always want to carry some sort of back-up light anyway, this isn't a huge problem, but it is something I would like to see improved just for the sake of convenience.

Summary:

Overall the Black Diamond Orbit is a winner in my book.  Ever since I started backpacking, I've been working on lightening my pack, and have found myself leaving many items at home that I once thought were essential.  And yet, I find myself adding a whopping 4.6 oz (130 g) because I really like this little lantern, and expect I will carry it on most future trips.

The Orbit is very bright for its weight, compact and easy to pack, and sturdy enough that I can just throw it in anywhere and not worry about it breaking.  The split ring at the top makes it convenient to hang, however I would like to see a mechanism to lock the split in place when desired.  While I like not worrying about the lantern accidentally switching on while being transported, I would like the on switch to be a bit easier to find in the dark.  An additional improvement would be extendable feet on the base, for times when the available surfaces aren't very level.

Likes:

Very bright at full setting, can be adjusted down
Light weight and compact
Useful split ring hanger
Switch cannot be activated accidentally when collapsed for transport
Stable on level surfaces

Dislikes:

Stability on uneven surfaces could be improved
Switch is difficult to find in the dark
Split ring sometimes separates when the lantern is bumped

Thanks to Black Diamond Equipment and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the Orbit Lantern.


Read more reviews of Black Diamond gear
Read more gear reviews by Pamela Wyant

Reviews > Lighting > Lanterns > Black Diamond Orbit Lantern 2010 > Test Report by Pamela Wyant



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