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Gear Review — Black Diamond Orbit Lantern

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The Gear Junkie: Black Diamond Equipment Orbit Lantern

Black Diamond Equipment LTD is among the most vaunted of outdoors companies, an outfit with a legendary founder, Yvon Chouinard, and innovations that span from ice screws to avalanche-survival breathing apparatuses.

And now this month the company has released a camping lantern.

Sounds pedestrian, I know. But the Orbit is a neat accoutrement for backpacking trips or hut-to-hut ski excursions. It’s a new take on the lantern category, with a build that’s got a solid, expeditionary feel.

Black Diamond Equipment Orbit Lantern, open position

At $29.95, Black Diamond (www.bdel.com) calls the Orbit a “pocket-sized, collapsible backcountry mini lantern.” Push down and the lantern compacts to a 4-inch-high cylinder that goes small and unnoticed in a pack.

When you want light, pull up the plastic “globe” component to create a 5.5-inch standing lantern that shines an umbrella of glow from a single L.E.D., granting enough illumination to prepare dinner, organize gear, read or play checkers while storm-bound in a tent.

The 3-ounce light source — about 4.5 ounces with its requisite four AAA batteries — has frosted clear plastic to maximize light output and minimize lantern shadows. You can adjust brightness by pressing and holding the on/off button: The light dims and then climbs back up to its brightest setting, allowing you to customize the exact light you need versus the battery output you hope to save.

Black Diamond cites the Orbit as having between 10 and 25 hours of battery life. This varies on battery type and brightness setting.

Orbit Lantern, closed position

Hooks on top of the unit let you attach it inside a tent or outdoors on a tree branch. Three small rubber feet on the base serve to stabilize when the lantern is set on a table.

In my tests, the Orbit performed as promised, illuminating a 10-person tent I employed while car camping in September. Outdoors, it easily lit up a picnic table when hung a couple feet above.

One design flaw: When you compact the unit to put it away, the L.E.D. does not automatically turn off, though you cannot see any illumination coming from the unit. I accidentally collapsed the light more than once and stashed it away thinking the L.E.D. was off — unknowingly draining battery power.

But this same collapsible design can also save battery life. Once shut, the case hides the on/off switch to guard from accidental operation while in a pocket or pack.

Remember to turn it off when finished, and the Orbit should be a reliable source of light for reading, cooking or preparing for the day to come on most any type of adventure.

Stephen Regenold writes a daily blog on outdoors gear at www.gearjunkie.com.

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