Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Rubber-tipped legs, dimming feature, dual metal hooks for hanging, cool design, durable, easy to use.
Cons: Could be brighter.
Best Uses: Camping, emergency light, group backcountry travel.
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
The Black Diamond Apollo won our Editors' Choice award for being the best overall lantern for a range of activities. The Apollo scored highest due to its ease of use, durability, and practical features. Though not the brightest product we tested, it provides ample light without blinding you. The clouded plastic surrounding the lamp provides pleasant light quality as well. The Apollo was fantastic for setting up camp at night, cooking, lighting up a tent, or lighting up a room during a power outage. Its tripod-style rubber-tipped legs and two-sided metal hooks allow it to be easily positioned in a variety of places. All these features make this product very versatile, and that is why it won the Editors' Choice award.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Meet the Black Diamond Apollo. Though its appearance is more reminiscent of a NASA space contraption than classic lanterns of the past, the innovative design blew us away. It's a fantastic all-around product; we found the Apollo to be the most versatile, durable and easy to use for a range of activities.
Coming in at 80 lumens, the Black Diamond Apollo is excellent for efficiently lighting up an area without being overpowering like some of the other models tested. Black Diamond's unique design reflects an LED light off the inner roof of the lantern. This evenly disperses the light, preventing direct eye contact with the LED light bulb as well as radiating a very nice non-glaring light. Surrounding the light is clouded plastic, which improves the light quality as well. If you want the light do be less bright for battery conservation for activities like reading, you are able to dim the light to your desired brightness level.
Looking for the stadium light effect? Check out the General Electric ChromaLit 3D
Ease of Use
We gave the Black Diamond Apollo a 10/10 in this category for its outstanding yet simple design. All of its amazing features also made it easier to use than the other contenders. Pulling up on the top exposes the on/off button, which when pushed once turns it on, and when held down it dims. Using lanterns in areas without tree coverage can be frustrating. Your options are to place them on the ground or balance them on a rock, table, or car. Black Diamond solves this problem by creating a design with legs. The Apollo's three rubber-tipped legs create a flexible tripod, great for uneven surfaces (particularly rocks) and they are very easy to put down. On the top small metal hooks flip up and allow it to be hung onto branches or through loops inside of your tent. Because it features two opposing hooks instead of just one, a piece of cord or webbing can be put through the clasps like a small handle, allowing it to be securely hung on just about anything. When not in use, the Apollo can be compressed into a compact cylinder, great for traveling and storage.
Despite multiple camping trips along the West Coast, our Apollo still looks brand new (and it is still white!). After years of use we could foresee the sliding mechanism getting a bit sticky, but overall the Apollo is sturdy and well made. The metal hooks and metal legs feel strong and over time their springiness will probably decrease. To get the most battery life, we recommend using the lower brightness settings whenever possible. There are also many reviews online which say that using the Black Diamond NRG Rechargeable Battery Kit extends the battery life/run time. You can then add the Black Diamond NRG / NRG2 Car Charger Kit to power and recharge the lantern from your car. The battery pack can easily be accessed by unscrewing the bottom.
Like we mentioned before the Apollo can easily be dimmed to the desired brightness by holding down the main button. A creative feature on all of the Black Diamond products that we loved is how the globe slides down over the body, greatly reducing the overall size, and conveniently covering the on/off button. This keeps it cleaner, and eliminates that awful moment when you realize it was jostled and has been on in your backpack the whole time (!). The Apollo also features three small LED lights that disclose the remaining battery life with three colors: Green, orange/yellow, and red. This is also the only option with legs, which help a lot when positioning it. The hooks on the top are also probably the best of all the models we tested as well.
The Apollo also contains a charging port on the front for those who have purchased the NRG Rechargeable Battery Kit.
The Apollo is great at just about everything, but we would recommend it for your camping endeavors over the emergency situations. It does a great job of lighting up any campsite for groups less than 10 people. With the recharge kit, it would be an excellent choice for extended backcountry travel as well, especially base camp situations.
This lantern is listed at $50 but can usually be found on sale for $10 less, making it a great deal either way. You get high quality light, versatility and a durable product that will last you years of use. Something else that you might not think of when contemplating your purchase is the type of batteries it takes. The Apollo uses AA batteries, which are definitely cheaper over time than AAA and D batteries and should be factored into your purchasing decision.
If your on a budget and are still looking to get a great bright product check out the Rayovac Sportsman, our Best Buy award winner.
The Black Diamond Apollo is unlike any other lantern we have seen/used, and that is what sets it apart. While its features are innovative, they are not overly complicated. Everything about it just makes sense. It is light and compact, durable, reliable and extraordinarily easy to use. For $50, it is a worthy investment and may quickly find itself among your outdoor essentials. Out of all the other lanterns we tested, we found that we always tended to reach for this one first.
Other Versions and Accessories
Another eco-friendly benefit to the Black Diamond Apollo is the Black Diamond NRG Rechargeable Battery Kit, $30, available separately. The battery charger works similarly to a cell phone charger. Though we did not test the battery pack, the manufacturer claims that it lasts for over 2,000 charges, and some reviewers on Amazon claimed that it lasted longer than normal batteries.
The other models from Black Diamond from smallest to largest
Black Diamond Orbit, $30: 45 lumens
Black Diamond Voyager, $40: 75 lumens
Black Diamond Apollo, $50: 80 lumens
Black Diamond Titan, $80: 250 lumens
Watch a Video of the Apollo from Black Diamond
— Devin Chance and Audrey Bayless
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: June 27, 2014
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