Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: NRG Recharge Kit available, lightweight, durable, versatile.
Cons: Unstable at times due to small base.
Best Uses: Backpacking, camping, emergency use in car and home.
The Black Diamond Orbit won our Top Pick award for being the best lightweight portable lantern. Although it was not as bright as the Editors' Choice award-winning Black Diamond Apollo, we found it perfect for personal one-or-two-person situations. From being a great little accessory for backpacking to being the perfect size to stash in your car or home in case of emergencies, the Orbit is a great, cheap, lightweight and versatile alternative to the much larger, brighter products out there. It also is the same price as our Best Buy award winner, the Rayovac Sportsman.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Update - March 2015
The Orbit has gotten a makeover; the latest version now has a DoublePower LED and 60 lumens (versus 45 lumens in the old version), as well as 50 lumens in flashlight mode. When both the lower and main LEDs are on, the Orbit now boasts 105 lumens.
"The changes are mainly increased lumens. This was done by moving the LED position within the housing and changing the globe to have better refraction." --Black Diamond, Director of Lighting
Below and left is the latest version in blue, compared to the older version in red.
The Orbit's 45 lumens made it the second lowest scoring in brightness, next to the Coleman Mini Micropacker (13 lumens, but at a great price). Don't be fooled, the efficient design uses a duel reflector system to effectively maximize its lumen output. The frosted plastic surrounding the light creates pleasant light quality that won't hurt the eyes. Realistically, the Orbit is a more personal lantern. It won't replace your headlamp, and it won't create artificial daylight. However, the beauty of bringing a lantern rather than just a headlamp is that it creates centralized 360-degree light.
If you are looking for a larger, brighter option, then check out the Best Buy award-winning Rayovac Sportsman. The Sportsman is the same price as the Orbit but excels in emergencies and camping trips where weight is not an issue.
Ease of Use
We loved how easy to use the Orbit product was; it is such a barebones simple design that's very straightforward and convenient. There's one button in the middle that when pressed turns on high power. Then to dim to conserve power you simply hold the button down to reach the desired brightness and release. You could say this about them all and that we are being nitpicky, but when we were camping and had to get up in the middle of the night, it was blinding. We just wish there was a way to keep the low setting as default or something, however this is easily fixed by covering it before turning it on.
This product does have a small base and causes it to be tricky to set on things. If possible we prefer to hang it with the simple metal hooks on the top. These can easily be used to hang the Orbit inside of a tent or on a tree branch. We were able to use these hooks perfectly on our hatchback of the car, which made setting up camp in the dark much less of a burden.
Tired of replacing batteries? Add the Black Diamond NRG2 Rechargeable Battery Kit and you can recharge your lantern from a wall socket or you can add the Black Diamond NRG / NRG2 Car Charger Kit and power or recharge your lantern from your car.
Small and strong is what comes to mind when thinking of this product. It's so tiny and simple that there aren't that many parts to worry about breaking. It uses a very sturdy design, with rubber accents in the plastic for stability. It is also equipped with an LED light which lasts practically forever compared to older halogen models. There are many reviews of this product having a "flimsy design," but we have to disagree. People may be thinking its lightweight design means that it is less durable, but the plastic is very strong.
One thing that seemed like it might become an issue after years of use would be the sliding mechanism. Over time this mechanism might become a little sticky; it also puts a lot of force onto the whole thing when pulled open.
The Orbit is equipped with two metal hooks on the top that allow it to be securely suspended from anything the hooks can fit around. We loved the dimming feature on the Orbit as well; it allows for a large brightness spectrum, making it great for anything from cooking and campsite setup to reading in your tent. The rubber on/off button can be a little tricky to find in the dark, but it is easy to push on and off. We loved how all the Black Diamond models have a sliding globe that compresses them (the Orbit isv5.5 inches extended and 4 inches compressed). This makes them smaller and also protects the on/off button from being turned on when it's packed away. One last feature to note is the rubberized base, which helping its stability when set down.
Take the Black Diamond Orbit backpacking. Without the ambient light of cities and towns, the Orbit will make your pristine backcountry site feel lovely. We awarded the Orbit Top Pick because it is ultra-portable and designed for adventure. This product is meant to be a personal lantern, may it be solo adventures, backpacking in small groups, overnight climbing trips or traveling. It is lightweight and versatile. In addition to these "minimalist" uses, we found that it excelled as a secondary backup on camping trips. We enjoyed bringing a brighter, larger alternative like the Editors' Choice award-winning Black Diamond Apollo as the central light source, and using the Orbit for the cook area, tent or to shed extra light on a game of cards. All of the reviewers felt a strong connection to this little guy and agreed that it is the best lightweight personal option.
The Orbit is fairly priced, but you get what you pay for. It was built to last, and considering the price of many ultra-light goods, $30 is reasonable. However, before you make the purchase, bear in mind that there is a newer model that was just released. The new Orbit also has a light on the bottom, similar to the Black Diamond Voyager. This means that the Orbit we reviewed is already going on sale, making it an even better value. We highly recommend this product for the intended uses, not to mention it will probably last for many years. Another great personal version is the Snow Peak Mini Hozuki. However, compared to the Orbit, the Snow Peak cannot stand on its own. This is one of the reasons that the Orbit won Top Pick over the Hozuki.
So, should you buy this? The Black Diamond Orbit won our Top Pick award for being the best small lantern. It's lightweight, durable and easy to use. We absolutely love how personal it is and all the little features it is equipped with. If you are headed outdoors for the night (or many nights) you won't regret the extra 4.7 ounces. We highly recommend this product. There's a newer model currently available, so it's pretty much guaranteed that you can find this on sale for a great price. Keep in mind that it is a smaller model and it's not super bright, but this is perfect for individual or small backcountry groups. If you are looking for a larger, brighter option for around the same price, then check out the Best Buy award-winning Rayovac Sportsman.
Other Versions and Accessories
The Orbit is the baby in the Black Diamond lantern family. There are three versions larger and brighter.
From smallest to largest
Black Diamond Orbit: 45 lumens
Black Diamond Voyager: 75 lumens
Black Diamond Apollo: 80 lumens and Editor's Choice Award
Black Diamond Titan: 250 lumens
There is also a recharging kit available which comes with a rechargeable battery pack and different outlet adapters so you can charge it internationally. We haven't tested this kit but it seems like a great value considering the price of AAA batteries these days, this accessory will pay for itself rather fast; purchase the AAA Rechargeable 4 Pk, $13 and the NRG Rechargeable Battery Kit, $30.
— Devin Chance and Audrey Bayless
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Most recent review: March 16, 2015
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