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BioLite BaseLantern XL Review

The lantern that boosts the fun at a party and provides a single, bright light source at a campsite.
BioLite BaseLantern XL
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Price:  $130 List | $129.95 at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Tons of features, bright, 180/360 light settings, bluetooth compatible
Cons:  Some features can be temperamental, expensive
Manufacturer:   BioLite
By Ben Applebaum-Bauch ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 12, 2019
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65
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 12
  • Brightness - 40% 8
  • Durability - 20% 5
  • Features - 20% 7
  • Ease of Use - 10% 5
  • Weight - 10% 4

Our Verdict

The Biolite BaseLantern XL packs in a ton of tech. It has a built-in rechargeable battery that reliably lasted about 80 hours on low and over 100 in color mode. It's hefty, but it is one of the few lights in this review that really illuminates a large space. With the free BioLite app for Android and iOS, you can unlock the full host of features that are both practical and fun. It's expensive, and we think the app takes it a little overboard, but it's an interesting, bright light, suitable for car or RV camping.


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Price $129.95 at REI
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Pros Tons of features, bright, 180/360 light settings, bluetooth compatibleRubber-tipped legs, dimming feature, dual metal hooks for hanging, durableVery long battery life, tough and durable, provides a nice soft diffused lightDurable, packed with features, water resistant, floatsLightweight, solar-powered, durable, inexpensive, packs flat
Cons Some features can be temperamental, expensiveCould be brighter for large groups, replaceable batteries run out quicklyGlow-in-the-dark doesn't work very well, hook on the bottom is not very sturdy, hard to reattach bottom after replacing batteries.Can't fully adjust the amount of light output, limited to four settings, smallLow lumen output, can't fit in pocket
Bottom Line The lantern that boosts the fun at a party and provides a single, bright light source at a campsite.The best all-around lantern for backpacking, camping, and power outages.A durable lantern with exceptional battery life.This little lantern is tough and versatile.A fun, durable lantern that's great for a weekend out in a tent.
Rating Categories BioLite BaseLantern XL Black Diamond Apollo 30-Day Duro Glow Streamlight The Siege Goal Zero Crush Light
Brightness (40%)
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8
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6
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8
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5
Durability (20%)
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5
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8
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7
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7
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8
Features (20%)
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7
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9
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7
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5
Ease Of Use (10%)
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9
Weight (10%)
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9
Specs BioLite... Black Diamond Apollo 30-Day Duro Glow Streamlight The... Goal Zero Crush...
Weight (with batteries, in ounces) 22.88 oz 10.19 oz 29.28 oz 9.14 oz 3.67 oz
Lumens 500 225 700 200 60
Size (inches) 5.08 x 5.0 x 1.73 9.5 x 3.3 x 5.3 7.2 x 3.75 2.4 x 2.4 x 5.4 4.95 x 4.95 x 4`
Number of batteries 1 3 3 3 N/a
Battery type 12000 mAh Rechargeable Internal Battery AA D AA None
Waterproof rating IPX4 IPX 4 "Water resistant" IPX7 IPX4
Manufacturer run time (hours) 78 hrs on low, 7.5 hrs on high 24 hrs 22 hrs on high, 30 days on low 7-37 hrs 3.5 hrs

Our Analysis and Test Results

We had a lot of fun with this light. It elevates a basic lantern into the generation of the internet-of-things, which we recognize isn't for everyone. Even if you choose to use this light without the smartphone app, it still offers a good set of basic features, not least of which is a good, bright light. It's not super practical for backpacking, but it performs admirably in large spaces and brings a little extra flair to the night.

Performance Comparison


The Biolite Baselantern XL creates a more comfortable light experience using just 180 degrees of light  without sacrificing too much brightness.
The Biolite Baselantern XL creates a more comfortable light experience using just 180 degrees of light, without sacrificing too much brightness.

Brightness


Shining at 500 lumens, the BaseLantern XL lights up large spaces fairly well. We put it to work in the dark, using it as the primary light source in rooms up to 24' x 12'. On a counter in the center of the space, it kept all four corners bright enough to do most tasks.

Though it's difficult to look at directly  the Baselantern XL is very bright  offering enough light to illuminate both kitchen and living room.
Though it's difficult to look at directly, the Baselantern XL is very bright, offering enough light to illuminate both kitchen and living room.

The light quality is kind of harsh though. The Biolite app allows you to adjust the warmth of the light, adding in more blue or yellow, depending on your preference. Even at its warmest, we still found that the BaseLantern XL never really let us forget that it was a LED behemoth. Because it is so bright, it is also difficult to look at or over it. We preferred to use just 180 degrees of light and set it off to the side, rather than place it at the center of the action.

Durability


The weight of this product is the downfall of its durability. Though it's more water repellent than it looks, if the BaseLantern XL is dropped (or falls off a branch) onto a hard surface, we suspect that the brittle light cover would crack. It's hefty, it's just not that outdoorsy. Having said that, it does come with an IPX4 rating, meaning that it can withstand splashing water from all directions.

Features


This lantern comes with a laundry list of features. It can also be connected inline to Biolite's string light systems. It charges via micro USB and has two USB charge out ports. The BaseLantern XL reliably and quickly charged phones and tablets (50% in 1 hour 15 minutes, 100% in just under 3 hours for an iPhone 6), though it was sometimes finicky about whether or not the light needed to be on to start charging devices (it could always be turned off once the lantern recognized the device).

Charging a tablet and the Suaoki LED Camping Lantern at the same time.
Charging a tablet and the Suaoki LED Camping Lantern at the same time.

Download the free Biolite app to your Android or iOS smartphone and it automatically pairs your device to the lantern via Bluetooth. Once the lantern is connected, it's game on. The user interface of the app is mostly taken up by a large power button, which you can also 'rotate' to adjust the brightness of the lantern. There's a slider at the bottom of the screen that enables you either to adjust the warmth of the white light mode or select the color in rainbow mode.

The user interface of the BaseLantern XL app (for iOS). On the left  the homescreen  featuring a large power and brightness control dial  with a warmth/color slider at the bottom. On the right  a secondary menu screen with some of the lantern's additional features.
The user interface of the BaseLantern XL app (for iOS). On the left, the homescreen, featuring a large power and brightness control dial, with a warmth/color slider at the bottom. On the right, a secondary menu screen with some of the lantern's additional features.

The screen also indicates whether or not the lantern is charging any devices as well as the amount of runtime left in the lantern, which adjusts depending on the mode and brightness selected. Our testing suggested though that even slight changes to the settings could dramatically change this reading. In one instance, we had it jump from almost 91 hours to 27 hours a minute after plugging in a phone.

You can also control whether it shines 180 or 360 degrees of light. The app also unlocks what we called 'party time': pulse, strobe and chill modes as well as the ability to sync the flashing pattern to the beat rate of music, though again, we found this feature to be temperamental and inconsistent. There is a lot in there, but not all of it is totally necessary. If you just need the basics and want them to work well, the Black Diamond Apollo is still your best bet.

Ease of Use


The base features are relatively straightforward. Once the lantern is charged, you can control the light modes using the power button on the lantern itself. Press once to turn on either color mode, 180- or 360 degrees of white light. Wait a couple of seconds and press the power button again to turn it off. Holding the button down in any of the modes also dims or brightens the light. The trick is that the lantern will 'remember' which mode it was last in before it was turned off, so the order of the settings may appear to be different even though it's running through the same three modes.

The legs fold down easily and can adjust to either keep the lantern upright or angled up or down. The legs also act as a loop to hang the lantern on a tree, however, the product is so heavy that we had trouble finding branches above head height that it wouldn't pull down or slide off of.

This light looks out of place in the woods. It's too heavy to hang on the ends of most branches.
This light looks out of place in the woods. It's too heavy to hang on the ends of most branches.

Weight


We found the BaseLantern XL to be clunky and inelegant. Though its two metal legs fold up compactly, at almost 1.5 pounds this thing is designed to stay at basecamp instead of in your pack. Even setting that aside, it's just not particularly nice to look at — its form seems out of step with its function.

Value


The Biolite BaseLantern XL is pricey. Its price tag makes it by far the most expensive lantern in this review. Though it has tons of features, we just aren't convinced that a lantern needs everything that this one offers.

Conclusion


It's an ambitious product, but at the end of the day, a lantern just doesn't need to be like this. It's bright, which is what you want a light this size to be, but the suite of features that the app makes available just set us up to be let down. Some of them are cool for sure, but sometimes when we just needed it to be a light, the BaseLantern XL was too busy convincing us we wanted a dance party.


Ben Applebaum-Bauch