Hands-on Gear Review

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
By: Ben Applebaum-Bauch ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 15, 2018
Price:  $130 List  |  $129.95 at REI
Pros:  Tons of features, bright
Cons:  Some features can be temperamental
Manufacturer:   BioLite
70
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 11
  • Brightness - 40% 8
  • Ease of Use - 25% 6
  • Durability - 10% 6
  • Features - 15% 8
  • Weight - 20% 6

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. With the free BioLite app for Android and iOS, you can unlock the full host of features. It's expensive, and we think the app takes it a little overboard, but it's a decent, bright light, suitable for car or RV camping.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

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Performance Comparison


This one comes with all the bells and whistles. It's bright and charged our phones quickly (50% in 1 hour 15 minutes, 100% in just under 3 hours). It's not super practical for backpacking, but it performs admirably in large spaces and brings a little extra flair to the night.

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 an LED behemoth. Because it is so bright, it is also difficult to look at or over. 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.

Ease of Use


The base features are relatively straightforward. Once the lantern is charged, you can control the light modes using the power button. 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 could act as a loop to hang the lantern on a branch, but the product is so heavy that we had trouble finding branches 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.

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, the light cover would crack.

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, 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 them).

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.

Weight/Size


We found the BaseLantern XL to be a little clunky. Though its two metal legs fold up compactly, at almost 1 ½ pounds, we preferred to keep this thing at basecamp instead of in our packs.

Best Applications


It offers a solid amount of light for fairly large rooms, so we would recommend the Biolite BaseLantern XL for car or RV camping. If you have kids, we would even recommend it for slumber parties because of its 'fun' factor.

Value


The Biolite BaseLantern XL is pricey. It's $130 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 brighter and charges more reliably than the GoalZero Lighthouse 400, 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

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