Black Diamond Apollo Review
Cons: Could be brighter for large groups, replaceable batteries run out quickly
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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Our Analysis and Test Results
This lantern has an innovative design that impressed us from sunset to sunrise. It's a fantastic all-around product; we found the Apollo to be versatile, durable, and easy to use for a range of activities. It doesn't earn the highest marks in every metric, but it is consistent across the board. This light is a reliable product that has provided us with ample illumination for many nights of quality camping.
Shining at a maximum of 225 lumens, the Apollo efficiently lights an area but is still comfortable enough to look at directly. Black Diamond's unique design casts an even, comparatively warm glow for an LED lantern. The light is also surrounded by an opaque plastic cover, which improves the light quality. If you want to conserve energy or don't need it at full brightness, it is easy to dim by holding down the power button.
It can illuminate a picnic table or cooking area, providing enough light for 3 or 4 people (as long as they don't have to wander too far away from one another). It has very useful legs but it still does better when it is hanging up overhead or placed on a shelf above head height. It's a nice all-around option when you want to be able to move from cooking outside to reading in your tent.
Overall the Apollo is sturdy and well made. After a handful of camping trips along both American coasts, our model still looks brand new. We tested its splash-resistance rating by leaving it out in the rain a few times and we never had any issues. We even dunked it in a river and it still works just like it ever did. We could imagine that the plastic casing could crack if it were to fall from a high tree branch onto a rock, but it never looked any worse for wear after repeated drops on a softer dirt surface.
To get the most battery life, we recommend using the lower brightness settings whenever possible. The bottom of the base also has nice rubberized footpads that stabilize it on smooth surfaces even when the metal legs are folded up. If you plan to use it for an emergency box for power outages, just be sure to check the built-in battery periodically so that you don't get caught without it charged.
The Apollo has a great combination of features that take the lantern beyond just another light. It runs off of a rechargeable internal 2600 mA battery, with a compartment for 3 AA backup batteries if you need some extra juice. This is the best of both worlds, enabling you to recharge the built-in battery via the included micro-USB cable, but without leaving you in the dark if you can't get to an outlet quickly enough. It also comes equipped with two sets of blue charge indicator lights, one for the replaceable batteries and one for the rechargeable one. At max brightness, the lantern runs for 6 hours off of the internal battery and then automatically switches to the AAs and runs for another 18 hours. Using it primarily for solo use, dimmed to its lowest setting, we were able to get almost two full days of straight runtime, which should be enough for over a week of evening and nighttime use without recharging.
It also comes with a USB charge out port to power up a phone or other small electronic device. This significantly reduces the runtime, but similarly can provide a quick boost if you need to take that one more photo or send another message. This also makes it an attractive choice as a backup power source if you find yourself in an unexpected power outage and your phone battery is running low.
This lantern is one of the few we tested that has retractable legs, which are incredibly helpful when positioning it. Each leg flexes independently meaning that the Apollo can be set down on uneven surfaces. If you don't have any trees around, it's still very possible to get the light you need.
Ease of Use
We love the Apollo for its thoughtful, yet simple design. Its feature set also made it easier to use than other contenders. The textured, rubber power button is the same as other Black Diamond models; one press turns it on, holding it down dims or brightens it and pressing it a second time turns it off.
The Apollo is also simple to position on a horizontal surface. Its three rubber-tipped legs create a flexible tripod, which also means it can be placed on uneven surfaces. The top of the lantern has two opposing metal hooks that flip up, enabling the light to hang on a tree branch or through a loop on the ceiling of a tent. You can also attach a carabiner if you need to hang it from something larger than the narrow hooks can accommodate. When not in use, the Apollo can be closed up into a compact cylinder, great for traveling and storage. The external battery compartment is also very easy to access by unscrewing the top.
The Apollo weighs just over half a pound (without AA batteries) and folds up compactly into a unit a little larger than a tennis ball: 5 inches high, 3 inches in top diameter and 2 1/4 inches at the base. When opened, it is 9 1/2 inches tall, has a 3-inch diameter on the top and a 5 1/3 inch footprint. We wouldn't take it on long-haul backpacking trips, but it fits nicely in a spare water bottle pocket for a 2- or 3-day adventure.
For everything this lantern has going for it, we think it is a little on the pricey side. We could envision folks who are just as happy with one of the smaller but much less expensive offerings in this category. We think it offers a solid value though because of its versatility and quality, both of which are sure to serve you well in the long run.
The Black Diamond Apollo is unique. Its features are innovative, but not overly complicated. Everything about it makes sense. It is compact, durable, reliable, and easy to use. It is an investment that may quickly find itself among your outdoor essentials. Of all the lanterns we tested, the Apollo is the one we tended to reach for first.
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch