The Black Diamond Apollo is our pick for the best overall lantern. It scores highest because of its ease of use, durability, and practical features. Though not the brightest product we tested, it provides ample light for both small and larger groups. The opaque plastic surrounding the lamp creates a pleasant light quality as well. The Apollo was great 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 dual metal hooks mean it is comfortably positioned on a variety of surfaces. All these features make it exceptionally versatile, earning it our Editors' Choice Award for the overall best option.
Black Diamond Apollo Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Rubber-tipped legs, dimming feature, dual metal hooks for hanging, cool design, durable, easy to use
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 didn't always earn the highest marks in any given 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. In that regard, it is superior to the Primus EasyLight and Coleman Northstar, both of which can be damagingly uncomfortable to glance at. 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.
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 its smaller siblings, the Black Diamond Moji and Zip; 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. Its three rubber-tipped legs create a flexible tripod, great for uneven surfaces, especially rocks. 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. 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.
Overall the Apollo is sturdy and well made. After a handful of camping trips along both American coasts, our Apollo still looks brand new. We tested its splash-resistance rating by leaving it out in the rain a few times and it performed well. 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 has nice rubberized foot pads that stabilize it on smooth surfaces even when the metal legs are folded up.
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 the only one 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. It comes in three colors, octane (red), graphite, and Powell blue.
If you do want something even a little brighter, but with way more features, check out the BioLite BaseLantern XL.
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 trip.
The Apollo is a versatile product. We recommend it for front-country camping adventures, or weekend backpacking trips, where weight is not a primary concern. It does a great job of lighting up a campsite for groups of 3-5 people. We would also trust it in a power outage because of its dual internal/external batteries and USB charge out port.
This lantern is listed at $60 and is usually on sale for less. At its retail price, there are only a few lights we tested that are less expensive (primarily Black Diamond's other, smaller models, the Moji and the Zip). We think it offers a solid value because of its versatility and quality.
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. For $60, it is a worthy investment and 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