The Black Diamond Apollo is our pick for the best overall lantern. The Apollo scored 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 provides 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 two-sided metal hooks mean it can be easily positioned in a variety of places. All these features make it exceptionally versatile, earning it acclaim as the overall best option.
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
Meet the Black Diamond Apollo, the lantern with an innovative design that impressed us from sunset to sunrise. It's a fantastic all-around product; we found the Apollo to be the most versatile, durable, and easy to use light for a range of activities.
Shining at 250 lumens, the Apollo efficiently lights an area but is still comfortable enough to look at directly, unlike the Primus EasyLight or the Coleman Northstar. Black Diamond's unique design casts an even, warm glow, preventing direct eye contact with the LED light bulb. The light is surrounded by an opaque plastic cover, which improves the light quality as well. It is also easy to dim for activities that don't require maximum brightness.
If you're looking for more of a stadium light effect, we recommend the Coleman Northstar.
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 sibling, the Black Diamond Moji; 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 easy to position. Its three rubber-tipped legs create a flexible tripod, great for uneven surfaces, particularly 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. It is splash resistant, and we left it out in some light rain on a couple of occasions without any issue. 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. There are two sets of blue 'charge remaining' indicator lights, one for each set of batteries. 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. 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 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 lantern is the only one we tested that has legs, which are incredibly helpful when positioning it. Each leg flexes independently meaning that the Apollo can be set down on some fairly 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.
Weight / Size
The Apollo weighs less than a half pound (without AA batteries) and folds up compactly into a unit 5 inches high, 3 inches in top diameter and 2 1/4 inches at the base. When opened, it is 9.5 inches tall, has a 3-inch diameter on the top and a 5 1/3 inch footprint.
The Apollo is great at just about everything, but we would recommend it for camping adventures more than for emergency situations. It does a great job of lighting up a campsite for groups of fewer than 10 people, but it's also light enough to take backpacking.
This lantern is listed at $60 but can usually be found on sale for $10 less. There are many $20 lanterns that perform well but are not quite as refined or easy to use as the Apollo.
If you're on a budget, check out the MPOWERD Luci Outdoor 2.0. It's lightweight and solar powered.
The Black Diamond Apollo is unique. Its features are innovative, but not overly complicated. Everything about it just makes sense. It is lightweight, 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.
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: March 15, 2018
100% of 2 reviewers recommend it
This is a great lantern for car camping, and maybe for a base camp, but for a backpacking trip, I'd look to something lighter. It produces plenty of light and can be bright if you look directly at it, but isn't too bad with the frosted shade. Battery life is amazing. It's also light enough that you can use it from most hang points in a tent without issues though it isn't my first choice for that.
Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
I wouldn't use it backpacking, but for car camping or when the power goes out this is a great lantern. I find it amazingly bright, but the frosted shade keeps it from being blinding. The control is easy to use and offers a wide range of brightness. Battery life is excellent.
Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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