The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Black Diamond Zip Review

This pocket-sized light delivers in all the ways that a basic lantern should
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $30 List | $29.95 at REI
Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  Compact, dual flashlight/lantern, lightweight
Cons:  No feet or legs, short battery life, limited features
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
By Ben Applebaum-Bauch ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 19, 2018
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Our Verdict

The Black Diamond Zip is an excellent light for small group gatherings and time in the tent on backpacking trips. It's more powerful than its size initially lets on and comes with some tried-and-true features and Black Diamond durability that we love. Its dual lantern/flashlight offers some versatility for solo use, and it fits discretely in a pants pocket. We would even recommend keeping one in your car in case you get caught in a winter storm or other emergent situation. It's not going to blow you away with any above-and-beyond features, but the ones that it does include, perform well. This one earns a Best Buy award for reliable performance in a pocket-sized package and a pocket-friendly price.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

It took us a little while to get used to a lantern that is this small. However, we quickly learned that it is a mistake to underestimate its performance based on its size. We took it out on the trail to test it in our tents and tucked it in our pockets for some rustic, early fall cabin camping.

Performance Comparison


This lantern scores well across the board. Though it isn't as bright as many other contenders, it outshines its other Black Diamond counterpart, the Moji.

Don't let its size fool you  this lantern shines. It lights up the corners of a tent enough for it to be a single  centralized light source in that kind of space.
Don't let its size fool you, this lantern shines. It lights up the corners of a tent enough for it to be a single, centralized light source in that kind of space.

Brightness


The Zip will easily illuminate a tent. Its lantern function shines at 150 lumens, which is bright for its size. It comes with an opaque light cover over the 5 LEDs to soften the light a bit. It has a nice uniform light quality as well, unlike some of the other lanterns in this review, such as the MPOWERD Luci Outdoor 2.0. We also used it indoors in a couple of different common living spaces and found that it was adequate (not great) for a room as large as 8'x12'. We also took it out during a mock nighttime roadside repair and found that it did an excellent job of lighting up under the hood.

It illuminates everything under the hood in case your car breaks down on the road at night.
It illuminates everything under the hood in case your car breaks down on the road at night.

The flashlight offers a 100-lumen beam from a single, highly focused LED. We found that its shine radius wasn't quite as wide as a standard headlamp, but we still like that we have the choice to toggle between the two light modes. It's better for work up close than trying to spot any monsters in the distant forest.


Our testing also showed that this light chews through batteries, especially on lantern mode. At 15 hours on low, we got modestly more burn time from the lantern than the advertised 12, but even so, considering the number of batteries it requires, and lack of alternative charging options, it isn't the most sustainable option of the lights we tested.

Ease of Use


This light comes with just a single button, making it easy to operate. Press once to turn it on and twice in quick succession to switch between lantern and flashlight modes. Either light source can also be dimmed or brightened by holding down the button. We like that the button is textured as well, which makes it easy to locate if you have to pick up and turn on the light in the middle of the night.

The Zip runs on four AAA batteries which are easy to install and replace by flicking out the lever of the battery compartment on the flashlight end of the light.

The lantern with its battery compartment unlatched. It is very easy to replace the batteries.
The lantern with its battery compartment unlatched. It is very easy to replace the batteries.

Because this light spends more time as a handheld than a lot of other models we tested, we also enjoy the rubber casing and the textured sides, both of which make it easier to grip, even in the rain.


Durability


It's ok if you try to ding up this lantern. It has an IPX4 (Ingress Protection) rating, which means that it can be splashed by water from any direction. Not technically waterproof, but in practice, we never had an issue with water damage, even after leaving it out in the rain for a few hours. It is worth noting, however, that the battery compartment door does not seal as tightly as other models, so we wouldn't go so far as to completely submerge it in a pool of water as we did to test the claims of some other lanterns.


It can withstand head high drops onto soft surfaces, like dirt or sand. If the light cover took a direct hit from a rock though, it might crack.

Features


This lantern doesn't come with a ton of features, but there is elegance in its simplicity. The ones that it does include are thoughtful and well-executed. We love the dual lantern/flashlight capability. It also comes with a hook for hanging in a tent or on a clothesline when you need overhead lighting.

This lantern comes with a retractable hook to suspend it from a clothesline.
This lantern comes with a retractable hook to suspend it from a clothesline.

Its biggest drawback is that it lacks feet and has a very narrow base. It does come with very, very discrete bumps, which it rests on when placed upright on a picnic table. However, if you need to be able to set down your light on anything but the flattest surfaces, the Zip is not going to be for you.

The three "feet" on the bottom of this lantern don't actually add a whole lot to its functionality. We much prefer to hang it from above.
The three "feet" on the bottom of this lantern don't actually add a whole lot to its functionality. We much prefer to hang it from above.


One other small but potentially helpful feature is that the Black Diamond logo on the front of the lantern is a reflective sticker that makes it easier to spot in the dark (assuming you have another light to shine in its direction).

The Zip also comes in three colors: Powell (blue), octane (red), and graphite (grey).

Weight/Size



Smaller than a standard deck of cards  it's super compact for a lantern as bright as it is.
Smaller than a standard deck of cards, it's super compact for a lantern as bright as it is.

The size and weight of this light are probably its most significant assets. It's a sprightly 3.6 ounces and measures 2 1/8" x 3 1/4" x 1", about the size and shape of an old school beeper. The Zip is a great handheld light, and is a good option for children who may want their light for camping. It's lightweight enough that we wouldn't hesitate to bring it into the backcountry. If overhead or centralized lighting is more important than mobile handsfree operation, its compact size makes it a viable replacement for a headlamp.

We loved having it in the glove compartment for easy access in an emergency.
We loved having it in the glove compartment for easy access in an emergency.


Best Applications


This pocket-sized package is ideal for 1-2 people. Its size makes it especially child-friendly. We recommend it for any camping, and it would especially shine on 3-5 day backpacking trips, where size and weight factor into gear decisions more heavily. We also think it is a good companion to have on hand in your car, in case you ever find yourself on the side of the road in the dark.

Value


At $30, we paid a bit more for the Zip than we would have expected. The price tag didn't stop us from wanting it, and now that we have it, we don't have any regrets. Though it is more expensive than its counterpart, the Black Diamond Moji, we think you get a little bit more for your money as well.

Conclusion


This Best Buy winner is a tiny titan. It's compact and brighter than you'd expect given its size. We love being able to stash it away and forget about it until we need it. It's not necessarily appropriate for a large group gathering like a cookout, in fact, it excels at lighting up a 2 or 3 person tent and as a flashlight. If you are looking to spend even less on a lantern, check out the Black Diamond Moji, which is a Best Buy award winner as well. However, if you are looking for the queen of compact, or something to have on hand if the power goes out, this powerful pocket-sized light is a great option.


Ben Applebaum-Bauch