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 in a durable package. 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 emergency. 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 Top Pick Award for its pocket-sized package.
Black Diamond Zip Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Compact, dual flashlight/lantern, lightweight
Cons: No feet or legs, short battery life, limited features
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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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.
The Black Diamond 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. 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.
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 rather than trying to spot any monsters in the distant forest.
On the downside, our testing 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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 own 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 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. It falls about in the middle in terms of personal, handheld lanterns, and though it is not a total bargain, we still think you get a little bit more for your money.
This lantern 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 for the queen of compact or something to have on hand if the power goes out, this pocket-sized Top Pick is a great option.
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch