The Alpinist Mountain Standards reviews apply Alpinist's tradition of excellence and authenticity to gear reviews by providing unbiased, candid feedback and anecdotal commentary to equipment tested (hard) in the field. Our panel is comprised of climbers who use the gear every day as part of their work and play. Only the gear they would actually buy themselves, at retail price, qualifies for the Alpinist Mountain Standards award. The five-star rating system is as follows:
One Star = Piece of junk.
Two Stars = Has one or more significant flaws, with some redeeming qualities.
Three Stars = Average. This solid piece of gear is middle-of-the-road on the current market.
Four Stars = Better than most comparable gear on the market. It has one or two drawbacks, but still 90% positive.
Five Stars = Is there such thing as perfection? An Alpinist Mountain Standards award-winner.
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Black Diamond Apollo: We Have Liftoff!
Posted on: August 11, 2008
Weight: 7.8 ounces (without batteries)
Before reviewing Black Diamond's Apollo lantern, I hadn't heard much about this new product. Having used it this winter and spring ski touring around British Columbia and Alberta, and on little road trips to the Rockies around Canmore, I am so impressed that I feel the need to give this bright guy some hype.
Basically, this is the first battery-powered lantern I've seen that throws substantial lumens while still being compact and light—depending on your objective, it's feasible that the Apollo would be worth slipping into your pack.
The unit is about the size of a beer can and is tricked out with lots of thoughtful little features. It has three legs that fold down into a tripod, which gives it a "ready for takeoff" look and makes it adaptable for uneven terrain. It has a hook for hanging. It has a "frosted globe" to eliminate glare, although the three-watt LED will still blind you if you look directly at it (this speaks to the considerable amount of light it casts—a fine trade-off for me). It has a simple, ingenious dimmer option (holding the power button gradually changes the lighting level) to extend its battery life. It takes a rechargeable battery, the NRG by Black Diamond, which isn't included with the Apollo, or four alkaline AAs.
Another nice feature are the small LED lights that indicate battery power: green means more than 50 percent left, yellow 25 to 50 percent, and red less than 25 percent. These lights also indicate the charging status if you are using the NRG rechargeable kit, which can be plugged into an outlet without removing the battery pack from the lantern.
The Apollo shined on every occasion I used it. In the long, dark depths of winter, huddled in our tent for the night, it gave us light to cook, read and play chess for five nights. This saved headlamp battery juice, and amazingly the battery indicator still registered green at the end of our trip. We had no worries of flame or carbon monoxide in the tent either, nor a need to use gas-powered lanterns in backcountry huts. It also was ideal for car camping, and could be used as a flashlight in a pinch.
If you've been searching for a replacement for that old candle lantern of yours, seek no more. There shall be light!
Pros: Loaded with lumens; compact and lightweight; can run on AAs or rechargeable batteries, which last longer than expected.
Cons: Rechargeable batteries not included.