Friday, September 30, 2016

Gear Closet: Gear Aid Flux LED Light and Power Station

When I traveled to the 2016 Outdoor Retailer convention in Salt Lake City this past summer I had the opportunity to meet with a number of companies who are making great gear for use in our outdoor pursuits. As usual, there were a number of trends that shone through, including gear getting lighter, more eco-friendly, and improving performance in inclement weather. But, there was also another trend that was easy to notice with numerous gear manufacturers putting an emphasis on better lighting solutions for use around our campsites. In the weeks ahead, you're going to see some of these products begin to make their way onto the market, and several of them are truly going to revolutionize the way we illuminate the campgrounds. The first of these to cross my desk is an incredibly bright and powerful LED lantern from a company called Gear Aid, whose new Flux light will prove very handy in a wide variety of situations.

The first thing you'll notice about the Flux is that it is extremely rugged and durable. Gear Aid spared no expense in creating a light that can survive in just about any environment, including a campsite, warehouse, or garage. Housed in a tough plastic suit of armor, my test unit has survived several serious drops onto a variety of hard surfaces, and has come away without nary a scratch. On top of that, the Flux is also water resistant, which means you should have a bright source of light no matter the weather conditions.

Did I mention that this lantern was bright? With 82 individual LEDs onboard, it can crank out as much as 640 lumens of light on its highest setting. At that level of brightness, the Flux's built-in rechargeable battery – which is rated at a whopping 20,800 mAh – can power the light for up to 13 hours. Turn it down to a much more modest 20 lumens – the Flux's lowest setting – and the burn time increases to an impressive 192 hours. That should be enough to get you through just about any camp outing. And since it has 10 brightness settings, and three color temperatures, you'll always be able to find just the right lighting for to meet your needs.

That massive rechargeable lithium-ion battery can be put to other uses too however. The Flux comes equipped with 1.5-amp USB port that can be used to power-up your electronic devices, including smartphones, tablets, cameras, headlamps, and other gadgets. In fact, the Flux can recharge your iPhone 10 times over, and still have some juice left to power the light.

To add yet another level of versatility to this lantern, Gear Aid has created a series of mounts that allow you use the Flux in a number of different settings. For instance, I tested a magnetic mount that comes in hand when you need to attach the lantern to a car for instance, while a claw mount clips to a pole or similarly shaped attachment. The Flux also comes with a handy built-in kickstand, and a special adapter that is sold separately allows it to work with any GoPro mounts as well.

As if that wasn't enough, the Flux has a couple of other nice tricks up its sleeve. For instance, it can be set to SOS mode to signal for help should you find yourself in trouble in the backcountry, and it ships with a hanging hook and diffuser bag for use inside a tent too. In short, it seems Gear Aid has considered just about everything when designing this lantern.

The Flux doesn't come without a few compromises however, the biggest of which is its size. It is a burly beast when compared to some other camp lights on the market, and those amongst us who count every ounce will likely want to pass on this option. It does take up a considerable amount of room in your pack, and adds some weight too. That will make some hesitate when carrying it into the backcountry, although if you don't mind a slightly heavier load, it does deliver a lot of functionality.

Personally, I like the Flux a lot because it can be used in so many different ways. Yes, it is great to have at a campsite, as it can obviously light up a large space with ease. It is also nice to have a portable power generator to keep electronic devices working too. But, this light is also really handy for working in the garage or basement too, especially if light is at a premium.

The Flux is just one lighting option in a new series of lanterns from Gear Aid. It's siblings, the ARC and Spark offer similar performance in smaller and lighter packages, with the trade-off being lower brightness and less burn time due to smaller batteries. If you like what you see in the Flux, but would like something smaller and lighter, one of those options just might fit the bill instead.

Priced at $149.95, the Flux is very competitively priced, particularly when you consider everything that it brings to the table. It is bright, extremely durable, water resistant, and has great battery life. It can also recharge your other electronic devices and thanks to a clever mounting system, it can be used in a wide variety of ways. If you're in need of a good lamp around the campsite or elsewhere, this is a worthy option to consider. In terms of pure, raw performance, it is tough to beat the Flux right now.

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