Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Gear Closet: BioLite BaseLantern Review

One area of backpacking and camping that has seen considerable improvement over the past few years is camp lighting. In the past, we'd often carry the tried and true Coleman lantern with us to light the way, and while that is obviously still a viable option, today we have much lighter, brighter, and more versatile options to choose from. Take for example the BioLite BaseLantern, a high-tech device that is not only a great source of light, but so much more.

On the surface, the BaseLantern is exactly what you would expect – a 500-lumen source of light that can brighten up even the darkest of nights. It is powered by a large 7800 mAh battery, which can keep it running for upwards of 5 hours on its brightest setting or as much as 54 hours on its lowest. It is made from durable plastic and metal, folds down to a modest footprint when carrying it in a pack, and has an IPX4 water resistance rating which protects it from rain and splashing.

But look beyond those basic settings and you'll discover a versatile piece of equipment that can do so much more than just light up the campsite. For instance, the device features two built-in USB ports that allow it to use its lithium-ion battery to recharge other mobile devices such as cell phones, cameras, headlamps, or GPS units. It also has two ports for powering BioLite's SiteLights, which are smaller lights that can be strung about the campsite with the BaseLantern serving as a hub.

Even that is just the tip of the iceberg however. The BaseLantern is equipped with Bluetooth technology, which allows you to wirelessly pair it with your smartphone for even more interesting features. The BioLite app (iOS/Android) allows users to remotely turn the lamp on and off, set the level of brightness, and change the color and warmth of the light as well. It also provides stats on remaining battery life and realtime energy use, and has the ability to set alarms and alerts to have the lantern turn itself on or off at specific times. My favorite feature – the ability to detect when the phone is getting close ant automatically illuminate the campsite – is also handled via this software.

The BaseLantern weighs in at 1.4 pounds, which probably sounds like a lot for ultralight backpackers who carry only lightweight headlamps with them on their backcountry excursions. But, for the rest of us it isn't particularly heavy at all. Especially when you consider the fact that you won't need to carry a separate USB battery pack to recharge your other devices, which will save some weight too.

As a camp lighting system, the BaseLantern excels, but beyond that it is simply really fun to use. Because you have so many options for changing the brightness and color of the light, it actually turns into quite a conversation starter, whether you're using it in the backcountry or the backyard. The app serves as a great remote control, and the ability to recharge other devices is an absolute godsend, making this one of those outdoor products that will leave you wondering how you got along without it.

Priced at $99.95, the standard BaseLantern is an excellent deal in my opinion, but apparently it can't be found on BioLite's website any longer. You can however still pick one up at REI.com should you want to add one to your own gear closet. The company is still selling the BaseLantern XL however, which has all of the same features and an even larger battery (12,000 mAh) for $129.95. I'm a bit jealous of that expanded battery, so if you think you made need the extra juice, it is worth spending a bit more to get the upgraded model.

All in all, this is another wonderful product from a company that makes some of the most fun, innovative, and thoughtfully designed gear in the industry at the moment. There are big things in the works from BioLite that will be coming soon as well, so stay tuned for more in the near future.

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