Princeton Tec Helix Backcountry Rechargeable LED Lantern

Initial Review

This reviewer received the Princeton Tec Helix Backcountry Rechargeable LED Lantern for review purposes.  From here on out I will refer to it as “the lantern”.  Due to a planned vacation up north, I was unable to complete the initial review before I got a chance to utilize the lantern in the field, so I shall include that experience with this section of the review.

Product Specifications

Power: 150 Lumens

Lamp: White & Red

Burn Time: 22hrs (max)

Batteries: Lithium rechargeable (internal non-replaceable)

Weight: 155g/5.5oz (tested on postal scale at 6.4oz)

Website: Lantern Link

Water Resistance: IPX6 standard (IPX6 – Protects from powerful water jets. So if you modified your super soaker with an air compressor and an aftermarket tip, your stuff is still safe.)

Made in USA (using domestic and foreign components)

Warranty: 5-Year International (battery for 90 days)

The lantern as received is packaged well and is a bit complicated to remove without destroying the packaging.  The only reason this was important was to retain the information on the package for my review, but the manual was very complete and thorough.  The lantern is dimmable in white and red modes, is rechargeable, collapses to pack smaller, and hangs in many different orientations.

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Upon opening the package the lantern is fairly intuitive to figure out, at least so far as initially turning it on.  It came with almost a full charge, which reading the manual was necessary to figure out.  Enclosed in the package is a USB cable for charging as well, in micro-USB form.  When the lantern top is expanded, one can un-clip the three clips in green and the top pops off and exposes the circuit board which shows battery life when the lantern is plugged in.

One of the unique features of this lantern is that it is fully controlled using a swipe pad on the front.  In use, this can be brushed against and the lantern turned on, so one needs to be a little careful in your pack fishing around.  There are 6 different modes plus a dimmable feature.  I will note those below with the claimed hours of operation:

Swipe to Right 1: bright white 6hrs

Swipe to Right 2: low white 18hrs

Swipe to Right 3: flashing white

Swipe to Left 1: bright red 7hrs

Swipe to Left 2: low red 22hrs

Swipe to Left 3: flashing red

Swipe Right or Left then hold pad for dimming feature

The expanding globe also is made out of a glow in the dark material which lightly glows once the lantern is shut off.  Probably the handiest feature of this lantern are the numerous mounting, hanging, and lashing methods available.  The top of the globe has a metal loop for hanging from a ceiling of a tent or hammock ridgeline and the bottom of the unit has four legs which can be folded out for the lantern to stand up on a table or ground, as well as using two of the legs to direct a beam of light at an angle.  The legs also have hooks and openings for lashing the light to face down or out which is quite handy as I will discuss later.

There are essentially two ways to use the lantern.  In lantern mode with the globe on as seen here:

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Or by removing the globe and using the lantern in flashlight mode or if hung, spotlight mode as seen here:

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I am extremely impressed with the brightness and the adjust-ability of this lantern.  Flashlight technology has come a LONG ways in the past 10 or so years.  I own a $100 tactical flashlight that was top of the line 15yrs ago that takes CR123A batteries and only runs for an hour and this lantern is rechargable and likely three times as bright yet will run for 6hrs on a full charge!  Looking at the 5 models in the Helix Lantern line, this seems to be the middle version.  There are lesser models that aren’t rechargeable and with the same brightness, and upper models with removable rechargeable batteries that use regular batteries in a pinch, brighter models rated at 250 Lumens,  and also a model with BlueTooth in case you are snug in your sleeping bag and forgot to turn the lantern off on the picnic table!  In terms of the totality of features, this lantern reviewed here has a good solid compromise of all the features in my opinion.

As a quick field use example, I was up north in Jackman, ME deer hunting last week.  I always carry a flashlight with me as sometimes when we are in a familiar area, we will find good spots to sit until dark waiting for deer to begin to move around.  This of course leaves us in the woods and often a mile from the truck on a washed out skid road after darkness has fallen!  I decided to bring the lantern instead of my regular flashlight so I could try it out.  I was 2.4oz heavier than my flashlight, but it proved to be worth the extra weight.

My father-in-law and I in fact did hunt until dark in an area we have taken a couple very large whitetail deer on Tuesday of last week.  We were able to reach the washed out skid road before it was too dark to see, but then were faced with uneven terrain, water filled ruts, and rocks in the road.  I was the only one with a light and my hunting mentor has some vision problems with depth perception, so I got out my lantern, popped off the globe, and attached one of the legs to my backpack shoulder strap pointing forward and a little to the right so it centered between us as we walked.  I swiped once to high white light, knowing I had 6hrs of burn time and only a one mile trek.  The 150 lumens lit up the whole skid road for both of us and it allowed us to be hands free to keep our rifles on our shoulders and arms free for balance.  We were both VERY appreciative of the features of the lantern during that trek!  We were in such good moods, despite being tired, that we briefly considered sneaking up to the truck and swiping on the red flashing mode to freak out the third member of our hunting party!  We decided against that though.

Last picture here is of the lantern in storage mode.  It stores half the size as fully open and still will work.  Next update will cover additional uses and burn time accuracy.

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12/22/16 Update

After having used the lantern for about a month, I have become quite fond of having it around.  It has proven quite versatile in use being handy in various situations.  As noted above, during hunting excursions it proved valuable for trekking out after dark.  I only have a couple criticisms of the lantern but they are minor.  First would be the extra 2.4oz of weight in my pack when hunting or backpacking.  Not a huge addition when one notes the various modes of operation this lantern has available.  I think for the most part it is worth the extra weight.  Additionally, I tend to prefer having removable rechargeable batteries in devices so one can swap out with standard AA or AAA batteries in a pinch.  Princeton Tech DOES have models with this feature, although I believe those models are even heavier due to increased size and hardware on board.  This particular model is a good compromise I feel.

In terms of claimed battery life, I tested this as best I could and the claims seem to be fairly accurate.  What I found was that say, with the high white setting which claims 6 hrs of burn time, the lantern did in fact burn for 6+ hours but seemed to dim after 5.5hrs.  This happened in all modes.  I feel that if one is conservative in their use of the lantern, the battery will last very well while out on the trail.  If one can plug it in to charge with a solar panel during the day, it will provide great longevity.

In addition to using the lantern hunting and backpacking, it has many uses around the home and auto as well.  For emergencies, the flashing red mode easily could alert others of danger on the road or if an ambulance was called, it could be placed in a window of your home to notify them they have the right place.  Around the home I have been using the lantern extensively as we do not have electricity in our shed.  Two specific examples were with prepping the snowblower and bringing in firewood before a snowstorm that was coming overnight.  See pictures below.

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It is also handy to clip to the hammer loop on your pants to travel to the shed at night!

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I will be posting an additional final review in a month which will include use in my new Warbonnet BlackBird camping hammock which is currently under the Christmas tree.  The lantern should prove quite handy hanging from the ridgeline of the hammock for reading after dark.  I shall leave you with a photo of the sky at the point I returned to the truck after having dragged my deer a mile and a half on the last day we hunted.  Enjoy!

Update 4/5/17

 

I have now used the lantern for a considerable amount of time.  I have made it a habit to throw it in my day pack when heading away from home whether for a weekend visiting family or snowshoeing or whatever the time away might include.  All compacted the lantern really doesn’t take up a lot of space although it is a different shape than traditional flashlights.  It has many more features than a standard flashlight or headlamp though.  I will rate this one as “extremely versatile”.  I will stand by my comments above that I tend to prefer being able to remove the rechargeable batteries and throw in AAA batteries in a pinch, but I have found the battery life in this light to be so long if you are conservative with it’s use, that it’s almost a non-issue.

I have used it a number of times in the past three months in my camping hammock with a high temp of 40 degrees and a low of 15 degrees overnight, having used it for about an hour to read and such.  After my last hang which was the 15 degree night, I plugged the lantern in when I went inside for breakfast and the battery indicator said it was still full!  This likely is because they used lithium Ion battery technology which is by far the best cold weather battery option.  I have tested all battery types and have gathered enough evidence to invest in Lithium Ion batteries when I will be out in the cold.  It’s worth it.

The variability of hanging this light is one of it’s great features in my opinion.  In my hammock I use mini carabiner clipped to the lamp loop on it’s top and to my ridgeline.  This casts plenty of light to read by even in the dim mode.  I hang it with a mini carabiner instead of hanging it upside down from the legs only because my integrated bug net rides on the ridgeline and I am afraid the legs will rub on the netting and cause a hole to form.  As seen in the second picture, it DOES work well in the upside down mode attached to a line though!  (Note my first attempt at a Prussik knot to the left of the lantern leg) We lost power last night for an hour or so and I had to clean up the kitchen as best I could and needed light.  The lantern was perfect.

In closing I would like to thank Princeton Tech the opportunity to review the Helix Backcountry Rechargeable Lantern.  It will remain in my backpacking, disaster relief go bag, and camping gear for many years I suspect.  I keep it in the breezeway so I can grab it regardless of what bag I am packing.  There are a number of different models of this concept by Princeton Tech in various sizes, weights, battery options, brightnesses, and of course price.  You should be able to find one that fits all your needs, but this particular model is a good solid compromise in my opinion.  Keep an eye out for them as I have seen them at various retailers where you might not expect to see them.

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ChrisD