The Princeton Tex Helix Backcountry Rechargeable Lantern is an excellent luxury item for camping that’s lightweight enough for family or couples backpacking. It’s also a remarkably well-designed product that can be used in many ways: as a hanging lantern, a spotlight with its glow-in-the dark lampshade removed, propped up on two legs as a directional lamp, or compressed flat for easy packing.
Weighing just 6.4 ounces, it’s easy to rationalize the a comfort item like this when sharing a tent because it frees you from having to wear a headlamp and its built-in lithium battery is easily rechargeable using the USB-battery that you’re probably already carrying to keep your smartphone or Kindle charged up. Being a rah-rah ultralighter is fine when I’m backpacking alone, but when I camp with my wife, adding a few lightweight luxury items helps puts her at ease.
I also like using really well designed products and this little green Helix, also available in a wide variety of sizes, is packed with cool innovations. Just 4″ tall, the Helix fits in the palm of your hand, but can compress down to 2″, if you push down the translucent, honeycombed lite diffuser for packing. It has four legs, each with a hook, so you can hang it in multiple ways from a cord or tent gear loop, or from the hinged hang loop at the top. If you remove the light diffuser, the Helix turns into a spotlight, which you can point directionally by flipping the lantern on its side on two legs or at an angle.
The switch on the Helix is swipe operated and provides a white light, red light, with a dimmer, and flashing mode. There’s no explicit switch lock on this model however, although the larger Helix models have one.
Burn time is 6 hours on high in white mode and 18 hours on low, or 7 hours on high in red mode and 22 hours on low. To recharge, there is a USB port on the base of the lamp and lighted battery indicators which tell you the battery’s current charge status.
My favorite aspect of this LED lantern is that the translucent globe glows in the dark, a light green color, which make it very easy to find at night but doesn’t keep me awake. When the white light is fully lit, it fills our tent with a warm light, that at a max of 150 lumens, is bright enough to read by so we don’t have to wear headlamps in our tent.
Disclosure: Princeton Tec provided the author with a lantern for this review. My wife has packed it as part of our standard camping gear list.
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