MSRP: $139.90 (for two pack of 500- and 250-lumen lanterns)
I’ve spent many seasons living out of vehicles traveling to climbing areas. Whether I’m using a backcountry stove to make some oatmeal or soup, or whether I have the luxury of a campground table to put the double burner stove on, my choice of how to illuminate these scenes has always been simple–a headlamp on my head or wrapped around a water bottle usually sufficed.
I’d always longed for something more, though. Something that could provide some mood lighting for a cribbage game, something to eat dinner by so that you don’t shine your headlamp in the eyes of the person you’re trying to have a conversation with, and something just to liven up a dull nighttime camp scene. The BioLite AlpenGlow lantern fits the bill and more, and after I’ve lived with it for over six months now, it has definitely improved my camping game.
These lanterns come in two different sizes–the AlpenGlow 250, which is the size of a kitchen mug, and the AlpenGlow 500, which is comparable to a jar of peanut butter. Because I did a lot of car camping, I found myself reaching for the AlpenGlow 500 time and time again, turning it on so I had light other than my headlamp to cook by. The 250 is a great size to take backpacking, slipping almost imperceptibly into the front mesh of a pack and greatly improving the ambiance and quality of tent life.
Each lamp features eight light modes: cool white, warm white, single color, multi-color, and candle flicker. There are also some fun options if you shake the lamp in each mode, such as shifting colors to bring the party, blended sunrise and sunset tints for some relaxing ambiance, and a fireworks mode of bursting, flashing hues for when the music really gets bumping. The color modes can be changed with a tap of the top button, making cycling through them a simple affair. My only gripe is that if you miss the option you want, you will have to cycle through all of them again. The warm white mode with candle flicker is a unique option and was also a fan favorite for the dinnertime and card game ambiance. The bright white modes of headlamps and other camp lights can feel all too clinical, and having the option to filter through different color settings makes the AlpenGlow versatile and fun.
Another welcome feature of the AlpenGlow lantern series is their 6,400 mAh battery. This offers a charge-out capability, allowing you to connect your small devices that need a little extra juice to a convenient USB port. This handy feature was especially nice to have while backpacking, because I could charge my phone at night while also using the lamp to read inside my tent, without having to pack an extra charging block.
At 500 lumens, the AlpenGlow lantern on high provides adequate light coverage but only lasts around five hours at this setting. I opted to keep the lantern on its dimmer setting to extend its battery life, and I could use it this way without having to charge it for many days at a time. I used it every night on my recent climbing trip in Indian Creek, leaving it outside in below-freezing temperatures, and I still only had to charge it once a week. At its low light setting, I found it did not quite give me enough light to cook by, and I had to rely on a headlamp as well. But I did not expect to depend on the AlpenGlow as my only outdoor kitchen light source anyway and supplementing it with a headlamp when necessary seems only practical.
There are many camp lights to choose from these days, but the BioLite AlpenGlow stands out by being both a useful tool for dark nights as well as something that can add some fun to your campsite, tent, van or car. I used it indoors and outside, read by it, cooked by it, played games by it. I left it outside overnight and found it covered in frost the next morning, still working great. I also dropped it several times with no resulting damage, and I loved how little I had to charge it. Although I was once a car-camping minimalist, the BioLite AlpenGlow lanterns have definitely made me a convert to the camp lantern game.
Miya Tsudome is a former rock guide and now full-time photographer who resides in the Eastern Sierra or out on the road in pursuit of photos and climbing in her trusty minivan. You can see more of her work at MiyaTsudome.com.
Eight color changing modes with bright and dim options
6,400 mAh battery with charge-out capacity to charge your small devices via USB
500 lumens provides adequate light coverage
Comes in two different sizes making them useful for car camping or backpacking
Long lasting charge
Only provides five hours of light on the high setting
Dim-light setting is not bright enough to provide enough light for a camp kitchen
Must cycle through all modes to get to the one you want