Folks who know me wouldn’t be shocked to find out that I had yet another flashlight to try out. I have to admit that I’ve had something of a flashlight fetish ever since I was a kid. For a while it was a “brighter is better” thing but over the years I’ve come to find utility in functions other than just being able to blind your buddies when you shine the light in their eyes. Between camping trips and power outages I’ve really gotten to like the idea of lanterns. They are darn handy for those times when the lights are out and you need both hands free to make dinner, set up your tent, or just sit around inside that tent and read while you wait out a rainstorm. Ditto for around the house during an emergency. One of the big bonuses that LED technology has brought us in recent years is the ability for small lanterns to pack decent light output and long runtimes. The days of having to carry large quantities of heavy batteries are gone.
A couple of years ago I started using the Brunton Glorb lantern. It’s a great little lantern the size of a traditional candle lantern (in fact it fits perfectly in my neoprene candle lantern case). It offers an outstanding 250 hour runtime on just 4 AA batteries. I was in lantern heaven! It’s gone on every outdoor outing I’ve been on since then, and I bought 3 more to use around the house in case of power outages. I have one in my camping kit, one in each of my kid’s rooms, and one spare for around the house. For camping, the only possible downside was that I still needed a conventional flashlight for a lot of things. Enter the new Brunton Lamplight 360…
The new Lamplight 360 takes a different twist on the concept of a camp lantern. It’s actually a combination flashlight and lantern all in one. In it’s basic form, it acts as a flashlight with both a high and low setting. If you pull up on the head of the light, just ahead of the on/off switch, the Lamplight transforms into a compact LED lantern. Brunton first showed this concept with their compact AAA Lamplight design. It makes for a handy way to combine a conventional flashlight with a compact lantern, keeping you from having to carry two items with you when one would do. A quick look at the specs on Brunton’s website and you’ll see that the new Lamplight 360 is a fair bit larger than either the Glorb or the previous Lamplight. So what are you getting for the size increase? Quit a bit, as I’ll explain in a moment. Lets take a look at the basics first though.
The Lamplight 360 is 4.3"x1.3" and weighs in at 6.6 ounces depending on the battery load out (hang on, I‘m getting to that part). The body of the light is made from ABS plastic and it has a polycarbonate lens. There is a metal D ring connected to the base of the light for hanging it or connecting it to a pack or a lanyard. The bulb is a high efficiency Dynasty LED that yields 7 Lumens on the low setting, and 35 lumens on high. Not an eye scorcher by any means but more than enough for camp chores and working around the house. This isn’t a tactical light, but it isn’t intended to be. For most uses you simple don’t need to be punching out 60+ Lumens. A trade off of this is that you’ll definitely be getting better battery life than with a high power tactical light, which is more important when on the trail anyway. I’d rather have enough light throughout a trip without the need to pack extra batteries, than a death ray that I need to keep swapping out batteries in to keep running. The switch on the Lamplight 360 is a 3-mode button just behind the light head. The first click takes you to high power, the second ramps down to low, and a third shuts you back off again. When you hit the switch again you start over back at high.
So, what type of batteries does this lantern use? Well, what have you got? D cells? Okay, that’ll work. How about C’s? That’s good too. AA’s, or maybe AAA’s? Sure bring those on as well! Before you think I’ve gone completely mad, let me explain. The Lamplight 360 uses what Brunton calls “Omnivore Variable Battery Technology”. Essentially it’s an extremely clever battery compartment (and some tricky electronics I’m sure) that allows the light run off of just about any battery you can stuff into the battery chamber. The chamber has a spring-loaded platform that adjusts to the length of the battery placed in the light. It also has a variety of contact points to adjust for whatever batteries you’re using. It will run on a single C or D cell; and one, two, or three AA or AAA’s. Runtimes will vary depending on what battery, or combination of batteries, you have loaded at the time but Brunton rates the light at up to 32 hours with one D cell. Not as long as the Glorb or original Lamplight, but still respectable (way more than you’ll need for a weekend camping trip for example), and an acceptable trade off in my opinion for being able to run on whatever type of battery you can scrounge.
The battery compartment end cap unscrews in a more or less conventional manner. Inside the cap, and inside of the light body, you see divots for 3 AA batteries on either piece. Looking at these, you would think that was all that the 360 ran on. The end cap is marked on the outside “AA/C/D Compatible”. C cells and D cells drop right in with no issues. AA’s require a slight bit of juggling to get them to stay in place as you screw the end cap back on but it isn’t too bad, even when just putting 1 AA in place. AAA’s are a lot trickier. I could get one in without much problem, but getting two or three in was tough. It can be done, but it requires some coordination and patience. That might be why the end cap is just marked for AA/C/D. I had to look at Brunton’s website to realize that AAA’s would work as well. When you go to replace the cap, with whatever batteries you’ve managed to stuff in the Lamplight 360, you have to make sure you line up the two red tabs on the cap with the two red dots on the body of the light. Line the dots up, press down and compress the battery against the spring-loaded platform, and then screw it down tight. It seems awkward the first time or two your do it, but once you see what needs to be done its easy enough.
The Lamplight 360 is all about options. You have both a high and low light setting depending on what you’re doing and how much light you need, you can convert from a flashlight to a lantern, and you can use practically any battery you’re likely to run across in a pinch. The latter is what really sets this light apart from others and it’s a great feature. If you’re traveling, it allows you to pick up whatever batteries are available, or cheap, and use those. If the light dies while you’re away from a store, it lets you scrounge batteries from another device and use those if need be. Being able to take a wide variety of batteries gives you much greater scrounging options, so it should be pretty easy to keep the 360 running no matter where you are. I think this feature makes it especially useful as an emergency light for the car, truck or camper, as well as around the house. As I mentioned before, I keep a few Glorbs around the house for power outages already, but I’ll be adding some 360’s to the mix as well. The ability to use a wide variety of batteries could really come in handy during an extended power outage, or in the aftermath of a natural disaster. This also makes it a great choice for Bug Out Bags and emergency kits like the type suggested by the Red Cross and FEMA. Suggested retail price on the 360 is $60.45 but some judicious shopping the web will allow you to find one considerably cheaper than that. Whether you need a good do-all light for the campsite, or a versatile emergency light for on the road or around the house, you’d do well to look to the Brunton Lamplight 360. It’s a unique concept that does its job quite well.