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The new BioLite AlpenGlow 250 and 500 multicolor USB-rechargeable lanterns deliver bright cool white, warm white, and multicolor modes. As a camping lantern, they’re simple to use . . . but they’re also surprisingly sophisticated. For instance, a built-in accelerometer lets you shake the AlpenGlow to start party color modes.
To get us a closer look, BioLite sent Man Makes Fire a set of review units. After camping with the AlpenGlow, as well as using the AlpenGlow during nighttime backyard get-togethers, the AlpenGlow earned the top spot in our guide to the best camping gifts this year.
As for our review, this is what we learned:
At first, I admit, I was put off by the number of different lighting modes you can set with the AlpenGlow. I thought all the party and mood lighting options were just a gimmick. I’m a fan of color, but a lantern that cycles through colors? Whatever, I thought, but I should at least give the normal white light options a fighting chance.
Here’s what happened as I started using the lanterns: I quickly became a fan of the AlpenGlow. The two white light options are excellent. When you want maximum brightness, the cool white option is crisp and clean. If you want a warmer white, the warm light mode delivers a softer cast . . . that still illuminates remarkably well.
There are no harsh glares and the white-panel diffusers are excellent. BioLite’s ChromaReal LEDs in Warm White mode emits broad-spectrum light that reveals more accurate colors in dark conditions. If you’re using the AlpenGlow to cook after dark, you’ll appreciate this mode.
Great Form Factor
Then I realized that I really like the form factor. You can set the AlpenGlow on a camp table or on the tailgate of your pickup or even on the hood of your vehicle. The rubberized bottom will keep it from slipping off. Most cheap camping lanterns can be set down on tables, too, but cheap lanterns tend to produce harsh light that’s hard on your eyes at low angles.
The BioLite AlpenGlow is not harsh at all, even at low angle placements.
Once I learned how to access the color modes — more on that later — I started to appreciate them. Here’s how that happened: On a warm summer night backyard get-together with the neighbors, we needed a bit more light near a dark path and some snacks. I grabbed both AlpenGlow lanterns and set them out. I used one by the food, dimmed down to the right warm light output, and another by a path and gate, this time set to to a multicolor glow.
It didn’t take long for a kid to change the ‘snack’ lantern to a multicolor glow, too — and that was just fine.
The AlpenGlow lanterns were doing what they were supposed to do — light the scene and elevate the mood.
But How Do They Work?
With so many lighting modes, how do you control the AlpenGlow lanterns?
The two white modes and two color modes are easy to access. Press the top button and you can cycle through these modes:
1st press: Cool White mode
2nd press: Warm White mode
3rd press: Single Color mode
4th press: Multicolor mode
5th press: Off
Whatever basic mode you left it on last will be the mode it first starts up in after you turn it off. To brighten or dim the white or warm lights, just press and hold the button. So yeah, dimming is easy.
Shake for Special Modes
When you shake the AlpenGlow, you can spark secondary color modes:
In Cool White mode -> Shake -> Single Side Light mode
In Warm White mode – > Shake -> ‘Candle Flicker’ mode
In Single Color mode -> Shake -> Color Cycling mode
In Multicolor mode -> Shake -> Multicolor Party mode
BioLite AlpenGlow Instructional Video
The AlpenGlow controls can seem a bit confusing at first — but you’ll be surprised at how quickly you figure it out. Just play with it for a couple of minutes and it becomes more intuitive. Here’s BioLite’s how-to video to see it in action:
In & Out USB Charging
You can fully charge each AlpenGlow with a Micro USB input in about three hours. Both lanterns also support USB-out charging so you could charge your smartphone or power additional BioLite lights like the SiteLight String.
Light output: 500 lumens, runs 5 hrs on high, 200 hrs on low Power: 6400 mAh rechargeable battery Charge time: 3 hours Dimensions: 3.8″ wide x 5.4″ high Weight: 13.4 oz Waterproofing: IPX4 rating (can withstand rain and splashing)
Competitive Lanterns & Alternatives
There are many different styles and sizes of camping lanterns, as well as off-grid lighting options, available these days. We recommend that you stay away from cheap lanterns with poor build qualities and harsh lights — they’ll just end up in a landfill far too soon. Instead, here are a few additional high-quality, competitive color-capable lanterns that might also fit your needs:
Black Diamond Moji Color Lantern — The Black Diamond Moji Color Lantern is compact, lightweight and can cycle through every color in the spectrum. In size, it competes well with the AlpenGlow 250. One benefit is that it costs less, but the drawback is that it’s not rechargeable. It requires 3 AAA batteries. In addition, it maxes out at 100 lumens compared to the AlpenGlow 250’s 250 lumen output.
Goal Zero Crush Light Chroma Lantern — The Crush Light Chroma is limited to 60 lumens, but it has eight color modes with a multicolor fade. It’s rechargeable via USB, but it’s biggest competitive benefit is its built-in solar charging panel.
MPOWERD Luci Color — The Luci Color delivers seven bold colors as well as white. It lasts up to 9 hours on a single charge and, like the Crush Light Chroma, has a built-in solar panel that charges a built-in 1,000 mAh battery.
The Verdict: We’re Big Fans
All-in-all, the BioLite AlpenGlow 250 and AlpenGlow 500 lanterns deliver two crisp and clean white modes in a lantern form that you can set anywhere as well as hang. The color options also deliver rich color tones that can help elevate a mood. We like both form factors, but for most camping situations, the larger AlpenGlow 500 delivers more lumens when you need the power — and easily dims when you don’t. Very highly recommended.