Take out your favorite LED lantern, hold it above your head and drop it on the ground. Did it survive? If it did, now throw it in a lake. Odds are good it stopped working sometime soon after water seeped through the seams and fried its electronics… or it just sank to the bottom to never be seen again. Either way, it wasn’t built to take what life and emergencies may throw at it.
At a foot in height, the Rugged Lantern isn’t compact and it won’t fit nicely in your backpack, but it wasn’t meant to. It was made to take a beating, wet or dry, and continue shining bright. It features rubber corners and stainless steel bars on the four long sides that keep the main unit and plastic housing from being broken. The diffuser scatters the light from a single LED bulb over a wide area, bouncing off of the mirror finishes at the top and bottom.
Besides its drop rating, the major feature that should attract outdoorsmen is that the Rugged Lantern floats and it is waterproof. At just over four pounds, there’s enough buoyancy built into the lantern that it will float indefinitely and has a waterproof rating of IPX7, which means it remains watertight up to three feet (and if it floats, that’s not an issue). The nylon webbing strap detaches on one side so the lantern can be hung from a tree or a hook in your shelter.
When the lithium-ion battery needs charging, the indicator light near the diffuser will blink red; while it is charging, it will blink orange, and when it is fully charged, it will glow green until you unplug it from the 110v, which only takes about two hours.
After fully charging the battery, clicking the big red button once starts the SOS function, which seems like an odd choice to lead with. It would be expected that one push would turn on the unit on its highest setting. However, two pushes of the button, and the lantern is emitting 220 lumens of light with a 10-hour burn time on high (15 hours on medium and 40 hours on low).
One of its downsides is that it is bulky and somewhat heavy. Though this will have an excellent place in your cache of equipment awaiting use, this won’t ever see the insides of any kind of pack.
The lithium-ion battery is the best battery suited for this application, but it would have been nice if the lantern could accept standard batteries, because not every situation in which you will need this lantern will you have access to 110 volts of recharging power. A car charger is available as an accessory.
Though it does take some effort to depress the button, we can see how it might be bumped on in transport and will have its batteries depleted by the time they are needed. However, the button is recessed behind the rubber corners, so the likelihood of that happening might be remote. Perhaps a switch would have been better. The rubber grommet that covers the recharging port is a weak point. Break or lose that little piece and it is no longer waterproof. A screw-in cover would have been more secure.
From a design perspective, this is a great piece of gear for those that are settled into a camp already or have the means to transport a lot of equipment. It is rugged enough to survive most journeys, be it a weekend dress rehearsal for the big event or the emergency event itself. It provides plenty of light in four different modes and is simple to operate, even fumbling for it in the dark. It is sturdy, well built, and designed to last a long time.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the June 2015 print issue of American Survival Guide.