Often overlooked, most batteries do not have an operating temperature that will allow you to make it through a winter camping trip. The Fenix CL20 Lantern tackles this issue by utilizing CR123A batteries which function at temps as low as -40 degrees F, making this is a true all season camping lantern.
The CL20 Camping lantern is minimalist by design with a single button embedded into the side providing all control and functionality. A single long press enables the lamp, while subsequent clicks shift through the 4 brightness settings, with an available red light setting with 2 intensities. While powered on, a double click of the power button will enter the SOS mode, producing a powerful strobing light for catching the attention of potential rescuers. Vivid yet neutrally colored white LEDs sit just beneath the plastic globe, producing up to 165 lumens of diffused light in a roughly 180 degree radius. A water tight battery compartment provides access to a choice of two AA batteries or a single CR123A battery for operation. The lamp weighs in at 3.6 oz, has an IPX-6 waterproof rating, and retails for $52.00
What I liked
The CL20 lantern produces an overwhelmingly bright 165 lumens of light at maximum intensity. While that’s certainly overkill for use inside the walls of a tent, it’s wonderfully useful around camp. Casting a powerful yet soothing glow, I was able to move about and work freely without having a headlamp strapped to my forehead. There is a small magnetic hanging loop built into the battery access knob which allows it be to attached to a tree, inside a tent or onto a metal surface which provides a very convenient way to hang the lamp overhead.
Despite the powerful nature of the LEDs, the CL20 can provide an exceptional battery life, at lower settings. On the highest setting you’ll net a relatively short life of just over 3 hours. When toned down to low, which still provides plenty adequate visibility, it allows for an impressive battery life of nearly 57 hours. Thanks to a built energy flow regulator the lamp produces a steady and consistent light level as the battery depletes instead of fading away into uselessness near the end of the battery’s life.
Built to survive in a variety of conditions, the lamp is constructed from very high quality, dense plastics and metal. Holding it in the hand it feels almost like a solid block of material, instead of a hollow shell like many other lanterns. The battery compartment is laced with a dedicated and replaceable waterproof seal to protect the internals from leaking. Paired with the stout metal twisting lock mechanism, it’s able to keep out rain and even survive being submerged. All around the lamp feels hefty and designed to take a beating, with a listed impact resistance of height of 1 m (about 3 feet) to back it up. I’ve used it on the trail and at home during power black outs, and it’s yet to show any visible signs of wear and tear.
Ease of use is exceptional, with a straight forward and easy to use single button. It’s so simple that I’ve never once had to look at the manual to figure out all of the functions. A single click will do nothing. This is to ensure that stray button presses from gear inside a pack don’t power on the lamp, subsequently draining the battery. Instead, a quick .8 second press will turn on the lamp to the last used brightness. This is helpful when waking up in the middle of the night in a tent, as you don’t have to cycle through blindingly bright settings at close proximity to get to the nice soft glow that was last used. Simply use the lamp at a particular setting, and it remembers where you left off when you turn it back on later. No more retina singing at 2 am.
It has a lifetime warranty and comes with batteries. Woot woot.
What I didn’t like
3.6 oz is the weight of the lamp itself. When paired with the required batteries, especially some of the heavier standard AA batteries on the market (go with lithium ion for weight savings, longer battery life, and cold weather performance) it starts to add up. It’s certainly not a back breaker, but it could stand to be a little bit lighter. Thankfully, using a single smaller and lighter CR123A lithium battery can shave some weight while providing better cold weather performance.
The Fenix CL20 is one of the few lanterns that’s designed to be used in practically any condition. I’ve had several lanterns and even headlamps simply stop working when camping during long cold nights, and having something that I know I can fall back on is comforting. The light can be dimmed down to a quaint glow, or amped up to become a mobile lighthouse for finding your way around camp. It’s durable, of exceptional quality, and one of the easiest I’ve ever used. Despite adding a couple extra ounces to the pack, it’s worth it for the convenience of a having bright, well diffused light that won’t let you down.
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For more information on Fenix and their exceptional clothing, check out www.fenixlighting.com
I wanted to send a special thanks out to Fenix for their support and for providing this excellent piece of equipment to review. We couldn’t do this without their help. Thank you so much! Our full disclosure can be found on the about me/contact page.