Fenix CL30R Camping Lantern
I'm going to start here: this is a review of my favorite lantern of all time.
This is coming from a guy who has owned dozens upon dozens of lanterns, in all shapes and sizes and configurations over my (many) years on this planet. Take that for whatever it's worth, but I've tried them all.
The Fenix CL30R USB Rechargeable Camping Lantern is the perfect emergency backup light, whether you are preparing for hurricane season, power outages due to wildfire, or even for just for a camping trip level-up.
I'm a bit of a light snob at this point, having had too many lights die on me just when I needed them the most, so there are only a handful of manufacturers that I trust these days.
Fenix is one of them. They are just an awesome company. I can't even keep up with the models they have at any given point and the constant flow of new technology and designs that come from them is like drinking from a firehose.
So when I saw the CL30R USB Rechargeable Camping Lantern go on sale in 2019 for the holidays I had to grab one to try it out. It looked really good on paper, but sometimes there's a gap between the marketing of a product and the execution.
Not in this case. I've been using this lamp nearly every day for 8 months, and this thing just rocks, so it's time to give it a review.
Fenix CL30R Review
OK so moving on from the gush-fest and get town to brass-tacks. Why is this the CL30R the perfect emergency use / survival lamp?
A lamp to be used in a survival situation must have the following attributes:
- Long lasting run-time
- Super bright
- Multiple brightness modes
- Impact resistant
- Pleasant light coloration / not fatiguing to eyes
- Multi-function (in this case: small device charging)
The CL30R Checks all these boxes and then some.
CL30R Run Time
Like all dimmable battery powered lights, total run-time is a function of the brightness level used. I usually get a rough idea of how long any particular lamp can run using the medium time values, since I tend to use the Lowest and Brightest modes about evenly.
In the case of the CL30R, the total output depends on which particular 18650 batteries you are using: the 2,600mAh or 3,500mAh.
The CL30R includes three 2,600mAh ARB-L18-2600 batteries in the box when you purchase the lamp. They generally run between $10 - $14 each when purchase separately.
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If you want to get a big boost in run time, replace these with my favorite 18650 battery, the Fenix ARB-L18-3500U. Not only are you getting a total of 3,500mAh per battery, but each battery has built-in micro-USB charging port - a seriously useful feature.
These numbers speak for themselves. If you are conservative with how you run the lamp you can get multiple weeks of use on a single charge with a full battery setup.
Keep in mind, Turbo mode is crazy bright - you wont need to run at that level all the time. Most of the time I'm using the Low or Med modes, unless I'm doing something like setting up a campsite or having a group dinner at night.
Extra awesome: you don't need all 3 batteries to run this lamp. It will run on a single battery, or 2, or 3, whatever you have available. Don't have any batteries? OK, you can still run the lamp in Low mode via the micro-USB input input!
CL30R Brightness Modes
We touched on some of this already but the CL30R has 5 brightness output levels.
On Turbo mode you are getting 360 degrees of 650 lumen output in an area of about 30-40 feet. You will light up objects out to about 50 feet in either direction from the lantern. If you are indoors the effect of this is greater, as you will get some light bounce from nearby walls and ceilings.
For your average sized home this is more than enough output for most use cases. At a campsite or base camp you can create a fairly large workspace, plenty of room to setup tents or tables with a 3-4 people.
Eco mode is great for the deep dark, especially if you already have your night vision activated somewhat. Helpful for doing small non-technical tasks in a small area. Good enough to light up a tent or a room at night and get changed, grab some items, etc.
The CL30R uses 6 LED light strips around the circumference of the lamp which increase in brightness as you press the activation button to switch modes.
Durability & Waterproofing
The CL30R is Waterproof to the IPX-7 standard which means that it can be submerged in water up to 1 meter for 30 minutes before water intrudes into the body of the lamp.
You can leave this out in the rain without worry. If you need to submerge it in water for a short time that would be OK.
There is an O-ring around the seal of the aluminum battery cap which will need to be replaced eventually, which is why they include an extra in the box.
Fenix does not publish any drop test ratings, and the lantern is mode mostly from plastic and not encased in a rubberized shock protectant, so I can only speak anecdotally to the engineered durability.
How do I test it? Simple, we hand off products to our 4 year old son Bamm-Bamm for a few days and see what he can do to it. The kid is a hurricane force wind combined with an rock avalanche plus a tsunami. He tried his best but didn't break ours.
Is it indestructible? No, its a lantern, so you know try to take care of it but it isn't delicate, you can toss it in with the rest of your gear without worry.
This isn't something you might think about much, but it's really important: is the light emitted pleasant enough to want to use? Lights have different color temperatures (measured in Kelvins).
Lights which are too cool (4600-500k) are fine for some areas that require strong lights but are not what you want to be living around or what you want in your home. I prefer lights around 2700 - 3000k, in the warm yellowish range inside my house, but those are hard to find in LED lights or in portable lanterns.
I don't specifically know the color temp of the CL30R, but it feels like it's about 3500-4000k. Not to harsh of a white but not tinted towards the yellowish hues. It's not brutal to be around like some LED lamps I've used in the past. It's a warm light that feels comforting.
Comfort is important, especially during stressful times.
Function & Form Factor
The CL30R has one control button. A long press turns the light on/off. Short presses cycle through the 5 light modes. A quick double press turns on the SOS blinking function.
It's not a big lantern: it's 5.4" tall and 3.7" in diameter. A little too big for a Bug Out Bag perhaps but perfect for home or camp use.
Size comparison: Fenix CL30R vs the Streamlight Seige Lantern and a Sony FM Radio.
The Cl30R is charged via a micro-USB port which is covered by a dust flap.
Next to that is the USB A port where you can plug in a cable for any small device you wish to charge like a phone or GPS.
Along the bottom of the lamp is a standard tripod socket so you can free-stand the light where ever you want if you have a tripod with you.
Along the top is a metal hanging loop to which you can attach a carabiner or loop of rope.
- Insane run time (up to 400 hours)
- Variable light output
- Small footprint
- Uses 18650 rechargeable batteries
- Nice even light across all modes
- Intuitive button functions
- Waterproof and shock resistant
- Acts as a backup battery as well
- Micro-USB charging, not USB C
- No red light function for night vision retention
Well I said it before and I'll say it again here, this is my favorite lantern. It gives you the performance you would expect, it is simple to use, and it can provide backup power to your electronics if you need it too.
The 18650 batteries it uses are a quantum leap forward in battery tech and are perfectly suited for this application.
Where to Get One
Typical Price: $110
Brightly illuminate entire rooms and charge other electronic devices at the same time with the versatile CL30R lantern.
This rechargeable LED lantern features a standard USB port to charge your phone, speaker or tablets.
Equipped with five brightness levels and alert flashing, this lantern is great for car camping, rustic cabin stays and even power outages.