Joby’s bendable Gorillapod tripod has earned a place over the past several years as one of our favorite backcountry accessories for snapping photos anywhere. Its new Gorillatorch Switchback has become one of our all-around favorite devices in just a matter of days. It’s a combination headlamp and lantern, so the same device works as both a fixed and mobile light. It’ll be a cold day in hell before we go camping without this sucker again.
As a lantern, this thing rocks. Due in no small part to the opposable gorillapod legs, it attaches to pretty much anything and helps you light up all sorts of situations. It filled our darkness with exceptional light that was both bright and diffuse, thanks to an opaque screen.
Because of multiple modes, it works well as a bright area light, a comfortable reading light, and a low-power night light. But this sucker really shines when you pop open the bottom.
Press a button and tug, and the base pops off, revealing that the internal light source is actually a removable headlamp. It has a cozy adjustable elastic band, with a light up front and a battery pack (the lantern’s base) in the back. The light angles, so you can use it to light the trail ahead, or spot work with your hands.
In both modes, the light works fantastically well, with five total settings. The main bulb lights up to 130, 80 or 20 lumens — depending on whether you want to blast the camp with brilliant light, or save power with a little glow in your tent.
It also has two “floodlight” settings. One is a set of red lights, which provide illumination but won’t wreck your night vision. This was especially nice in the lantern mode. The other is a set of 14-lumen white lights. They provide a nice glow if you want to use the lantern as a nightlight, but in headlamp mode they were so dim as to be all but useless.
While we love the ability to convert the lamp, our major beef with the Switchback is, well, converting it. The headlamp strap is hard to pack in, making the bottom somewhat difficult to secure.
We also thought it needed a hold switch of some sort: Because the lights power on with buttons rather than a switch, it’s easy to turn it on accidentally in your bag. Given that high-power 130-lumen mode only burns for about 1.5 hours, you could easily kill your batteries with some inadvertent bag mashing.
Finally, it’s a mite heavy, and that coupled with so-so battery life seems better suited to car camping or short journeys rather than an extended sojourn to the backcountry.