This is all about adaptability, and not having to carry more gear than you really need as you lug it all miles across muddy fields, past stinky toilets and over countless guy-ropes.
Joby make the cunning little tripod called Gorillapod and have recently been adding their prehensile legs to torches and lanterns. The Switchback is something of a different beast altogether though because it combines Headtorch, Lantern and Tripod all into one device, and unlike some multi-tasking products, it does all three jobs very well.
In its first guise, the Switchback is a headtorch. Supplied in two parts (bulbs and battery compartment) it is well balanced and comfortable, with an adjustable elastic strap and padding. The light is operated by two buttons which reside on the top of the bulb part. The central button, which is a soft rubbery number which is easy to find with cold hands, operates the main beam. As you turn it on, you realise that this is no gimmick headlamp – it’s bloody bright and focussed in a very usable beam. Holding down the main button gradually intensifies the beam up to a massive 130 Lumens, which on a headtorch with a narrow beam is enough to blind an oncoming bear attack.
The second button activates two smaller side LEDs. The first press to red, the second press to white. (note: surely that should be red>off>white to preserve night vision?) These kick out about 5 lumen, which is enough to read by or cast a nice glow so you can see what you’re doing in the dark.
The headtorch is rated as rainproof, and the quoted battery life is ‘up to 72 hours’. I took it on a week-long camping trip and haven’t needed to change the two AA batteries yet. And actually, I like AA batteries in headlamps since they’re easy to find wherever you are, unlike lithium batteries or power points for recharging.
The Switchback’s party piece is the Lantern attachment. This is a hollow, extendable plastic shell into which you drop the headlamp and click a little switch. The two parts are than held securely together and the result is a lantern which can take advantage of the many headlamp modes. You can turn it from a very diffuse 5 lumen glow (child’s nightlight), through to a moderately bright 130 lumen lantern. On its brightest setting it easily lit up a 6-man tent for an evening’s chinwag.
The Lantern has an inbuilt hook, for suspending from a tent, and if you’re using the combination out and about, you can employ the flashlight’s final option which is a red and white flashing beacon mode. Handy if you’ve broken down at night maybe.
The whole kit comes bundled with one of Joby’s small Gorillapods, which you can either use as legs for the lantern, to attach it to pretty-much anything, or as a separate tripod for your compact camera.
With all this in mind, the RRP of £49.95 doesn’t look too bad at all. A Gorillapod on its own is £17.
SUMMARY: Joby has been very clever and created a product which is a true 3-in-1. The headtorch on its own is excellent for campsite, touring or festival use (possibly not for cycling or fell-running as the beam is quite narrow). The Lantern addition is a brilliant weight-saving device, and the Gorillapod, which you can leave at home if you don’t need it, is very handy for attaching the Lantern to branches, or taking photos.
Price: £49.95 rrp (£36 online)
From: Google Shopping
More info: Joby
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