My son just entered Cub Scouts not too long ago, and that got me thinking about camping lights… or just any light. I grew up with bulky steel flashlights that never lasted long, or fidgety gas Coleman lights that some unlucky adult was constantly pumping up. How does a modern LED lamp, such as the RTG R-PAL Personal Area Light hold up?
All photos can be clicked for full size.
RTG is based out of Torrance, California, and the R-PAL was designed and built in the USA. In the box you get the lamp, two extra o-rings, a small tube of ring lubricant, and instructions.
- Model R-PAL
- Weight 3.0 oz / 86 g (without battery)
- 4.7 oz / 134 g (with battery)
- Dimensions Diameter = 1.6 in / 42 mm
- Length = 4.1 in / 104 mm
- Mounting Holes (2) 1/4″-20 x 0.28″ (For Tripod or Camera D-Ring)
- O-Rings (2) AS568A-024
- Fractional Size: Width = 1/16″, Inner Diameter = 1 1/8″, Outer Diameter = 1 1/4″
- Battery (not included) Lithium-Ion 18650 Protected 3.7V
- Average Battery Life 30 hours
- LED Cree XLamp XB-D
- LED CCT Range 3000K
- LED Typical CRI >80
- Light Output 2.3 – 300 lumens
- Projection Angle 360°
- Brightness Settings 15 logarithmic settings
- Modes Normal, Flashing, SOS
- Automatic Shut-Off Capable Yes
- Automatic Shut-Off Time 18 min
- Waterproof / Dustproof Rating IP67 (Protected against water immersion – Immersion for 30 minutes at a depth of 1 meter)
- Temperature Rating -4 to 104°F / -20 to 40°C (limited by battery)
- Impact Resistance 5 ft / 1.5m (excludes scuffing)
There’s a warning label on the light. Summary: Very bright.
I found this fortune-cookie note looking thing at the end. The R-PAL comes with a standard 1/4-20 threaded insert (same as camera tripod). A nice D-Ring lanyard attachment came with it.
The R-PAL is impressively compact. I can’t help but think it resembles a home-made pipe-bomb made of hardware store bits. I don’t think I’d want to carry this through airport security.
Closeup of the 1/4 -20 threaded ends. To be clear, you get one single D-Ring attachment.
RTG boasts the R-PAL is lightweight. Weighs under 5 ounces without the battery or D-Ring.
The R-PAL turns on and off with a single black membrane button. There is little to no tactile feedback.
Around the corner you’ll find two identical buttons. These are the brightness controls. There are 15 steps of brightness, up to 300 lumens maximum.
The two buttons also set other features, such as auto shut-off (15 min), flashing and SOS modes. All modes retain memory, that is, the R-PAL will remember what mode you had it in after you turn it off.
The actual LED itself (there are 3) is very tiny. Here is one of them next to a ball point pen.
Unscrew the cap to load batteries. The o-ring is lubricated, and the goop gets EVERYWHERE.
Battery is not included. It takes a single lithium-ion 18650 rechargeable button-top.
To test the the light, I placed it on a small tripod and stuck it in the only room I have that gets completely dark- the guest bathroom. All photos were taken at f1.4 at 1/125 second, ISO400 (hence, the really crappy control shot above).
Lowest setting (about 2.3 lumens)
Brightest setting (about 300 lumens)
Remember that warning label? Yes, the R-PAL is insanely bright. It really hurt to look at it, and I was seeing spots for quite a while afterwards. I think the R-PAL needs a diffused lens to “spread out” the light and make it not so intense.
You’ll notice in the photos that the color temperature is pretty close to a regular incandescent bulb, which is “warmer”. The R-PAL is rated at 3000K. “Hotter” color temperatures may appear whiter, but I think are a little less easy on the eyes. I love the feel of the R-PAL’s light.
I tested the light on a full charge, at full brightness, and stuck it in the closet. It stayed pretty bright the entire time, then I went off to eat. I came back at four hours (on the dot) and the lamp was off. Turning it back on just let out a blink or two. I was a little surprised there’s no “moonlight” mode… where the light slowly tapers off to nothingness.
Despite being insanely eye-searing bright, the RTG R-PAL Personal Area Light is a compact, seemingly bomb-proof light I would happily carry with me on my next camping trip. The tripod mounts and included D-ring attachment just make it that much more versatile.
Source: The sample for this review was provided by RTG. Please visit their site for more info.
7 thoughts on “RTG R-PAL Personal Area Light review”
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Re: scouting — I made some “camp” lighting using LED 12v car lamps and 9v batteries. The lamps will run less than $1 each, will have 5-20 or more LED elements per lamp and will create a nice light for a tent. What’s really neat is that the “lamp” lasts about 16 hours off a single 9v (depending on number of elements on your lamp). 10 hours off a 9v rechargeable. They aren’t as bright as with a 12v, but they are ‘bright enough’, compact and easy to make.
I just can’t see spending $130 on something like this. It’s neat that it can “hurt your eyes” on it’s brightest setting, but I’ve never had need for THAT kind of lighting which could fit in my pocket while camping.
It MIGHT be useful backpacking if you have need of monster lighting beyond a small camp fire and could recharge it easily.
Yup, for what you could do with a 9V DIY lamp, $130 is kind of absurd. And I still think I’m seeing spots. Little need to have the sun in the palm of your hand if you’re just stumbling around a tent at night. I will say the R-PAL is pretty sturdy, though.
Hi All – Manufacturer Here,
First off, we’d like thank you for your honest review, we really appreciate the thorough nature of your evaluation.
We’d also like to offer a few amendments to the article:
1) The entire fixture, with battery and d-ring, comes in under 5 ounces (4 and 7/8 ounces, according to our kitchen scale). We can settle on 5 ounces though.
2) The fixture is rated at IP67, which means that it is water-proof and not just water-resistant.
3) There is a low battery visual warning that occurs when there is approximately 10% of the battery left. The reason there is no “moonlight” mode is because the LED output will remain consistent until the battery is depleted. At full brightness, this warning will last minutes. At the lowest brightness, this warning can last up to 16 hours.
4) This one is anecdotal -but the R-PAL has passed through US Customs, as well as several European airports including Heathrow in London.
This one is also for jhon:
The main feature we like to advertise are the 15 adjustable brightness settings. Each brightness setting consumes a different amount of power, and can last anywhere between 300 on the lowest to 3 hours on the highest.
We provide a table with our instructions that lists the run times for each brightness level, so you can get an idea of how versatile the product is.
Using the beacon/flashing mode at maximum brightness will last 22 hours. If used as a distress signal, that blinding level of brightness may be a welcome feature.
We understand that the R-PAL might not be for everyone, but we tried to create a highly versatile product to fit the needs of many, from the seasoned mountaineer to the weekend warrior.
Again, thank you for the review and we appreciate your honesty.
Thanks for the feedback. I think I nailed it on usability/cost though. It looks like a great device for backpacking — albeit a ‘luxury’ device for the very reasons you state (ruggedness, battery life on lowest settings, etc, portability). Or maybe high-end boating ’emergency’ gear.
At $130, it’s just too spendy for regular camping, disaster emergency lighting, or bug-out bag goodies.
The automatic shutoff feature is great, though.
Scouts in my time used a soda can and hook with a wick to burn pine tree sap we collected at the entrance of our tents.
I own more lanterns than most people I know. Ever since I can remember, I have connected used cells and make lanterns out of them, pushing the limit and burning light bulbs at times.
Currently I have 5 lanterns of various shapes and sizes, from rechargeable fluorescent to C cells led to hand size Black Diamond Voyager.
The R-PAL is fascinating. I love the high density rechargeable 18650 battery it uses. They are the standard for high power flashlights. I love the size. I find that when you camp, having a lantern that fits your pocket is really handy. The Black Diamond Voyager is small, but not quite that size.
The thing that set the R-PAL apart is not only the range of brightness it has, a few to 300 lumens, but also how easy and how it remembers the settings.
One thing that may be the down fall of the R-PAL for me is how harsh it is at higher setting. The Black Diamond Voyager at maximum 75 lumen brightness is pretty bright and is still produces pretty soft light around a picnic table or in a tent. The color and CRI of the R-PAL appear better on paper. I am sure a makeshift shade will help.
$130 seems like a steep price for a lantern, but in this case perhaps you get what you pay for: made in the USA, well thought out design, powerful. Still, $130 is not what a typical person would pay for a lantern, unfortunately.
And I think the two tripod size sockets are really thoughtful. Add a tripod and you get a portable lantern stand, and you can also use those socket to join multiple lanterns. I can see RTG offering a collapsible lamp shade as an option, or even better, a stand and lamp shade kit.