If you’re into the outdoors – hunting, scouting, camping, overland adventuring – you end up in the dark. Without lights, you stumble around, drop ammo that never gets recovered, loose your hearing protection, trip over a backpack and knock your teeth out. Don’t be that guy or gal. Your favorite tactical flashlight has its limits. This year I discovered a couple of lights from Princeton Tec that are so versatile they’ve accompanied me from Florida to Texas, New Mexico and Colorado. They look different because they function differently: The Helix Backcountry and Helix Basecamp LED lanterns.
I first saw the Helix Basecamp at SHOT Show in January. I started out looking at Princeton Tec helmet mounted lights (I still need one!), but my eye was drawn to some rows of these lights arranged as part of an American Flag display. The wheels started turning.
Red lamps have been used to provide illumination while preserving our natural night vision for a long time. A broad soft source of red light could come in handy. But sometimes you need white light for contrast and color (think map reading, or figuring out which HexID color was subsonic ammo and which was supersonic). I’m not much into selfies, but the nice soft area light would often be better than that tiny LED on your cell phone. I know a few of you just pulled out your credit cards…
The Princeton Tec Helix lights get their names from the soft polymer “globe” light diffuser. It looks like Japanese origami to me. It looks super cool and – more importantly – allows the helix to collapse to half its height. Big win if you’re packing gear any distance. The smaller light, the Backcountry, collapsed is about 2.75 inches tall, the same as a .308 round in length. The bigger light, the Helix Basecamp, when collapsed is essentially the length of the 300 WINMAG round, less than 3.5 inches. When you turn the lights off the Helix globes glow in the dark! Genius, as that allows you to settle in with the slightest of light that fades to dark on its own.
Unclip and remove the helix diffuser off either light and you get something that resembles a ultralight backpacker stove but outputs light much like a flashlight. Since both the Basecamp and the Backcountry have strobe modes, removing the helix globe would allow them to function as emergency beacons much more effectively. Get a few of these strobing white and red and you could have a deep woods scout camp dance party. Clipped onto your chest sans the helix and I guess you’d have a nice after dark navigation light, but to date I’ve not needed that function. Extended 90 degrees, the legs can hold the lights up off whatever they are sitting on or level them as needed.
Both the Helix Basecamp and Backcountry lights are IPX6 rated, meaning they essentially waterproof right up until you submerge it. Bring on the torrential rains that often seem to plague adventurers.
Speaking of clips, the legs fold under each of these Princeton Tec Helix lights. Each leg is notched at an angle to allow it to clip onto webbing, hang from a nail, paracord tied to a tree, whatever. The larger Basecamp version has a removable rubber strap that can be used to hang the light, while the Backcountry uses a metal loop that rests folded down for the same purpose.
Powered by three AA batteries (or you can get a rechargeable version), the Helix Basecamp weighs a little less than a standard NFL football, 12.62 ounces. It cranks out 250 lumens for eight hours. Dimmed, Princeton Tec says you’ll get 30 hours. That’s the white light. The red mode is supposed to last 16 hours at full brightness and 40 dimmed. That’s a long time. I’m still on my first or second set of batteries. Shop online and you can find the Helix Basecamp for about $45.
The smaller Helix Backcountry is about as heavy as your average hamster or hockey puck, 5.5 ounces. Powered by three AAA batteries (or there’s a rechargeable version), this is a light with no buttons or knobs. The single control point is a swipe and tap strip in place of a knob. Swipe on, swipe off. Swipe right for white, left for red. Tap/hold to dim. Swipe three time to strobe. Simple, and you’ll never break a non existent knob. But if you’re wearing typical gloves, that won’t work. You’ll have to use your nose. Yes, I tried it and it works.
Princeton Tec says the Backcountry outputs 150 lumens of white light and will run at that for eight hours. Dim it to the minimum and you’re supposed to get 24 hours out of it. Switch to red and you stretch the high output to twelve hours and the low to 32. I didn’t time that myself, but having taken the Backcountry on numerous trips I’m still on the first set of AAA batteries. You can find the Helix Basecamp online for twenty-eight bucks or so.
As you can tell, I love these lights. I’ve used them in blinds in the pre dawn darkness. I’ve used them in tents. I’ve loaded magazines in the back of my Jeep while hog hunting overnight. Their looks are what got my attention. Their uses and build quality are what make me love them. Backed by five year warranties, these made in America lights go everywhere with me. I like these things so much I’m tempted to do a video on them…