Although new to the lighting business, Gear Aid is no newcomer to the outdoor industry. They’ve been producing some of the best repair products for SCUBA and backcountry gear since 1981. From zipper kits to repair tapes and waterproofing solutions, they’ve saved many of my favorite pieces of gear from an untimely dumpster burial. As a fan of the brand I was stoked to see them release an innovative camp lamp.
When I unboxed the ARC LED Light and Power Station for the first time, what I noticed immediately was the heft of it. Whereas many lights feel toy-like with thin plastic and a cheap overall feel, the ARC fit in my hand like a proper piece of equipment. Solid as a rock, each individual component fits together so tightly it feels like it was carved from a chunk of granite. At a little over a pound I wouldn’t call it heavy, but it does command a certain level of gravity. With dimensions of just 5x5x1.5-inches, it’s also compact enough to fit in a jacket pocket, or center console where it’s always at the ready.
Packed within the durable case is a 10,400 mAh Li-ion rechargeable battery. Capable of supplying up to 96 hours of light on a single charge, the ARC can also be used to charge any of your portable devices via a USB charging port on the back panel. On the face of the lamp behind the frosted lens is an array of 30 individual LEDs which can be toggled between 10 different settings from 10 lumens to a powerful 320 lumens. On the highest setting the ARC has no problem illuminating an entire campsite.
What sets the ARC apart from any other lamp I’ve tested in the last year, and there have been many, is the ability to select between three different color temperatures from a cool blue to a warm, but subtle yellow. All of the lighting functions are controlled via four tactile buttons. On the back there is a power level indicator and a rubberized cover protects the charging ports from moisture and dirt giving the ARC a respectable IPX-5 rating. Consider that sufficiently plash-proof.
Like any good work-inspired light, the name of the game with the ARC is––utility. The metal kickstand rotates on a heavy-duty pivot with strong detents to hold the lamp in one of four positions. At the base of the kickstand is a small threaded stud, perhaps my favorite feature.
In a perfect world everyone would have an assistant standing over their shoulder holding a lamp in just the right spot. A close substitute is a mounting system which allows you to place the light just where you need it. The small threaded stud in the kickstand mates to one of four options provided by the mounting gurus at RAM. For my ARC I paired it to the RAM Claw Light Mount which I find useful on roof racks or attached the internal frame of my rooftop tent.
After reviewing dozens of area lamps and lanterns over the last year, many of them designed to produce 360º of light, I came to realize the ARC’s 180º pattern was just right if placed well. I have since added an additional mount on a suction cup to the rear door of my SUV. I no longer bumble around looking for my headlamp or flashlight and just flick on the ARC. For those who like options, Gear Aid also offers a smaller version called the SPARK and a 640 lumen eyeball burner called the FLUX. Although I didn’t think the world needed another LED lighting solution, I’m glad Gear Aid thought otherwise.