Princeton Tec Helix collapsible lantern gives light control to your smartphone

The Princeton Tec Helix Bluetooth LED lantern can be controlled wirelessly

Even outdoor gear, designed to function far beyond the limits of Wi-Fi and cell phone coverage, is getting smarter and more connected. The new Helix Bluetooth lantern from Princeton Tec turns your smartphone into a camp-lighting remote control. The funky-looking lantern also collapses down with an accordion-like body and folding legs.

We've seen remote-controlled camp lanterns before from manufacturers like Coleman and Eureka!, but they have used purpose-built remote controls. The Helix Bluetooth eliminates the need to weigh your keyring or pocket down with extra clutter, giving you remote control capabilities from your friendly smartphone touchscreen. You can even control up to eight lanterns with one iOS/Android device.

The Helix Bluetooth has gotten some criticism for being a case of adding Bluetooth to a device just for the sake of adding Bluetooth. We can think of at least a few scenarios in which a smartphone-controlled lantern would come in handy, however.

I can't be the only camper that's ever plopped down in my folding camp chair around sunset and gotten distracted for a few moments (okay, maybe hours) by the cooler full of cold beer right next to me, only to find that it's pitch black by the time I get up. Slow-stepping and air-grabbing my way to the tent or car to get a flashlight isn't the end of the world, but switching the lights on from my smartphone before I get out of the chair would definitely be better.

I could also see the design being used in much the same way a vehicle key fob is used in a crowded parking lot. You could switch the Helix on to immediately find your tent when lost in a sea of tents at a festival or fair, assuming you're within Bluetooth range.

Or maybe you hear something scratching around outside the tent, and instead of crawling out and swinging your flashlight wildly to locate it, you stay in the tent, light up the lantern on the picnic table outside and peek through the mesh window.

We're not sure those types of occasional scenarios warrant spending the US$30 premium on the Bluetooth version of the rechargeable Helix Basecamp lantern, but they do make a case that the Bluetooth could be useful at camp.

The Helix packs small via a helix-inspired, accordion-style collapsible lantern globe and fold-up legs. You can also remove the globe and use it as a spotlight. The 11-oz (313-g) lantern isn't necessarily built for backpacking – Princeton Tec offers the smaller, non-Bluetooth Helix Backcountry for that – but the compact design will save a little room in the car trunk. The unit's dimmable LEDs offer up to 250 lumens and are powered by a rechargeable lithium battery or three AA alkalines to provide from five to 22 hours of light depending on the setting.

Princeton Tec introduced the Helix Bluetooth earlier this year and it's available now for $110.

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