Joby Gorillatorch Switchback: Our Review


As you’d likely guess, mail call is a welcome event here at, as we’re always eager to see what new gadgets and gear we’re going to get to check out next.   At the same time, it probably won’t come as much of a shock to hear that every one of those arrivals was also accompanied by a good deal of politicking for first dibs on the best and most exciting of that new gear… and you’d be right – there is. But what you might find surprising is that one of the most fiercely fought over recent arrivals was a combination headlamp and camping lantern.  Yes, you read that correctly…a headlamp and lantern.  While we all love the ‘fun stuff,’ it’s often the cleverest and useful stuff that causes the biggest stir – and the Joby Gorillatorch Switchback is both.  Now, having gotten the chance to spend some additional time with the Gorillatorch Switchback, I have to say that the struggle was justified.  Join us as we take a closer look at one of the handiest and most practical devices we’ve tested in a long time.

A Light in Dark Places…

Before we begin, it’s probably best to make clear just what the Joby Gorillatorch Switchback is – in simplest terms; it’s an extraordinarily strong LED headlamp that transforms into a camping lantern – thoughtfully packaged together with one of Joby’s unique and amazingly versatile Gorillapod tripods.  While I realize that this isn’t the kind of device that you’d typically think to add to your ultimate gadget wish list (and to be truthful, I hadn’t either), if you’ll keep reading I think I can change your mind.

Originally designed and intended for hikers and campers (a role, its worth noting, it fills extremely well), the Gorillatorch Switchback’s versatility is what makes it stand out.  While not the lightest or most compact unit available, some devices are simply worth the extra weight and size – especially for short hiking and car camping.  But truthfully, it’s in another role that we believe it really stands out.

No matter where you live, it’s a safe bet that you find yourself facing unexpected challenges from time to time… challenges that range from the merely inconvenient to the downright dangerous.  And regardless of whether it’s ice storms, hurricanes, tornados or earthquakes, most of us realize that it’s important to give more than just a passing thought to disaster preparedness.  As a result of this thinking, I’ve frequently found myself drawn to some rather unconventional gadgets (i.e. solar powered radios, crank driven cell phone charges, water purifiers, etc.).  And while these are all useful items, I’ve often found that it’s things like flashlights and lanterns that really catch my eye.  Just as surprisingly, after asking around, I’ve learned that I’m not alone in this interest.  While perhaps not the most glamorous of implements, I think the reasons for our interest are obvious: not only does a reliable source of light enhance safety; for us humans, nothing calms fears or settles nerves more quickly than a light in the dark.  And while there are any number of solutions on the market, having a strong, safe, easily transportable light source that can be positioned virtually anywhere is definitely worth consideration… and that is exactly what the innovative and adaptable Joby Gorillatorch Switchback delivers


Headlamp Mode

In its headlamp mode, the Gorillatorch Switchback can be used in one of several ways.  Its lowest setting engages two white LEDs to provide basic illumination that Joby claims will last up to 72 hours on two AA batteries (included).  At its highest setting, a third, more powerful (and dimmable) LED light in the center provides extremely bright illumination that enables you to see objects more than 75 feet away (though it will only last 90 minutes at that highest power setting). In addition to the two standard white light options, the headlamp also comes equipped with red LEDs which are great for preserving night vision.  While providing less pure visibility, this red light option is an especially welcome feature and helps make moving around or working in low light conditions significantly easier.

The included adjustable strap and cushioned light unit and power pack are surprisingly easy to adjust and comfortable to wear.  On a side note, for those who have yet to make the leap to headlamps… trust me when I say, do it – not only do they make getting around in the dark a whole lot easier (as the light goes wherever your eyes go), it also leaves your hands free to hold or fix things… you can even use them for reading in bed. Finally, the headlamp includes a “panic” setting that automatically flashes between red and white lights, which is certain to draw attention should it be needed.

Lantern Mode

While the headlamp mode is extremely useful, sometimes you need to share the light, and that’s what makes the Joby Gorillatorch Switchback so unique.  Simply insert the headlamp into the base of the included white translucent block (measuring roughly 4″ x 3.3″ x 2.1″) and the Gorillatorch Switchback transforms into a compact and effective lantern.  The battery pack and light controls form the base of the lantern – which provides enough light for a moderately sized cabin (or room), a tent or picnic table. Neatly diffusing the light, the Gorillatorch Switchback in lantern mode delivers a soft and very useable glow. And while the lantern works well either standing on its own base or hanging from its top-mounted plastic hook, it really comes into its own when paired with the included Gorillapod tripod.  This small, cleverly designed tripod features unique, flexible legs consisting of a number of grippy knobs that can be wrapped around almost anything, (poles, branches, bed frames, etc.) allowing it to be positioned virtually anywhere… tremendously increasing its flexibility and usefulness.  As an added bonus, the tripod comes with a removable screwplate that fits into most standard camera threads… making it an even more valuable addition to your kit.

Wrapping it Up

When it comes to gear and gadgets, it’s true that we all love the exciting toys and exotic hardware; but there is something inescapably intriguing about those few devices whose obvious value, flexibility and practicality combine with innovative design and quality.  The Gorillatorch Switchback is one of those rare products that is not only cool but extremely useful… succeeding in a truly valuable role exactly as advertised and designed.  While we test lots of great gear, there are a relative few that I immediately want to add to my own collection… and fewer still that I feel as strongly about as the Joby Gorillatorch Switchback. Whether you’re an outdoors person interested in some new gear or someone simply looking to enhance your home emergency preparedness kit, I can’t think of a more worthwhile addition – the Joby Gorillatorch Switchback, together with the included Gorillapod tripod, are just that good.  I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.