Yep, we’re here again: Ryobi review time! If you’ve been following us for a while, you’ve probably seen our post asking if Ryobi fans are good for camping—and if you read that one (spoiler), you know that it’s become an essential piece of our camping kit!
But does Ryobi make any other great tools that double as camping gear? That’s exactly what we’re finding out today with our review of the Ryobi work light (specifically within the context of camping).
Table of Contents
Click on any of the links below to jump to the desired section!
- For the Unfamiliar: What Is Ryobi?
- Switching Gears: What Kind of Lighting Is Good for Camping?
- How Much Light Do You Really Need for Camping?
- The Ryobi Work Light: Features & Specifications
- …The Ryobi Work Light: Is It a Good Camp Light?
- The Ryobi Work Light Has Fantastic Online Reviews
- It’s More Efficient Than Most Camp Lighting Options
- Turning the Ryobi Work Light on HIGH Is Overkill for…
For the Unfamiliar: What Is Ryobi?
For the 10 people who haven’t heard of Ryobi, the brand is best known for their portable power tools. However, Ryobi also makes components for a huge range of other fields, including vehicles, telecommunications, and so on.
Anyway, their tools—including our Ryobi work light—are especially popular with DIY-ers, but are commonly found at professional job sites too.
Manufacturing: Is Ryobi a Chinese Company?
Ryobi is headquartered in Japan (where it was founded in the 1940s) but the company is owned by Hong Kong-based conglomerate Techtronic Industries. While Ryobi has production centers all around the world, most of their consumer products are made in China.
For those who see that as a red flag (couldn’t resist), bear with us for a moment. We know the PRC has a so-so reputation as a manufacturing hub, but considering Ryobi’s widely positive reputation, the Ryobi work light at least deserves a thought.
Plus, not everything that comes out of China is meh (our Gerber Suspension review highlights an example).
Ryobi’s One+ Battery System Is Super Popular
The big draw of Ryobi power tools is the One+ battery system, which offers solid performance away from an AC power source (i.e., they’re portable). Even better, the same battery fits over 200 different tools.
Switching Gears: What Kind of Lighting Is Good for Camping?
Before we explain the pros and cons of the Ryobi work light for camping, we should probably establish a few things about camp lighting.
Generally, camp lights can be separated into 3 categories (at least for our purposes): campfires, flashlights or headlamps, and lanterns.
If you need us to explain a campfire to you, the outdoors might not be the best place to visit…Okay, okay—snarkiness aside—campfires are for cooking, smoking out bugs, and offering a source of ambient lighting.
Since campfires serve a different purpose, bringing fire-starting gear and artificial light sources is practical.
Flashlights & Headlamps
Flashlights are essential for camping. Aside from the obvious reasons, a flashlight can help you signal for help, spot unfriendly critters, and help you find your lost X, Y, or Z. The best options are super durable, offer high output, and are easily stowable.
Oh, and headlamps offer everything an ordinary flashlight offers with the added bonus of granting you free hands.
Sidenote: our Olight i1R 2 EOS review highlights a keychain-sized backup that might also be good for camping!
It’s not always practical or convenient to light up your campsite with a fire—and aside from some very niche, super-pro level scenarios, starting a fire in your tent is kinda dumb.
Lanterns provide safe and portable camp lighting in lieu (or support) of a campfire.
If it wasn’t obvious, this is the category our Ryobi work light is invading. While it’s not designed for camping, we’re going to explain why that doesn’t necessarily matter below. But first, let’s cover a few more bases about camp lighting in general.
How Much Light Do You Really Need for Camping?
It really depends on how you like to camp. For example, if you prefer to cook dinner at night to avoid excessive heat, it’s wise to light up your camp kitchen so you’re not fumbling around in the dark looking for ingredients or utensils.
Then again, you also have to consider wants vs. needs.
Here’s a quick analogy: it’s a great idea to have a high-end water bottle like a Hydro Flask or YETI Rambler, but a Hydro Flask cooler cup (our review) is probably a luxury. Having a solid container for water is a necessity; keeping a beer or soda cold for a few extra hours is more of a want.
The same goes for lighting. Flashlights are critical, and it’s also good to have at least 1 or 2 lanterns—but you don’t necessarily need to light up your entire campsite at night. Keep this in mind because this is the framework that we’re using to judge the Ryobi work light!
Sidenote: if you want to check out more camping tips, we wrote a guide debunking terrible camping hacks!
Getting Scientific: How Many Lumens Do You Need to Light a Campsite?
Nowadays, flashlights, lanterns, and so on all display their output in lumens on their packaging.
If you’re unfamiliar, lumens measure brightness; the higher the number, the brighter the source. Of course, the more lumens a source produces, the more expensive it tends to be too.
Anyways, most campers are perfectly happy with light sources that emit between 30–150 lumens, which is actually super low. For comparison, the average household light bulb emits between 400–800 lumens. In other words, camp lights don’t need to be very bright.
So does the Ryobi work light fulfill the needs of the average camper? Let’s find out!
The Ryobi Work Light: Features & Specifications
The Ryobi work light is essentially a portable floodlight. It’s designed for professional job sites, so it’s durable, efficient, and ridiculously bright. But like we mentioned in our Ryobi portable fan review, these are also features that appeal to campers, casual and otherwise.
But before we get into the benefits of using this light for camping, let’s talk about its general features and specs first!
Note: This review specifically pertains to the Ryobi P721 work light, but it’s not a stretch to apply the points below to other Ryobi work lights.
It Uses Ryobi’s One+ 18V Battery System (or You Can Plug It in)
Like most of Ryobi’s modern tools, the Ryobi work light uses One+ 18V batteries. These batteries allow portable power tools to offer a similar degree of performance as their corded counterparts, albeit only for a few hours depending on the type of tool.
Oh, and any 18V Ryobi battery will work with the light. The higher the amp hours, the longer the light will last (we’ll talk about run time in the Ryobi review portion below).
It Produces 2,400 Lumens on HIGH
We’re not sugarcoating: this Ryobi work light turns night into day.
On HIGH it offers an insane 2,400 lumens, which is 10 times brighter than necessary for the average camper’s needs.
On LOW, the Ryobi work light is still super bright, although we’re not sure about the exact lumens output. We reached out to the company but haven’t heard anything back yet (we’ll update this post once we have a concrete answer).
Nevertheless, LOW mode still produces more than enough light to be useful for camping, but we’ll get to that later.
The Ryobi Work Light Is Durable and Water-Resistant (but Not Waterproof)
Another ideal feature of the Ryobi work light is its durability and resistance to the elements. We’ve dropped our light a handful of times without issue; although, this isn’t something we recommend doing on purpose.
More importantly, the work light can be used in damp conditions so long as the light isn’t submerged or left in a downpour. However, this light is not advertised as waterproof like our waterproof electric lighters, and long-term exposure to wet conditions could ruin it.
In other words, the Ryobi work light is water-resistant. If it gets splashed, it should be completely fine. But if you drop it in the surf, it’s probably donezo.
It Costs Around $80 (Plus the Price of Ryobi Batteries)
The Ryobi work light normally costs about $80 without batteries. If you also need 1 or more batteries, you’re looking at somewhere between a $100 and $120 investment depending on the size of the battery you choose.
That said, we got ours during Home Depot’s Ryobi Days special (they do this once a year or so towards the beginning of summer) and bought our work light, a charger, and 2 of the larger batteries for about $60. Home Depot also tends to offer other special deals throughout the year so if you time it right, you might be able to knock a good amount off the price tag.
The Ryobi Work Light Comes With a 3-Year Warranty
All Ryobi One+ tools and equipment are covered by a 90-day exchange policy and a 3-year limited warranty. We’ve never had to return a Ryobi tool ourselves, but we’ve heard that the experience is usually straightforward (let us know if you’ve had a different experience).
Okay, We’re Here! The Ryobi Work Light: Is It a Good Camp Light?
It’s the question of the hour! The Ryobi work light wasn’t designed for camping but it does exhibit a lot of qualities you might expect from camping gear.
Its Build Quality Is Definitely Up to Par
While we try not to throw our Ryobi work light around, it’s already survived some heavy abuse. After all, it’s built for contractor sites so it can handle a bit more than your average tent lantern.
The body is made of a thick, hard plastic that’s both heat resistant and generally waterproof. However, as we mentioned before, the light itself is not waterproof (the body isn’t watertight).
One thing to note though, the glass shield that protects and focuses the LED might be a vulnerable point. A surrounding bevel protects this glass from a direct strike but we’re not about to test this out either.
Of course, this is a fatal flaw for all but the most high-end flashlights and equipment.
Ryobi Batteries Are Superior to AAs and AAAs
There’s no questioning it. Ryobi One+ batteries are objectively better than household batteries like AAs, AAAs, or Ds (rechargeable or otherwise).
While a Ryobi battery is definitely on the larger side, they’re not heavy and they’re not prone to acid damage if you splash them (wet AAs, etc. are a hazard). Moreover, their increased voltage is miles better than anything household batteries can produce, which in turn means the Ryobi work light can offer a lot more output than virtually any tent light.
There’s one big catch though: if you’re backpacking or trying to conserve as much space as possible, the larger Ryobi batteries are prohibitive. Obviously, a work light that’s the size of a toaster isn’t backpack-friendly. But if you’re looking for something to bring on a casual camping trip, the space the Ryobi light and its batteries take up is pretty minimal.
You Can Use the Same Batteries for the Ryobi Portable Fan (and More)
We hinted at this earlier, but the Ryobi portable fan we reviewed a while back uses the same batteries as our new Ryobi work light. For more casual camping, we envision bringing a few charged batteries and both tools because…why not?
The Ryobi Work Light Has Fantastic Online Reviews
From what we’ve seen, other Ryobi reviews are overwhelmingly positive. Now, we’re not going to say their products have 0 flaws (they do), but the performance-to-value ratio is absurdly good.
We looked through hundreds of online reviews and couldn’t find any serious or recurring complaints with the Ryobi work light. It’s a good piece of hardware that seems to be built to last (and we’ll update this article the second we feel differently!).
It’s More Efficient Than Most Camp Lighting Options
We touched on this already, but ordinary camp lights generally seem to focus on saving space rather than output. There’s definitely a role for these lights, but if you need something that can light up your campsite like the Fourth of July, you’re going to have a hard time finding anything as convenient or affordable as the Ryobi work light.
Turning the Ryobi Work Light on HIGH Is Overkill for Camping…
We’ve used our Ryobi work light about a dozen times and we’ve never felt the need to use the HIGH mode. It’s literally too bright for normal camping use.
That said, LOW mode seems to emit the perfect amount of light (we’re still trying to figure out the exact lumens) for 99% of our camping needs. Better yet, it seems like the light will work all night on LOW mode with a 4Ah battery.
We haven’t fully tested this (so the battery life might be longer) but we’ll be sure to update this piece once we have accurate info. Regardless, most people only use their camp lights for an hour or 2 at a time so the Ryobi work light more than fulfills that need.
…But Great for Emergencies and Bad Weather!
While we don’t typically use our Ryobi work light on HIGH, we do foresee the mode being helpful in an emergency or during adverse weather. Heavy precipitation or fog dramatically affects visibility so we could see someone using the light as a beacon. And since it’s visible from space (we’re joking) it could also be used to signal for help.
Alternatively, if someone is hurt, the mode provides ample light to offer quality first aid (BTW, here’s how to make a first aid kit for camping).
The Ryobi Work Light Might Be Heavier Than Your Average Camp Light
The Ryobi work light only weighs about 3 lbs, plus the weight of the battery (about 1 lb). Unless you’re worried about overall weight or space, that’s not bad at all for casual camping.
In comparison, the average camping lantern only weighs a couple pounds but it also produces a quarter (if that) of the light output the Ryobi offers.
Here’s an analogy: we reviewed the classic USMC KA-BAR for camping and found that it can complete most heavy-duty tasks with ease, but its size and weight kind of make it an overkill option. On the other hand, our Kershaw Blur review found the knife can’t do everything a KA-BAR can (mostly referring to chopping tree branches, etc.), but it’s not far off and it’s much lighter and compact. In other words: the Ryobi work light does more than you need it to for camping, but that’s not exactly a bad thing.
Its Mounting Options Are Designed for Worksites, not Tents (but Jury-rigging Is Still an Option)
Another potential downside of the Ryobi work light is that its mounting hardware isn’t really tent-compatible. Jury-rigging is likely possible in a heavy-duty tent, but the Ryobi might be too heavy to mount in your average 2- or 3-person tent.
Of course, we just use the Ryobi’s pre-attached stand.
Like All Camp Lights, the Ryobi Work Light Attracts Bugs (and a Lot of ‘em!)
This isn’t a flaw of the Ryobi light so much as it’s a flaw of…nature? For whatever dumb reason that bugs are attracted to lights at night, they’re super enthralled with the Ryobi work light.
Since the Ryobi is so bright, that effect seems to be exacerbated.
However, just about any light is going to have this problem in the right (or wrong) environment.
Conclusion: The Ryobi Work Light Is Great for Camping (With a Couple Exceptions)
We bought our Ryobi work light because it felt like a better option than most other camp lights in the same price range—and we’re happy to report that it met all our expectations! Next time we go camping in Carrizo Plain, or anywhere else, there’s a pretty good chance this work light’s going to be part of our kit.
Now, that said, we should note that not everyone’s going to have the same upfront investment that we did. We already had a ton of batteries when we bought the Ryobi work light. If you need to buy the light and a few spare batteries, you’re looking at more of an uphill investment.
In our opinion, that investment is still worth it because these lights are useful for a lot more than just camping. We’ve used ours to change a tire at night, at gatherings, and we even brought it to a bonfire at the beach (which is sort of camping-adjacent, right?).
In the interest of transparency though, there are a couple more things to consider when buying a Ryobi work light.
Backpackers Will Obviously Want Something Smaller and Lighter
If you’re looking for something to take backpacking, the Ryobi work light doesn’t make sense at all. While it’s not bulky or heavy, it’s not backpack-friendly either. Plus, backpackers don’t really have a way to charge up their batteries (and spares only take up more space).
This is pretty commonsensical, but it’s still worth noting.
You Should Still Carry Backups and a Flashlight (or 2)
Finally, we still strongly recommend carrying a flashlight or 2 in addition to using the Ryobi work light. For one, they have entirely different purposes, but the big concern is redundancy. If something happens to your work light, you won’t be SOL if you have an extra light source in your pocket or backpack.
It’s the same reason we keep our Kershaw Blur in our pocket and both a Gerber multi-tool and Victorinox Spartan (check out our Victorinox Spartan review) with our other gear. Redundancy saves lives—and if you’re an EDC enthusiast like us (what is everyday carry?), buying all the extra gear is fun too!
The Ryobi work light absolutely earns the Renegade Camping seal of approval for camping. It’s a great piece of hardware that’s built to last and meets all the needs of casual campers; it’s efficient, lightweight, compact, and convenient.
And with that, we’re done! If you think we missed something in this Ryobi review or have something to add, let us know in the comments, on Instagram or Reddit, or anywhere else you find us! We love continuing the conversation and we thrive on community feedback!
The operators of Renegade Camping may receive a commission for purchases made through links on our site. But that doesn’t mean we’re shilling random crap! We thoroughly research and/or own all the products we review on our website. We want to build unshakeable trust with our readers, and that means offering honest, transparent reviews and guides. Cheers!– The Renegade Camping & EDC team
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