I own three headlamps. I’ll review them and tell you what I do and don’t like about each of them so if you are ever in the market you may be able to make a better decision.
Headlamps are one of the best things ever invented. It lets you light the way or the project and still have your hands free to do what needs to be done. If you don’t own any you gotta add one or two to your gear.
The first one is a Princeton Tec Solo with a Xenon bulb. You should be able to pick these up for between $15-20.
The Solo is a good entry model headlamp. It runs a long time off of two AA batteries. It turns on and off by turning the housing for the lamp, like adjusting the beam on a Maglight. A very important feature of all headlamps is a ratchet mechanism on the lamp so it can be pointed downwards and upwards. Make sure that any lamp you buy can be ratcheted up and down because when you’re doing something in the dark you want the lamp pointing down at the ground and not up at the trees (unless you’re hunting raccoons). Before you buy a headlamp work the light part up and down. Try that ratchet out. Does it feel cheesy or well-made? Does it feel like it might wear out quickly and leave your flaccid light forever pointing down at the ground?
This is the front of the lamp. Another reason this lamp is good is because it has a strap that goes over the top of your head too. All headlamps have a strap that goes around the outside of your head, but another nice feature is having a strap that runs over the top of you head from front to back. This allows the lamp to hang on better to winter hats and helmets.
This is the battery compartment for the Princeton Solo. It flips up and stays attached because of a little flexible plastic strip. In other words you can’t lose the cover to the battery compartment. This is a nice feature. The downside is that it doesn’t seem very waterproof, but I have taken countless faceplants in deep powder and I’ve never had a problem. It may not be submersible, but if you end up doing a yard sale it’ll keep working. The Solo is bright enough, but not real bright. It only has two settings, on and off. Good enough to walk with at night or change a tire, but not bright enough to ski or ride a bike at night. When you get moving faster you need something that can shine our further. As the batteries lose juice the beam also starts getting perverted, yellowish and dim. The Solo is the medium weighing lamp.
The next lamp is also a Princeton Tec. This model is the EOS. I don’t know where they come up with these names. The EOS takes three AAA batteries. You should be able to pick the EOS up for around $30.
That gray thing on top of the lamp is the on/off switch. It’s easy to work even with mittens or gloves. The EOS has an LED so batteries will last much longer than a filament type bulb, like the aforementioned Solo. The EOS has four settings – full, medium, low and a flashing strobe. Obviously the batteries will last longer at the lower settings. This is a good bright lamp. I can use this when I ski down hills at night. This lamp also has a ratcheting mechanism to lock the beam of the light up or down.
This is the battery compartment for the EOS. It has a little screw that can be worked with your fingers. This seems more waterproof to me than the Solo. The cover is hinged and screw attached so that you can’t lose them.
If you notice the back of the lamp has two little slots so it is easy to remove the head strap. This is good so that if the strap gets smelly, dirty or sweaty you can take it off and wash it. The slots also make it easy to lash the lamp onto something else if need be. Also notice that the EOS doesn’t have that strap that runs over your head from front to back. There is just the one strap. This single strap isn’t as secure as the lamps with both straps – around and over your head. I think the EOS weighs the least out of these three.
The last headlamp is the Black Diamond Icon. This is a great lamp. It takes two AA batteries. I put lithium batteries in mine. I think this lamp will set you back a little under 50 bucks. What I don’t like about this lamp is that the switch is on the bottom of the lamp so it’s tough to get too. Plus it’s tough to work with gloves or mittens. So when you buy a headlamp check to see where the switch is located and how easy it is to work.
The Icon has LEDs and a Xenon bulb. Each (the LEDs and the Xenon) has four settings for a total of eight settings – high, medium, low and a flashing strobe. Also notice the strap that goes over your head from front to back. Unlike the other two headlamps the battery compartment for the Icon is at the back of your head.
This is the battery compartment. Notice the thumb screw. Both the screw and the cover are attached so that you can’t lose them. This compartment seems waterproof to me and I’ve never had a problem with all of my face plants into the snow.
Notice the little slots on each side so that the strap can be pulled right out to clean or lash the lamp to something else. It’s not real important, but still it’s a nice feature.
This is the front of the lamp. The LEDs are on the side and the Xenon is in the middle. The Xenon is really bright so it’s great for moving fast at night as it puts a good cone of light a pretty fair distance in front of you. The LEDs are also bright, but not quite as bright as the bulb. The good thing is that the LEDs will burn much longer than the Xenon. Batteries last a really long time. I’m talking probably 10+ hours for even the Xenon bulb. The Icon is the heaviest of the three lamps reviewed here.
You probably can’t make it out here, but there is a little LED that burns flashing green or red depending on how much juice you have left. This is another nice feature so that you aren’t caught by surprise.
In my experience these are all rugged lights. Any one of them is a good purchase. I bought the Solo first and then a few years later got the EOS then a few years later got the Icon. I didn’t consciously “upgrade” but you may find if you buy the cheaper one first that it may not be quite enough for you so you may want to jump right into something better than entry level. The other thing is that with the Solo as the batteries fade so does your level of light. The Solo’s lamp gets dimmer and dimmer. I think the two newer lamps, the EOS and Icon, both have some sort of computer chip in them so that the level of light remains constant even as the batteries start to fade. This is a real nice feature. It keeps your light bright white instead of fading, sick, smoker’s teeth yellow.
In summary (just my opinion):
1. that extra strap that runs front to back is good.
2. get a lamp that has both filament and LED bulbs. In case on goes out you got the other.
3. I like lamps that take regular batteries that can be bought at any 7/11. Stick to AA & AAA,.
4. check the battery compartment to make sure that it stays attached and if there is a screw make sure that the screw stays attached too. You don’t want to lose the cover or screw.
5. Check that ratchet mechanism.
6. Get the best light you can comfortably afford. Otherwise, you’ll end up like me buying a better one a year or two later.
7. Check the waterproof factor.
8. Don’t get something so big that you won’t take with you.
9. All of my lamps are very easy to adjust, but check out how easy it is at adjust the straps of the headlamp you’re considering.
10. I do like that chip or IC that allows the beam of the lamp to shine steady even as the batteries are dying so check to see if the lamp you’re looking at has a chip or IC.
|Woodpecker. Imagine making a living like this. Seems like a lot of work for one or two little bugs. I like how you can see the individual little spots where he chipped the bark away. I can almost see him standing there pecking away at it.