Lightweight Rechargeable Headlamps 2020

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CAMERONM
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Lightweight Rechargeable Headlamps 2020

Post by CAMERONM » Wed Jun 24, 2020 12:18 pm

Rechargeable headlamps for off-trail travel

Hello, I share here a summary of my review of lightweight rechargeable headlamps suitable for off-trail travel. High Sierra Topix is fairly unique for the number of viewers who appreciate off-trail travel, so hopefully this information is of value for you. I carried out my own tests because I was frustrated by the oftentimes inaccurate website reviews where the authors just list manufacturer specs. I submit here a summary only but have posted a full review of nine lights with extensive photographic studies on my non-commercial non-affiliate website. It would be too crazy to repost here all the photos and movies, but if you really want to dive into the weeds, here it is: https://www.trailnamebackstroke.com/rec ... lamps-2020

Several new lightweight rechargeable headlamps appear on the market, and my headlamp needs are evolving, so it seems time to give rechargeables a closer look. For many years I have used the ultralight favorites Petzl e+LIGHT and then the Nitecore NU20, which are fine for trail hiking, but not powerful enough for off-trail. My criteria for choosing headlamps to review are personal and specific to strenuous off-trail travel where I need both a strong focussed beam for route finding and extended + 100 lumen performance to survive a bad situation. During my evaluation I premiate lighter size and weight; a regulated medium-power light output that maintains a consistent strength over many hours; a good route-finding beam strength; water resistance; light reflector qualities; and a subjective rating of use-enjoyment. Considerations less important for me include price and value; a battery indicator; a red-light feature; a close-flood feature; a flashing light; and the ability to swap batteries. In my website review I first give some quick opinions and then go into more detail with documentation that informs those opinions.

The ultralight argument for rechargeables

Some prefer rechargeable lights for saving money or creating less battery waste in the world. The ultralight argument for a rechargeable may include making good daily use of a solar charger, otherwise, like all expendables, the size of the battery is only weight-efficient if it matches your ultimate consumption. Now that I spend most of my time off-trail I largely avoid traveling at night, and so my main requirement is having a light that is strong enough and lasts long enough to get me out of a bad situation. The efficient use of a battery over several days by drawing it down carefully may not serve one well if an unexpected bad night occurs at the end of a trip. Therein lies possibly the best argument for a rechargeable: the ability to “top off” the light each day in preparation for the unexpected bad night. The Fenix HM50, similar to the small battery Zebralights, offers a different strategy; it is so lightweight that one could carry an extra battery in reserve, with the comfort of knowing that a certain number of hours of light are in reserve.

I learn many things during the review: manufacturer stated lumens and longevity ratings are often false or wildly misleading; less heavy lights are distinctly more comfortable to wear than even slightly heavier ones; reflector design varies a lot and is very important; some aspects of light perception are difficult to quantify, even with photography. I review nine lights, almost all of which are new models for this year, and I will keep three quite different lights for more field testing and personal use: the Petzl Actik 450, Black Diamond Revolt 350 and the Fenix HM50. These three lights are beginning to show up on the web frequently as top-rated, although many still confuse the older Black Diamond with the new "350” model.

My favorite headlamp is the Petzl Actik 450. The Petzl is nice to hold, is among the smallest and lightest, and is the best-looking design (I am an architect, after all). Most importantly, my tests show a unique lens light pattern that provides a center hot spot, which I strongly prefer, combined with a very gentle outer perimeter drop-off. I like the preset lumen settings of 6, 100 and 450 lumens, and the 100 lumens “medium” setting probably only degrades to about 60-70 lumens over 7.5 hours, so its light regulation is excellent. I am concerned about the middling IPX4 water rating, but the light performed fine after a kitchen test of five minutes of intense dousing. This light can use both the supplied lithium battery as well as AAA batteries. A feature shared by most of the lights is the “long-hold” button to guard against accidental activation.

I am generally impressed by Fenix on many levels: the informative website, honest ratings, and the obvious careful thought that goes into their products. The Fenix HM50 is my favorite. It features a screw-end barrel design that can use either a rechargeable or a CR123 battery just like my favorite non-rechargeable Zebralight H32W. It has an impressive IPX8 water rating and maintains a strong regulated light at the 130 lumen “medium” light level for 5.5 hours. The 50R is the lightest and smallest headlamp of this review and works well with a DIY lightweight headband for a combined total weight of only 2.4 oz. The very low weight of this light also suggests a possible failsafe strategy of taking one additional .6 oz battery, a strategy I use with the Zebralight.

The new Black Diamond Revolt 350 appears after the start my review and I almost did not bother to test it as its top light level of 350 lumens seemed too low and it is also quite heavy at 2.7 oz for the bare light. It is indeed a brute, but if I had to grab a light to go on a rescue mission, I would want this one. The focussed beam projects more light at a distance than 350 lumens suggests and the medium setting of 190 lumens is powerful, well-regulated, long lasting. I like the typical Black Diamond feature of the push-button variable lumen settings. Unfortunately, the IPX4 water rating is only average, probably a function of its ability to swap-out AAA batteries. This light in particular has many mixed web reviews, probably because of confusion with the older, inferior model.

My conclusion: Lightweight rechargeables are now part of my kit.








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Re: Lightweight Rechargeable Headlamps 2020

Post by caddis » Wed Jun 24, 2020 1:38 pm

I'm a bit surprised and mildly disappointed that you didn't include the Nitecore NU25
Under 1 oz
Max output 360 lumens
Nice wide beam
Very functional output levels 3-38-190-360(turbo) lumens
plus it has two red LED outputs
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Re: Lightweight Rechargeable Headlamps 2020

Post by CAMERONM » Wed Jun 24, 2020 4:16 pm

Hi Caddis
Don't be disappointed! The NU25 is fantastic and is nearly the same as the NU20 I mention, which does not remotely fulfill the requirement of a sustained medium power beam for at least 6 hours. Try it some time, I have, you will find yourself crawling around in the dark quickly. There is no way that a small battery can put out that much light for that long. And unlike the HM50 which can take a spare, the NU25 has a sealed internal battery. No question, for predictable trail hiking, the NU25 is the best thing out there now. My effort was to find the best medium-high power light for sustained difficult off-trail situations.

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Re: Lightweight Rechargeable Headlamps 2020

Post by bobby49 » Wed Jun 24, 2020 5:26 pm

I go with the Zebralight H6xx series of headlamps. I've got plenty of 18650 batteries and a good charger. Field replacing a battery seems best for the way that I travel, mostly using a 100 lumen intensity. Once in a while I kick it up to 1000 lumens when the going gets tough.

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Re: Lightweight Rechargeable Headlamps 2020

Post by caddis » Thu Jun 25, 2020 10:14 am

CAMERONM wrote:
Wed Jun 24, 2020 4:16 pm
Hi Caddis
Don't be disappointed! The NU25 is fantastic and is nearly the same as the NU20 I mention, which does not remotely fulfill the requirement of a sustained medium power beam for at least 6 hours. Try it some time, I have, you will find yourself crawling around in the dark quickly. There is no way that a small battery can put out that much light for that long. And unlike the HM50 which can take a spare, the NU25 has a sealed internal battery. No question, for predictable trail hiking, the NU25 is the best thing out there now. My effort was to find the best medium-high power light for sustained difficult off-trail situations.
Yes, but you can plug into an external battery and still use the headlamp
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Re: Lightweight Rechargeable Headlamps 2020

Post by SSSdave » Thu Jun 25, 2020 10:54 am

A key reason I've avoided buying the typical headlamps sold in camping/backpacking stores is that they tend to use two AAA batteries, playing up the lighter weight is a benefit with expectation users will only be using headlamps at night around their camp spots. Thus not practical for night hiking especially without a moon, as the batteries don't have enough capacity. Additionally one will often need a brighter light while hiking on trails and more off trail. Today many of these small LED headlamps now have higher brightness settings but they will drain batteries down quickly so not to be used night hiking along a trail for an hour and more. Although some trails surfaces are rather obvious, we all know there are plenty of places where it is difficult enough during the day. Like across bedrock, at stream crossing, in marsh areas early summer, and much more. It is easy to mistake an unexpected fork in a trail that goes to a nearby camp spot or some use route elsewhere where at some point one is wandering about wondering where the diminishing path goes to.

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Re: Lightweight Rechargeable Headlamps 2020

Post by rlown » Thu Jun 25, 2020 11:20 am

Why are you hiking at night? stream crossing at night?
My Petzls work just fine. Also work well on a duck blind approach at 5am. Rechargeable batteries are overrated. Memory problem and all.
I replace all my batteries before a trip.

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Re: Lightweight Rechargeable Headlamps 2020

Post by CAMERONM » Thu Jun 25, 2020 1:50 pm

Why are you hiking at night?
When off-trail I avoid hiking at night. One point of this study is that in more extreme non-trail locations, I want a light that can help lead me out of a potential bad situation. I once did decide to make my way down the Mountaineers Route and it did not go well. My light went out after 4 hours and I got stuck on some dodgy ledges for the night. The memory of that and a few other incidents makes me want to have a substantial light.
Yes, but you can plug into an external battery and still use the headlamp
I looked at that and decided that in a challenging bad situation I would not want the extra stress of a dangling USB cord, let alone one that lands right over my eye!

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Re: Lightweight Rechargeable Headlamps 2020

Post by CAMERONM » Thu Jun 25, 2020 1:56 pm

A key reason I've avoided buying the typical headlamps sold in camping/backpacking stores is that they tend to use two AAA batteries, playing up the lighter weight is a benefit with expectation users will only be using headlamps at night around their camp spots. Thus not practical for night hiking especially without a moon, as the batteries don't have enough capacity. Additionally one will often need a brighter light while hiking on trails and more off trail. Today many of these small LED headlamps now have higher brightness settings but they will drain batteries down quickly so not to be used night hiking along a trail for an hour and more.
I agree. In my review I find that the current offerings of 3 x AAA or dedicated 1250-1800 mAh lithiums meet my expectations.

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Re: Lightweight Rechargeable Headlamps 2020

Post by SSSdave » Thu Jun 25, 2020 4:13 pm

rlown wrote:
Thu Jun 25, 2020 11:20 am
Why are you hiking at night? stream crossing at night?


Anyone might read my trip chronicles for examples of how and why I sometimes night hiking.

I have dozens of NiMH batteries because am frugal and as an electronic hardware career person know when and how to use batteries. Recent decade designs of high performance Nickel Metal Hydride batteries have similar capacity to high end alkaline but with a flatter discharge curve, and better lifetime charge cycles than those from earlier years. That noted it is still readily possible to buy product with poor characteristics thus beware.

As an example, here is a public test I did for dpreview dot com on Sony A6000 NP-FW50 lithium ion batteries where people over years were regularly making ignorant here say inputs my testing helped reduce.

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/ ... t-62157207

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