Jan 29, 2014 at 10:38 pm #1312639
Outdoor Gear Lab has an excellent review of over 37 headlamps here:
They also have an excellent article on "Why Headlamp Claims Are Deceptive":
For the TL;DR crowd: the mfrs & REI developed a good spec for rating flashlights and headlamps, then promptly abandoned it to push run-time numbers that are misleading by factors of 10-34.
— RexJan 30, 2014 at 4:45 am #2067834
Good stuff. Many of my friends use the BD Spot, which is #3.
My ultralight headlamp is the Mammut at #35. :-(
Wish they had rated some of the Zebralight models.Jan 30, 2014 at 7:42 am #2067869
It's interesting to see how we got to the current situation, and appalling to see that REI is complicit.Jan 30, 2014 at 7:56 am #2067872
USA Duane HallParticipant
@hikerduaneLocale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
Thanks Rex. Is that you from GGG? :)
DuaneJan 30, 2014 at 8:05 am #2067876
@pgasbyLocale: North Carolina
This is a good read for anyone interested in lights.
I'm a flashaholic (and a good thing since headlamp/flashlight knowledge and some knife knut perspectives is about all I've been able to add of value as a newbie here the past year or two but it's nice to feel like I can share some information from a reasonably experienced and knowledgeable perspective)… and these kinds of shenanigans have long been part of CPF discussions. Lumens measured "at the emitter" rather than out the front of the light and treating the "moonlight" runtime as full runtime are just plain wrong. It's one reason everyone waits for reviews from guys like Selfbuilt who post real runtime graphs (and in the old days from flashlightreviews.com ) before buying lights. Although a lot of manufacturers have become much more up front about real runtimes (4Sevens and Surefire always has been clear if not understating output/runtimes).
The relative laws of physics/electronics always prevail – there is a tradeoff between runtime and output (more output the shorter the runtime all other things held constant); there is a tradeoff between capacity and size (smaller lights mean smaller cells which means either less output or shorter runtimes or both; bigger lights can have more output for the same time, or longer time for the same output); there is a tradeoff between size and safe output (smaller lights have less mass to dissipate heat – so runtime be damned a tiny light can only run a short time at a super high output not just because of the smaller cell, but also because of overheating…).
My favorite runtime story on CPF was the HDS locator beacon test. HDS lights had and still have a mode where they can emit a low output blink intermittently (the idea being you put it in this mode so you can find it in a dark room). Powernoodle put a fresh CR123 cell into the light and started it on the locator beacon. He checked in periodically and it ran, in that mode, constantly for 37 1/2 months… it was epic. But it would be somewhat disingenous to say that the HDS B60 had a runtime of 3 years… albeit technically it is true but in a mode that is not even usable light for anything other than finding it and turning it on to a more powerful output.
Anyway there are some great lights that on low will run for a very long time. There are some great lights (one in my pocket right now) that will run on high at a blinding level but be too hot to hold within minutes so it is truly a "burst" mode. What I've discovered in years of collecting and using lights is that for almost all uses not search and rescue/spec ops-law enforcement related more than 200 lumens is overkill. And with modern technology you can get some impressive performance at 200 or less lumens…Jan 30, 2014 at 8:15 am #2067879
Thanks Rex. Is that you from GGG? :)
Yep, that's me. I considered wearing my PFD at GGG so people would recognize me, but I was already Backpacking Heavy® for other reasons.
— RexJan 30, 2014 at 8:27 am #2067883
…Jan 30, 2014 at 9:06 am #2067899
@bolsterLocale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
I was thinking that many of the criticisms of false marketing pertained mostly to UNregulated lights, where both the short-lived "max brightness" and the much dimmer "max burn time" are both reported (and the uninformed assume the two go together).
It's a lot harder to mislead buyers with a regulated light. The mfg will sometimes put in a high quality battery with lots of amp-hours, but generally the user can do that, too.
If I recall, Zebralight gives its specs with the commonly-used Eneloop.
And before everyone decides to break out the pitchforks and torches, remember that:
"All else held equivalent, it takes around 100% increase in lumens before a beam looks significantly brighter (appearing about one-quarter brighter to the eye)…Intensity needs to be 300% to 400% to look twice as bright."
So if an actual lumen of 300 is inflated to 330, no human eye on earth would be able to perceive being cheated of those 30 lumens. It's deceptive, yes, but you could not claim harm for the "loss" because you couldn't see it. Ie, no court would award damages. I'm not defending it, I'm just saying the offense in this case is below the level of perception.
Roger: I assume you rejoined: "You CAN'T see by moonlight?"Jan 30, 2014 at 9:20 am #2067903
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
I normally don't say anything if I can't find anything good to say, but
I just don't get the interest in headlamps
3 AAA headlamps from several manufactures are about the same – 2.5 ounces – cheap – Lithium batteries last me for one year – buy cheapest one or close your eyes and grab
Photon Freedom (and others?) is lighter – 0.5 ounces – pretty feeble light but okay, like, in the summer when you don't need a light much if you really want to "count grams" – I carry one as backup in case my 3AAA light breaksJan 30, 2014 at 9:25 am #2067904
@bolsterLocale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
I don't get excited by 3AAA lights either. I've gotten rid of all of mine.
Zebralights and Sparks on the other hand…well, that's a different story.Jan 30, 2014 at 11:05 am #2067928
@aggroLocale: Western slope, Sierra Nevada
Interesting article. However if I went by their rating system I would end up an unhappy customer. I don't want the brightest, longest beam headlamp. I've found for most of my usage my headlamp is on low. Occasionally being set to high for a few moments. For snow travel it is always set to low and for in camp or in tent reading usage I definitely don't want a retina searing beam of light- just enough to be functional and keep the runtime at a maximum.
People and needs are different- don't read the article and go buy the number one rated light and expect total happiness. Unless your performance criteria are the same as the reviewers.Jan 30, 2014 at 11:37 am #2067942
@charleywhiteLocale: Petaluma, CA
Plus one kudos, Rex. Great. And love that new-to-me site. First, there is a but coming. Next, I too need and use little light, preferring to do dark things at night–sleep, mostly–and vice versa. And I think emptors should always caveat. But. I love gear geeks, scrupulous buyers, and laws requiring truth in the market. No *truth* no *free*. Were it NOT for headlamp enthusiasts, the benefit of the weightless LEDs on my head wouldn't have trickled down at all, and I'd be still lugging a dry cell battery and two carbon rods. Will get a note off to REI. They are held to a higher standard.Jan 30, 2014 at 11:51 am #2067950
this kind of marketing is rampant in the outdoor industry …
headlamps, WPB jackets, DWR, down/synth puffies, etc … its all "facts" cooked up by the marketing departments to convince you that your "need" the latest and greatest …
we see it all the time here at BPL and other place, people falling for the marketing ….
and sadly most sites and blogs are absolutely complicit in this deception … rarely is anything negative said, especially if the gear is given for free to review … or if its from your favorite brand
or most "reviewers" simply dont use it hard or long enough for the faults to show up
heres a very recent "review" of headlamps from UKClimbing
heres one from outdoormagic …
with a beam shootout …
the simple fact is that almost any decent headlamp will work for most purpose for most people …. if you are doing a lot of nighttime activities that require a very bright long lasting beam, you arent going off one of the reviews from a "generalist" site … and youre likely using a more powerful lamp than the ones they shill for …
note that two of the lamps in the various reviews that came out quite well is the fairly cheap Coast and Alpkits …
;)Jan 30, 2014 at 11:55 am #2067951
"Will get a note off to REI. They are held to a higher standard."
As did I, with a link and two lines – ("Contact Us" is at the bottom right under "HELP".)
"I am disappointed that REI is complicit."
"You can do better."Jan 30, 2014 at 1:15 pm #2067982
@thebenternLocale: Central Arkansas
Hey, Phillip. Nice to see a fellow flashaholic on the BPL.
It was interesting seeing the "lumen wars" on CPF during the huge growth period of CREE/Nichia/Seoul high powered LED flashlights. Now it seems like the emphasis has shifted to different things other than lumens. Besides regulation, issues like color temperature(NW/CW/WW) and beam profiles seem to be heavily focused on.
Unfortunately a lot of my purchased and heavily modded lights with ridiculous lumen outputs are way to heavy to bring with me on the trail. Not to mention 18650 cells by default are rather heavy by UL standards. Their power density is just great though.Jan 30, 2014 at 2:23 pm #2068009
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
I think I need to 'correct' some of your statements (chuckle):
> this kind of marketing is rampant in the outdoor industry …
You should have said
'this kind of marketing is rampant …'
> or most "reviewers" simply dont use it hard or long enough for the faults to show up
You should have said
'or most "reviewers" would not have a clue'
Anyhow,I do agree that most settings on most headlamps are far too bright. OK, one bright beam is needed, but then you need some really LOW beams. Yes, our eyes have a logarithmic response.
:-)Jan 30, 2014 at 3:56 pm #2068036
Thank you for your note about the customer-facing information and headlamp testing from OutdoorGearLab.
We appreciate the time they took to research the battery run times of the vendor products we carry, and have been in touch with Mr. Spurrier, the site’s co-founder, regarding his concerns. We also engaged our primary headlamp vendors during the Outdoor Retailer show last week and those companies will be in touch with OutdoorGearLab.com, directly. We are encouraged with the dialogue that has resulted from this note.
As a point of clarification, while REI initially helped to engage the industry’s leading headlamp manufacturers to collaborate, our quality assurance lab did not have an integral role in the development of the ANSI FL1 specs. Rather, we rely on our vendors to provide accurate and updated marketing information so that as a retailer we are a resource to our members and customers.
On behalf of the co-op, we thank you for your membership and support of REI.
REI Public AffairsJan 30, 2014 at 4:17 pm #2068045
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
"Rather, we rely on our vendors to provide accurate and updated marketing information"
That's very convenient for REI to say. It's also called looking the other way.
–B.G.–Jan 30, 2014 at 4:54 pm #2068061
I give them props for answering so quickly.
And you just gotta love the last name of the PAO for REI….Jan 30, 2014 at 5:25 pm #2068079
Larry De La BriandaisParticipant
@hitechLocale: SF Bay Area
I only use the lumens to compare with other lamps, what and how many batteries it uses and how heavy it is (and cost). All the other stuff I have always ignored. I have the black diamond spot. It had a relatively high output and was on sale. ;^) Nice to see it come in third. :^)Jan 30, 2014 at 5:27 pm #2068080
@scfhomeLocale: Chocorua NH, USA
Thanks, Rex. It is always nice to have some good comparative reviews to look at.
There are so many issues with these little wonders, it takes some time to sort them all out.
A lot of choosing is individual. None of the best reviewed lights appeal to me for various reasons, such as the strap-on battery boxes, lack of an integral diffuser, or overly complex controls. Would go with the strap-on boxes if hiking much of the night, though (But why not hike in the day?).
It is so much more pleasant – no hot spots, circles etc. – to hike or camp with a good drop-down diffuser, that the diffuser stays down all the time. With the current availability of high capacity pen cells, I would never accept a battery case strapped to my head. And ultra simple controls are a must: When the lamp must be operated with shaking fingers in the cold pouring rain and the mind is beginning to dim with the approach of hypothermia, ultra simplicity of operation is required.
The onset of one button controls for so many electrical appliances reminds me of the "galloping ghost" RC rudder controls we used as kids. We couldn't afford multi-channel transmitters and receivers, so somebody cooked up a constantly flapping actuator that could operate based on just two modes, ON and OFF, and could be operated on a single channel.
Based on a review here I used a Remington RMHL-2AAA-B until Zebra fans insisted on a recent thread that one AA battery lasts longer than two AAAs. Despite no milliamp ratings on the Eveready lithium Ultimate cells, am trying the Fenix HL21 to see if that is so. Both lights have integral diffusers that eliminate circles and hot spots from the beam, but still provide plenty of light on medium to see all obstacles on the path, set up camp or read in the tent. Dale Waumbaugh posted a positive note about the Fenix on this forum.
Now if only Eveready would come out with rechargeable 1.5V lithium pen cells.Jan 30, 2014 at 5:42 pm #2068086
@awsorensenLocale: South of Forester Pass
If we just came to face the fact that REI doesn't give a crap about what UL Backpackers think, we can move on.
What bugged me out even more is the Outdoor Gear Lab results.
Something weighing more was defaulted for being bright but not lasting as long???
If you go to a comparable level of lumens most AA vs AAA battery headlamps will last at least 3X longer.
That was the most biased testing I have seen by them.
I know of so many headlamps that will blow away the Icon.
And for Fenix, they use a HP11 when almost every other model would have scored better in their test.
I'm so glad I got my newest headlamp that runs of a single 123a battery and "only" lasts 6 hours @ 60 lumens.
It may only weigh 58 grams (with battery) but god forbid it is no Spot as it should run for 50 hours @ 90 lumens.
What a joke!!!Jan 30, 2014 at 8:39 pm #2068140
Omitting Zebralights is like omitting Zpacks from an Ultralight pack review. The H52Fw is the best head lamp I've ever used or seen. Programmable from 0.3 to 250+ lumens, nice warm beam and great optics, waterproof, tough.Jan 30, 2014 at 11:02 pm #2068179
until Zebra fans insisted on a recent thread that one AA battery lasts longer than two AAAs. Despite no milliamp ratings on the Eveready lithium Ultimate cells
Energizer L91 Ultimate Lithium AA specifications, including milliamp ratings sliced and diced several ways:
Energizer L92 Ultimate Lithium AAA specifications:
In brief: One AA has 2900 mAh , 2 AAAs 2000 mAh, at the same discharge rate and temperature.
One AA wins on battery life.
— RexJan 31, 2014 at 12:01 am #2068185
The reason they omit zebras and other such is that you cant walk into most retailers and buy em
With BD, pretzels, p-tech, etc … You just walk in and cha-ching!!!
Even coast is sold at home depot up here
They even review the battery bunny brand
These reviews are meant for the masses … And for that target group theyll work just fine
The vast majority of "outdoorsy" folks want something they can return easily, touch and feel before buying
The other thing to note is that many of these brands are used by their sponsored athletes and teams just fine who do things crazier and more intense than most BPLers
Unless you are caving or diving … Do you really need those fancy uber lights
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