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Bright, powerful headlamp?
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Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Bright, powerful headlamp? on 10/19/2012 02:52:44 MDT Print View

Winter will be here soon, and that means long nights and using my headlamp a lot.

What would you recommend for a bright, capable headlamp? I don't mind if it's heavier, since it would be worth the weight for some situations. Most of the lamps I see are more useful for around camp than hiking at night. My budget would be under $100.

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Bright, powerful headlamp? on 10/19/2012 03:12:19 MDT Print View

Zebralight H600: 600 lumens. The standard version is better for hiking, and the floody H600f is better in camp, at home and for reading. If you want to see that bear at the tree line, you'll want the H600. Both these lights require a 18650 lithium ion battery and charger. That will put the total cost closer to $125 with shipping. They have very low light settings to minimize hurting night vision while maximizing battery life. You could probably hike for a couple weeks before needing to charge this light.

Zebralight H51: Same as above, but costs a bit less, uses any type of AA battery and only puts out around 200 lumens. That's still a lot of light though.

Trustfire Z2: Puts out around 250 lumens, but only costs $14 shipped. It has a beam that's better suited to hiking than reading. Supposedly it can use AA batteries, but you'll probably want to go for a 14500 lithium ion battery. The cost of adding a battery and charger will bring you to around $25. This light also weighs less and is more compact than the Zebralights. Unfortunately the low setting isn't as low, so some night blindness will occur, and maximum battery life isn't nearly as long. Oh yeah, it doesn't come with a headband. That'll be about $3 more. The button isn't recessed, so it may accidentally turn on in your pack

Ultrafire H3: I don't know as much about this light. It's around $30. I believe it puts out a little more light than the Z2 and has a beam pattern that's not quite floody, but not quite ideal for hiking either. Like the H600, it uses a 18650 lithium ion battery, so you'll have to spend a little more for a charger and battery. It has PWM modulation on all modes, so if you're sensitive to lights that flash at rates that aren't supposed to be perceivable, then this isn't the light for you. It also lacks a very low low, so maximum battery life is limited. The button isn't recessed, so it may accidentally turn on in your pack.

As with almost every light, these are made in China. For $100, you're probably going to get a light made in China.

There are the cheap plastic lights like the Tikka. I don't see why though. They weigh the same or more than the lights above, put out less light, have less battery life than the Zebralights, and aren't the cheapest options either. Oh, and by cheap, I mean not good. It does nothing very well except get on REI's shelves.

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
angle lights on 10/19/2012 03:16:07 MDT Print View

The lights I listed are angle lights. That is, the light head as at the end of the light, but at a 90° angle. This allows it to be easily used as either a headlamp or flashlight. I think angle lights are ideal for a backpacker that may do some night hiking. I prefer hiking with my light in my hand as that creates shadows and contrast that allows me to better evaluate the terrain. Hiking with a light on my head makes things look flat, and results in tripping and kicked rocks.

Andrew Weldon
Re: Bright, powerful headlamp? on 10/19/2012 04:15:07 MDT Print View

I use a Fenix LD01R2 with the clip swapped around backwards. I clip it to my hat brim.

About .8oz with a lithium battery.

For more weight and light, you absolutely can't go wrong with the Zebralight H51. I have one for general use and I love it. AA batteries is always a big bonus in my mind, too.

Edited by hypnolobster on 10/19/2012 04:16:04 MDT.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Weight on 10/19/2012 05:40:49 MDT Print View

I have had good luck with the little hi-tech single AA lights like Zebralite, Olight, Fenix,...

As an example, I recently hiked the Devil's Path in the Catskills(mucho scrambles), two hours of it in pitch black, no moon or stars. I did it with a Zebralite, mostly on the mid setting.
I'd set it to bright from time to time when looking for certain landmarks.

I do believe the Olight would have been slightly better for this purpose because of it's narrower, longer throw beam, but the Zebralite is better around camp and for reading.

The Devils Path

Edited by brooklynkayak on 10/19/2012 05:45:40 MDT.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Weight on 10/19/2012 08:43:30 MDT Print View

+1 Steven's comments. Zebralight is a wonderful, versatile headlamp with good regulation and a nice mix of flood and a hotspot for good throw. If all I wanted was ong throw for navigation (e.g. not used around camp) oLight and Fenix have a number of lights which are a bit better.


Don Abernathey
(OldGuysRule) - F

Locale: PNW
Re: Bright, powerful headlamp? on 10/19/2012 08:47:57 MDT Print View

PrincetonTec EOS. Works with lithiums, which you will need in the cold. About $35. Very tough and proven headlamp.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
lithium on 10/19/2012 09:21:18 MDT Print View

I use lithium AA batteries exclusively in Steripen, Zebralite and Olight as well as running lights, strobes and other lights for winter backpacking and kayaking.

Compared to Alkaline batteries they are:
1) Lighter
2) Work much better in cold
3) More energy
4) Much longer shelf life
5) Better for the environment

But more expensive.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Zebralight on 10/19/2012 09:21:57 MDT Print View

Probably a Zebralight H51, but head over to their site and choose whatever one uses the type of battery you prefer.

As an aside, I wish they made an AAA based mini version of the H51 at about 40 lumens.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
H51 on 10/19/2012 09:26:43 MDT Print View

I can highly recommend the Zebralite H51. My wife and I have at least 40 hours of use in 3 season outdoor conditions.

It is expensive which makes me want to recommend the Olight for it's price, but I don't have enough experience with it to give a solid review yet.

Richard Fischel
use and really like the princetontec eos, but on 10/19/2012 09:38:17 MDT Print View

there must be something to teh zebralights with as popular as they appear to be amongst the other posters.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: H51 on 10/19/2012 09:44:54 MDT Print View

There are a number of H51's available. Which one(s) are recommended for backpacking?

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Which h51 on 10/19/2012 10:21:31 MDT Print View

I can't find it now. There was a site that compared them.
From my memory, one used a bright white LED, one was natural light LED, there was a clear lens version and a frosty lens version, a normal beam and a floody beam, but I can't find the details now:-(

I believe mine is a bright white, floody, clear lens version and as I stated before is great for around camp and reading, OK for night hiking.

I tend to find the narrow beam lights annoying around camp, so I wanted the floody beam.
It has been great for setting up or tearing down camp in the dark. Makes for great peripheral vision.
I feel this is more important than having a long throw when backpacking.

If I were more concerned about night hiking, I'd go with the narrower beam, but be aware that I find the wide beam has been fine for this purpose.

Dena Kelley

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
Black Diamond Icon on 10/19/2012 10:32:47 MDT Print View

I have a Black Diamond Icon. It has a single spotlight that throws an insanely bright long distance beam, and 4 LED's that throw a softer wide beam. Both the spotlight and the LED's have 3 settings for high, medium, low. When I go night hiking with my friends, they just turn their head lamps off because their beams can't be seen over mine anyway. It's a little on the heavier side, but I love it. To me it's worth it to have a head lamp I can actually hike out with rather than one suitable really only for camp chores.

It also has a "strobe" function.

My one wish for this head lamp is that it had a single red LED. I'm going to have to check to see if there is a red lens cover or something for it, perhaps there is.

I did read up yesterday on the Petzl Nao which looks like it's just as good or possible better than the BD Icon, but I got my Icon for a great price ($34) on S&C and the Petzl price is awfully steep right now ($175) and the specs are very similar between the two headlamps although I admit I've not seen a Nao in the field so I haven't seen them operate side by side.

Phillip Asby

Locale: North Carolina
Zebralight +1 on 10/19/2012 10:39:43 MDT Print View

I love my Zebralight H31w - which is a CR123 based light, warm LED and regular beam. It is a very flexible setup...

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Re; Which h51 and why zebralight on 10/19/2012 10:41:04 MDT Print View

I have the 51w, which is the more "natural" white, in the spot+spill beam pattern. At the time of my purchase, they did not offer a frosted lens option. I recommend the "w" b/c it does not bleach out color as badly as the normal white LED. This isn't a problem for some people, and the bright white does give the impression of being, well, brighter, but I strongly prefer the warmer-colored light.

Re: beam pattern, you could look at the spot+spill as a compromise or as a best-of-both-worlds thing. I take the latter view, as there's no single activity I've done with it that would be significantly improved by a spot-only or flood-only beam.

there must be something to teh zebralights with as popular as they appear to be amongst the other posters.

I think they offer pretty high performance without being seen as a flashlight-geek brand. If a person is inclined to geekdom, they might be a gateway light, but I'd guess that most people who have a zebralight are satisfied they got a good light without having to get into the technical side of illumination.

Derek Westcott
(drwestco) - F
Zebralight H51 on 10/19/2012 10:54:48 MDT Print View

The H51 is good, not great. I got it for the convenience of using a single AA, after being annoyed by the 3-battery config favored by Petzl, and wanting cheaper and easier to find power sources than single specialized battery flashlights use (CR123, etc.). On that front, the H51 is excellent. However, I'm constantly annoyed by it out in the field. Here's why:

1. The pocket clip it comes with is useless. Impossible to keep it pointed in any useful direction. Throw it away, and just use the headlight band, or use it as an in-hand flashlight.
2. The LED is very bright, but the beam spread is really wide and diffuse. I don't remember whether I got the normal or "flood" option, but I sure hope it's the latter. If this is the normal bulb, it's a poor design, since the light output is wasted over such a large area.
3. Except for the first hour or so with fresh batteries, there's not enough light output for a headlamp. Everything it illuminates in this config is so washed out and flat, there's almost no shadow to pick out terrain details. At lower light levels, I find it works much better held at waist level, so I can actually see what I'd otherwise be tripping over.
4. The single button interface is a joke. I think it's at least buggy firmware, since it seems to be random what brightness level I get with my first click. The multiple clicks (or click and hold) to cycle through different brightness levels sometimes works; more often it does not. I've also had it get stuck on and refuse to turn off. I've found myself fiddling with it in the dark, swapping spare batteries, wondering whether I remembered to bring fresh batteries at all, when it's just the light being awful and not giving me access to 'high' brightness.

Brian Johns

Locale: NorCal
Zebra Knockoff on 10/19/2012 11:50:39 MDT Print View

Here's a $5.00 300 lumens knockoff of the Fenix/Olight/Zebra style. Can't be bad for the money:

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
petzl on 10/19/2012 11:52:48 MDT Print View

xp2 core ... for the simple reason that you can easily recharge it over and over and over and over again with a simply USB plug .... and you can vary the output through the software

its not the cheapest, its not the absolute brightest, and its not the most "trendy" on BPL ... but at less than 3oz including bats, it aint gonna break yr back ... if you want the absolute guarantee .... buy it from REI or backcountry ...

i use mine all the time and simply plug it in anywhere ... such as yr car, yr local bar, at home, etc .... to charge it ... i dont bother with bats anymore

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Zebra Knockoff on 10/19/2012 12:12:40 MDT Print View

Re: "Zebra Knockoff"

It can be bad for the money. It may be fine?

I don't know this light, but I suspect nobody is going to like the fact that it uses such a specialized battery.
Is it durable, waterproof, ...?
Do you want to take chances with it on a multi-day trip?

The reason the single batter AA and AAA lights are so popular for backpacking is the overall weight, readily available batteries, simplicity and durability.

And on the subject of the various 3xAAA headlamps, I just don't understand why they are still popular now that these single battery regulated AA or AAA lights are available.