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Steven Hall
(lundquistas) - F
ZebraLights... on 12/19/2012 17:32:00 MST Print View

Just found out about this company and I went to the website and was really confused with all their different headlamp offerings. It seemed like they had a few models (31, 51, etc) but alot of different varieties of them.

Can anyone help simplify their offerings for me? Is there one or two that are generally preferred by backpackers? thanks!

Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: ZebraLights... on 12/19/2012 18:44:08 MST Print View

I've got an H501w (apparently its been replaced by the H502) that I really like. Its got a flood pattern that's great for tasks around camp but not as good for night hiking as the H51/H31 which have more of a spot beam.

H31/H51 are pretty similar, the 51 (and 501/502) run on a single AA while the 31 runs on a CR123. As to the alphabet soup, W means a neutral color temp, F means the beam is slightly floody, the C means it uses a high CRI LED.

The C wasn't available when I bought mine but its not something that I would personally worry about. I like the neutral color temp and prefer a flood beam since I really only use it around camp. If I used it for night hiking or running I'd probably prefer the H51 for a little more throw.

I imagine whichever you end up with you'll be happy. I love mine, its tough, a battery miser, really bright, and pretty lightweight.


Russell S

Locale: Bay Area
H51w here on 12/19/2012 22:34:26 MST Print View

Adam did a great job explaining the nomenclature. In case you haven't noticed, I will add that the SC series are handheld lights while the H series are headlamps.

I have a H51w, and I absolutely love it. The user interface takes a little gettin used to, but otherwise it blows my last decent headlamp (Princeton Tec Rebel EOS) out of the water. The light is versatile, tough, designed and constructed well, energy efficient, and simple with the single AA (I prefer lithium primaries). I got the H51w specifically for more throw for nighttime mobility and the neutral tint for more accurate color rendition outside at night. The only downside is the relatively heavy weight; it's no e+lite.

I carry the H51w day hiking and bping. An e+Lite or photon would suffice for putzing around camp, but I want the capability to night hike should I desire or really light up the night in an emergency.

One of these days I'll pick up the 502 for a floody light option, but I've found the 51 just fine for camp use on the lower levels. It still has decent spill.

I'm sure you'll be satisfied with whichever Zebra you decide to get; They're all quality.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Also the H51w here on 12/19/2012 23:09:26 MST Print View

I too got the H51W. I liked the complete availability and low price of alkaline AA batteries, although I usually put lithium primary batteries in it. I'm in Alaska, and if I grab my flashlight at -20F, I want it to turn on without having to insert it in some body cavity to warm to alkaline temps. Also, with twice the energy in half the weight, it's kind of a bargain per ounce saved to use lithiums. I used to buy lithiums at the hardware, electronics, or warehouse store. Now, with the H51W, PLB, UV purifier, and the normal AA flashlights in the cars (remember, I live in Alaska); I buy a few dozen lithiums at time off eBay out of China for a lot less.

I find I use the high intensity mode for 1-5 seconds to get my bearings, look for a moose down the trail, or read a distant sign. Then I switch to medium or the ultra-low setting to walk along a trail or around camp. That kind of use makes the batteries last a very long time.

As said, they are all very well made and inspire a lot of confidence. I still carry a tiny back-up light (what if I dropped the 51W? and I am a former a caver who always had THREE lights at all times).

As said in other threads, the biggest trick to night hiking is to shine light from your waist, not your head. It makes all the difference in discerning bumps and dips in the trail. On my longer and stupider day hikes, I do 20+ miles before and after dark, and I've traded up from various other lights to the H51W

Edited by DavidinKenai on 12/19/2012 23:12:02 MST.

Russell S

Locale: Bay Area
Re: Also the H51w here on 12/19/2012 23:25:57 MST Print View

David makes an excellent point on the low-temp functionality of lithiums. Not to mention the long shelf-life and the fact that lithiums don't leak like alkalines (at least not as far as I know).

The shining-from-waist trick (or shoulder or sternum strap so I can direct light with my upper body if I only have one light) is a great one. Aside from aiding perception, I also find that having light reflect off my condensing breath in cold weather is somewhat annoying.

Not to drift too much, but like David, I still carry a backup. I usually have a Photon on a keychain with other small items, and I often carry an iTP A3 EOS R5 upgrade. I just picked up a Thrunite Ti, and for the price, it's proving to be quite a nice little light.

Leigh Baker

Locale: Northeast Texas Pineywoods
H51w here as well on 12/20/2012 04:22:28 MST Print View

I used to carry an e-lite with a photon backup, but on a trip this fall a fellow hiker got sick just before dark and luckily I was able to hike a short way out and found the last couple leaving from a nearby swimming hole and we were able to get him out. It made me realize I wasn't equipped to hike out after dark. I love the ZebraLight. I have used it without the headband, attaching it to the front of my shirt or belt, or with the headband on occasion. One caution though, slightly unscrew the end or it can turn on easily in your pack. Had that happen once. I still carry the photon as a backup and it came in handy that night.

Tom Lyons
(towaly) - F

Locale: Smoky Mtns.
Headlight on 12/20/2012 06:15:03 MST Print View

The headlight models tend to be the best, because the Zebralight switch is a horribly defective design that easily turns on in your pocket or in your pack. The headlight models are not as afflicted by this because the switch is in the end where it doesn't rub on your leg and is less likely get pushed by something in your pack. You can avoid this by partly unscrewing the tailcap to avoid the inevitable dead battery when you need it, as long as you are okay with having to screw the tailcap in every time you want to turn on the light, and unscrew it again after you turn it off.

Also, be prepared to send it back when it has some other defect. The defect rate is running about 25% according to the polls running on the flashlight forums. The most recent poll shows about 23% of respondents had their Zebralight dead or serious problem within one year of purchase.

They do have another model out now called the SC52 which seems to have a new switch design that solves the old issue, if you want a flashlight instead of a headlight. However, a lot of people are getting bad green beam tints, LEDs mounted off-center, defective programming, and also some assorted defects in workmanship, and are having to send them back. You might want to wait until they get this new model issues sorted out, if they manage to do that. And there is a new XPG2 LED model that is rumored to come out later this year which shouldn't be as afflicted with green beams because the XPG2 seems to have a good tint characteristic in all the ones seen so far.
And the H52 headlight should be coming along fairly soon too, which might be the best overall choice for AA users.

They have a seemingly attractive set of features, but the execution often leaves much to be desired.
QC is horrible. But you can get a properly working one if you are lucky.

Edited by towaly on 12/20/2012 08:11:51 MST.

Dan Smith
H600W on 12/20/2012 07:40:44 MST Print View

I have an H600W and love it! Hasn't skipped a beat since day 1 and I've had it for almost 10 months.

Tom Lyons
(towaly) - F

Locale: Smoky Mtns.
Re: H600W on 12/20/2012 07:55:55 MST Print View

The H600 and SC600 came out later, and were not afflicted with the switch problems.

I would put the H600 and the SC600 at the top of the Zebralight list for reliability and performance for size.
The user interface is still a bit quirky.

The H600 is very small and light weight. If people can manage to get away from the AA battery requirement that seems to be very common these days, the 18650 in the H600 is a good choice in the Zebralight line.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
zebra on 12/20/2012 08:01:48 MST Print View

I have a H31, chosen because I've switched to a Steripen, so I can swap CR123's around in a pinch if need be. Mine is the non-floody version (neutral color iirc) as I use mine mostly for getting down (or up ;)) the trail. It's been a great lamp thus far.

I've always worn my headlamp on my head, I'll have to try the waist method next time out!

Russell S

Locale: Bay Area
Re: Headlight on 12/20/2012 08:39:32 MST Print View

A lock-out tail cap is a great feature, and I use it. Without any deeply recessed button design, locking out the cap is good insurance against accidental activation as well as parasitic drain.

I need to check CPF again... haven't looked into headlamps ever since deciding on the H51w almost a year ago. The last I knew, the handheld models had some switching problems, but it seemed they were to be addressed soon. I tend to take polls with a grain of salt though, as they can lead one to a biased interpretation of a brand or line's overall performance. I mean, I've never participated in any poll, and my H51w still functions perfectly, *shrug*. I may not be the only one. Or, I may indeed be apart of the 3/4 of users who are lucky, who knows?

A really quick and non-comprehensive search yields this recent poll ( reporting 22.4% of users with light failure or death, but that was a poll specific to the SC5x line. Is there another poll where folks with H lights are reporting issues? I know the internals are basically the same, but there may be some difference due to switches?

I'm waiting for more XP-G2 lights to come out. I came close to picking up a Thrunite Ti2 in XP-G2 the other day :)

I look forward to seeing what changes, aside from the emitter, if Zebralight comes out with a H52 (again, prefer w). If the complete package is a worthwhile upgrade, I probably will pick one up.

Edited by HikingMano on 12/20/2012 09:07:59 MST.

Mark Rash

Locale: North Texas
H51 battery life on 12/20/2012 08:47:54 MST Print View

I have an H51 and have been disappointed in how quickly the batteries run out. On a campout this weekend I went through 3 batteries. The AA's I was using are the rechargeable ones with my Nomad solar panel and charger.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: H51 battery life on 12/20/2012 10:42:03 MST Print View

I suspect you're leaving the H51 in high output mode and that will certainly drain the batteries quickly. You might also try a variety of primary batteries and see how those work for you. Alkalines for low cost, lithiums for low weight.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: H51 battery life on 12/20/2012 11:18:11 MST Print View

David is right. The high mode will drain that baby in an hour. If it drains that fast on medium or lower, there might be an issue.

Using lithium batteries in cold temps will help as well, as others have said.

Edited by T.L. on 12/20/2012 11:21:28 MST.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Zebralights and Rechargables. on 12/20/2012 11:40:25 MST Print View

I have been using Zebraites for years.
I tend to use lithium batteries, but have used alkaline.
I can go a week with some night hiking and reading in camp on one battery. I rarely use the brightest setting and usually just use the lowest brightness.

I use primarily NMH rechargeable batteries around home.

Some of the issues I've had with rechargeable is that
1) They don't work well in the cold
2) They loose charge capacity over time
3) Poor shelf life. You have to keep charging them every few weeks when not in use.
4) Solar chargers will not fully charge them unless you have a big charger, lots of sunlight and lots of time to get them to full charge.

Russell S

Locale: Bay Area
Re: H51 battery life on 12/20/2012 11:49:07 MST Print View

Yeah, on Eneloops the H51 goes 45 min on the highest level before dropping to below 50% output (empirical data by selfbuilt on CandlePowerForums). As David already pointed out, use the high modes only when really needed. I rarely use the high modes when not hiking after dark. On the medium modes running an eneloop, the H51 should last over 7 hours. That's quite a bit of light!

I don't know about the cells you're using, but they really make a difference in performance. If they aren't great, that could account for your short runtimes even if your usage is conservative.

Russell S

Locale: Bay Area
Re: Zebralights and Rechargables. on 12/20/2012 12:03:21 MST Print View

Steven, you should switch over to Sanyo Eneloops. LSD NiMH (Low Self Discharge) cells make all the difference for rechargeable use. They aren't as good for cold weather as lithium primaries though...

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Eneloopes on 12/20/2012 12:26:10 MST Print View

@Russel, yes, eneloops are in my future.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
probably wrong settings for low battery life on 12/20/2012 22:11:45 MST Print View

If you get low battery life, ie, using 3 aa in a weekend, there's either something wrong with the batteries or the headlamp is being used at high. One aa lasts easily 12 hours, I think 15, depends on the milliamps it holds.

To make it clear and simple, the h51 has I believe 7 settings, which work like this:

1. a: low - low - this is too low to read with I think, and definitely too low to hike with.
1. b: low - high - this is fine for camp use, and will last I think a few days, can't remember the hours, it's a lot. Not quite enough for hiking on difficult trails, maybe enough for hiking on flat trails where it's fairly smooth. If you have very good eyes, you can read with this.

2. a: medium - low - fine for most trail hiking, good battery life, 15 hours?
2. b: medium - high - depends on your eyes, one of these is fine for narrow rocky single track trails going up or down mountains, no problem.

3. a: high - low - this is absurdly bright
3. b: high - high - illuminate the canyon, signal helicopters, blind your friends for a laugh.
3. c: strobe - I never used this, can't say anything about it, but it's I'm sure totally adequate for emergency rescue at night.

You set 1, 2 and 3 for your desired level and it remembers that setting, and you cycle between 1 2 and 3 by pushing the on/off button.

If you used even 1 aa battery during a weekend trip, that would be surprising, unless you kept it on from sundown to late at night at medium for some reason.

I think I set mine to 1 - low-high; 2 - medium - low; 3 - high low. That works well for pretty much anything you come across, night hiking to camp. As others note, the high is really only to situate yourself briefly, like if you have a confusing trail junction or something.

Powerex batteries are also supposed to be very good, I got some from the same place I got my powerex maha ma9000 charger. Candlelight forums were quite adamant about the importance of using a good charger, so I figured I'd get one, they are nice, and let you know how much charge those batteries actually hold too, which is useful, once you see the difference battery to battery you'll understand why using a 3 cell aaa headlamp just isn't a very efficient idea.

I store the h51 in a small silnylon rocksack (dual use, groovy), and wrap the headband around it the long way, so it actually sort of keeps the button from getting pushed, at least that's what I've found, but if you are backpacking, you definitely want to turn the bottom a half turn or so to unscrew it to avoid a drained headlamp, it takes very little turn of the end cap you'll see to make the switch not work.

Edited by hhope on 12/20/2012 22:25:22 MST.

John Coyle

Locale: NorCal
"ZebraLights..." on 12/20/2012 22:40:30 MST Print View

I have had a Zebralight H51w for about a year and a half and have been very happy with it. A month ago it started to flicker and I thought that perhaps I was experiencing one of the quality control issues that was mentioned above, but I cleaned the battery and the contacts inside the light with a pencil eraser, and that solved the problem. A few times the light somehow turned on inside my pack, so now I rotate the end cap 1/4 turn to prevent that. The user interface is a little strange, and sometimes involves a whole lot of clicking to get the right mode, but it's not a show stopper. I use Sanyo Eneloope batteries because I had some on hand for an old camera that I used to use. I have used them down to the lower twenties with no problem. I like to read at night in my sleeping bag, and the H51 is perfect for that in the low low mode. The light is almost imperceptible in that mode, but enough for reading. With some headlamps a person can go snow-blind from the light reflecting off a white page, but not with this light. And the high high is so bright, it looks like an airplane is coming in for a landing. I use the belt clip for trail walking and can testify that it works fine with a Gossamer Gear Gorilla backpack waist belt (2012 model) as well as a REI Flash 18 daypack waist belt. Overall the Zebralight H51w is an excellent light for backpacking and day hikes in my opinion.