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Light Geeks: Best (High End) Regulated Headlamp
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Javan Dempsey

Locale: The-Stateless-Society
Light Geeks: Best (High End) Regulated Headlamp on 03/30/2013 15:44:37 MDT Print View

Hey guys, I'm not up on the gear lately, but I'm in need of a new headlamp/light.

I'm not looking for recommendations from the usual "Backpacking" gear brands (i.e. Petzl, Black Diamond, whatever) unless they've finally come up with something competitive to the likes of Fenix, Zebralight, Surefire, and the rest.

I feel like I should be wanting a single AA light, but I see how ubiquitous the CR123s, ZL631s, etc, are getting. Number of output settings are a big deal, although I don't care about having a red output. Long life at a usable medium/low setting is most important.

Looking at the Zebralight page, they've got more options than ever. Fenix also.

Ideally I'd like a high efficiency, light, headlamp, and a backup high output flashlight, so input on both will be greatly appreciated. Maximum lightness is not a priority, I've got a badass walmart hat clip LED that serves that purpose. ;)


Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Light Geeks: Best (High End) Regulated Headlamp on 03/30/2013 16:14:44 MDT Print View

I use a Fenix PD-22 and love it. I had a Zebralight, and now use the headband from the Zebralight with the Fenix, it fits fine. On a recent trip, I had to walk a dark, unlit country road for a couple of miles and the Fenix lit the road up. In camp the lower settings are perfect, and at those settings the thing lasts forever.

Highly recommended.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: Light Geeks: Best (High End) Regulated Headlamp on 03/30/2013 16:32:34 MDT Print View

>On a recent trip, I had to walk a dark, unlit country road for a couple of miles...

That blind date didn't work out so well then, huh?

I've got a Zebralight H51 and love it. Works really well in the cold with a lithium battery, and AAs are available at any gas station. Not so with CR123s. At that end of the spectrum, most of these lights will be pretty good.

Edited by T.L. on 03/30/2013 16:33:39 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Light Geeks: Best (High End) Regulated Headlamp on 03/30/2013 16:41:02 MDT Print View

You might want to start with a target brightness in lumens, and then work your way out from there. For example, at some REI stores they have a bunch of demonstrator headlamps. Ask if you can see one of those work in the back room where it is dark.

I like my Zebralight H501, since it has a low level for max battery life, medium level, and bright level if I really need it.

I would discourage you from seeking a headlamp that requires some special battery. If you can't easily recharge on the trail, and if you can't buy/replace on the trail, then you won't like it.


Javan Dempsey

Locale: The-Stateless-Society
Re: Re: Light Geeks: Best (High End) Regulated Headlamp on 03/30/2013 17:40:18 MDT Print View

Yeah, I think I'm going to try and stick with a single AA headlamp.

The battery life numbers are enticing on the odd battery types, but as you say, the lack of availability negates the benefits.

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Light Geeks: Best (High End) Regulated Headlamp on 03/30/2013 17:52:23 MDT Print View

">On a recent trip, I had to walk a dark, unlit country road for a couple of miles...

That blind date didn't work out so well then, huh?"

You should see the other guy . . . .

As to the question at hand, I've had good luck with the Fenix LD01. There are numerous other Fenix models, but this is relatively inexpensive and is certainly bright enough for trail or road walking. I also carry a Photon light I already owned as a back-up, which I sometimes use in camp, "saving" the battery life of the Fenix.

Javan Dempsey

Locale: The-Stateless-Society
looking at these on 03/30/2013 19:34:07 MDT Print View

Looking at going with a Fenix LD12 for HL, and a Fenix PD32(T6) as a full size/backup for heavier trips.

Or considering one of the Zebralights for the HL. Any recommendation on model and flood vs non?

Going through all the data at places like CPF is eating up my productivity today, and the last thing I need is a flashlight obsession.. ;)

Maris L
(Ablaut) - M
Fenix on 03/30/2013 20:20:13 MDT Print View

I know what you mean with CPF! I don't check there regularly, but have in the past when deciding to buy flashlights/headlamps. It sucks you in!

Regarding your choice of the PD32, or PD32UE - I was considering that one for needs other than backpacking, but decided I really don't want to mess around with CR123A batteries (no matter how many people on CPF say it's not a big deal). My tried and true rechargeable Eneloops work great, and AA/AAA alkalines are easier to find in a pinch. So I went with the LD22 and I've been satisfied. For my needs it projects far enough when a far-reaching spot is needed and its battery life on lower levels is great. It appears the newest iteration is even a little lighter than the PD32. I have brought it along hiking, but have just as well gotten by with the LD01 - those two cover my flashlight needs in the woods, at work, and at home.

Can't comment on Fenix/Zebra headlights. I'm fine with my BD Spot for now, though I'd like to upgrade/go lighter eventually.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: looking at these on 03/30/2013 21:59:40 MDT Print View

"Any recommendation on model and flood vs non?"

I chose a floody light, not a spot beam. It works fine for normal headlamp use, but the light looks slightly more natural if you use it for night photography. The spot beam is OK, but you spend more time moving your head to re-orient the spot.


Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Princeton Tec on 03/30/2013 22:01:55 MDT Print View

Get a Princeton Tec regulated headlamp (your choice).

Go to their website and check 'em out. Not all of their headlamps are regulated.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: looking at these on 03/30/2013 22:02:06 MDT Print View

The non-floody specific Zebralight headlamps have a great balance of both. A H51 will really light up your world when needed, and can be tamed for close-up work, too.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Light Geeks: Best (High End) Regulated Headlamp on 03/31/2013 01:51:51 MDT Print View

If you are looking for the best AA flashlight (not headlight) check out the Zebralight SC52 AA. I bought it a few months back and I am still amazed with it every time I turn it on! I believe it is still rated as the highest output AA flashlight on the market (280 lm) but the amazing thing about this light is it can also use a 14500 Li-ion rechargeable battery which pushes the output to 500 lumens!! The beam also has a very good balance between flood and spot. It's really nice to be able to use any kind of AA cell or the high output Li-ion cells.

I can't say enough good things about the quality of the Zebralight Flashlights. I really like the user selectable, multi-level outputs and the durable build quality. The only reason I haven't bought one of their headlights is that I'm waiting for them to make a headlight version of the SC52 AA.

I also have a Fenix HL21 Headlamp (takes a single AA) and it's a nice light (good beam quality) but the build quality doesn't compare to the ZebraLights. I also don't like that it dies without warning... the regulated circuit in the HL21 headlamp is great (keeps the brightness constant) but there isn't a battery indicator, so it just dies (bright one minute, dead the next... won't even turn on). The Zebralight SC52 AA mentioned above has a battery test that lets you know the condition of your battery. Nice to have some warning.

I also have the FourSevens Preon P1 (single AAA battery). This is a very nice light if you are looking for a small, light weight handheld flashlight for everyday carry or to slip into your pack as a spare. Nice build quality and a very nice beam for a single AAA ...and so tiny (.8 oz includes a lithium AAA battery and pocket clip removed)!

Drew Jay

Locale: Central Coast
Fenix on 03/31/2013 04:28:22 MDT Print View

I carry the Fenix LD01. Half an ounce, puts out plenty of light, and best of all you just ration as many .25oz AAA batteries as you need for your trip. Clip it to your hat brim and you are good to go.

Edited by drewjh on 03/31/2013 04:29:01 MDT.

Phillip Asby

Locale: North Carolina
CPF on 03/31/2013 06:49:05 MDT Print View

CPF can be a soul crushing experience - take it from me I've been sucked into that vortex for too many years!

I currently have two Fenix lights - an E01 which is still a great compact keyring light, and a rebranded Leatherman CR123 - probably a PD of some flavor. I owned a couple others. They are well built lights but I've found for me there are two issues with most Fenix lights that I'm not crazy about. The first is they mostly used a "reverse" clickie switch which I don't like - I like being able to press the clickie a little bit for momentary function and then lock it if I want to keep it on. In day to day use the reverse clickie just doesn't work as well. Their basic user interfaces also either start in medium and/or have strobe or SOS built into the sequence. I don't need strobe or SOS so I mostly avoid those lights and I really have a decided preference for starting in low or being able to start in low. Now those are very specific nits - after too many years tinkering with lights I have however figured out what works for me so I'm just sharing those but fully recognize many don't care about either of those issues! Fenix has a dedicated and well deserved following for built quality and keeping up with technology so if you pick one you won't be disappointed from that end.

I use a Zebralight H31w and I love it. The UI is pretty good - you can start at either low or high and there are a lot of levels to choose from. They are also well made in my experience. No momentary option of any flavor as they use an electronic switch - but it works well and reliably.

As for batteries you have to make some choices... a while ago I settled on mostly CR123 based lights. But I was a flashaholic before a backpacker - so while battery availability is a piece of the equation it doesn't necessarily drive it. From a flashlight perspective there are just more better options in the CR123 format when you start exploring higher end lights and the CR123 format allows for a smaller light with more oomph than AA (which needs 2xAA to achieve the same voltage output).

So you need to evaluate what fits your usage. I have not as of yet done a lot of long trips - none really - nor night hiking. Putzing around the campsite I mostly use low and sometimes medium. You'll get a good bit of runtime off one battery and CR123s are small and light - so I haven't had availability on the trail as a high priority item. Certainly for a couple weeks out it would make sense to rank that higher, or if you hike in the dark a lot (and are using higher levels longer). But on low I have a couple lights that will run for a few weeks - one for more than a month - on constant use (now that is a low low mind you but with adjusted eyes it is plenty of light for most basic tasks).

Just a few things to ponder when considering battery choices...

Michael B
(mbenvenuto) - F

Locale: Vermont
AAA lights on 03/31/2013 08:15:12 MDT Print View

I don't really like headlamps. So I prefer to use a flashlight for more trips. Given the power and efficiency of the best lights these days, I find it hard to justify anything more than a AAA light. The amount of light they produce and the runtimes they achieve are amazing. I have a Klarus mi10, which may still be one of the most impressive AAA lights, including 45-60 hours of runtime on an quite useful low. I don't have this one, but the other AAA light out that looks very attractive is be the Olight i3s:

That starts on high mode. But offers 10 hours on medium/low and up to 120 hours on a low/moonlight mode. Plus it has a reversible clip.

steven franchuk
All single AA LED Flashlights are regulated on 03/31/2013 10:29:31 MDT Print View

All white LEDs need about 3 volts to function. The AA battery puts out 1.5 volts. In order to get the AA valtage to the 3 volts requires a DC to DC converter is required. All DC to DC converters regulate the power to the LED. So all single AA powered white KED flashlights are regulated.

However using a single AA battery and a regulator does come at a cost. The maximum run time is limited to about 2 hours maximum bcause of the rate the power is being pulled out of the battery. Most other flashlights or head lamps use 2 or more batteries in series to get at least 3 volts to slow the power drain from the battery. A 3AAA battery 100 lumin headlamp will go a week or loner on one set of batteres.

What you should really do is first determine how many hours of operation you need and how much light. Once you settle on that then look at your options. Give what you have said so far a single AA flashlight may be what you need. However there might be a multicell headlamp that will meet your needs as both a headlamp and as a standalone flashlight.

Javan Dempsey

Locale: The-Stateless-Society
Re: All single AA LED Flashlights are regulated on 03/31/2013 11:25:58 MDT Print View

That's good info Steven, but it's not helping me from going info-overload on CPF, which has taken up my morning already. ;P

Ideally what I want is a good flood with high run times on medium/low (i.e. able to work around camp comfortably) settings, at a good weight to runtime ratio. Regulated output regardless of batteries is a must, I wasn't aware that all AA lights were regulated, but I am aware that most AAA headlamps are not.

I will couple this with a compact but high powered flashlight, since I often do heavy night hiking. I've been forced into multi-hour night time egress on multiple occasions.

I'm willing to go with non-standard batteries for the flashlight, as I don't think it'll see more than a few hours continuous use on a trip, and would rather higher output and run times without carrying extra batteries.

I used a Petzl (Tikka XP I think?) for years, and hated it, it's crap for hiking at night, crap for working in camp, etc.

I'm not sure the right solution honestly. Since I cut my hair, I'm able to wear hats, and usually do when hiking, but I also use poles, so I'm not sure how well I"m going to be able to hold a light and hike, but I also don't like wearing a headlamp to hike, glare bothers me, and I'll often need/want to be wearing a cap.

Anyway, I'll keep researching.

Tom Watkins
(watkins) - F
BLF on 03/31/2013 11:38:08 MDT Print View

Check out budgetlightforum, a bit more friendly than CPF.

For a high power light you'll be looking at an 18650 light.

A good set up would be something like a C8, with the modes:
moon, low, medium, high and a turbo 3 amp for short periods.

Headlamp wise, maybe worth giving an ultrafire h2b a try. They aren't amazing but coupled with a high power torch I find I'm pretty much covered.

Edited by watkins on 03/31/2013 11:40:11 MDT.

Javan Dempsey

Locale: The-Stateless-Society
Re: BLF on 03/31/2013 11:51:43 MDT Print View

I'll check out that forum, thanks for the recommend.

I just had my mind blown by the realization that a light with a 90 deg cast with a clip on it can be easily clipped to the pack straps or your belt for hiking however, and the Spark SD52-CW is starting to look like a winner.

Someone at CPF mentioned that it's a great flood with the normal lens but can be replaced with an optional lens easily that gives a nice throw for night hiking.

I think coupled with a high powered torch, this might be my head-lamp, but I'm concerned about the weight. Not sure if there's another comparable single AA option.

Edited by jdempsey on 03/31/2013 12:01:25 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: All single AA LED Flashlights are regulated on 03/31/2013 11:52:11 MDT Print View

"However using a single AA battery and a regulator does come at a cost. The maximum run time is limited to about 2 hours maximum bcause of the rate the power is being pulled out of the battery."

This is totally false.

Mine runs for 3.5 days on a single AA, and there is no rate problem.