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Best Headlamp
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Delmar O'Donnell

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
2 cells on 10/19/2013 08:54:38 MDT Print View

For 2-cell AA headlamp, try the Spark SD-52. Even comes in neutral tint, and with interchangeable bezels for flood/spot switchover. Highly waterproofed.

alex hansen
i find it interesting on 10/19/2013 09:10:43 MDT Print View

that few people, (nobody?) has mentioned black diamond headlamps. having the most exposure to the things i work with at REI on a daily basis, i consider BD lamps to be the best lumens per $ and bang for the buck concerning features like; dimmable; lockable; red.

still my favorite light is the petzl e-lite. im so sorry REI stopped selling it.

Mark Andrews
(buldogge) - F

Locale: Midwest
RE: Zebralight Models on 10/19/2013 09:15:58 MDT Print View

Could anyone who has tried a few of the Zebralights comment on the differences, color wise, between the regular, the 'w'(hite), and the 'c' models.

I'm thinking H31 flood in this case.

-Mark in St. Louis

Delmar O'Donnell

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
Re: RE: Zebralight Models on 10/19/2013 09:29:40 MDT Print View

I own all three from zebralight. The difference between w and c is relatively subtle; the difference between w/c and regular cool white is very pronounced. If I'm working with a camera, I select the c for better color rendition. If I want a little more brightness, I select the w.* Both w and c work very well for viewing flora at night; the blue tint is just brighter overall. There are comparative photos taken with w and c at Candlepowerforums, if you dig through the archives.

If I were buying all over again, specifically for backpacking, I'd not consider the regular cool at all, and I'd be happy with either the w or the c. And I'd likely buy the H52fw (flood warm white), even though what I own now are the full-floods (the H50, H501, H502) because the H52fw would give me a little more throw if I needed to trail hike at night. The full floods excel at camp setup.

* Remember that it takes about 100% increase in lumens for one light to appear significantly brighter than another, because the eye sees light in a logarithmic or 2nd power relationship. You *might* be able to see a 20% difference in a side-by-side controlled test, but there's no reason to chase marginal increases in lumens. If one guy's light is 200 lumens and the other person's is 240, that's bordering on an indistinguishable difference, especially in the field. I generally don't upgrade until I see something 50% brighter, and even then, the difference is subtle.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: 2 cells on 10/19/2013 09:30:27 MDT Print View


From a March 2012 post over at CandlePowerForums on the Spark SD52 -

"Only thing I have not yet said here in my thread, is that I do find this light to be a bit finicky. In bolsters mini review several of us are talking about how this light does not turn on to the setting we last left it on, and that on occasion it takes multiple clicks to turn this light on.... this unfortunately is my experience as well. It happens so regularly now that I have considered returning it. I don't want to be in the woods clicking this light 6 times to get it to come on, and at $100.00 it should not do that, period. "

"I just don't get it either. My ST5 works just fine, but I do run it on a Lion cell 90% of the time. The lower voltage of the NiMH must be the key to the performance issues?"

Is this still an issue?

Edited by greg23 on 10/19/2013 09:33:31 MDT.

Mark Andrews
(buldogge) - F

Locale: Midwest
Re: Re: RE: Zebralight Models on 10/19/2013 09:33:04 MDT Print View


What do you think of the H31FW? I would like to go CR123 since my Steripen uses the same batteries. I have a PT EOS AAA already.


Delmar O'Donnell

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
Re: Re: 2 cells on 10/19/2013 12:10:31 MDT Print View

SD52: As I mentioned in my SPF review, sometimes the initial press of the switch gets me to my last used setting; other times it gets me to the beginning of the cycle (low). This has been the main criticism of the SD52. To me, it seems a minor issue, because it takes me maybe a second to correct. If I turn on the light and want a medium level, and it defaults to low, I just hold down the button and it ramps up to medium in less than a second. What causes people to get their underwear in a bunch is that it's supposed to remember its last setting, and frequently, it does. Just not always.

I don't consider the above to be the SD52's major drawback for backpackers. Its major drawback is that you're carrying a larger, heavier body, when you could be carrying a lighter single-cell body and a spare cell, for less weight. Its secondary drawback is that when the cells are exhausted and it drops out of regulation, the light goes out. Suddenly you're in the dark. If you reach up and turn it back on, it will light again (the battery having had several seconds of rest), but it's disconcerting to suddenly find yourself in the dark.

Personally I would never choose my headlamp because battery cells are sold in multiples of two; that doesn't compute for me. But if someone really wants a two-cell AA light, it's hard to find a finer light than the SD52, despite its idiosyncrasies.

Mark: Not sure you're asking me, but I'll opine. The CR123 Zebras are excellent choices also, and make sense if you have standardized on CR123 for your other gear.

At CPF, after MUCH argument, and the headlamp forum being dominated by backpackers, it does appear to me that the -fw version of whatever zebra headlamp appears to be the most popular with backpackers. It's floody enough for camp chores, and throwy enough for night hiking, and does a good job rendering greens and browns at night. It is a compromise light that can do dual duty. I don't happen to own a -fw, I am partial to the full floods (the HXXX series), but if I were to do any night hiking I'd get some sort of a -fw zebralight.

Edited by Bolster on 10/19/2013 12:35:25 MDT.

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: Best Headlamp on 10/19/2013 12:28:03 MDT Print View

I have a 460 NW Spark Headlamp.

It lasted through 2 sets of batteries before it completely died.
The rep acted like I was an idiot that couldn't work a headlamp.

Finally got a replacement.
2 battery uses latter and it's dead again.
It looks like a well put together light, but for the money, I would stick with a Zebra Light.

I do a lot of night hiking. You need a light that can light up enough to keep you going at a good pace and keep you from tripping every 2 minutes.

I have found that 60 lumens works perfect and can even work with a little running. On non-technical trails, you can get away with 40-60 lumens and 20-40 just walking around.

Because I found at least 60 is my magic number, I then looked for the lightest regulated flashlight that would put out 60 lumens all night (10+ hours). Well there isn't one made yet, unless you go with a 3 cell light. The closest thing is having to switch a battery once with the Princeton Tec Remix Pro.

so for technical, all night trails, I hold a Fenix PD32-G2 in my hand.

Edited by awsorensen on 10/19/2013 12:52:40 MDT.

Delmar O'Donnell

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
One more comment on RED. on 10/19/2013 12:33:55 MDT Print View

If I can make one more comment about lights that come with a RED LED. I own several, including a dedicated red zebralight. However, we have been sold an exaggerated narrative regarding red's ability to protect night vision. It is partially true, but largely misunderstood. Let me explain the important points without getting into physiology.

A very dim white light (like the sublumen modes available on quality headlamps) can outperform a red LED for preserving night vision, if the red is bright and the white is dim. The red does not confer a blanket protection as many people think. The general rule is, "if you can perceive color, your light is too bright for preserving night vision." So if you use a red light, turn it so low you don't notice red. Ditto for white--if you are perceiving colors in what you're looking at, your light is too bright to efficiently preserve night vision. If the red and the white are the same appropriate dimness, then the red (or NVG, green) wins. See what I'm saying?

Loads of people have a bright red LED on a cheap headlamp and think they're preserving night vision when they aren't. So adding a bright red LED is a marketing gimmick (but a dim red LED, or NVG, is a good thing). The dimness counts more than the color. So if you have a white light that can go sublumen, it can act as your night vision light, and can preserve your night vision better than someone who has a bright red beacon for a headlamp.

In a nutshell: having a "red option" on your lamp for night vision isn't really necessary if you have a white light that will go sufficiently sublumen. "If you can perceive color, your lamp is too bright for preserving night vision," is the collective wisdom of people who get into the weeds on this topic.

This topic has been discussed in voluminous detail at CPF. Look for posts by a visual physiologist and professor named Bowzer who posts frequently on this topic.

Edited by Bolster on 10/19/2013 12:37:37 MDT.

just Justin Whitson
Re: One more comment on RED. on 10/19/2013 12:44:56 MDT Print View

Well I suppose I could just get a fancier, more expensive charger.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Re: Re: Best Headlamp on 10/19/2013 13:23:34 MDT Print View

I have a 460 NW Spark Headlamp.

It lasted through 2 sets of batteries before it completely died.
The rep acted like I was an idiot that couldn't work a headlamp.

Finally got a replacement.
2 battery uses latter and it's dead again.
It looks like a well put together light, but for the money, I would stick with a Zebra Light.

thanks for letting is know about this

I was considering the spark 460 as i can get it at half price

But my headlamp needs to be "totally" reliable ... Of course we know all electronics can fail, but i need something with a reputation for reliability as if it dies while im climbing or on descent, it can be a very dangerous situation

And not to mention a no questions asked warranty where u dont have to argue should something go wrong ...

Looks more and more like a petzl nao or the new RXPs from mec are in the cards for me


Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Two is one on 10/19/2013 14:56:53 MDT Print View

"The Princeton is using outdated tech. Based on my findings, using sanyo enloops in both, the Fenix has significantly longer run times while at the same time having a brighter beam."

The EOS has been around for many years and is basically obsolete. Perhaps a better comparison would be the Fenix vs the VIZZ, the successor to the EOS.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Best Headlamp on 10/19/2013 15:26:38 MDT Print View

>> I then looked for the lightest regulated flashlight that would put out 60 lumens all night (10+ hours). Well there isn't one made yet <<

Interesting comment and I have always evaluated headlights similarly. My requirement has always been to find a light that will allow me to "walk out" in an emergency for 8 hours and make it on a single AA battery. I know that 8 hours is an arbitrary number but it's what seems reasonable to me. I haven't found an AA headlight that will do that yet. The new Zebralight H52w AA Headlamp comes very close, which is why I have it on order.

Zebralight says that the H52w AA headlight will run at 50 lumens for 7.5 hours on a 2000mAh eneloop. They also state that the run time will be longer with Energizer AA L91 lithiums which is what I use in my lights while hiking, so I may get my 8 hours out of a lithium battery in this new headlight. I find 50 lumens to be good for trail walking once my eyes adjust. I also always carry a spare AA Lithium in my pocket (terminals taped) as a backup (.5 oz penalty). My Fenix HL21 is rated at 43 lumens for 6 hours so the Zebralight is a significant improvement.

Delmar O'Donnell

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
Re: Re: Re: Best Headlamp on 10/19/2013 15:46:11 MDT Print View

> But my headlamp needs to be "totally" reliable ... Of course we know all electronics can fail, but i need something with a reputation for reliability

Well, we ALL feel that way. All the top brands experience failures. If you read CPF closely for a year or two, you will see people bitching about SureFire unreliability, Spark unreliability, Zebralight unreliability, Petzl unreliability, and so on. The more popular a brand -> the more people own it -> the more failures reported. For example, you never see a Dosun failure reported (nobody owns them).

Each person experiences different failures and arrives at different biases. For me, Petzl failed, and my Sparks (despite quirks) are extremely reliable. Doesn't mean you'll experience the same. Hopefully I don't become one of these headlamp bigots that says, "Because Petzl failed for me, you should never buy one." I know plenty of people who have had great luck with Petzls, and I don't think they're unreliable. In that case I was the unlucky outlier.

If you want to stay at consumer-level prices (under $200), best you can do is buy a good brand (Petzl, BD, Zebralight, Spark, Surfire, Princeton, various others), test it immediately with a dunk (for waterproofness), and carry a spare if your light is mission-critical. All the cavers carry spares.

If you can spend $300-1000-2000, you can get really durable lights, like the cavers use.

Edited by Bolster on 10/19/2013 15:54:49 MDT.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Re: Re: Re: Re: Best Headlamp on 10/19/2013 16:30:09 MDT Print View

Were all bigots on BPL =P

What i find interesting is that petzl probably sells more tikkas alone, and likely even more of a single model say the tikka 2 ... Than all sparks, zebras, etc combined

But you generally find more failure reports of some of these cheaper brands

Of course its possible that most people just take their petzls back to the retailer, or dont frequent the internet

Any headlamp can fail ... Petzl had some issues with the myo xp i believe

But in general they are pretty reliable and used basically everywhere ..

Theres a certain spark dealer in canada that tests the sparks he sells for waterproofness as sparks are ipx8 rated ... The ones tht fail the waterproof test he sells for half price

Again ... All electronics can fail ... Make sure you buy it from somewhere they dont argue with you


Edited by bearbreeder on 10/19/2013 16:32:56 MDT.

Delmar O'Donnell

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Best Headlamp on 10/19/2013 17:00:41 MDT Print View

> What i find interesting is that petzl probably sells more tikkas alone, and likely even more of a single model say the tikka 2 ... Than all sparks, zebras, etc combined

Well...yeah...Petzl is mass market, so they sell a ton of mass-market 3AAA lights. Zebra and Spark are not mass market, don't have anywhere near the distribution channels, manufacturing capacity, or marketing muscle. They are boutique / niche products, emphasizing build, tint, lumens, burn time, etc.

The reason 3AAA is the typical mass market headlamp, is that 3 x 1.5v cells gives enough voltage to fire an LED without any additional electronics to increase the voltage. It costs more to make an LED that burns on two or one 1.5v cell; these require boost circuits. Downside is, AAAs are relatively inefficient for their size, which is why many flashlight enthusiasts shun 3xAAA lights in favor of 1xAA lights.

Petzls can generally be purchased for less, and purchased in brick and mortar stores. Inexpensive, widely available, and durable...that's why Petzl has such a strong following. If you love Petzl, go for it. I'll not try to change your mind.

Regards the title of the thread:


...there is no such thing. There are only headlamps that match your needs to greater or lesser degre. If your need is to buy it from REI, well there are good headlamps that fit that need. If you need ultralightweight and don't care if it takes exotic batteries, a different one. Maybe you need to spend a lot of money so you can brag about how much you spent. Or the opposite, maybe you need to spend $30 or less. Want excellent tint? A different one yet. Me, I need a waterproof, single cell, high CRI light that can double as a handheld and has a floody beam. You may not need or even want those things.

No such thing as a "best headlamp."

There is only "best fit for your personal requirements."

Edited by Bolster on 10/19/2013 17:17:25 MDT.

Mark S
(gixer) - F
Re: Re: Zebralight H600 MKII or H602 on 10/19/2013 17:23:49 MDT Print View

"Hey Mark.

Thanks for the descriptions of the various zebralights. I've been really looking into getting one for my primary headlamp. Zebralights naming system and product descriptions leave my head spinning a bit. If you have a chance, can you give some more specifics about the functional differences between the H600 MKII and the H602? Also, any of you insiders know when they might be releasing cool white versions of all the new lamps? Thanks!"


Not sure if you mean me as the forums software is extremely clunky with quotes here.

It doesn't seem as though anyone has answered your question though so....

For the H600 you have 2 version, one standard and one flood.
The standard one (the one i have in the pics) has a 80° spill.
That means if you were to place the torch on a desk and measure the angle of the beam it would come to around 80°.

In practice this gives and extremely useful beam pattern, it's helped by the fact that it has a 12° spot that's slightly brighter in the centre of the beam.
So you get a nice flood that would illuminate say the width of a 2 lane road 2 meters in front of you, but the spot also gives you enough throw that i felt confident riding my MTB at 45mph at night on one pretty rocky downhill section.

The H600Fw has a slightly wider beam at 90° but also has a frosted lens so the beam has less of a hot spot in the centre.

With regards to the H602, this is really just a flood monster (for it's size)
It has a 120° beam with no reflector so it's just a wall of light.
To give you some idea what this relates to in real world use.
I've found that with the torch mounted on my head, the beam is pretty much as wide as i am physically able to move my eyeballs.
With eyeballs at their left or right limit there is a few degrees that is not illuminated, but it really is a few degrees.
For all intense and purposes it's a wall of light in front of your eyes.

The disadvantage is more lumens are spread out so you don't get anywhere near the distance you do with the H600.

It's really down to what you prefer and what serves it's purpose.

For me night hiking and running i prefer a slightly narrower beam, i don't really care if the torch illuminates the path and 3 meters either side, all i really care about is that i can see the path good enough to pick my route around tree stumps, rocks and potholes.

I tend to have the torch on it's highest setting as well, as i like to be able to see what i'm approaching 50m or 100m away.
I don't care about night vision as if it's dark enough to warrant using a torch i'll use it for the entire walk.

I do have a mate that runs off-road at night with a light that i don't think is bright enough to read by, so different horses for different courses.

Edited by gixer on 10/19/2013 17:24:28 MDT.

Marc Kokosky
(mak52580) - F

Locale: Washington, DC Area
PT Vizz on 10/21/2013 12:35:16 MDT Print View

I looked long and hard at the H51, and new H52 but in the end still like my Vizz for the points below:

1. Not all that much heavier with batteries (3.7 oz) than the H51 (3.0 oz). Of course, you can use just the H51 for 1.2 oz or make a super lightweight headband for it, but I'm lazy lol.

2. The burn time. On High-High (200l) you get .9 hrs. A better comparison to the Vizz's max output (150 lumens) would be the H51 H3 setting (140 lumens) which nets you 1.7hrs. With the Vizz on the highest 150 lumen setting with 3 AAA lithiums you get 110 hrs. On low you get 150 hrs

3. A red light - Vizz has one. H51 doesn't. Enough said. I prefer one at night so the Vizz wins out

4. The on/off settings. The Vizz from the first touch starts on red so that it doesn't blind anyone when it's first turned on. A quick second button gets you max brightness if that's what you want.

5. Also, if you hold the button on, it starts at the lowest light setting and then slowly brightens until you want the desired light output at which point you just stop pressing. No need to remember how many presses you made to get it on which of the correct 9+ settings you want. I get a headache just watching people on some of the You Tube clips "reviewing" and not being able to get it to the right settings.

6. It has a button lock setting so it can't accidentally be activated. On the H51 you need to back out the end screw cap a bit so that you can't accidentally activate it; which in my mind COULD affect its waterproofness.

7. Price - With a 20% off REI (or other goods) coupon you can get them for $40, $9 - $30 cheaper than the H51 or H52 at their cheapest

I'll caveat this with saying that most of my 3-season hiking is done with a Petzl E+ since its about all the light I need when it gets dark at 7:30 or later. But in the early sping, late fall and winter when it's darker sooner and may require more time hiking at night or needing light for camp chores in the dark, the Vizz goes with me.

Edited by mak52580 on 10/21/2013 12:46:10 MDT.

Phillip Asby

Locale: North Carolina
Runtimes on 10/21/2013 14:23:19 MDT Print View

Just a note - unless PT has a technological advance of mammoth proportions that 110 hours on the main LED is not regulated light - it suggests that it may still be producing some light but certainly not 150 lumens (i.e. unregulated).

Current production pretty efficient lights depending on the cells used (2xAA or 1xCR123) can get around 5-7 hours at 85 lumens regulated. A good bit less at higher levels...

The ZL are pretty efficient - maybe not the best but my H31W is spot on to spec- in terms of runtmie - but that is measured as fully regulated runtime not a significantly diminished moonlight mode...

Now there is some value to a diminishing out of regulation moon mode - particularly backpacking - one thing many lights do the ZL included is once they go out of regulation they shutoff entirely. There are some who much prefer to have some light rather than total darkness and it's a fair point. The current models of ZL if I recall have a battery life indicator built into the UI but mine does not.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Best Headlamp on 10/21/2013 14:25:33 MDT Print View

>> With the Vizz on the highest 150 lumen setting with 3 AAA lithiums you get 110 hrs. <<

The Vizz would certainly be the market leader if it could output a 150 lm for 110 hours! I suggest you turn your Vizz on at 150 lm and see how long your 3 AAA batteries last at that light output. If you get more than a few hours of regulated (150 lm) output I'd be amazed.

Don't let the marketing spin fool you with these lights. What they actually mean is that the light is regulated "while the voltage is at a certain level" and then they drop down to the next lowest level and the cycle repeats, dropping you to a lower level until you can barely see the light. That entire process "may" take 110 hours but you certainly won't be seeing 150 lm for very many of those 110 hours.

I'm not condemning the Vizz, I don't know that headlight but I just wanted to point out that marketing spin can be misleading (wow, great surprise!). At the lowest setting my Zebralight will last 3 months!! I can't even tell if the light is on at that setting (0.01 lm) even in a dark room, so what's the point. Looks good in the specs I guess (they could advertise that it has a 3 month run time on a single AA).