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Excellent headlamp review and deceptive advertising
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Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
Excellent headlamp review and deceptive advertising on 01/29/2014 23:38:37 MST Print View

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.

Good reading.

-- Rex

Edited by Rex on 01/29/2014 23:39:25 MST.

Jeff McWilliams
(jjmcwill) - M

Locale: Midwest
Ratings on 01/30/2014 05:45:32 MST Print View

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.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Ratings on 01/30/2014 08:42:43 MST Print View

Thanks Rex.

It's interesting to see how we got to the current situation, and appalling to see that REI is complicit.

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
Excellent headlamp review and deceptive advertising on 01/30/2014 08:56:56 MST Print View

Thanks Rex. Is that you from GGG? :)

Phillip Asby
(PGAsby) - M

Locale: North Carolina
Good stuff on 01/30/2014 09:05:25 MST Print View

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 ) 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...

Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
Re: Excellent headlamp review and deceptive advertising on 01/30/2014 09:15:57 MST Print View

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.

-- Rex

. .
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: (...)
... on 01/30/2014 09:27:22 MST Print View


Edited by RogerDodger on 07/02/2015 11:17:19 MDT.

Delmar O'Donnell

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
Unregulated vs Regulated on 01/30/2014 10:06:15 MST Print View

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?"

Edited by Bolster on 01/30/2014 10:16:33 MST.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Excellent headlamp review and deceptive advertising on 01/30/2014 10:20:58 MST Print View

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 breaks

Delmar O'Donnell

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
Agree re 3AAA on 01/30/2014 10:25:15 MST Print View

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.

Brian Mix
(Aggro) - MLife

Locale: Western slope, Sierra Nevada
Re: Ratings on 01/30/2014 12:05:36 MST Print View

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.

Charley White
(charleywhite) - M

Locale: Petaluma
re Excellent headlamp review and deceptive advertising on 01/30/2014 12:37:28 MST Print View

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.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
marketing on 01/30/2014 12:51:01 MST Print View

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 ...


Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: re Excellent headlamp review and deceptive advertising on 01/30/2014 12:55:51 MST Print View

"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."

Benjamin Meadors

Locale: Central Arkansas
Fellow flashaholic on 01/30/2014 14:15:08 MST Print View

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.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: marketing on 01/30/2014 15:23:03 MST Print View

Hi Eric

I think I need to 'correct' some of your statements (chuckle):

You wrote
> this kind of marketing is rampant in the outdoor industry ...
You should have said
'this kind of marketing is rampant ...'

You wrote
> 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.


Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: REI Responds - on 01/30/2014 16:56:05 MST Print View

Dear Greg,

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, 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.

Courtney Gearhart
REI Public Affairs

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: REI Responds - on 01/30/2014 17:17:00 MST Print View

"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.


Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: REI Responds - on 01/30/2014 17:54:22 MST Print View

I give them props for answering so quickly.

And you just gotta love the last name of the PAO for REI....

Larry De La Briandais
(Hitech) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Re: Excellent headlamp review and deceptive advertising on 01/30/2014 18:25:44 MST Print View

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. :^)