Petzl e+LITE Headlamp REVIEW

One ounce of fresh innovation: rotary switch, white-and-red LED array, modular form, storage capsule, waterproof. But not perfect - our tests reveal some weaknesses.

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by Rick Dreher | 2006-12-06 03:00:00-07

Petzl e-Lite Headlamp REVIEW - 1
PETZL e+LITE - Rethinking the Headlamp.

Introduction

Part LED headlamp and part button-cell minilight, the PETZL e+LITE offers more features and flexibility than is typical with either form. With both white and red LEDs, a detachable lamphead that can clip to a hat, a rotary switch and a handy storage case, never in the history of flashlightdom has 1 ounce provided the user with so many choices.

What’s Good

  • Miniscule size and weight
  • Flexible, adaptable design
  • Useful, adjustable output
  • Night-vision friendly red mode
  • Brilliant switch
  • Screw-free battery change
  • IPX6 waterproof rating

What’s Not So Good

  • Fleetingly brief initial bright output
  • Minimal difference between high and low modes
  • Competitive price?

Petzl e-Lite Headlamp REVIEW - 2
Two CR2032 button cells power the e+LITE.

Specifications

  Manufacturer

PETZL

  Year/Model

2006 e+LITE

  Type

5 mm LED button-cell headlamp

  Weight

Measured (lamp and strap without case): 1.0 oz (28 g)
Manufacturer’s specification: 27 g

  Component Weights

Lamphead: 0.6 oz (17 g)
Strap: 0.4 oz (11 g)
Case: 0.6 oz (17 g)

  Batteries/Operating Voltage

Two CR2032 lithium button cells/6 V

  Tool Required to Change Batteries?

No

  Regulated?

No

  Waterproof Rating

IPX6 (1.0 m - 30 min)

  Number of LEDs

3 white, 1 red

  Number of Modes

5: white - hi, lo, flash; red - steady, flash

  Removable Headstrap?

Yes

  Manufacturer’s Battery Life Claims

35 / 45 hours usage in white, hi/low modes

  Manufacturer’s Beam Distance Claims

19 / 11 m (62 / 36 ft) beam range with fresh batteries in hi/low modes

  Guarantee

Ten years

  MSRP

$29.95

PETZL threw out the book of headlamp design creating the e+LITE; it’s as though they held a design competition fueled liberally with Burgundy and espresso. Whatever its genesis, the resulting e+LITE blazes a lot of new ground.

What It Is

The e+LITE is a button-cell flashlight. But unlike other such lights, it sports multiple LEDs (four, total) in two colors and a lever-operated rotary switch instead of a pushbutton. The e+LITE is also a true headlamp, with a detachable elastic strap that threads through the lamphead base. The lamphead attaches to the base via a ball-and-socket joint, which gives it unlimited tilt and swivel. The base also features a metal wire clip that can anchor the lamphead to a cap bill or hat brim, sans strap. Versatile.

The e+LITE has a triangle of three white 5 mm LEDs that operate on high, low and flash. A single red LED centered inside the white trio operates in steady or flash. All modes are accessed using a lever switch that rotates through a 180-degree arc, with click-stops at each of the five modes, plus “off” settings at either end and a lock setting that folds it flush, protected against accidental operation. The sequence is lock, off, low white, high white, flash white, flash red, steady red, off. Clever; different.

Petzl e-Lite Headlamp REVIEW - 3
The two-piece e+LITE storage case can attach to a packstrap or belt.

The e+LITE comes packed in a plastic two-piece lozenge case that’s held closed by an o-ring. A belt loop on the case allows the e+LITE to be stowed on a packstrap. Handy.

What It Isn’t

The e+LITE isn’t a substitute for a multi-AA or AAA-powered headlamp. The miniscule button cells simply can’t match the staying power of their much larger cylindrical cousins. But, thanks to the latest generation of high-efficiency 5 mm LEDs, the e+LITE does provide very useful campsite light for a multi-night backpacking trip. While fresh batteries light up a trail enough to walk with confidence, extended nighttime navigation isn’t the e+LITE’s forte because the initial output’s duration is brief.

Why consider an e+LITE instead of an advanced microlight such as the Photon Freedom? In addition to the obviously greater feature set and the brighter, broader beam, there are the batteries. Instead of the typical two CR2016s, the e+LITE uses two CR2032s. These are twice the thickness and more than twice the capacity of the 2016s: 225 versus 90 mAh, each, which translates into a significantly extended useful life. The weight difference? About a gram, each. (All button cell lights should switch to CR2032s. Despite the minor increases in thickness and weight, they’d gain greater capacity.)

Petzl e-Lite Headlamp REVIEW - 4
Straps to any pack, handy and protected.

Performance

Output testing reveals the e+LITE’s strengths and weaknesses. Initial high-level output is a fleeting 300 lux, with an exact reading impossible because it drops so rapidly during the first fifteen minutes. After this initial plunge, high and low mode outputs show no appreciable difference, as the convergent curves show.

The white beam is reminiscent of other multi 5 mm white LED lights: an indistinct pool of light with a brighter purplish center. The beam diameter is about nine inches at two feet. The red beam is narrower and dimmer than the white, but bright enough to be useful.

Petzl e-Lite Headlamp REVIEW - 5
Tests conducted at 68 F; output measured in lux at two feet.
Click graph to enlarge.

Output
Beam Center1 Ft Off-Axis
White, high3004
White, low75NR
Red13NR
In lux, with fresh batteries, from two feet.
NR = Not recorded

Wearing and Operating

The 1-ounce e+LITE is certainly easy to wear, and is basically not noticeable once the strap is adjusted for comfort. Clipped to a ballcap the 17-gram lamphead is likewise unnoticeable, and the stout wire clip is reassuringly tenacious. Backscatter is eliminated using the cap option, and wasn’t bad using the strap. The ball-joint allows limitless aiming, and at least for our test remained stiff enough to hold its setting.

Petzl e-Lite Headlamp REVIEW - 6
The e+LITE sans strap clips to a hat bill or brim.

The switch can be operated wearing gloves, as long as it’s first taken out of the locked position. I sometimes overshoot my preferred position and have to back up because it’s difficult to feel the click stops through gloves.

Assessment: Toy, or Tool?

Implicit in the e+LITE’s packaging and indeed its name is to serve as an emergency headlamp. The case can be threaded onto a packstrap, well protected and ready for quick access. I believe it can fill that role quite adequately. The bright initial output can resolve typical nighttime puzzles; it’s just not a light that’s going to support an unplanned all-night march.

Whether it can become your sole backpacking headlamp depends on the use. As a campsite light the e+LITE works well. I quickly learned to primarily use it on low, reserving high as a boost mode like that provided on Petzl’s XP-series headlamps. The red mode is a great option for those interested in preserving night vision, and the switch allows switching it on directly to red to prevent dazzling the eyes. Because button cells have a solid rebound after resting a few hours, even worn cells provide 200-300 lux for at least a minute or two, which is adequate for brief technical navigation or stringing a bear bag line. With prudent use it can certainly support a weeklong backpacking trip, and toting a few extra grams in spare batteries would assure weeks of use. They’re also gratifyingly easy to swap, with the headstrap toggle substituting for the coin you might otherwise use to open the battery cap. It’s a thirty-second task.

Buying button cell batteries can be an experience. Despite being widely available, CR2032 prices vary hugely. I paid as much as four dollars each during this test, but have found them on-line for as little as thirty cents, in bulk. Because they have a long shelf life, shopping the sales and keeping a supply handy seems like the way to go.

Idle Speculation

Could the e+LITE represent a test platform for design elements that might migrate to other headlamps? If so, we say “heap them on,” especially the switch, the red light option and the robust IPX6 waterproof rating.

Petzl e-Lite Headlamp REVIEW - 7
A bezel protects the bare LEDs from damage, reduces glare.

Value

For a somewhat princely thirty bucks, the e+LITE isn’t everyone’s impulse, gotta-have-it purchase. The same amount can buy a “serious” headlamp such as one of Petzl’s Tikka models or a small fistful of generic button-cell lights. Serious nighttime navigation requires more light than the e+LITE can muster, but little 1-ounce wonder will give enough hands-free light to operate easily around camp, with the added benefit of night-vision-friendly red.

Compared To

Compared to the Photon Freedom, the brightest single-LED button cell light we’ve tested, the e+LITE’s beam is broader and more useful in all applications. Both are similarly affected by rapid drop-off with time, although the Photon’s continuously variable output allows more flexibility in matching output to task. Interestingly, the two miniscule lights offer what no popular “regular” sized headlamp does: the ability to switch on directly to low.

What’s Unique

Nearly everything about the e+LITE is new and fresh, from the modular form to its white-and-red LED array to its rotary switch to the storage capsule. The e+LITE is also the only immersible Petzl light we’ve tested.

Recommendations for Improvement

Low mode could be lower for more distinction from high. Add regulation circuitry.

Question for Down the Trail

Will the ball-and-socket retain adequate tension with extended wear?


Citation

"Petzl e+LITE Headlamp REVIEW," by Rick Dreher. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/petzl_e_lite_headlamp_review.html, 2006-12-06 03:00:00-07.

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Forum Index » Editor's Roundtable » Petzl e+LITE Headlamp REVIEW


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Benjamin Smith
(bugbomb) - F - M

Locale: South Texas
Petzl e+LITE Headlamp REVIEW on 12/05/2006 20:40:40 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Petzl e+LITE Headlamp REVIEW

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Petzl e+LITE Headlamp REVIEW on 12/06/2006 04:08:53 MST Print View

Link to already existing READER REVIEWS

and

Link to already existing Forum Thread (please be sure to ready REPLIES to the original post which began that Thread. this link should take one to the Post that started the Thread. Several other Posts follow.)

Edited by pj on 12/06/2006 04:10:09 MST.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Petzl e+LITE Headlamp REVIEW on 12/06/2006 05:02:24 MST Print View

Rick,

excellent review. i really enjoy reading a Pro's review of headlamps.


i agree that the e+LITE will never replace my '06 ZipkaPlus as my always_carried_in_my_pocket lighting device, particularly for the reasons you mentioned regarding battery life of the Li coin cells.



some questions:

1) have you come across a Petzl stated or empircally determined length of "burn" time for the single RED LED? If not, any guesses?

2) can you please share your source for thirty cent CR2032 batts? i can find them in any Qty, even just one, for ~$0.90 each (BrightGuy.com), $0.69 each for 10-90 qty, and in >100 qty for $0.49 each - both larger Qty prices from InfiniteLights.com

3) does it really take hours and not just 10-20 minutes (or even less) for the batteries to cool enough so that aspect of any battery's internal resistance is reduced, thereby allowing brighter light output once again? i've never tried this with a Li coin cell light, but have tried it AA alkaline batts and it's usually just a few minutes (10-20 min yielding much better results than 2-3 min, IME). Of course, the shorter the cool-down time allowed, the shorter time the brighter light is output (subject to inherent upper limits of time, depending upon how long it takes to cool and how much stored energy is left in the battery).

i would have thought that given Li batts low thermal mass coupled with the higher surface area to volume ratio of a tiny Li coin cell, which affects heat transfer, that it might have been faster to recover. i understand that other factors, such as packaging and air volume/flow near the batts come into play also. i've never tried, so i'm probably mistaken for some reason i haven't yet reasoned out.



again, many thanks for such a fine, professionally performed and well written Review.

Kevin Pietriyk
(pietriyk) - F

Locale: Northeastern PA
red light on 12/06/2006 06:31:45 MST Print View

Great review! I might get this as a gift for my friend who almost always wears a ballcap, which makes a regular strap-mounted headlamp hard to wear without the brim casting a shadow right at your feet.

For myself, I require a red LED in any headlamp I use. It makes it so much nicer when you're not blinding your companions every time you look in their direction, and it's nice to walk through the moonlight, only flipping on the red lamp when you need it, and much less adjustment time for your eyes. Which brings me to the next revelation I had about headlamps- I really like to be able to go from "off" to "red" without intermediate clicks through the white settings. The cheap (~$10) Energizer 3-LED light at Wally world has this feature, but the 6-LED version requires button clicks through all the settings, getting to red last. I'm glad to see that this unit has such a feature.

I just added a flip-up red filter on the 1W LED on my Black Diamond Zenix IQ, makes the light so much more useful to me. Just as I try to buy gear in muted colors to avoid jarring the eyes, I try to avoid blazing white light lancing around the nighttime forest, especially if there are others about, possibly trying to rest. Of course, the white is a requirement if you need to see hazards or perform detailed tasks at night.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: red light on 12/06/2006 07:00:50 MST Print View

Kevin,

our requirements in a headlamp differ a bit (me, old man, dark forests, lots
of white light & no need to preseve dark adapation). your needs are justifiably different.

i too, just like your friend, nearly always wear a ballcap.

sometimes, i turn the cap around backwards (rally cap time!!!) if it's not raining and wear a larger headlamp normally.

other times, i either use a smaller headlamp that fits under my cap brim (a
ZipkaPlus for proximity/task lighting), or adjust the cap on my head so that
a larger headlamp fits underneath (i know, some tradeoffs at work here) and
the cap brim is pointing up at an angle. In the rain i probably have my head
angled down a bit and only lift it up periodically to spot blazes on rocks or
trees.

i'm with you, wearing a normal headlamp above the ballcap brim almost never
produces good results for the reason you stated.

also, i've done the following with the PTScout with good results, and will try
it with the e+LITE. i often attach the Scout to the capbrim so that it is on
the underside of the brim and not above the brim as is pictured in the e+LITE
review. for some reason, i know that it sounds weird (maybe, i'm just
weird???) for me i don't find this objectionable. my eyes don't cross trying to focus on the back of the light and i quickly don't even notice it (perhaps b/c the darkness doesn't offer sufficient contrast to the dark back of the Scout). also, i don't find that enough light "spills" back towards me to
really make doing this a problem. Such an arrangment also keeps water off of
the headlamp, though the e+LITE has a -1m waterproof rating so this isn't a
compelling argument for mounting the e+LITe under the capbrim instead of above it.

Edited by pj on 12/06/2006 07:43:10 MST.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Petzl e+LITE Headlamp REVIEW on 12/06/2006 12:15:18 MST Print View

Thanks for your comments Paul,

I downloaded the latest user's guide to be sure, and it only addresses "maximum" and "economic" and not the red mode. I know life's too complicated to just divide by three, but for lack of a better idea I'd start there to extrapolate red mode battery life.

Battery Station has CR2032s for thirty cents in bulk (200x), fifty cents individually. They're name brands, too. I've been surprised to find that CR2016s aren't sold as cheaply as 2032s.

I don't think battery rebound is strictly a function of heat, but also chemical. However, with all the many battery formulations out there, I'd gladly defer to somebody more versed in the topic than I.

Edwin Short
(shortdottedline@comcast.net) - F
micro lites on 12/06/2006 19:28:14 MST Print View

all this is well and good, but you can google microlites and find a small lite with on off and momentary switch from over seas(China I believe) for 79 cents each, plus a bunch of shipping. buy a 100 and they are less than 1.00 each use and throw away. they last well and use 2 if you need too. Jeeezzz 29.00the gnome of blue island

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: micro lites on 12/07/2006 04:26:55 MST Print View

i've used cheaper microlights.

one would probably have to carry and use simultaneously several of the cheaper lights and you still wouldn't have the throw or distance lighting of the e+LITE. it really is quite bright for the first 30min and then it dims. The cheaper lights you are referring to will similarly dim.

Also, the newer generation of brigher 5mm LEDs do really produce dimmer, but still usable light for a lot longer than the prev. generation of microlights. These earlier, lower output 5mm LEDs are probably still being used in the cheaper lights.

Lastly, consider the weight difference (albeit minor in terms of absolute weight) between carrying six or eight or more of these cheaper lights to make up for the increased brightness and longer burn time of the cheaper lights.

Think about the newer LEDs used in the e+LITE this way: 2x as bright and burns 2x as long PER LED. The e+LITE has 3LEDS vs. one in many cheaper microlights. Hence, i would need to carry 12 microlights to have the same brightness (at least 6 cheaper lights) and same burn time (the other 6 out of the 12 being carried).

Edited by pj on 12/07/2006 04:27:43 MST.

Frederick Maxfield
(fredmax56) - M

Locale: New England
Bottle on 12/10/2006 10:02:59 MST Print View

Hi,
What is the yellow bottle that the light is attached to.
Thanks

carlos fernandez rivas
(pitagorin) - MLife

Locale: Galicia -Spain
Re: Bottle on 12/12/2006 05:39:35 MST Print View

frederik

is the typical lemon juice bottle

;)

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Re: Petzl e+LITE Headlamp REVIEW on 12/12/2006 10:59:18 MST Print View

Rick,

I haven't gotten that PM from you yet. Did you forget?

Isaiah Laderman
(ilader) - F
long-term use on 06/15/2008 15:50:35 MDT Print View

I've been using the Petzl d+LITE daily for a couple of years.

The high-mode dropoff sometimes occurs within just a few minutes, as stated in the review. But it more often occurs at fifteen or thirty minutes. I assume this is some battery or temperature variable.

The e+LITE can stand on its big foot, and can be pointed in any direction from its stand. It can also solidly clip to a baseball cap or any strap. Two e+LITEs on one strap around a helmet make a good bicycle headlamp/red flashing taillamp.

The low beam really should be lower. It is too bright for reading - and I read a lot with it. But I have to point the center of the light way off the page.


Neither the switch nor the ball mount shows wear.

I would compare it not to the Photon (which I used for years), but to the Black Diamond Ion headlamp, which I also used for years. The Ion doesn't care about orientation on your head, while the e+LITE has to be placed upright, or the beam won't be able to be pointed down enough. But: The Ion's battery is not available from supermarkets or drugstores - I bought them in bulk at about $80 per order. The Ion's switch wears out. The Ion's battery contacts are undependable (though easily re-bent). The Ion isn't at all waterproof. The Ion is dimmer. The Ion runs for a shorter time on a battery.