PRINCETON TEC AMP 1.0
TEST SERIES BY GREG MCDONALD
INITIAL REPORT - March 30, 2009
FIELD REPORT - June 09, 2009
LONG TERM REPORT - August 12, 2009
gdm320 AT yahoo DOT com
Boynton Beach, Florida
6' 0" (1.83 m)
225 lb (102.00 kg)
I have been camping for 17 years, 12 of them have been spent hiking in the backcountry. My hikes are almost exclusively in Florida and generally range between one and three nights. My all-time favorite hike was a 10 day expedition in the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico. I consider myself a lightweight but comfortably equipped hiker, with a pack averaging between 25 and 30 lb (11 and 14 kg).
Product Information & Specifications
Manufacturer: Princeton Tec
|Image Courtesy of Princeton Tec|
Model: Amp 1.0
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.princetontec.com
MSRP: US $14.99
Color Tested: Yellow
Other Colors Available: Blue, Gray, Orange
Listed Weight on Packaging: 1.69 oz (42 g)
Listed Weight on Website: 2.01 oz (57 g)
Measured Weight [no batteries]: 1.1 oz (32 g)
Measured Weight [with two AAA batteries]: 1.9 oz (55 g)
Measured Overall Length (Approximate): 3.9 in (10 cm)
Body Material: Lexan
Bulb: 1.2 Watt Xenon
Rated Burn Time: 3 Hours
Rated Brightness: 14 Lumens
Rated Maximum Beam Distance (Approximate): 164 ft (50 m)
Rated Waterproof to 328 ft (100 m)
The very first impressions that I got from the Amp 1.0 came from the Princeton Tec website well before the torch even arrived. The website itself is well designed and logically organized with plenty of good information. I must say though that I did find myself a little baffled and discouraged by a few things that I read on the site about the Amp. On the Amp's page where Princeton Tec talks about the Xenon bulb it actually goes as far as to say that this type of bulb is not desirable for "backcountry uses, where weight and battery efficiency are a must." Gulp. I hit the brakes when I read that since under "Ideal Uses" Princeton Tec has "camping" listed as one of them. From that moment I have had some concerns over the suitability for the Amp as a backcountry torch for the very reasons that Princeton Tec has listed.
My initial hands-on impression with the Amp went much better. For some reason I was expecting a larger flashlight and was a little surprised when I saw it for the first time. When it comes to my opinion of a torch, smaller and lighter is almost certainly better so I was pleased at this unexpected twist.
From there I ran into a bit of a discrepancy. When I got it out of the packaging and into my hand it felt lighter than the 1.69 oz (42 g) that the packaging lists it as. When I got it on the scale before installing the batteries, I found that the weight was only 1.1 oz (32 g). The problem with this is I didn't see how the listed weight would be accurate after I installed the batteries. Sure enough, the whole thing weighed in at 1.9 oz (55 g) with the two AAA Duracell batteries that were included with it. So I'm not too sure where Princeton Tec got the weight they have printed on the packaging. I then noticed that the weight that Princeton Tec lists on their website for the Amp is 2.01 oz (57 g)... yet another completely different number albeit much closer to my measured overall weight.
Somehow I managed to pull myself away from the discrepancies long enough to have a look at the Amp itself. The design is pretty simple. The torch has a lexan body which houses two AAA batteries which power a xenon bulb. The on and off for the torch is controlled by slightly tightening (for on) or loosening (for off) the cap. Pretty simple to understand and use. At least, so I thought. My dad raised me to pretty much ignore the directions for anything until it's on fire. "When in doubt, read the directions!" as he used to say. Anyway, I took this approach with the Amp to see how idiot proof it was. Apparently the answer is: not very. I had a look in the battery compartment to try and figure out which way to install the batteries and found not diagram (or even + and - symbols) to guide me. I managed to get it wrong twice before breaking down and consulting the directions (sorry dad).
When I finally got the torch powered up I was pleased with the distance of the beam the xenon bulb threw off. The light given off is quite a bit different than the LED I'm used to but it's way too early to tell if this is a good thing, a bad thing, or a meaningless thing. One thing I can say for sure is that it is certainly bright.
I like the little carabiner hold in the end of the housing opposite the bulb. The housing is a little bit thick to be able to clip one of my small carabiners through it but my larger ones fit just fine. I do like that this makes it very easy to secure to the outside of my pack for quick and easy access and I think that it might also work out quite well to hang it from the peak of my tent for a nice interior light.
I performed a brief kitchen sink test with the Amp to check the waterproofing. There is a rubber o-ring at the base of the threads where the cap screws on to prevent leaking into the battery compartment, and I detected no water intrusion after I disassembled the Amp after the dunk test. The body also shed water easily, so I don't have any concerns at this point about the waterproofing. I'm actually looking forward to testing the waterproofing on this torch. I have a night dive scheduled on an upcoming trip to the Florida Keys which should suit the task nicely, although admittedly not a "backpacking application" I figure I should be thorough!
Down the Trail
The Amp 1.0 seems like a pretty nice little torch. I like the size and weight (which are usually my primary factors for a handheld flashlight since I primarily use a headlamp on the trail) as well as the considerable waterproofing. I do have some reservations, however, from Princeton Tec's own description of the xenon bulbs as not being the most suitable for backcountry and hiking purposes, so we'll have to see how that goes. I'd also like them to clarify their stated weights on the product as well as add some sort of indicator inside the battery compartment concerning battery alignment.
This concludes my Initial Report. Please check back in late May for my Field Report where I should have plenty of field experiences to share. I'd like to thank Princeton Tec and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the Princeton Tec Amp 1.0!
Field Locations and Conditions
The Princeton Tec Amp has seen action in camp just off the trails of Lake Okeechobee, the spur trails of the Florida Trail, and in Myakka River State Park. Temperatures have ranged between 46 and 92 F (8 and 33 C) over the course of the field testing period with precipitation on one occasion. I remind my readers that all this testing has been here in sunny Florida where I have encountered precious little elevation change from sea level.
I have also used the Amp as a general use flashlight around my home, on one occasion car camping, and on a weekend at a family home in Okeechobee for general outdoor usage.
So far all I really have to say about the Amp is: "Eh… it's okay." It just hasn't wowed me in any way thus far in my field testing. The performance has been respectable, but nothing I'll be writing home about.
I will say that the weatherproofing has been very good and I'm happy with the Amp's durability. I've made a point to drop it accidentally on purpose (if that makes any sense) into the water a few times to see how well it would hold up. Sure enough, the Amp kept on shining all the way to the bottom. I ventured out into the rain one night when nature called and managed to avoid electrocuting myself, so that aspect of the Amp is working as expected. The body of the torch also shows very little sign of wear and tear, although there is a scuff or two on the rubberized portion from where I've been a little less than gentle. Overall though, it is holding up very well.
One complaint I've had with some of the handheld torches I've used recently is that they all seem to be black. This makes for a real pain in the rear end when I have to go rummaging through my pack in the dark trying to find it. Enter the bright yellow/green color that I opted for with the Amp and *poof* problem solved. I haven't had any problems locating it, which is actually very useful considering that I have primarily been using the Amp clipped readily to the outside of my pack for easy access in case I needed to quickly get to it for any reason.
The large hole in the handle of the Amp makes it pretty easy to hang it from just about anything. Whether I run a lanyard or carabiner through it or just hang it directly from a branch on a tree, I haven't had any issues finding a place to hang it up.
The thing that nags at me about the Amp is the light that it throws off. Maybe it's just personal preference, but for whatever reason I just prefer LED light to the xenon on the Amp. I also don't like that the beam isn't adjustable. At one of my camps I could shine the light clear across the spring-fed pond and see pretty well… but at close range I just don't get a wide enough beam. A wider beam that dispersed light rather than focusing it on a single point would also be nice for when I hang the torch from the apex inside my tent at night. I'm just disappointed with it.
Another thing I'm not too thrilled about is the twisting action that turns the torch on. I want to make it clear that I'm not opposed to this design at all as I have had Maglite flashlights for years. The thing that bothers me is that the twisting action isn't very smooth even though the threading is well lubricated. The reasoning behind this is quite simple: it's tight to prevent water intrusion. For a dive light, that makes perfect sense. For a hiking flashlight, though, I find it annoying. For the most part I have to firmly grip the Amp with both hands to turn it on, although I have had luck on a few occasions forcing it on one handed when my other was occupied.
Down the Trail
I will reserve definitive conclusions until my Long Term Report, but to this point the Amp has proven to be a respectable torch. However, I'm just not sure that it's best suited for backpacking and Princeton Tec themselves seem to agree from the statements they make on the Amp product page on their website. I like that the Amp is relatively lightweight and is very compact in size, but it has some performance issues when it comes to turning it on and off and leaves something to be desired when it comes to the light it actually produces. To this point it has shown itself to perhaps be better suited as a backup handheld torch as opposed to a primary lighting instrument.
Testing Conditions and Locations
The final two months of my testing brought me up into Massachusetts and Maine which provided me a bit of relief from the oppressive heat that we've seen in South Florida. The Amp has been my handheld torch on trips to Folly Pond in Maine and a short overnighter in Florida. Additionally, as hinted at in previous reports, I took the Amp along on a night dive in the Florida Keys to test the waterproofing.
Elevations have ranged between sea level and 285 ft (0 m - 87 m), temperatures in Maine ranged from 52 F during the night up to around 75 F during the day (11 C - 24 C) with temperatures in Florida starting at 75 F and rose to nearly 95 F (24 C - 35 C), and I encountered precipitation on two of the occasions.
Field Performance and Observations
The Amp has performed consistently over the final two months of the testing period. The weatherproofing and durability remain easily its best quality but I have been unable to shake some of my previously developed concerns and dislikes about it.
The durability has been impeccable. I've had it fall from 15 (4.6 m) feet onto concrete, dropped a SCUBA tank on it, and had it stepped on at a TSA checkpoint in the airport outside of the normal rough and tumble of the outdoors clipped to the outside of my pack and it still doesn't look much worse for the wear... just a few scuffs in the rubber as I mentioned in my Field Report.
I did get an opportunity in June to test the waterproof nature of the Amp, although admittedly in a non-backpacking application. To make a long story short, the Amp's waterproofing held up perfectly right down to the deepest portions of my 65 ft (19.8 m) of my night dive in the Florida Keys. I offer this information only as perspective and mean it as a compliment to the Amp. If the Amp can stand up to that, I don't have any doubts it will stand up to anything I would ever run across in the backcountry.
On my recent trip to Maine one of my group members had similar comments that I had regarding the non-adjustable beam thrown off by the Amp and how it doesn't quite seem wide enough to serve all the applications that I look for as a "do it all" torch in the backcountry. From the comments of some of the other folks in my group I'm starting to think it isn't just me. Others also made comments about the twisting action, another observation I made in my previous reports.
The Last Word
The Amp just hasn't wow'd me enough to justify using it as an "every trip" backcountry flashlight. I suppose that if I was facing harsh conditions where I might expect to take a real beating I might take it along, but that is about it. I agree with Princeton Tec that the Amp isn't best suited for backcountry use.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
The durability, waterproofing, large hole in the handle, and highly visible colors are all very useful and are the things I like the most about it. Unfortunately the lack of an adjustable beam, type of beam itself, and twisting on/off action, coupled with the lower-than-average rated burn time on the batteries, are disappointing enough to dissuade me from regular use of the Amp going forward. At this point I think I'll be sticking with my headlamp and mini-lantern combo.
This concludes my Test Report on the Princeton Tec Amp 1.0. I'd like to take one final opportunity to thank Princeton Tec and BackpackGearTest.org for offering me the chance to participate in this test. Happy trails!
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