BLACK DIAMOND ICON HEADLAMP
BY KEN NORRIS
January 03, 2008
Carnation, Washington, USA
5' 5" (1.65 m)
170 lb (77.10 kg)
I have been hiking and backpacking for the past ten years, going on the occasional overnighter or day hike. In the past year or so, I have begun night hiking and long day hikes (twenty miles [32 km] or more). These trips center on Washington's Central Cascades, supplemented with some trips into Oregon's gorge and outback regions - terrain characterized by steep inclines and "moist" conditions.
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website: Black Diamond
MSRP: US $59.99
Listed Weight: 6.6 oz (187 g)
Measured Weight: 7 oz (198 g) with batteries
Bulb type: 1-3 watt LED/4-superbright LEDs
Maximum beam distance: High: 100 meter (328 ' 1.01 '') / low: 50
meters (164 ' 0.50 '') (per the manufacturer)
Brightness levels: 6
Beam type: Fixed / focused
Battery life: at 70 degrees F (21.11 C) High: 80 / low: 140 hours
(per the manufacturer)
Batteries: 3 AA (included)
The primary field conditions apply to the Central Washington Cascades. Moderate temperatures: spring, summer, and fall from down to 30 F (-1 C) up to 85 F (30 C). Typically a wet climate. Always at night (for obvious reasons). Most of the trekking occurred on steep trails on varying terrain, from soft pack trails to scree fields. Some excursions consisted of night-long hikes of ten miles or more and trail runs, varying from clear moonlit nights to fog-socked blindness of only eight feet (2 m) of visibility.
The headlamp comes with typical features, like a headband and a strap that crosses over the top of the head - all of which are adjustable (the top strap is easily removed). Plastic parts are light gray, while the elastic bands are black with a white design. A cord runs from the battery pack (attached at the back) along the right side of the head to the bulbs at the front. The bulb housing at the front is vertically adjustable to seven different positions. A single button on the bottom of the bulb housing activates either the 3-watt LED beam or the four 1-watt LEDs that frame the 3-watt bulb. Fully depressing this button switches between the beam or the four 1-watt LEDs (NOTE: all five beams may not be activated simultaneously). Slightly depressing this button within a particular mode changes the brightness level: three levels for the 3-watt beam, four levels for the four 1-watt lights (one of these levels is the strobe, which causes the four 1-watt LEDs to blink).
THINGS I LIKE
The comfortable elastic straps (I forget I'm wearing it, even while I run).
The 3-watt LED
All seven vertical positions
Long battery life
THINGS I DON'T LIKE
The large battery pack
Not being able to activate all five lights simultaneously
- removable top strap
- compatible with helmets
- six brightness levels
- excellent battery life
- one strobe setting
I have used the Icon for eight months, taking it on numerous trips and even storing it in my glove box in anticipation of a flat tire. My first experience with the Icon occurred on Rattlesnake Ridge, a popular day hike through dense woods and on to a granite ridge. I experimented with both the four 1-watt LEDs and the one 3-watt LED. I quickly realized that the four 1-watt setting worked for hill climbing, as long as the pace is mild and there is no competing light source. The 3-watt setting provided a focused beam about four feet wide (1 m) that allowed me to pick up the pace.
This first excursion prompted me to revisit Rattlesnake Ridge for a longer trek - 12 miles (19 km) and over one thousand feet (305 m) of elevation gain in a dense fog. With visibility at a minimum (about eight feet [2 m] thanks to the fog), I discovered the versatility of the Icon. In order to get my bearings, I would use the four 1-watt setting. It lit up my immediate area. But when it came to keeping track of the trail, the 3-watt setting was optimum: it cut through the fog to the greatest degree possible considering the circumstances.
The four 1-watt LEDs proved their usefulness yet again during a trip to Montana in the Bozeman area. I was crewing for some friends' adventure racing team, so I had to set up camp at a new location every day, often at night. The Icon made setting up my tent in terrain I had not seen during the day easy. At one point I arrived at a trailhead at around ten p.m. I noticed some tents silhouetted thirty yards (27 m) from the parking lot. The Icon helped me find a level area without waking up other teams, thanks to the lowest
brightness setting. At another leg of this experience I used the brightest setting of the four 1-watt LEDs in order to read a book. My second extended use of the Icon (the first being my traverse of Rattlesnake Ridge) was on a section of the Pacific Crest Trail by Snoqualmie Pass in the Central Cascades. Because we hiked through the night, I had the Icon on for about ten hours. This time I reached an elevation of roughly six thousand feet (1829 m), which meant negotiating rough trails that required some trail blazing and
finding secure footing in scree. The Icon proved itself a comfort. I never once felt that the darkness was an issue, even when the trail seemed to disappear or finding my footing required a keen eye for potentially loose rocks. This trip also opened my eyes to the ease with which the Icon fits over a hat - the bill did not
interfere with the quality of the beam directly below thanks to the seven vertical positions.
My successes with the Icon even prompted me to try it as a bikelight. Sadly, the 3-watt beam just is not wide enough, nor does it project far enough for the quick speeds associated with downhill mountain biking at night . . . but I digress from the realm of hiking and backpacking.
I used the Icon with this same set of three Duracell batteries on at least three times the number of adventures I have described so far. I never noticed a change in brightness. In fact, the indicator
light on the battery pack continued to register green - the highest level - up until the point that I installed new batteries out of a sense of curiosity. There was no difference in brightness between these new batteries and the old. I estimate I have used the original batteries between thirty and forty hours, yet the green light continues to burn. Amazing.
I continue to marvel at the brightness of the Icon, coupled with its battery life. I've set up tents with it in total darkness by myself. I've experienced its endurance during night long hikes; itnever lessened in its brightness despite constantly being on. I've hiked in conditions of near zero visibility due to fog, and the Icon pierced through the vapors.
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