BLACK DIAMOND ICON HEADLAMP
BY STEFAN DRAGOI
April 24, 2010
stefan (underline) dragoi (at) hotmail (dot) com
5' 10" (1.77 m)
201 lb (91.00 kg)
I started hiking in the Carpathians with some friends 5 years ago. A couple of years ago, I got involved in a local "outdoor school" for youth as a survival and first-aid instructor. This translated into overnights every two weeks and week-long hikes at least two times a year. I have visited the great outdoors in every season and in every weather. As carried weight is not an issue, I prefer a full stock of gear and the comfort it brings, my usual pack weight is 14 kg (31 lb).
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Country of Manufacture: China
Manufacturer's Website: www.bdel.com
Listed Weight: 6.63 oz (188 g) with batteries
Measured Weight: 6.88 oz (195 g) with batteries
* TriplePower LED spotlight plus 4 SinglePower LEDs emit 100 lumens (max setting) for brilliant long- and close-range lighting
* Powered by 3 AA batteries or the NRG Rechargeable Battery
* Single Positron switch activates 7 different settings and 2 modes
* Battery-power meter uses 3 indicator lights: green (50% or more), yellow (20% or more) and red (less than 20%)
* Faceted reflector maximizes distance of beam
* Protected against splashing or sprayed water from any angle (IPX 4)
* LED Type : TriplePower (3-watt), 4 SinglePower
* Lumens : 100
* Max Distances : 100 m (TriplePower LED), 23 m (4 SinglePower LEDs)
* Max Burn Time : 145 H (TriplePower LED), 164 H (4 SinglePower LEDs)
* Batteries : 3 AA included, NRG compatible
Features and Tech Specs are taken from the manufacturer's website.
The Black Diamond LED headlamp, hereafter named the "headlamp", comes in a blister pack containing the headlamp assembly, the detachable top elastic strap, the instruction sheet and three (3) AA batteries. I had a choice from two colors, a cool grey/silver and a fresh yellow-green lime. I chose lime as I was sure nobody else would choose such an unusual color for a headlamp. The moment I got back home from the retailer I proceeded to turn it on right away and I left the instructions for later.
The top elastic strap is easy to attach and both straps are easy to fit to size (personally, I am very pleased as it fits easily on my rather big head - my hat size is 7-3/8 or L). The whole fitting process took just a couple of minutes. The battery compartment, being on the back side and not on the front near the bulbs as with my other headlamp, looks pretty big and bulky at first but, believe me, that's just an initial impression. On the inner part of the compartment (the part in contact with the head) there are a few small pieces of rubber-like material, probably to absorb shocks.
The battery compartment door is locked in place by a plastic-top screw. Although the screw has a special grip on it to be able to turn it with bare fingers it was too hard and I had to get something else. A normal door key fit the profile so I managed to open it right away (a normal screwdriver does the trick). Opening the door revealed the three AA battery slots with readable directions (+/- terminals) and a small socket labeled NRG (later I found out that the headlamp also works together with a special rechargeable battery made by Black Diamond, the NRG). After placing the batteries inside, I closed the compartment door and tightened the screw with my fingers and did an additional half-a-turn with a screwdriver.
Two notes regarding the back end of the headlamp: Firstly, the battery compartment door, when opened, comes off the compartment but it is still attached to the left side of the horizontal strap. Also, the main compartment is still attached to the right side of the strap. Secondly, the screw used to secure the door cannot come off the door, it can be loosened but it cannot be completely pulled out of the door. Thus, there is no need to worry about losing parts of the headlamp when changing the batteries.
After placing the batteries I looked around the "business" end for the switch. If one looks at the headlamp from a normal perspective (top-down) the switch cannot be seen as it is beneath the bulb body. Weird at first but it is very logical and easy to use once the headlamp is placed on the head. The switch is a simple button that, after pressed, comes back to its initial position. And, oh boy, when I pressed it... it was like a spotlight. I've seen powerful headlamps but nothing like this. I ran around the house with the headlamp on my head for a few minutes and then I turned it off. When I turned it on again, something seemed different. And then I realized it: the headlamp switches through the two modes of operation (1 TriplePower LED / 4 SinglePower LEDs) by repeatedly pressing the button. Press it once to turn it on in one mode, press it again to turn it off and then press it a third time to get into the other mode. And then it turns off again and it starts the cycle all over again.
Happy and dazed as I was by the bright light I looked around for the instructions to get more details. The instruction sheet is printed in six languages: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Japanese. The instructions include a very handy table for battery life and distance in different modes of operation as well as directions to attach the elastic strap. Also, the instructions make reference to a "half depression" which means half-pressing the switch. So I did it. Regardless of the number of LEDs that are turned on at that moment, half-pressing the switch changes the mode of operation regarding economy. The headlamp starts at full power and each mode of operation has two other economy levels. Half-pressing the switch once dims the light, doing it twice takes it to the most economical setting, doing it a third time takes it back to full power. Still, there is an exception - the 4 SinglePower LEDs have a fourth setting in which the LEDs blink at full power acting as strobe light. Half-pressing the switch in strobe mode takes it back to full power.
After playing with the headlamp on and off my head I saw a little green light on the battery compartment. Looking over the instructions I found out that it is a battery life indicator: green means +50% capacity, yellow means 20-50% and red means under 20%. Also, the instructions explain very clearly the optimal operating instructions as well as care and troubleshooting tips. Finally, the bulb body can swivel to point at 90 degrees down the horizontal so if there is need for it, it can be pointed straight down so that everyone the face of the person wearing the headlamp.
I have used this headlamp since February 2009 and I estimate at least 25 days of use (4-5 hours each day/night) with altitudes from sea level up to 7500 ft (2300 m). As I've used it in all seasons the temperature range went from 5 F (-15 C) to 90 F (32 C). The three batteries it came with were used until the battery life indicator was red and, more exactly, were used for around 70 hours in mixed-mode operation.
As it became my main light source I took the headlamp everywhere I had a chance of spending the night out. I simply cannot express in words the lighting power of it in pitch black conditions. It really is more than I need. Walking down roads in the middle of the forest at midnight with the high power LED meant I could see the reflection in animals' eyes at 400 ft (120 m). I have done chores around the campground, cooked midnight meals at the stove and looked for people in the forest. I have used it in caves and during serious rain and snowstorms and it continues to light.
Although it is pretty heavy for a headlamp its weight goes unnoticed and it stays securely on the head even if I am running. For something its size, it really turns night into day.
There are three mildly negative things that I remember:
Soon after the first set of batteries went into the "yellow" zone I looked for rechargeable alternatives. Since the NRG battery pack seemed a bit too expensive to me I tried to use nickel-metal hydride (NiMh) rechargeable batteries. I inserted the fully recharged set in the battery compartment, I pressed the switch and nothing happened. I pressed it again and again and still, nothing. I checked the polarity with no result and I changed back to the old alkalines and they worked. I felt bad about it and soon forgot about rechargeables. A few months ago, I really don't know why (I guess just for fun), I've put the same NiMh rechargeable batteries and they worked. I cannot understand it, the same batteries with the same charger did not work at first but later did.
Another thing I've noticed after about 6 months of use is that the plastic battery compartment door had a very small crack near the screw. Most probably, I've overtightened the screw at some point.
The last thing worth noting is that it temporarily blinds people when it is turned on at night. It is so powerful (provided it has a new set of batteries) that one needs a couple of minutes to readjust to the dark. This is because one cannot choose between the different economy settings when it is turned on, it always shines the most powerful light regardless of the operating mode.
THINGS I LIKE
- It's the most powerful light I've put my hands on
- Incredibly long battery life
- Very easy to use once I got the hang of it
- Battery life indicator LEDs
THINGS I DON'T LIKE
- The cost - it's the most expensive LED headlamp I've seen on the market
- Cheap plastic look - even though it is built pretty sturdy, the plastic parts look like they came from a cheap toy
I would definitely recommend this headlamp to anyone that needs a powerful light and long battery life provided they can cover the initial cost.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
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