BLACK DIAMOND ICON HEADLAMP
TEST SERIES BY ARNOLD PETERSON
April 29, 2008
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Wilmington Massachusetts USA
5' 8" (1.73 m)
165 lb (74.80 kg)
19 in (48 cm)
Presently almost all my experience has been hiking in New Hampshire, Florida, Colorado USA, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia Canada using an 11 lb (5 kg) day pack. I have backpacked on Mt. Washington and at the Imp shelter located between North Carter and Mount Moriah mountains in New Hampshire. The gear I will be writing about has been used a lot hiking mostly all year around in New Hampshire. I have completed the forty-eight 4000 footers (1219 m) of New Hampshire. My day hikes have been as long as 12 hours covering almost 20 miles (32 km).
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Black Diamond Equipment
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.blackdiamondequipment.com/
MSRP: US$ 59.95
Listed Weight: 4.1 oz (116 g) without batteries
Measured Weight: 4 oz (113 g) without batteries
Listed Weight: 6.6 oz (187 g) with batteries
Listed Weight: 6.7 oz (190 g) with batteries
3 Watt (1): Hi 70 h Med 88 h Lo 104 h
SuperBright (4): Hi 90 h Med 108 h Lo 164 h
SuperBright (4): Strobe no battery life provided
Battery Power Indicator:
Green light: >50% battery life
Yellow light: 20-50% battery life
The Icon was packaged in a PET recyclable package. The package included the lamp, main head band, short adjustable strap, battery holder, 3 Alkaline AA batteries, and instructions.
I liked the colors of black and silver. The lamp and battery holder are silver which makes them easy to spot in low light. The shapes being different make them easy to put on in the dark.
The lamp part has a spotlight in the center about 1 in (2.5 cm) in diameter. The spotlight is flanked on each side with 2 LED's placed vertically. With the power off the LED's have a pleasant yellow glow to them.
The black bands are about 1 in (2.5 cm) wide, which distribute the weight of the lamp assembly on the head. Each strap is adjustable making for a good fit. The headlamp gets its power from a cable attached to the battery pack which is mounted on the headband at the back of the head. The cable has a section which is coiled to stretch to the size of the users head. The cable has 2 clips which keep the cable dressed to the headband. This reduces the chance of snagging in branches. The cover on the battery case is firmly secured with a single screw that can be tightened with fingers. It can also be tightened with a screwdriver, dime or similar object. The headlamp is adjustable from a horizontal position in 7 steps to a full 90 degrees down. There is a single switch which controls the power and 3 levels of light intensity. The switch is conveniently located on the bottom side of the headlamp allowing one to place an index finger on top and manipulate the switch on the bottom with a thumb. Turning the headlamp on and adjusting the desired level is accomplished at the same time. Inserting the batteries was not easy and I found it necessary to use pen knife to compress the spring to allow for insertion of the battery. Although this is a bit of a chore, I appreciate that the batteries will be firmly in place providing a steady light. This appears to be well thought out and well designed for right or left handed people.
|open battery case|
|battery case screw|
|back of battery case|
|wide view mode|
|spot light mode|
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
I found the instructions clear and easy to follow, although a bit compact. The instructions told me there were 7 modes of operation. There are 3 intensity levels in the spotlight mode and 3 levels in the wide angle mode. In the wide angle mode there is a strobe mode. Operating the Icon Headlamp is quite simple. To change modes press until a click is heard twice. Once in a mode, each time the switch is depressed halfway the light intensity changes. The strobe can only be achieved through the wide angle mode. In the wide angle mode the intensity starts out at medium, subsequent half depressions bring it to low, strobe and high.
BATTERY POWER INDICATOR
There are 3 LED indicator lights on the battery pack to show the condition of the batteries.
Green: more than 50% life remaining
Yellow: between 20% and 50% life remaining
Red: less than 20% life remaining
These LED's are very bright and one should not stare directly at them or shine them in other people's eyes. The unit should not be subject to a temperature above 140 F (60 c). The unit is storm proof. It should not be stored wet. It should not be submerged to clean. Wash with a damp cloth and air dry.
The Icon carries a 3 year limited warranty for the buyer against defects and workmanship.
TRYING IT OUT
The timing was perfect as I had planned a local backpack. I first tried it out in my dark cellar and was amazed at how bright it was in the low setting. I took a quick walk outside in the dusk and decided I could leave later in the evening and setup tent in the dark. About 8 PM I started out and I was surprised at the how bright it was. With a lot of snow everywhere that helped a lot. Once adjusted there was no further need to adjust the lamp until time to shut it off. Once inside my sleeping bag, I used it to read a book. Again the low level gave more light than I needed. I was up early and ready to return before daylight as I had not planned to eat any meals on this short backpack. The lamp was outside my sleeping bag and the temperature was about 0 F (-18 c). I could see the way almost like it was daylight.
My plan is to test for comfort under as many conditions as possible. Will the Icon provide reliable light at low temperatures and will it withstand vibration from my falling or coming into contact with hard objects. I will be setting up camp at night and walking at night. I will be using the Icon to read in my sleeping bag. The Icon will also be used on hikes that start before sunrise or end after sunset.
I will be testing the operation with gloves or mittens on my hands. I will be putting the Icon on my head in darkness or in quasi light conditions. I will also be doing local walks in my neighborhood at night. When at home, I will use the Icon at night moving from room to room and reading in bed. I hope to fully explore the strong and weak points in this lighting system.
I will be taking this on several one night backpack trips to local forest. A second group of tests will be done on one night backpacks East of Manchester New Hampshire. Other backpacks will be done in the Grafton and Lincoln New Hampshire in the National Forest. At the present time I will be avoiding temperatures that will go below -5F (-21 c) unless I can change some of my equipment. These limitations are based on comfort levels experienced in sleeping out in temperatures down to about -5F (-21 c) in the last 3 days.
I will also be looking at the reliability of the battery connections and battery operation over time.
This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report will be amended to this report in approximately two
months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information.
My thanks to Black Diamond Equipment and Backpackgeartesters for the opportunity to test the Icon Headlamp.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
There is a forest in Auburn, New Hampshire where I like to backpack. It is relatively flat, with a lot of rocky hills and several ponds. The trees are a mixture of hardwoods and mostly pine. I also backpacked trips locally in Massachusetts when the temperatures were near or below 0 F (-17.8 C). My town has a lot of swamp land. There are small streams connecting many of these swamps. Most of this land is under conservation. I hiked and camped in three of these areas. One is flanked on the east side by the railroad. The west side is bordered by the Middlesex Canal (operational from 1793 to 1853). There is a small section of the canal that had been restored but now has gone back to nature. Beyond the canal is a cranberry bog that has not been harvested in over 45 years. Between this and the canal is a swamp once used as an aquifer for town water wells. The wells were closed due to contamination. The brush, thorny bushes and trees keep most people out of this area. Under certain conditions it is near ideal for radiational cooling, which means that the temperature drops lower just before dawn. On the south side of town there is a tract of land known as the town forest. It comprises a baseball field and hill high enough for sledding, skiing, etc. The Middlesex canal also passes through this area and there are some remnants that remain. There is a large swamp which is surrounded by an old pine forest stand. A third place is called Maple Meadows and is mostly owned by a club I belong to. This area has a lot of swamp and pine forest. Since I would be going to these places in the dark and most of this hiking would be without trail markings, I wanted places that I was familiar with. I would pick evenings that would have temperatures below 20 F (-6.7 C).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I could take the headlamp out of my pack in low light conditions, and taking the lamp assembly in my right hand, with the index finger on top and the thumb just forward of the rubber on the switch. This operation made sure the harness was correctly positioned. I would take the battery assembly in my left hand, and place the battery pack to the back of my head and then with my right hand position the lamp assembly on my forehead. I was then in a position to turn the lamp on. By having my right thumb on the switch I could get the desired mode and intensity level.
The default light setting when turning on the unit is wide angle medium. It then follows a sequence of low, strobe, and high. To switch to spotlight mode unit off and if the unit is switched on within 5 seconds it is in medium spotlight mode. The sequence is medium, low, and high. To adjust where the spotlight was pointing, I put my right hand index finger on the top of the lamp and my thumb on the bottom just forward of the switch. I can then easily adjust where the light shows vertically. I made fewer adjustments in the wide angle mode. With very little practice I was able to put the Black Diamond Icon headlamp on in the dark and operate the switch with my liner gloves on. I prefer using my right hand to operate the switch even though I am left handed. I would place my index finger on top of the lamp assembly and use my thumb to operate the switch. I found a hat without a brim gave the best results. I ended up using a wool cap for all the testing I did. I did not have any trouble keeping the headlamp assembly on my head. Because of the winter season there is a lot less growth that would catch in the lamp.
The first outdoor use was a backpack starting after dark, with temperatures below 20 F (-6.7 C) and winds of 9 mph (14.5 km/hr). The ground was snow covered and with the headlamp on wide angle low, I had plenty of light. Occasionally, I would switch to medium angle mode to look ahead to get my bearings. When I arrived at the place I planned to set up my tent, I switched to medium wide angle and had plenty of light to set up the tent. This hands free operation was almost as quick as setting up this tent in daylight. The extra time was partly due to the frozen ground which I had not had experience with when setting up the tent before. After I was settled in my sleeping bag, I used the light to read inside my sleeping bag. I used the low setting on wide angle and had enough light to read. I repeated this trip when the temperatures were at -5 F (-26.6 C). I left the headlamp on the outside of the sleeping bag and when I got up before dawn, the headlamp functioned perfectly. I broke camp, packed up, and headed back before sunrise. I found with the headlamp, it was almost like walking on an overcast day. On a third night, the results were essentially the same. I also used the headlamp for moving around the house at night with most of the lights out. I could now go to the cellar and not have to put several lights on and could also use both hands to carry things. No more putting things down to turn lights on or off. When I read in bed at home, this headlamp is easier than my regular lamp to focus on my book and I can get in a more comfortable position. There were a couple things that were uncomfortable to do. The battery pack is bulky so when I got back to my car from a hike and sat down in the car, the battery pack came into contact with the car seat and this was not comfortable. I had trouble wearing a hat with a brim. If the lamp was on top of the hat it interfered with the light and if it was under the hat, the hat was prone to fall off. Several times I would wear the lamp during the day to see if I would get tired of wearing it after several hours. I would forget that it was on my head and as I was removing my hat I would hear a loud noise and realize it was the lamp falling to the ground or in some cases a rock. I did not do this on purpose, but I am glad to say the lamp has not suffered any damage.
The snow and ice had prevented me from backpacking in a forest in Auburn NH, as I could not park within a reasonable distance from the trail. When conditions improved, I did a one-night backpack. I arrived just after dusk and due to cloudy conditions, it was quite dark. When I headed for the spot I planned to stay, I needed my Icon headlamp, and had to use the brightest setting. I found the pond which was completely snow covered and locating the edge of the pond, I setup the tent about 12 ft (3.7 m) away. In about 15 minutes I was in my bag and ready for some reading. The temperature was about 20 F (-6.7 C), but felt colder due to high humidity. I left the front flap of the tent open to minimize humidity in the tent. I slept very well until 5 am. I awoke finding myself cold. I put on my second layer of clothes and found that the inside of the sleeping bag had cooled since the time I had gone to sleep. The clouds had cleared during the night and the temperature must have dropped considerably. I was not cold enough to be concerned, but cold enough to want to get up and head out. With the clouds cleared it was a lot brighter in the predawn than the previous night, so I could get by on the low setting. On this trip I used all the light possibilities except the strobe.
At this point I am very pleased with the operation of the Black Diamond Icon headlamp. It is really reassuring that when you turn on the headlamp there is an indicator to tell you the condition of your batteries before going on a hike. To get this performance the battery pack becomes heavier and bulkier.
I will be doing more backpacks with temperatures hopefully not much colder than -5F (-20.6 C). I will be doing more hikes at night. I will continue using the headlamp around my house in the dark and reading in bed, since it works so well.
This concludes my Field Report. The Long Term Report will be amended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information. I wish to thank Backpack Gear Tester and Black Diamond for the opportunity to test this fine product.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I hiked after dark at Beaver Brook Trail in Hollis New Hampshire. The temperature was just below freezing, it was overcast and there was no wind. The ground was snow covered with a crusty surface. Originally I had planned 3 one night overnight backpacks in the Lincoln New Hampshire area. The good news this year was that New Hampshire set records for snowfall. The bad news was that on 3 weekends when I traveled to prospective trailheads, I was unable to negotiate the ice and snow in the parking lots with my Scion XA. I then made phone calls about the trailhead in southern New Hampshire and found that there was ice where I would be parking. I have recently returned from a one night backpack in a forest east of Manchester New Hampshire.
I spent 3 one night backpacks in a forest in Middlesex County, Massachusetts. The forest is flanked on the east side by the railroad. The west side is bordered by the Middlesex Canal (operational from 1793 to 1853). There is a small section of the canal that had been restored but now has gone back to nature. Beyond the canal is a cranberry bog that has not been harvested in over 45 years. Between this and the canal there is a swamp once used as an aquifer for the town water wells. The wells were closed due to contamination. The brush, thorny bushes and trees keep most people out of this area. Under certain conditions it is near ideal for radiational cooling, which means that the temperature drops lower just before dawn. The temperatures for these backpacks ranged from just above freezing to a low of 13 F (-10.6 C). There was little or no wind on these backpacks. The ground was covered with snow or ice on the first two backpacks with the exception of small areas under the evergreen trees and a few bare spots where it was rocky. On the third backpack most of the snow was gone but the ground was frozen and icy in places. The ground under the shelter was frozen and ice glazed. The forest east of Manchester is fairly flat with some rocky outcrops, several small ponds and a mostly hardwood forest. At the time I backpacked there this time all the snow and ice had gone.
|east of Manchester New Hampshire|
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
Over this testing phase I went on 4 one night backpacks and one after dark hike. The Black Diamond Icon Headlamp has proved to be reliable and easy to use. I have had adequate illumination during these outdoor activities.
My hiking partner and I drove to Beaver Brook Trail in Hollis New Hampshire. It was after dark when we started the hike, the temperature was just below freezing, it was overcast, and there was no wind. The ground was snow covered with a crusty surface. There were only a few places that were icy. The headlamp performed well and I could control it with my liner gloves on. I had adequate light using the wide beam low intensity setting. When I needed more light, it was easy to change to a desired light intensity by a few clicks of the light switch.
The first backpack was started knowing that a rain storm was coming and could last all night and for most of the next day. It was after sunset when I started hiking. The temperature was above freezing and the humidity was high. There was little or no wind. With the help of the Icon, I found a place where evergreens gave some protection. I had no trouble setting up my bivy and sleeping bag with the light from the Icon. As I was finishing, the rain was starting. I got into the sleeping bag slowly and with some difficulty. I read for a short period using the Icon on low wide beam setting which worked well. I slept comfortably for about 6 hours. When I woke up, I was warm and it was raining moderately. I started to feel around and found that almost everything I touched within the bivy was wet. When I turned on my headlamp, I could see that there were big water droplets all over the bivy ceiling and pole and that the bivy visor was really wet underneath. Even though there was dampness, I went to sleep again quickly. When I woke the next time, the rain had reduced to a drizzle. I decided to pack and leave before it really started to rain. The Icon made packing easy as I had both hands to work with.
It was almost 2 hours after sunset when I started the second backpack with a temperature of 15 F (-9.4 C) and a slight wind coming from the north. The Icon was set for wide low output mode and provided adequate illumination to find my campsite. When I set up the bivy I used the high intensity. Once inside the sleeping bag I took off my outer layer and realized that I had left the zipper on the sleeping bag open. Using the Icon for light I got out and crawled down head first to get the zipper attached. I read for a while with the Icon and then went to sleep. When I woke, it was time to pack and return. The temp had dropped to 13 F (-10.6 C) during the night. This was a really good experience.
The third backpack was started about 2 hours after sunset with a temperature of 20 F (-6.6 C) and there was a light breeze all through the night. The ground was frozen and quite rough, but slippery in places so I made full use of my Kahtoola traction devices and Icon for visibility. This being the third time using the Icon to setup the 3 Wire Bivy and Battle Mountain Sleep System, I was setup and ready for some reading in a very short time. I woke up only once during the night and in the morning I found all surfaces were dry. I had spent a very comfortable night. The temperature had dropped to 16 F (-8.9 C) by morning. I was packed and heading out before dawn using the Icon at the start until I was able to see by the predawn light.
On the fourth backpack east of Manchester New Hampshire, I arrived at the campsite at about 5:30 pm. It was warm, so I put my temperature/humidity meter out and recorded 82 F (27.8 C) and 56% humidity. While I was setting up, a pair of wild ducks flew in and settled on the pond. I could also see tracks of wild turkey near the shore. After setting up, I became aware of the No-See-Ums and I was ready to do some hiking. The sun set during this hike and I turned on the Icon for visibility. I used the headlamp for 1-2 hours before returning to my campsite. Now that the snow had gone I needed to use the wide angle high position for improved visibility. When I returned, I had hiked for over 3 hours and it was 49 F (9.4 C) and 76% humidity. The frogs in the pond were also quite noisy. I read for only a short time with the Icon before going to sleep. It was almost 6 am when I awoke, the temperature had dropped again to 32 F (0 C) and humidity was 86%. I packed and headed for the trailhead.
Over the test period I have gone on 8 one night backpacks and one after dark hike. The temperature ranged from a low of -5 F (-20.6 C) to a high of above 49 F (9.4 C). The Black Diamond Icon Headlamp has proved to be reliable and easy to use. It functioned well to temperatures down to -5 F (-20.6 C). I had adequate illumination during all these outdoor activities. The power indicator light is very useful. The indicator showed green for 59 days, for about 90 hours of use. The indicator then turned yellow for about 13 days or about 20 hours of use. There was very little change of the light output during the green period of time. During the yellow phase of operation there was a slight lowering of output level. There was a transition period between green and yellow. During this period the indicator would be yellow on high output levels and green on low output levels. Once the indicator turned red, I used it for another 3 days or about 4 hours. In the red phase the light noticeably got weaker. I installed new batteries when the light was no longer useful. I accidentally knocked the Icon off my head several times, the light did not go out nor was there any damage. I found the Icon very comfortable to wear and sometimes I forget that I am wearing it. Whenever I knew I was going to be needing a light, I put the Icon headlamp on my head and then it was ready to use at the flick of a switch. I don't want to use my hand held flashlights anymore. The Icon has allowed me to go on more backpacks, because I can leave later and be able to setup in the dark.
I will continue to use the Black Diamond Icon for all my hiking events and in dark places in my house, especially when I need hands free operation. We have made a few changes in our house to save on energy and this was one of several. The result being we have reduced our electric consumption by about 20%. I will use it for outside walks when there is a need.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
I would like to thank BackpackGearTesters.org and Black Diamond for the opportunity to test the Black Diamond Icon Headlamp.
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