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Reviews > Lighting > Headlamps - LED > Black Diamond Iota Headlamp > Test Report by Coy Ray StarnesBlack Diamond Iota
Review by Coy Starnes
Initial Report: April 10, 2017
Field Report: June 20, 2017
Long Term Report: August 19, 2017
Black Diamond Iota at default startup setting of 60%
I live in Northeast Alabama. I enjoy hiking, hunting, fishing and kayaking. I enjoy hiking with family and friends but also hike solo occasionally. Most of my hiking has been in the Southeastern US. I hike throughout the year but actually enjoy late fall or early spring the most with some winter hiking mixed in. I don't like hot and humid weather of summer unless I can escape to the mountains were it is cooler. My style is slow and steady and my gear is light. I will sacrifice weight for comfort and durability to a degree. A typical 3-season load for me is around 20 lb (9kg) not counting food and water.
Initial Report: April 10, 2017
The Black Diamond Iota is a small rechargeable headlamp designed to give the exact amount of light needed for the given task. In other words, after turning the light on and holding down on the on/off power button the light will dim to its lowest setting. If I keep holding it after it blinks faintly it will head in the other direction. With a IPX 4 rating the Black Diamond Iota is designed to work in fairly wet conditions but not underwater. In other words, rain and or sweat should be fine but don't go swimming while wearing it.
The headlamp housing is made of plastic and is small and lightweight. It measures 1.75 in (4.5 cm) wide and 1.25 in (3.2 cm) tall. The thickness from headband at the rear of the light to the front is 1.25 in (3.2 cm). The on/off switch (button) is located on the top of the headlamp. The headband is 0.75 in (1.9 cm) wide and adjustable. The headlamp is tilt adjustable.
The technical specifications of the light are pretty impressive for such a small light. The light is listed as a maximum 150 Lumens but can be adjusted down to as low as 4 Lumens. It utilizes a single white LED bulb. I can remember when not too long ago the only way to get a bright LED headlamp was to get one with a bunch of LED bulbs. The burn time at full power is listed as 2 hours. At the lowest setting (4 Lumens) it is listed as 40 hours. The average burn time is estimated at 22 hours but of course this will be dependent on which brightness level is used for the most part. According to the website, the light normally comes on at about 60% brightness. The light arrived fully charged but comes with a USB recharging cable.
The light has a few other tricks up its sleeve. It can be locked off by pressing and holding the on/off button for about four seconds. This will prevent accidentally turning the light on when stored in a pack or pocket etc. To reverse this setting just hold the on/off button down again. The light can also be set to remember the last setting it was in when powered off. The steps are not complicated but I recommend viewing the online video to do this. The strobe function is accessed by pressing the power button three times but the light must be off beforehand. If it is on all that will happen is the light will turn off, on and back off.
There is a PowerTap on the right side of the headlamp that allows the light to be cycled from high to low setting and vice-versa with a simple tap on the right side of the light right over the symbol pictured below. The headlamp will alternate between high and low beam. I did notice I bumped it accidentally when adjusting the tilt angle but it was a simple matter of resetting it once I was through setting the tilt I wanted. I also noticed the tilt adjustment is a little stiff and I had to hold the band part of the headlamp with one hand while adjusting tilt with the other. On the plus side, this should mean the headlamp will stay in the position I want after setting it.
PowerTap indicated by sun looking symbol on right side of headlamp housing
The instructions provided in the box are in several languages and very detailed. I picked out a few I felt key. The Iota has a one-year warranty from date of purchase. The headlamp should be stored and operated in temperatures from 0 F (-17 C) to 110 F (43 C). The Iota will fully charge in three hours and will flash green while charging and then show a solid green when fully charged. It can be charged with any USB power supply such as a computer, wall charger adapter or car outlet. I found it interesting that an adult should supervise children under 12 but it mentions that the headband could cause strangulation and serious eye damage could result if the beam is shined directly into one's eyes.
I did notice one thing on the headband. It appears that one of the adjustment sliders is on backwards. However, the strap is permanently attached to both sliders so there is no way to take it off and turn it round. However, I really don't notice it while wearing it so it's no biggie. Here is a photo of the sliders.
Inside view of headband, slider on the left appears to be wrong-side-out or in...
From the manufacturer
A light that easily fits in the palm of your hand, the Black Diamond Iota is the daily driver for quick-hit morning trail runs, post-work ridge scrambles and urban adventuring. Emitting 150 lumens on the max setting with an average three-hour burntime, the lithium ion rechargeable battery eliminates waste, and an IPX4 rating protects against splashed water from any angle. Powertap Technology allows for fast, easy brightness adjustments, and a lockout feature safe guards your battery life.
1 DoublePower LED with 150 lumens (max setting) projects a strong, oval beam
Powered by a lithium ion rechargeable battery (TK-hour USB charge time)
Settings include full strength, dimming and strobe
PowerTap Technology allows fast and simple transitioning between full and dimmed power in order to instantly increase illumination in distance or proximity modes
Three-level power meter shows remaining battery life for three seconds after switching on headlamp
Lockout feature safe guards against accidental use when stored in a pack or pocket
Protected against splashing or sprayed water from any angle (IPX 4)
Trying it out
I waited until dark and headed out I my yard. I turned the light on and immediately noticed how bright the light really is but also noticed how smooth the beam shines. There is absolutely no bulls eye in the light pattern. It is smooth from edge to edge and just a tad brighter in the center. I then hit the PowerTap to see what it would do and the headlamp went to the dimmest setting. Next I tilted the light down to see how walking would be. This is when I accidentally made the light go back to full power. Anyway, once tilted down all the way and PowerTapping the brightness down I felt the light was pretty dim for walking around. I held the power button down for just a split second and it brightened up enough for good ground visibility. I would guess I had it set at around 20 Lumens but there is really no way I could test that. This brief test told me a lot about the light. It should be adequate for just about any after dark camp duties, from searching trees for widow makers and hanging my hammock to cooking supper. And if need be, I can use it for night hiking. The only limit will be how long I can use the headlamp, especially at the higher power settings. I also discovered just how comfortable the headband is. I think this is mostly because the headlamp unit is so light but after I came back in the house I left it on my head and completely forgot I had it on my head within a short time. I sat down to work on my review and looked around the room to see where I had placed it. Duh...
Field Report: June 20, 2017
Locations and Conditions
Most of my testing occurred on three overnight hikes on local trails near my home. The daytime highs were in the mid 80s (30 C) and overnight lows were around 60 F (16 C). It did not rain on the first two trips but rained quite a bit during the last one. The humidity was also very high. It showed 87% on my phone during the evening and rained the latter half of the night. I kept the headlamp in a hip belt pocket on my pack while hiking and in a mesh storage pocket inside my hammock at night when not needed. I also used it around my house to check on things outside after dark and even used it for some plumbing work in between the upstairs and downstairs bathrooms.
Field Test Results
I have been very pleased with the performance of the Iota so far. The light was plenty bright for most tasks when first powered on at the default 60% brightness starting point. When I needed a little more light it was easy to power tap to full brightness. I actually used the dimmer settings more than the default 60% but the dimmest setting was too dim for anything more than sitting in my hammock. When I would need to get outside the hammock for a potty break or to adjust my tarp for rain I would just use the default setting but if I was out long I would dim it considerably to save battery power, not that I really needed to be concerned on simple overnight hikes, I just naturally try to conserve battery power on any electronics while out in the woods. In this photo I had the Iota set at the 60% brightness setting.
lighting up my campsite with the Iota (60% default start brightness)
Speaking of battery life, I did not keep a close count of the time I had it in the various settings or even how long I used it before recharging. After using it several times around the house and on 2 overnight trips it still seemed to have plenty of juice, but I recharged it right before my last overnight trip. It was still showing green on the battery condition indicator which meant it was at least at 50% capacity. I used the wall adapter that I use for my iPad which is stronger than my iPhone adapter. It took less than an hour to bring it back to fully charged.
On the last night I did get the headlamp wet. I was awakened around 2 AM by the sound of rain on the tarp over my hammock. I had my pack hanging on a nearby tree and needed to put it under the tarp. On my way back I noticed water was starting to pool on the tarp because it was set up in porch mode. I quickly removed the trekking poles I was using and tightened the tarp down into storm mode. This all took maybe ten minutes. Anyways, getting the headlamp wet did not bother it at all. That's pretty much everything I've noticed while using the Iota. It appears to be ideal for a camping light and the weight (or lack thereof) is definitely a plus.
Test Locations and Conditions
A busy schedule prevented me from taking any multi-day trips but I went on two more overnight hikes near home. Fortunately, I have a pretty good place to hike right out my front door. It has also been brutally hot and humid for most of the past two months so that also limited my time afield. I used the headlamp on July 8th for a very short 2 mile (3 km) overnighter. The high earlier in the day was 96 F (36 C) with a heat index of 110 F (43 C) so I waited until 7 PM when it was slightly cooler but still rather warm at 87 F (31 C) and 95% humidity. It dropped down to 74 F (23 C) overnight. My last trip on August 3rd was a lot more bearable but still pretty warm. I left home at 2.30 PM. The temperature was 88 F (31 C) but humidity was only 72%. I hiked about 5 miles (8 km) and when I stopped at my campsite at 5.40 PM it had cooled down to a pleasant 83 F (28 C). It slowly cooled on down to 69 F (21 C) by 5.20 AM when I woke up the next morning I only had a mile (1.6 km) to hike on home and made it home at 7 AM. The only rain I experienced was a light 15-minute sprinkle while hiking to my camp on the last trip.
Long Term Observations
I have come to appreciate this small but relatively powerful headlamp. The light takes up very little room in my pack which proved important on all my trips. It normally stayed in one of the hip belt pockets while I was hiking. On my next to last trip I arrived at my campsite with just enough daylight left to get my hammock set up without needing a headlamp but it was comforting to know I did not have to rush. I ended up using it a little as I sorted my pack for the night. I ended up using it a few more times during the night to answer natures call.
A few weeks later I was working in my garage replacing a bad board that held the garage door track. I started working around 11 AM and finished up around 4 PM. By mid-afternoon it was 98 F (37 C) outside and probably 20 degrees (7 C) warmer inside the garage up near the ceiling where I had to spend quite a bit of time. I was using the headlamp to see my work when I had to put the door down. I have two overhead lights in the garage but they are those energy efficient 60 watt equivalent lights that really don't do much good. Anyways, the Iota proved plenty of light for removing the screws as I removed the bad board and then putting them back in the new board. The headband on the light was pretty wet by the time I finished but the heat did not appear to phase the light.
On my last overnight hike, I arrived at camp in plenty of time to set up camp and eat before dark. I ended up using the light very little during the night. As always, I found the default startup of 60% a little brighter than I needed but not really a problem.
The Black Diamond Iota is a very nice backpacking headlamp. I especially like that the battery is rechargeable. I guess this might not be ideal if I were going to be out many days and have to use the light a lot but since I do more short trips it is not an issue for me. But honestly, I could more than likely manage with this headlamp for several weeks since I normally get camp set up before dark and don't use a headlamp more than necessary. One thing I do appreciate is that because the Iota is rechargeable I can leave home with a fully charged headlamp and know I have approximately 22 hours of light (Black Diamonds estimated run time for average use) but with my other headlamps it is always a guess as to how much battery life remains in the batteries in them.
This concludes my review of this outstanding headlamp. I would like to thank Black Diamond and BackpackGearTest.org for this testing opportunity.
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Read more gear reviews by Coy Ray Starnes
Reviews > Lighting > Headlamps - LED > Black Diamond Iota Headlamp > Test Report by Coy Ray Starnes
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