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Reviews > Lighting > Headlamps - LED > Black Diamond Iota Headlamp > Test Report by Kurt Papke

Black Diamond Iota Hadlamp

Test Series by Kurt Papke

Initial Report - April 5, 2017

Field Report - June 20, 2017

Long Term Report - August 22, 2017

Tester Information

Name: Kurt Papke
Age: 63
Gender: Male
Height: 6' 4" (193 cm)
Weight: 225 lbs (102 kg)
Email address: kwpapke at gmail dot com
City, State, Country: Tucson, Arizona USA

My backpacking venues have mostly been a combination of Minnesota, where I have lived most of my adult life, and Arizona since 2009.  I have always been a "comfort-weight" backpacker, never counting grams, but still keeping my pack as light as easily attained.  I carry a headlamp with me on every backpacking outing.

Initial Report

The Iota is an LED rechargeable headlamp designed for small size and weight.

Product Information

Manufacturer: Black Diamond Equipment, Ltd.
Manufacturer website:
Year of manufacture: 2017
Country of origin:
Not listed
$39.95 USD
Color tested:
Octane (orange)
Also available in Saltwater (aqua), Denim (blue), Nickel (gray), and black
Listed: 1.9 oz (56 g)
Measured: identical to listed
3 years

The features listed by the manufacturer include:
  • 150 lumens max output with a throw of 40 m (131 ft), can be dimmed and strobed
  • Average 3-hour burn time from a USB-rechargeable lithium ion battery (2 hours at max power)
  • IPX4 water resistance rating
  • Power on lock to prevent accidentally turning on when packed
  • Three-level power meter LED
  • Brightness memory: if turned off and back on again, the lamp reverts to the last set power level
Photos above, from upper left and going clockwise:
  • Iota in shelf packaging
  • Product info printed on packaging
  • Main on/off button on top of the unit
  • USB charging cable plugged in
  • Lock/charge LED indicator
  • View from the front, with hand for scale

Trying it out

When I turned on the lamp (it came fully charged), I frankly was quite shocked at how bright it was for such a small and light unit.  I read the "getting started guide" and put it through it's various modes.  It is fairly straightforward, though there are a fair number of things to remember if I want to use all the capabilities.

I strapped it on my head.  This thing is really light!  The adjustable tilt on the lamp seems a bit "stiff", but perhaps it will loosen up with use.

The light beam produced is quite wide - this is not a spotlight.

The cover for the charging plug opens quite easily with a fingernail.  I like the short length of the supplied USB cable, compact and lightweight!


I am looking forward to getting this tiny little headlamp into the backcountry and seeing how it performs under field conditions.

Things I Like So Far:

  • Lightweight, compact
  • Comfortable

Things That Concern Me Upfront:

  • Tilt adjustment required two hands: one to tilt the lamp, the other to hold the bracket/base in place

Field Report

Test conditions

April 14-16
Area surrounding Flagstaff, Arizona
Grand Falls, Devil's Bridge
5 mi (8 km)
4300-8000 ft
(1310-2440 m)
32-75 F
(0-24 C)
Sunny, clear nights with 3/4 moon
May 4-7 Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona Morse and Echo Canyon
10 mi (16 km) 6600-8200 ft
(2010-2500 m)
48-80 F (9-27 C)
Mostly sunny, wind gusts to 30 mph (48 kph) with 1/2 moon
May 25-30 Monument Valley and Canyonlands NP in SE Utah Canyonlands N/A (car camping) 3900-6200 ft
(1190-1890 m)
Sunny, very windy with blowing dust, temperatures 50-85 F (10-29 C)

Grand Falls, Devil's Bridge

This was a 2-night car camping and day hiking trip to a little-visited waterfall, and a highly-visited arch near Sedona, Arizona.  We camped both nights at dispersed campsites in the Coconino National Forest.  There was roughly a 3/4 moon on both nights, so there was some ambient night lighting.  Nonetheless, I used the Iota both nights to traverse from the campfire to my hammock and prep my sleeping quarters.

One of the things I noticed immediately was that although many of the other campers had similar-sized headlamps, the Iota was much brighter than any of the others.  In fact, while we were doing some chores such as putting out the campfire, I kept the Iota trained on the work area for visibility while others did the work!

The Iota performed admirably on this trip - I had no issues operating it in the field for the first time.

Morse and Echo Canyons

This was a car-camping trip to the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona.  I used the headlamp mostly to traverse to/from the campfire, restrooms, and my shelter.  I did have one frustration with the device on this trip: I wanted to dim the light to protect my night vision, but noticed that if I hold the button down it dims, but when it gets to minimum brightness it cycles back to brightening up again.  I found it difficult, especially when bleary from sleep, to hit the minimum brightness level.  I invariably overshot it.  Other than this minor annoyance, the lamp performed very well.

I wore the headlamp the most amount of time on this trip, as we spent a lot of time in the evenings around a campfire.  The very low weight of the device really helps with comfort - I hardly knew it was there.  The headband is nicely adjustable - just a tug away from the center, and the strap snugs right up.  Overall, this is a very easy headlamp to wear.


This was an epic 6-day camping tour of Monument Valley, Valley of the Gods, Gooseneck State Park, and Canyonlands NP White Rim Trail by Jeep.  I used the headlamp most mornings (I get up before dawn, much to the irritation of my fellow campers), and in-camp in the evenings.  One of my fellow campers was so impressed by the small size and brightness of the unit that she wrote down the model name and manufacturer so she could buy one.


I didn't really stress the battery during the first two months of use, so I can't say too much about battery life because I never ran it down.  On the other hand, the fact that I never had to recharge it in the field was a positive experience.

Impressed by:

  1. Brightness - this is a powerful little lamp.
  2. Small size and weight.
  3. Ease of use: turning on/off in the middle of the night, adjusting the lamp are all easy.

Improvement needed:

  1. I'd like an easy way to maximally dim the headlamp to keep my night vision.

Long Term Report

Field Experience

July 29-August 6
San Juan mountains between Durango and Silverton, Colorado
45 mi (72 km) total across 7 hikes
8000-12,500 ft
(2440-3810 m)
38-75 F (3-24 C)
Sun, rain showers, high winds

San Juans

This was a 9-day car camping trip to the mountain trails between Durango and Silverton Colorado.  We hiked every day that we were not driving to/from Tucson, and stayed in the same group campsite (Chris Lake) the entire week.

I used the headlamp every day, for morning chores (I am an early riser), and finding my way to the latrine and my hammock when retiring.  The Iota had more than enough illumination for my needs - the following photo shows how well it illuminated my cook kit while making breakfast before sunrise (no flash used for this picture):


I often wanted to dim the light to not disturb the other campers early in the morning, and once again experienced some frustration in being able to easily dim the lamp to the least bright setting.  I was able to use the headlamp for the entire week without recharging, though the LED power meter did turn yellow indicating that I was no longer at full charge.

During the week it seemed like the headband lost a little bit of it's elasticity, and I had to tighten it up a bit to keep it on my head.  This was trivial to do - the headband adjusts nicely.  Since I was using the headlamp so much, I noticed I put it on upside-down a few times.  It would be nice if the lamp was more obvious, by sense of touch, as to which end is "up".  I found I could figure this out in the dark by hinging the lamp down (the hinge is at the bottom), so the it would not hinge down if I held it upside-down.


My feelings about this headlamp have not changed substantially over the last two months - I love the small size and brightness.  The headlamp is comfortable and light enough on my head that often forget I have it on.  Battery life is good with enough capacity for a full week of camping.  I intend to use this headlamp on all of my future backpacking trips where weight is a consideration, and I do not need the extra illumination of a more powerful beam.

Thanks to and Black Diamond for the opportunity to contribute to this test.

Read more reviews of Black Diamond gear
Read more gear reviews by Kurt Papke

Reviews > Lighting > Headlamps - LED > Black Diamond Iota Headlamp > Test Report by Kurt Papke

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