BLACK DIAMOND SPOT HEADLAMP
TEST SERIES BY MIKE PEARL
INITIAL REPORT - July 19, 2014
FIELD REPORT - July 29, 2014
LONG TERM REPORT - September 30, 2014
Hanover, New Hampshire, USA
5' 9" (1.75 m)
155 lb (70.30 kg)
I have a great appreciation for the outdoors and get out at every opportunity. I am a three-season backpacker and year round hiker. Currently, my trips are two to three days long as well as an annual week-long trip. I utilize the abundant trail shelters in my locale and pack a backup tarp-tent. I like to cover big distances while still taking in the views. I have lightweight leanings but function and reliability are the priority. I mostly travel woodland mountain terrain but enjoy hiking beautiful trails anywhere.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
Year of Manufacture: 2014
Manufacturer's Website: www.blackdiamondequipment.com
Listed Weight with Batteries: 3.2 oz (90 g)
Measured Weight with Batteries: 3.3 oz (94 g)
Listed Weight without Batteries: 1.9 0z (54 g)
Measured Weight without Batteries: 2.1 oz (60 g)
Batteries: 3 AAA (included)
Colors Available: Fire Red, Matte Black, Revolution Green, Titanium, Ultra White
Color Tested: Revolution Green
Lumens: 130 Maximum / 4 Minimum
Light Distances: 15 m (49 ft) w/ two Single Power LEDs or 75 m (246 ft) w/ one Triple Power LED
Max Burn Time: 50 hours w/ Triple Power LED, 200 hours w/ Single Power LEDs
LED Types: 1 Triple Power, 4 Single Power (2 white or 2 red)
IPX 4 - protection from splashed or sprayed water from any angle (This does not include salt spray or high-alkalinity fluids.)
IPX is the rating to what degree a product is water resistant or water proof. The scale ranges from IPX 0, no protection up to IPX 8, protected against continual water submersion.
PowerTap Technology - toggles between low and high power with a finger tap to the side of the lamp housing.
Red LED - "night vision" with proximity and strobe mode without cycling through white LED
Three-level power meter - indicates remaining battery life
Lock mode - prevents lamp from being accidentally turned on
At first glance the Black Diamond Spot head lamp looks like most multiple bulb lamps. It has an adjustable strap, light housing that adjusts to point straight ahead or toward the ground and an on/off button. It has a sleek design and feels well-constructed.
Once I get to the instructions things get a little confusing. The Spot has three different types of light, one high power white LED, two low power white LED's and two low power red LED's. Each of these lights can be dimmed, two of them can strobe and all can toggle between full and half power. This is all done with two buttons and a combination of taps to the buttons.
On the simpler side of things the headband is straight forward. It stretches easily and is soft to the touch. A D-ring makes it quick and easy to adjust.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
The Spot comes with two instruction sheets. One is a detailed written description of features and instructions. The other is simpler showing the main functions of the lamp with pictures. The picture instructions are better at explaining how to operate the various modes. The written ones are helpful for explaining what the various modes mean. The highlights are as follows.
When powered on the Spot always turns on at 75% of maximum brightness. This can then be adjusted in two ways. While powered on holding down the power button will take the Spot to full brightness. Continue holding the button and the Spot will dim. The other way is to use the PowerTap (picture below) located on the right side when wearing the Spot. Touching this button will take the lamp to maximum brightness. Touching the PowerTap again takes it back to the preset brightness.
Run times are listed for each LED at max and min settings. The instructions also state that battery life will vary. Factors affecting battery life include brand and freshness, "recovery time" or time when lamp has not been on, temperature, and lamp settings used.
This leads to one of the features I am eager to test, the battery power meter (picture right). The battery meter display is on the left side when wearing the Spot. This will show the remaining battery power for 3 seconds when the lamp is turned on in white mode.
The power level remaining is indicated by three colors;
Green greater than 50% Orange 25 - 50% Red less than 25%
The Spot can handle getting wet even inside the battery housing and still function. However this will decrease battery life and the instructions stress the importance of not storing the Spot wet. If the battery housing becomes wet the batteries should be removed and the housing remain open until it air dries.
The Spot has a limited three year warranty from the date of purchase only to the original retail buyer. Warranty covers material and workmanship. Not covered is any wear and tear from regular use or misuse.
TRYING IT OUT
After going over the instructions I installed the provided Energizer brand batteries. The housing pries apart at the bottom of the lamp and separates into two pieces. These are held together by a thin piece of flexible plastic-like material (picture right). I am concerned with the durability of this material. I don't know what it is made of but it just feels flimsy.
The batteries go in no problem and the housing snaps back together easily. It took me about two minutes of pressing the on/off and PowerTap buttons in various sequences for the Spot to make complete sense. The Spot fits comfortably and securely on my head after adjusting the headband. In a dark room the difference in the three types of lights is very noticeable. The triple power LED is very bright and using the PowerTap makes it extremely bright. I really like a red LED for use at night without the shock of a bright white light to my eyes first. I can image situations for using all three light modes. The only light mode I cannot think of a use for is the red LED strobe.
The last thing I did before removing the batteries for storage was engage the lock mode. This is a nice forward thinking feature. No chance of wasting battery power from lighting up the inside of my pack. In the past I have removed batteries from lamps to prevent this.
The Spot is a neat headlamp. It has a minimalist look while having a variety and variable functions. The light produced is bright, dim and everything in between. I like being able to adjust the amount of light to the setting it is being used. I think the power indicator is brilliant. I am always troubled with how many batteries to bring on an overnight trip. This eliminates bring extra batteries as insurance at the cost of extra weight. The Spot is well equipped to illuminate many nighttime situations.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Balch Hill, New Hampshire - Night hike 2 mi (3 km) to 950 ft (290 m), 60 F (15.5 C) and calm. Variable trail from dry, flat and wide to rocky, wet and narrow.
Storrs Pond, New Hampshire - Night hike 2.5 mi (4 km) at 400 ft (120 m) elevation, 70 F (21 C) and humid. Mix of rocky, rooted single and grass or pine needle covered double track trail.
Wheeler Pond, Vermont - Two nights at Hadsel-Mares cabin. Used in and around camp at 1400 ft (420 m), 55 F (13 C) and breezy and 60 F (15.5 C) humid and buggy.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I am enjoying my time with the Spot thus far. It can really light up a trail with the triple power single LED. The single power double LEDs is enough to hike by. All my attempts to photograph this failed. But once my eyes get a glimpse of the triple power LED it's hard to switch back to the single power. But the ability to control the type and amount of light makes it very functional.
On the two night hikes things were pretty basic. The first time out I did switch between all three types of light. I found I could not hike with the red LED. And as already said the single power is good and the triple power is almost too bright. I needed some time in the dark to make my eyes happy with the single power again. I then just stuck with the single power.
The next time out I started with the single power. I used the power tap to brighten things up when needed.
This worked well throughout the hike without any need for breaks in the dark. The Spot was comfortable and stayed in place throughout both hikes.
Where I have found the Spot most useful and where the majority of my headlamp use occurs is in and around camp. This is also where I found all three light types helpful. The cabin we stayed at is completely off the grid. So once night fell, the Spot was on my head or within reach from my sleeping bag.
The variable light made camp "chores" less difficult. Things like walking the trail to the privy or wood pile were no trouble. But my kids thought the privy was "eerie" and my wife thought the wood pile was "creepy, crawly". The ultra-bright triple power LED made both much easier to handle. I like being able to review the map of next day's hike with low light and quickly switching to a very bright one to "see what's making that noise in the bush!" Or maybe my wife really likes that? The part I liked most about the Spot on this trip was the red LED. I was able to move quietly around the cabin and see where I going without disturbing anyone's sleep. The red LED is not great for seeing distant objects. But I was able to negotiate an unfamiliar space without bumping into anything or waking anyone with a bright white light. Also worth noting for anyone who has not worked under red light before is the difficulty with distinguishing colors. I was unable pick out my clean brown shirt from my gray dirty shirt no matter how close I held it. Until it was within smelling range, which is variable with the numbers of days camping.
Last observation from the cabin trip is about the lock out mode. I originally thought this was just a cool or extra feature. On our first day hike I found that it is a necessary feature. I packed the Spot in a side pocket on my pack as a precaution. At our first water break I noticed that the Spot was on. I had not used the lock out mode. The on/off button is so sensitive the lamp was accidentally turned on while inside the pocket. I now activate the lock out mode if the batteries are in the Spot while not in use.
In all situations used the Black Diamond Equipment Spot headlamp has provided ample lighting. The size, shape and fit are comfortable. The variable and adjustable light is extremely useful. At the end of the Field Test phase the Spot is spot on! This is a great lamp.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Appalachian Trail, Hanover, New Hampshire - 10 mi (16 km) from 530 to 1,240 ft ( to 380 m), 75 to 50 F (24 to 10 C) sunny and calm. Late evening start for one night at Velvet Rocks shelter with an early morning hike home.
Appalachian Trail, Lyme to Hanover, New Hampshire - 18 mi (29 km) from 860 to 2300 ft (260 to 700 m), 60 to 40 F (15 to 4 C) sunny during the day and windy at night. Nice section of trail through marsh, pasture, and two mountains for one and half days and one night.
Appalachian Trail, North Woodstock to Orford, New Hampshire - 18 mi (29 km) from 900 to 4450 ft (270 to 1350 m), 65 to 35 F (18 to 2 C) amazing, clear autumn weather. Great section with big mountain views and dense forest for one and a half days and one night.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
During this phase of testing I planned my hikes to begin in the late afternoon or early evening. I selected locations to camp that forced me to hike an hour or two in the dark. Continuing the hike in the dark theme, I woke early and hiked a mile or two (1.5 to 3 km) before sunrise.
The Spot worked very well for me at all times on these three outings. At dusk I would pull the Spot from the side pocket of my pack. After deactivating the lock out mode I adjusted the headband to fit over my hat or bare head. Then continued hiking until I was no longer comfortable moving in the remaining natural light. At this point I turned on the single power LED and lowered the intensity of the light. At this setting I could comfortably read my map to determine how much further and to what elevation I needed to travel. I switched back to the full power single LED using the Power Tap after reading the map. Even with all the light available from the Spot I didn't want to chance walking right by my campsite. A few times I needed to switch to the triple power LED when the trail crossed an area of bare rock or leaf litter to find my way. The triple power LED was also very useful for locating campsites off trail. The extra light was comforting when hiking 200 ft (61 m) off trail for a suitable tent or hammock site. It was also helpful for searching for just the right branch to hang a food bag. I found the single power LED perfect for all other camp set up and break down task. It was also nice for reading by at about half to three quarter power.
Planning the first hike of this test phase involved an additional consideration. The timing my visit to Velvet Rocks shelter with the flow of Appalachian Trail thru-hikers. The trick was getting to the shelter after dark and there still being room in the shelter. In the past I have seen shelters with a capacity of ten filled to fifteen. And overflow of another dozen into the surrounding woods. The annual local college backpacking trip plus a influx of thru-hikers equals no vacancy.
My intention was to put the red LED to use in close quarters around as many eyes as possible. At a distance I scoped out the shelter with the triple power LED. Then switch to the red as I approached, found my spot in the shelter and unpacked. No one complained about or blocked their eyes from the light. And I was able to sort through necessary gear and bed down for the night. An early predawn wake up and reverse procedure had me on the trail in minutes. All I heard or saw of the others still in the shelter was a few rustlings as they rolled in their bags.
The one thing that never took much planning was packing batteries. Checking the power meter assured me each time I loaded the Spot into my pack that I would not be without light. By the end of my last hike the power meter was displaying orange indicating 25 - 50% battery life remaining. I did use the Spot a few times to retrieve items stored in the attic. Otherwise when the Spot was not on the trail the batteries were not in the lamp.
As hard as I tried to photograph the Spot in action this is best I achieved. These images were taken inside my tent at about arm's length away. The one on the left is with the single power LED. On the right is with the triple power LED.
I have really enjoyed using the Spot. I find all three types of light it provides very useful and ideal for specific situations. This is further enhanced by the ability to control the intensity of the light, then being able to jump to full power using the Power Tap. A single button to control all modes is convenient and easy after a moderate learning curve. The lock out mode and power meter are features I don't think I want to go without again. In the end I didn't use the strobe lights. And my concern about the material connecting the two parts of the lamp housing are put to rest. All parts and functions of the Spot remain as good as new. (Batteries excluded) This is a slick lamp that will see much more use!
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5
Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.
This concludes my Long-Term Report. Thank you to Black Diamond Equipment and BackpackGearTest.org for the chance to test the Spot Headlamp.
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