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Reviews > Lighting > Headlamps - LED > Black Diamond Spot325 Headlamp > Test Report by Brian Hartman

BLACK DIAMOND EQUIPMENT SPOT325 HEADLAMP 
TEST SERIES BY BRIAN HARTMAN 
INITIAL REPORT 
August 31, 2019


TESTER INFORMATION

NAME:Brian Hartman
EMAIL:bhart1426ATyahooDOT com
AGE:47
LOCATION:Westfield, Indiana
GENDER:M
HEIGHT:5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT:145 lb (65.80 kg)

I have been backpacking for over 20 years throughout Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and most recently in the Western USA. In addition to backpacking I enjoy family camping with my wife and kids and being outdoors in general. I would describe myself as a mid-weight backpacker. I use fairly light weight equipment and gear but still like to bring more than the bare essentials with me while on the trail.


INITIAL REPORT 

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS


Manufacturer: Black Diamond
Year of Manufacture: 2019
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.blackdiamondequipment.com/
MSRP: $39.95 US
Listed weight: 1.8 oz (50 g) headlamp without batteries
Listed weight: 3.0 oz (86 g) headlamp with batteries
Measured weight: 1.8 oz (50 g) headlamp without batteries
Measured weight: 3.1 oz (88 g) headlamp with batteries
Lumens: High = 325, Medium = 160, Low = 6 
Maximum distances: High = 80 m (262.5 ft), Medium = 60 m (196.9 ft), Low = 8 m (26.2 ft)
Maximum burn time: High = 4 hours, Medium = 8 hours, Low = 200 hours 
Colors: Aluminum, Octane, Aqua, Black, Dark Olive, Sand, Graphite, Citrus
Batteries: 3AAA

IMAGE 1    BD


The Spot 325 headlamp (hereafter called Spot or 325) is a waterproof LED headlamp, newly redesigned by the manufacturer, Black Diamond, to be lighter, brighter and smaller than its predecessor.  It operates on standard AAA batteries and has three brightness settings, with 325 lumen output at its highest setting.  The redesigned optical lens and circuitry makes the headlamp not only brighter, but more energy efficient as well, for longer run time at each setting (more details on this in the paragraph below).  The 325 also sports a strobe, a red LED for night vision mode, a battery life indicator, and a lock button, to prevent it from
being turned on accidently.  Holy cow, that's a lot of features!

Going into more detail on the features above, the Spot 325 can operate with multiple different battery types including AAA alkaline, lithium ion, or rechargeable batteries.  The Spot 325 has three LEDs, each of which can be turned on and off independent of others.  The center LED, the one with the largest lens, is a dimmable spotlight.  The LED to its right (see photo above right) is a very bright flood light with a wide beam spread, that is also dimmable.  Finally, the third LED, in the lower right, is a dimmable red LED, suitable for close-up work while still maintaining night vision.  The LEDs are controlled by the two buttons on top of the headlamp as well as the PowerTap sensor on the left side of the headlamp.  The small circular button on top can be used to turn on any one of the three LEDs and scroll between them.  The larger, rectangular button, also on top, is used to turn off the headlamp as well as to dim the three LEDs.  The PowerTap sensor simply provides another way to quickly change beam intensity.  It is also possible to lock the headlamp by holding down both top buttons for two seconds, which is something I really like.  Now for the good stuff.  Per the specs, the center LED is capable of 325 lumens with a 65 hour burn time at its highest setting, and 6 lumens with a 300 hour burn time at its lowest setting.  Similarly, the flood LED is capable of up to 40 lumens with a 20 hour burn time at its brightest setting and 6 lumens with 125 hour burn time at its lowest setting.

IMAGE 2 IMAGE 3

This headlamp is capable of outputting 325 lumens for up to 65 hours!  What!  That's astounding!  Granted I've blinded myself so many times while playing with the LEDs and control buttons to figure out how they work, that I'm currently seeing spots and may have missed a decimal point.  Either way, Black Diamond touts some impressive lumen and burn time specs for the Spot 325 and I'm anxious to check them out during Field Testing to see how my headlamp compares.  The headlamp is constructed of molded plastic and rubber, and all the buttons as well as the battery compartment are sealed to give it an IPX8 waterproof rating.  This basically means that the headlamp can be submerged underwater for 30 minutes at one meter (3.3 ft).  The low battery indicator consists of three blue LEDs, located on the right side of the headlamp (see photo above left).  The headlamp is 2.25 in (57 mm) wide by 1.5 in (38 mm) tall.  The headlamp is 1.0 in (25 mm) thick from front to back, not including the adjustment bracket that is attached to and pivots from the bottom of the headlamp, allowing the headlamp to point forward or down.  The elastic headband is just under 1.0 in (25 mm) wide and fully adjustable.  Black Diamond's name and logo is imprinted on the left- and right-hand side of the strap.  Last but not least, the Spot 325 comes with a three-year warranty.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The Spot 325 headlamp arrived in a small box with plenty of product details on the back (see photo below).  However, after unboxing it, I was immediately drawn to how small and lightweight the headlamp felt, and how rugged it looked.  Included with the headlamp was a nylon adjustable headband, 3 AAA alkaline batteries and a small instruction sheet.  Upon closer inspection the Spot 325 appeared to be very well designed, and sharp.  It just plain looks good, especially in black!  The headlamp body felt strong and I felt confident it would do well in the backcountry.

packaging    IMAGE 4   

I had no problem accessing the battery compartment which swung open from the side after unlatching a plastic tab on the side of the headlamp body, next to the battery life indicator.  Since the Spot 325 has regulated circuitry that supports all battery types,
I will try out the Alkaline batteries that came with the headlamp as well as my own rechargeable batteries and see if different battery types have any effect on LED brightness or burn times.  

The headband on the Spot 325 was easy to adjust and quick to slip over my head.  I wore the headlamp briefly and it feels comfortable and not too heavy to wear for extended periods.  I currently have a headlamp with three straps, one of which goes over the top of my head for additional support, so it may take me a little while to get used to the Spot but I don't expect any problems.

The rectangular on/off dim button on top of the headlamp was easy to find with my finger thanks to the raised bumps on its surface.  It required a fair amount of pressure to activate when I was playing with it, which I liked.  The small circular button was slightly hard to locate, but I'm certain that's just because it's new.  Even though I'm right-handed, I found it easier to locate and depress both buttons with my left hand, especially the small circular button.  I suspect that's because it's located closer to my left side and the indent in that button lines up better with the angle of my left index finger when I push it.

The instructions were clear and concise and operation of the headlamp was intuitive. A single press of the rectangular button turned on and off the headlamp, and it also dimmed the LEDs.  Pressing the small circular button, when the headlamp was on, switched between the LEDs, and holding down the circular button for two seconds, when the headlamp was off, turned it on.  Pressing and holding both top buttons at the same time for 2 seconds locked the headlamp so that the LEDs couldn't be turned on accidently.  I'll talk more about light output and beam spread in my Field Report.  In the meantime, the image below helps explain all the available functions of the headlamp.  Really, it's simple!  After giving myself a few minutes to get acquainted with the controls, I had no problems turning on and off whichever LEDs I wanted.
 


IMAGE 5

SUMMARY

I really like the Spot 325 and am looking forward to Field Testing.

This concludes my Initial Report for the Black Diamond Spot 325 headlamp. 



FIELD REPORT

January 1, 2020


FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

IMAGE 1

I used the Spot 325 extensively during the past four months.  It arrived just in time to accompany me on a three-week trip to Europe where I visited nine countries and fifteen cities.  Afterwards, I took it on several overnight trips to Southern Indiana.  And finally, I brought it with me to NE Wisconsin and N Ohio where I used it on the trails and at camp.  Below are some of the places I visited:

Location: Rome, Italy
Weather: 71 to 82 F (21 C to 27 C).  Sunny and warm conditions.
The headlamp came in handy each night as I walked through Rome, visiting the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, Vatican City, and various restaurants and sites in and around Centro Storico. 

Location: Budapest, Hungary
Weather: 68 to 76 F (20 C to 24 C).  Drizzle with occasional rain showers.
The Spot headlamp did a great job of lighting my path as I hiked along the Buda and Pest sides of the Danube river. 

Location: Durnstein, Austria
Weather: 65 to 68 F (18 to 20 C).  Cool and windy with intermittent sprinkles.
This part of Austria was stunning with rolling hills and small towns nestled alongside the Danube River.  While hiking I discovered the ruins of a medieval castle that served as prison for King Richard the Lionheart around 1192.

Location: Hallstatt, Austria

Weather: 66 to 72 F (19 to 22 C).  Partly cloudy skies.
I took the photo (below right) from the top of a mountain, 1,200 ft (365 m) above the town of Hallstatt.  Inside this mountain is the oldest salt mine in Europe, dating back 7,000 years.  In 400 BC, during the height of prehistoric mining, workers dug tunnels as deep as 656 ft (200 m) by hand to reach the so called "white gold".  It was nearly dark when I summited, so I needed the Spot headlamp to help light my path back down the switchbacks and safely to town. 

spotLocation: Karlstejn, Czech Republic
Weather:  71 to 74 F (21 to 23 C).  Sunny and mild conditions.
I read about Karlstejn many months prior to my trip to Europe and was so intrigued by its history that I planned part of my trip around this castle.  It was built in 1348 by Charles IV, Roman Emperor elect and King of Bohemia, and included a 200 ft (61 m) tall tower with walls that were 13 - 25 ft (4 - 6 m) thick.  Interestingly, the builders dug down over 250 ft (76 m) to locate water but couldn't find any, so they tapped into a local stream via an underground channel that brought water inside the castle walls, in case of a prolonged attack by invaders.  However, getting enough water pressure to fill the channel required manually diverting the stream multiple times per year.  The Spot headlamp came in handy as I hiked back from the castle, late in the day, through densely forested hillsides (photo below).  

Location: Barcelona, Spain
Weather:  71 to 74 F (21 to 23 C).  Sunny and mild conditions.
I carried the Spot headlamp with me in Barcelona but only used it a few times when I was out late at night.

Location: Franklin County, Indiana
Weather:  36 to 39 F (2 to 4 C).  Cold and windy conditions.

Location: Mayfield and Hudson, Ohio
Weather: 22 to 35 F (-5.5 to 2 C) with cloudy skies the first two days and clear skies on day three
I hiked in the Cleveland Metro Parks and the Cuyahoga Valley area during this three-day trip.  


Location: Francis Creek, Wisconsin

Weather: 25 to 36 F (-4 C to 2 C).  Mist and occasional rain the first two days and clear skies on the third day.
While in Wisconsin I spent most of my time on and around the Devil's River Trail.  It's open to cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling in winter, but there were very few people out while I was there.  The first photo above is me wearing the headlamp while on the trail.



image42

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The Spot 325 headlamp performed well during my past several months of testing.  It was easy to control, comfortable to wear, plenty bright, and had great battery life.  Below are additional details regarding these things:

Controls: I had no problems working the headlamp controls while hiking or at camp.  The on/off and selector buttons were easy to find and intuitive to operate.  I could quickly locate the large rectangular button on top of the headlamp to turn on and off the LEDs, and then slide my finger to the left to access the selector button to switch between the spot, flood and red LEDs.  Dimming the LEDs was simple as well because it was done using the large rectangular button.  I found that I only dimmed the flood light (and/or red LED) when I was in my shelter reading, otherwise I left them at full brightness, and I really didn't mess with the spotlight.  I used the lock feature for the first few weeks of testing then stopped using it, not because there was anything wrong with it or because it was difficult to use.  Rather the on/off button was recessed and took a lot of pressure to actuate, so I figured it likely wouldn't get turned on accidently in my pack.  In addition to the two buttons, there's a sensor on the right side of the headlamp that can be used to switch between only the flood LED and the flood LED plus the spotlight for maximum brightness.  I originally didn't think I would use it much, but it came in handy several times while hiking in Europe.  I found myself switching to maximum brightness mode when I was looking for a trailhead or a fork in the trail. 

Comfort: I found the headlamp comfortable to wear for extended periods.  In addition, the headband was easy to adjust, and it seemed to stay in place.  I didn't have any major problems with the headlamp moving around or sliding down my forehead although it did move some.  I could have made it tighter to prevent any movement, but I liked the comfort that came with the looser fit versus having it too restrictive.  Of course, weight plays a big factor in the long-term comfort of a headlamp and in that regard, the Spot headlamp isn't ultralight but it's also not heavy or burdensome.  In the end it offers a very good compromise between weight, price, durability, and features.  

Light Output: The Spot 325 is easily the brightest of my headlamps and more than adequate for my backpacking needs.  With it I can set up and break down camp in the dark, start a campfire, cook, read, and take the occasional late-night bathroom break.  Most of the time I found myself using the flood LED on its brightest setting.  I dialed it down to low intensity or switched to the red LED when in my shelter or reading, and I only turned on the spot LED when trying to locate a trail marker etc.  I took the photos below in a completely dark room to show the beam spread and intensity of all three LEDs.  The headlamp and camera were 15 ft (4.6 m) away from the target and the LEDs were at their brightest setting.  The leftmost photo is the flood LED.  The second photo is the spot LED.  The third photo is the spot LED, and the fourth photo is the red LED.

image12

The three photos below are from about 50 ft (15 m) away. The trees are unlit in the first photo, dimly lit using the flood LED in the second photo, brightly lit via the spot LED in the third photo, and fully lit via both the flood and spot LEDs in the fourth photo.

image14

Battery Life: I used alkaline batteries in the Spot 325 and am now on my second set of batteries.  I didn't kept detailed records on LED runtime, but generally know how long the headlamp was on.  Given the usage I must say I'm impressed with the headlamp's efficiency.  The battery life indicator is a handy feature that I really like.  With it I feel better about taking a used set of batteries on the trail without spares for backup.  The Spot 325 did a good job of conserving battery life.  The manufacturer's burn time specs of 4 hours on high, 8 hours on medium and 200 hours appear to be accurate.  There also seems to be little to no leakage current when the headlamp is turned off as I regularly leave the batteries in and have had no problems with them running down.  One other note is the battery compartment is ok to access.  Granted I have short fingernails so it's not the easiest thing to release the hatch to open the battery compartment.

SUMMARY

I had a great time testing the Black Diamond Spot this test period.  It was easy to control, comfortable, provided plenty of light for most nighttime activities, and had great battery life.  In addition, it proved to be durable.

This concludes my Field Report for the Spot 325 headlamp.  Thanks to Black Diamond and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to participate in this test.  Please come back in two months to read my final review. 



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Read more gear reviews by Brian Hartman

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