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Reviews > Lighting > Headlamps - LED > Black Diamond SpotLite 160 Headlamp > Test Report by joe schaffer

Black Diamond Spot Lite

Test Report by Joe Schaffer

INITIAL REPORT -September 7, 2019
FIELD REPORT -October 30, 2019
LONG TERM REPORT -January 8, 2020

NAME: Joe Schaffer
EMAIL: never2muchstuff(at)yahoo(dot)com
AGE: 71
HOME: Bay Area, California USA

     I enjoy California's central Sierras, camping every month with a goal to match my age in nights out each year. For comfort I lug tent, mattress, chair and such. Typical summer trips run 5-8 days; 40 lb (18 kg), about half food and water related; about 5 miles (8 km) per hiking day in the bright and sunny granite in and around Yosemite. I winter base camp most often at 6,000 to 7,000 ft (1,800 to 2,000 m); 2 to 3 nights; 50 lb (23 kg); a mile or so (1.6 km) on snowshoes.bisonboxers

BD Spot Lite

Product: Spot Lite 160 Headlamp

Manufacturer:  Black Diamond Equipment, LTD.

    Features and claims from website:    
    Multi-faceted optical lens
    Runs on two AAA alkaline, rechargeable, or lithium batteries
    Settings include full strength in proximity and distance modes, dimming, strobe, red night vision and lock mode
    IPX8: Waterproof-Tested to operate at least 1.1 meters underwater for 30 minutes. If submerged, water may enter the battery compartment and it will still operate; it should be completely dried out after us in wet conditions.

    Lumens :   [High] 160: [Medium] 80: [Low] 6:
    Weight With Batteries :   54 g (1.9 oz)
    Max Distances :   [High] 60 m (200 ft): [Medium] 30 m (100 ft): [Low] 3 m (10 ft)
    Max Burn Time :   [High] 2 H: [Medium] 14 H: [Low] 60 H
    IPX Rating :   IPX 8
    Batteries :   2 AAA alkaline (included)

Colors available: Aluminum, Octane, Aqua, Dark Olive, Graphite, Azul

Warranty: Three years according to box; one year according to website.

Country of origin: China

MSRP: US $26.95

My Specs: 

        Weight: 1 1/4 oz (35 g); w/batts 2 oz (57 g)
        Width: 2 1/4 in (57 mm); Thick: 1 1/8 (1 1/4 in (29 mm); Height: 1 1/4 in (57 mm)

Received:   Octane, September, 2019

My Description:
    This compact headlamp runs on two AAA batteries; has one white LED and one red LED.  The body of the light tilts for vertical adjustment of where the light throws. The battery compartment is contained in the body and is accessed via unsnapping the left side of the body to hinge it open.

     A press-button, two-sided top switch allows for locking the light off, adjusting brightness and choosing mode. The right side of the switch is about 11/16 in (18 mm) wide by 3/8 in (10 mm) with 32 little bumps for fingertip notice and traction. The left side is a circular switch about 1/4 in (6 mm) in diameterr. Pressing the right side once turns on the white LED. Holding the switch depressed adjusts brightness, which stays in memory. Pressing the switch twice quickly when the light is on puts the light in strobe mode; Pressing the left side (circular) switch and holding it down activates only the red LED. Continuing to depress the circular switch adjusts red light brightness. With the red light on, depressing the left switch cycles from the red to the white to the red, etc. Depressing the right switch turns off whichever light is on. Depressing the switch again turns on the red light; or if the circular switch is depressed while both are off, then the white light comes on when the right switch is depressed. I think. Depressing the left switch twice puts the white LED in strobe; twice more turns it off. Depressing both switches at the same time for three seconds locks the light off; again for three seconds unlocks the light.

    This light has no battery meter and no tap function.

    An adjustable elastic strap holds the light in place on the wearer's head.
    This headlamp strikes me as incredibly small and light, yet runs on commonly available batteries and seems to throw a pretty good splash of light. I'm not seeing how to find separate proximity mode and distance mode, even after reading directions. Before I read directions and before I got the part about the two modes, I thought I had the device pretty well figured out. I should be able to use it without consulting directions, which in the dark I find difficult to read. I've been wanting a simpler, lighter headlamp, and this one gets pretty close.

    Especially close attention will be devoted to the security of the locking function. The battery case on this lamp is not onerous to open in order to reverse a battery to prevent unintended activation of the light, such as being pressed in a pack lid. If this lamp will stay locked off, that will be a big plus.
Field Conditions:
1. Sept 8-12, 2019: Emigrant Wilderness, 4 nights, 21 mi (34 km); leave weight 31 lb (14 kg); 32-70 F (0-21 C), mostly sunny. 7,200-8,900 ft (2,200-2,700 m). 4 camps.
    2. Sept 14-20: Dinkey Lakes Wilderness, California. 6 nights, 13 mi (20 km); leave weight 45 lb (20 kg); 30-60 F (-1 to 16 C), mostly sunny.
8,200-10,000 ft (2,500-3,000 m). 5 camps.
3. Sept 23-26: Emigrant Wilderness, California. 3 nights. 14 mi (22 km); leave weight 33 lb (15 kg); 40-75 F (4-24 C), sunny. 7,000-7,500 ft (2,100-2,300 m). 3 camps.
4. Oct 3-9, 2019. Emigrant Wilderness, California. 6 nights. 23 mi (37 km) trail and cross country hiking, 19 hours; leave weight 41 lb (19 kg); 30-70 F (-1 to 21 C), sunny; 7,000-8,000 ft (2,100-2,400 m); 5 camps.
    5. Oct 17-23, 2019. Emigrant Wilderness, California. 6 nights. 20 mi (32 km) trail and cross country hiking, 11 hours; leave weight 43 lb (20 kg); 25-70 F (-4 to 21 C), sunny; 7,000-8,000 ft (2,100-2,400 m); 4 camps.

The lighter, smaller SPOTLite on the forehead is noticeably less bulk and weight than larger Spots, yet throws plenty of light around the campsite. It started off easy to adjust, as the maximum output is quite more than I typically want in camp or tent. Switching from white to red to white is the easiest of any headlamp I've used. I'm still not quite used to the amount of pressure required to activate the switches; and muscle memory still wants to press the switch twice (compared to two other Spots I've been using). Giant and bigger kudos for making the switches firmer, meaning requiring more pressure to activate. I took a bit of risk (again, compared to another Spot) by toting the headlamp without using the locking function. I didn't think the light could find a way to come on accidentally, and it did not. This is big for me, as I don't like to waste batteries and I don't carry spares.

    I wouldn't night-hike unknown territory with the light, though I'd have no trouble following trail.

    I paid no particular mind to packing the light; never used the lock function; and never found it on by accident. I'm still not used to the way the switches work, and sometimes I have to fiddle around for a while to get the light on or off. That is way far more desirable than having to fuss with packing the light to make sure it doesn't come on by itself.

    The headband feels a little stiff.

    After about 23 nights of use the main switch no longer seems to function correctly. It will adjust the light, but then in a second or two the light defaults to a medium setting. After trying to set the light on bright, the next time turning it on the light initially is bright, but then in a couple seconds defaults to medium. Medium is fine around camp, but not bright enough when wandering around in the dark looking for a tree to hoist the bear bag.

    It does now seem clear to me that the light does not have two modes. The graphic on the box simply intends to show the range of light from min to max.

    The dimming feature seems like a good one, but the execution could use some work. The light cycles through from dim to bright and will stop anywhere I let go of the switch, but if I don't let go as the light brightens, then it may go past the brightest setting and start all over again at dim. What would seem better is if the adjustment stopped when reaching maximum. As it is, I generally don't seem to have the right touch to get the maximum setting--and now it won't stay there anyway.

Total nights: 25

Field Conditions:
    6. Nov 3-7, 2019. Emigrant Wilderness, California. 4 nights. 6 1/2 mi (11 km) trail, 3 hours; leave weight 38 lb (17 kg); 35-60 F (2-16 C), sunny; 7,000-8,000 ft (2,100-2,400 m); 2 camps
7. Nov 12-17, 2019. Emigrant Wilderness, California. 5 nights. 19 mi (30 km) trail & cross country, 12 hours; leave weight 35 lb (16 kg); 30-60 F (-1 to 16 C), sunny; 7,000-9,000 ft (2,100-2,700 m); 4 camps.
  8. Dec 31-Jan 3, 2020: Dodge Ridge, California. Backpacking and hiking three nights; four mi (6 km) towing sled. 6,600-7,100 ft (2,000-2,200 m). 25-50 F (-4 to 10 C).
    Seems I can type directions and stats while absorbing nothing of them. Thus as I got into my tent on the 26th night of this test the red light sputtered and would not stay on. The white light sputtered and would stay on for about 10-15 seconds. Finally it occurred to me the trouble might have nothing to do with malfunction and might only be the factory-supplied batteries reaching full exhaustion. It is not possible for me to make a measured comparison with other headlamps as I most often replenish with batteries discarded by my frequent partner, who requires 'green scale' batteries at the start of every trip. I can only suspect the battery life seems short on the 160; and the vendor's stats would seem to indicate so. Of course I did use the lamp for 25 nights before the light quit; and I replenished with new batteries for the remainder of the test.
    Assuming I'll be able to remember, the 160 gives notice of weakening batteries via not holding a bright setting. Next time that happens, I'll know to change batteries before the next trip. I'm thinking that I'm more used to the light reducing to the point of nearly useless as a sign of needing replacement batteries, and I don't recall that I've ever had a headlamp simply quit. The 160 does give some warning, so I'm not going to make a big deal of it going dark. I won't toss batteries until they are fully shot. If it seems I'll need to carry spares, then I wouldn't actually be saving any weight with this little lamp.

    The 160 on bright makes enough light to hike a trail, particularly if I'm familiar with it anyway. The issue would be battery life, as two hours (factory stat) guarantees I'd need to carry spares.

    The vendor makes perfectly clear the purpose of the 160 and I find it meets the stated purpose--small, light lamp for camp use.

    In a previous Spot model test I whined that the lamp's switch was too easily activated. I'm finding the 160 switch maybe a little cumbersome. Part of the issue would be cold fat stubby fingers struggling to find the sweet spot. And even after hundreds of cycles, trial and error seems the most reliable method of cycling through red and white and off. Once in a while the light blinks, too, which I cannot intentionally replicate. I don't use the dimming function very much and simply leave the lamp on a medium-kind of setting. If I want it brighter, too often I hold the switch too long and the light starts over at the dimmest setting. I don't even know what the lamp might do at full setting as I don't know how to make it stop on that setting. On the other hand, the lamp has not once come on by itself, and I rarely bothered to use the lock feature.

Total testing nights: 37

SUMMARY: Light, small, bright enough for camp use, enough switch options.

Thank you Black Diamond and for the opportunity to test this product. This report concludes the test. 

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Reviews > Lighting > Headlamps - LED > Black Diamond SpotLite 160 Headlamp > Test Report by joe schaffer

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