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Reviews > Lighting > Headlamps - LED > Essential Gear K2 Focus Headlamp > Test Report by Ralph Ditton

Essential Gear K2 Focus Control Plus Headlamp
Test Series by: Ralph Ditton
Initial Report: 10th April, 2009
Field Report: 9th June, 2009
Long Term Report: 2nd August, 2009

Personal Information
Name: Ralph Ditton
Age: 57
Height: 1. 76 m (5 ft 9 in)
Weight: 71 kg (156 lb)
Email: rdassetts AT optusnet DOT com DOT au
Location: Perth, Western Australia

Bushwalking Background
I have been bushwalking for over nine years. My playgrounds are the Darling Range, Bibbulmun Track and the Coastal Plain Trail. I aim to become an end-to-end walker of the 964 km (603 mi) Bibbulmun Track. I have just on 200 km (124 mi) to go. My pack weight including food and water tends to hover around 18 kg (40 lb) but I am trying to get lighter. My trips range from overnighters to five days duration. My shelter of choice is normally a tent.


Product Information
Manufacturer: Essential Gear, Inc.
Year of Manufacturer: 2009
URL: http://www.essentialgear.com
MSRP: US$55.00
Batteries: 3 x 1.5V  AA size Alkaline Batteries
Manufacturer's stated weight: 155 g (5 oz) with batteries
Measured weight: 202 g (7.1 oz) with batteries
Measured weight without batteries: 130 g (4.5 oz)
Measured weight of 3 AA batteries: 72 g (2.5 oz)
Bulb type: 1 x K2 Luxeon White LED
                 5 mm LED's (Red, Blue, Green)
Made in: China
Warranty: Limited Lifetime

Dimensions Listed
Headlamp: 72 x 53 x 43 mm (2.8 x 2 x 1.7 in)
Battery Pack: 82 x 51 x 29 mm (3.2 x 2 x 1 in)
Measured
Headlamp: 72 x 53 x 43 mm (2.8 x 2 x 1.7 in)
Battery Pack: 82 x 51 x 29 mm (3.2 x 2 x 1 in)
Output Power K2 white LED     *Up to 85 lumens
5 mm LED's        *Up to 1.8 lumens
Measured over 61 cm (2 ft) 84 lumens
Measured over 61 cm (2 ft) 1.9 lumens
Battery Life K2 White LED    * 16 hrs HIGH (Maximum Output: 7 hrs)
                         * 32 hrs LOW
                         * 48 hrs FLASHING
5 mm LED's        *240 hrs (Red, Blue, Green)
                         * 500 hrs (Red LED Flashing)
Not measured
Not measured
Not measured
Not measured
Not measured

Product Description
The lamp and its components are housed in a blister pack, which in turn is in a cardboard display package. Within the blister pack are the headlamp itself with side and over-the-head straps attached and three Duracell AA alkaline batteries.

                                                       lamp in blister pack
The instructions are on the reverse of the blister pack in English only.

                                                  rear of blister pack
What I received matched my expectations from the manufacturer's web site.

Battery Compartment
The three AA batteries that power the K2 are directly housed in the battery compartment. There is no battery tray that slides in and out like other headlamps with a rear battery compartment that I own.
The cap to the battery compartment is on the side and to open requires a twist anti clockwise. There are "Open" arrows pointing out the direction.
To close, twist clockwise and the side locks slip over the lugs on the battery compartment, locking the cap in place.
For waterproofness, there is a rubber gasket on the battery cap, recessed into a groove. It appears to be firmly in place and will not fall off unlike another headlamp that I own where the gasket just rest in a groove and falls out when the battery compartment is inverted.

                                        battery compartment
The cap is anchored to the battery compartment by a strip of white plastic. When fully extended out, there is enough room to insert and withdraw the batteries without any difficulties.

On the back panel of the battery compartment is a long thin light lens for the Red Rear Safety Light to show in either a steady red light or a flashing red light.
To turn this light on there is an On/Off switch on the opposite end of the battery compartment to the battery cap.

Whilst on the battery compartment, there is no mention on the manufacturer's web or with the packaging if other battery types can be used such as rechargeable Nicad or NiMH or Lithium (L91). If other battery types can be used will there be reduced brightness in some modes due to lower voltage?

For comfort, there is moulded to the battery compartment, a shaped pad with a rubber insert that cups the back of the head. I can push the rubber pad in easily with my finger applying a little bit of pressure so there is some rigidity to it. The rubber pad sits out from the moulded shaped plastic housing just far enough so that the edges of the moulding do not dig into the head.
From this moulded, shaped housing are the strap clasps that the headbands attaches to.
I discovered that one of the strap ends had half come off one of the clasp. There is a very small gate (gap) at the halfway point on the outside of the clasp to feed the strap through. I had great difficulty in getting the strap fully housed through that tiny gate. Perhaps the gate could be a tad larger by say 1 to 1.5 mm (0.04 to 0.06 in). It would make life so much easier to fit the strap should it come out again.

Directly above the On/Off switch on the battery pack is the power cable leading to the business end of the headlamp. Near the battery compartment, the cable is coiled for 45 mm (1.8 in) along its length to allow for expansion of larger head sizes (together with adjustment to the headbands of course).
There are two clips on the side headband that hold the power cable close so as to minimize the risk of shrubbery/vegetation catching on it.

Lamp design
There appears to be no heatsink feature to dissipate heat from the
K2 Luxeon White LED. The instructions state that the lamp can become extremely hot after extended use. It must have sufficient ventilation when being used, (no problem out in the open) and make sure that the lamp is completely cooled before touching its head.
This raises the question of "How long is extended use?"

The lamp is hinged at the bottom of the sides of the base plate, and can rotate through 90 degrees. It is very clicky when being rotated.
The lamp is able to be rotated to any angle below the horizontal plane, but it can't be rotated upwards because of where it is hinged. I have to tilt my head back.

                                        front of lamp

The K2 Luxeon White LED is housed in a collimator assembly.
Directly below the lens and attached to it is the Focus Control lever. Sliding the lever from left to right whilst on my head, the focus goes from 1 (Flood) to 4 (Spot).
By moving the lever, the aperture behind the bulb narrows and the reflector cone narrows and moves forward to give a more focused light.
The beam's angle changes from 15 degrees (long spot) to 40 degrees (bigger peripheral coverage).

Three 5 mm LED's are housed above the main K2 LED in an arc. The one on the right whilst on my head gives a blue light, the middle one gives a red light and the left one gives a green light.
The three 5 mm LED's cannot be all turned on at the same time. They are all independent.

The rear of the light housing has three clasps for the headbands to pass through. There is one on the top and the other two are each located on the opposite sides.

Operation
On top of the lamp housing is the orange On/Off button.
This is where the fun begins.
As there is only one button, no toggle switch or alternate pressure pads to switch between functions it took me a little practice to work it out.
The instructions that are printed on the card that came with the lamp are very light on in detail. All it says is "Press 3 seconds for Independent Operation of K2 LED or 5 mm LED's.
Press Off if it stays at Any Mode over 3 seconds"

Probably the best way to describe the button operations is by way of the following table.
Press On/Off Button K2 White Light 5mm coloured mode Battery Compartment light
1st time High Blue Red
2nd time Low Green Flashing red
3rd time Flashing Red Off
4th time Off Flashing red
5th time Off

To switch between the K2 light and coloured lights, I have to hold the On/Off button down for 3 seconds. Say I am going from the K2 white light. I press the button down for 3 seconds and the 5mm blue light comes on. If I wanted to use the green light then I just press the On/Off button quickly. If I press it too hard, the lamp turns off. By pressing it quickly and not too hard it switches between the various colours.
It is a little bit tricky but with practice I am getting the hang of it.

Initial Impression
I was surprised at how light it was without batteries in. After putting the batteries in I then weighed it on my electronic scales and found it to be heavier that the manufacturer's stated listed weight by 67 g (2.3 oz). I cannot explain the difference.

The next step was of course to switch the lamp on to see how good the various beams were. This is where I ran into a bit of bother trying to figure out the button pressing functions to arrive at the desired light mode.
As mentioned above, the instructions are very basic so it was really a trial and error method.
I am able to get to the mode I want without any difficulty now. The manufacturer calls it a "Smart switch".

By being able to focus the K2 light I was impressed but for some unexplained reason I was expecting a wider spread. This has been a big drawback of LED lights. The 1 watt plus LED lights from my experience have all been fixed into a spot function and there have been times when I wanted a flood of light over a wider area. This lamp will go some way to give me that ability.
The lever that operates the Focus Control is quite stiff to operate. I have to use a bit of effort to move the lever with my thumb when the lamp is on my head.

With the blue and green modes for night vision, the manufacturer has taken into account the scotopic (the ability to see in dim light) aspect of the human eye, hence the different coloured modes. Our vision has reduced sensitivity to red wavelengths and increased sensitivity to wavelengths from mid-blue to mid-green.
I suspect that I will be using the green more than the blue as my initial trial run at home favours the green. Time will tell.

The head straps are very easy to adjust through the buckle on each strap. As previously mentioned, the gate through which the strap is initially fitted into the clasp is very small. I found it very frustrating trying to replace the headband back through the gate. At the risk of repeating myself, the gate need to be a bit wider.

I found the lamp very comfortable on my head. The battery compartment at the rear gives the unit a nice balance. At this stage I have not worn it for more than a few minutes at a time.
The true test will come from using it for hours on end.
Whatever angle I placed the lamp, it stayed there. No hint of slowly sinking downwards. The ratchet system seems to be effective. I do wonder that over time if they get worn causing the lamp to drop forward when at an angle.

The manufacturer's listed lumens for the various LED's are very close to what my light metre recorded. I measured the light intensity from a distance of 61 cm (2 ft). I do not know what distance the manufacturer used. My light meter instructions state that there can be a 2 percent error either way.

At this stage I am very impressed by the unit and look forward to putting it through its paces.

Things I like
  • Focus control
  • Different coloured modes
  • Battery compartment locking cap
  • Reasonably lightweight compared to my other headlamps
  • Lamp stays in place when ratcheted to the desired angle
Things I do not like
  • Gate on clasp too narrow
  • Instructions for button operation very sketchy
  • No mention if other battery types can be used safely
FIELD REPORT
DATE:
9th June, 2009

My first outing with the headlamp was to my favourite stamping ground, the Coastal Plain Trail and my friend and I stayed at the Prickly Bark shelter.
The campsite sits at an elevation of 83 m (272 ft) amongst Banksia trees on top of a large sand dune that has shrubs, grass and wildflowers.

Sunset was at 5.59 pm but there was still a good amount of an ambient glow from the sun for a good twenty minutes where I did not need to use the headlamp.
When the ambient light disappeared, I then turned on the headlamp using the K2 Luxeon White LED. I needed this light source so that I could prepare and cook my evening meal of steak and boiled potatoes.
The temperature during the evening until I went to bed around 11 pm was between 18 - 20 C (64 - 68 F). It got slightly warmer as the evening went on due to the rain. The night sky was initially cloudy, then partly cloudy and the moon in its last quarter phase rose at 8.56 pm. Rain was intermittent during the evening and stopped at 9.51 pm. The rainfall was 6.4 mm (0.25 in). [Source: Bureau of Meteorology].
The reflected light from the moon that night when the rain was not falling, was not very much, considering that with a full moon on a clear night the amount of light shining on a flat surface is 0.25 lux. A lux measures how well a light source illuminates a surface or area.

                                            wearing the headlamp

Apart from cooking tea with the help of my camping mate, we then sat down to many hours of playing Yahtzee under our respective headlamps. I used the white light with the setting at 1X, the widest beam setting.

During the course of the game I experimented with the coloured lights.

                                            using the blue light
The distance from my eye to the table top where we were playing was between 40 and 50 cm (16 - 20 in). I took the measurements from 40 cm (16 in).
 Light colourDistance from eyesDiameter of usable light castLux
Blue light40 cm (16 in)20 cm (8 in)230
Green light40 cm (16 in)20 cm (8 in)200
Red light40 cm (16 in)14 cm (5.5 in)253
White light40 cm (16 in)34 cm (13 in)1318

Due to the small radius of light cast at the small distance, we needed the two headlamps to light up the playing area on the table. It was not very successful just using my headlamp with the colours because of the small area of light we had to try and play in. We gave up on the coloured lights very quickly. The other headlamp does not have different colour options.
Also, the white light radius needed help from the other headlamp even though the diameter was wider. We were sitting opposite each other across a table about 1 metre (39 in) wide).

I took a photo of my friends backpack hanging on the wall using the white light and no camera flash, then did the same with the blue light. I have inserted only what the blue light picked up into the photo for comparison. The handle of the broom lights up as it is white and the buckles from the backpack appear as "bites" out of the handle.

                                            white and blue light comparisons

My next outing was to Jarrahdale for the Perth Bushwalkers 40th anniversary where we stayed in little chalets sharing rooms.
The night time temperature before going to bed hovered around 6 C (43 F) and the night was still with dew forming. Elevation was around 240 m (787 ft).

I used the headlamp with the white light for outside activities and as I was not in full testing mode, I did not have my light metre with me. I just used the headlamp normally to carry out my activities.

In the morning when another resident wanted to ignite the gas griller on the stove, the kitchen light was not strong enough and he could not find the gas outlet to ignite.
Using my headlamp, I shone the white light into the griller area but found that it was far too bright for the narrow opening so I used the green light to show up the gas outlet. Once located, the griller was successfully lit.

At home I had to resort to using the headlamp when there was a power failure around 7pm. It was quite dark outside and very dark inside the home. Using the headlamp, I checked the metre box for any possible tripped fuses.
Playing around with the various colours, the panel of fuses showed up well under all lights and I could read the "ON" on the fuse levers.
It turned out to be a problem down the street as a number of homes were without power.

In the next testing phase I have many more overnight trips planned so the headlamp will get a good workout.

There has been no change to my "Likes" and "Dislikes".

LONG TERM REPORT
DATE:
2nd August, 2009

Our long Indian Summer weather conditions (even though it is winter) broke with a vengeance and the rain decided to play catch up with the annual average which was streets ahead of actual rain fallen to date by 200 mm (7.8 in).

My camping location was Potters Gorge which is on the banks of Wellington Dam in the South West of the state. Elevation is 100 m (328 ft) and the average overnight temperature was 8 C (46 F).

From when I pitched my tent at lunchtime before our walk (it was just spitting) and got up in the morning at 6.30 am, the area had 56 mm (2.2 in) of rain with 25 mm (1 in) falling whilst in bed. Wind was from the WNW averaging 10 knots with frequent gust during the evening/night between 18 and 21 knots. (Source: Bureau of Meteorology).

The above sets the scene for the conditions in which I used the headlamp whilst cooking the evening meal and socialising.
It got dark at 5.30 pm and that is when I needed the headlamp to start getting my cooking gear together to cook the meal later on. We had to do it in shifts as there was only limited space under the tarp for cooking purposes. There were seven of us vying for a position.

A colleague and I jerry rigged a tarp over a park table and seats to dry off and use as our cooking/meal area in the rain.

                                         tarp over table

Whilst cooking my meal of veal schnitzel, jacket potatoes and peas I used the white LED with the setting at 1X. I had no need to focus the beam to a narrower setting as I had plenty of light and did not want to blind people opposite me.

After cooking my meal and waiting for others then to cook theirs I switched the headlamp to the green LED. I was able to look people in the face up and down the table and opposite me without blinding them. I only switched back to the white LED when I brewed up two pots of mulled wine for the group then reverted back to the green LED after I had finished doling out the wine and drinking it with much appreciation.

My next outing was back to my old stamping ground of Prickly Bark. It is located at S 31 42.800' E 115 56.981 on the Coastal Plain Walk Trail and sits at an elevation of 83 m (272 ft) as measured by my Garmin Geko 301 GPS.

I spent two nights at this location.

The first night the weather was fine with the wind blowing at an average of 7 knots from ENE and swinging around to NNE. Relative Humidity averaged 70% and the overnight temperature was 11 C (52 F).

For the second night the forecast was correct and around 10 pm it started to rain steadily until 5 am. 6 mm (0.3 in) of rain fell. Wind was  blowing at 17 knots from the NNE.

I used the white light for cooking and after the evening meal I then alternated between the red, blue and green lights just to test them out and see what detail that showed up in the hut's darkness.

My tent was pitched some 40 metres (130 ft) away and the Kelty guy lines which are a gold, nylon cord with reflective yarns still showed up at that distance.
The blue light just barely got the reflective yarns to show up. The green was much better but the red really highlighted the guy lines. The red was the standout of the three colours.

Having said that, the white light was by far the best.

I have not changed the batteries since the initial use and I estimate that I have had a cumulative burn time of 20 hours.

The light metre recorded a lux of 566 at 2.5 magnification of the zoom from a distance of 700 mm (28 in).
That was from my forehead to the table whilst standing with my head bent slightly forward.
The diameter of the white light was 450 mm (18 in).
This light was very adequate for the cooking task and other activities that I undertook over the two nights.

                                         making mulled wine 

Summary
My "Likes and "Dislikes" have not altered over the testing period.

I am extremely happy that when I angle the headlamp it stays in that position. The ratchet system has not shown any signs of wear.

The white light beam is still very strong with the original batteries still in place.

My personal preference for a light around the camp when I did not need to see fine detail was the green light.

I could talk to fellow campers without dazzling their eyes.
Needless to say they all wanted to have a look and play with my headlamp with the various coloured light options.
They all quickly mastered the switching between the various options.

This headlamp will be my first choice of my headlamps to go into my backpack because of its low weight and light options.

Thanks to Essential Gear and BackPackGearTest for the chance to test this headlamp.



Read more reviews of Essential Gear gear
Read more gear reviews by Ralph Ditton

Reviews > Lighting > Headlamps - LED > Essential Gear K2 Focus Headlamp > Test Report by Ralph Ditton



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