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Reviews > Lighting > Headlamps - LED > Nite Ize INOVA STS Headlamp > Test Report by Jamie DeBenedetto
Product Information Back to contents
Field Tests July through September Back to contents
Since receiving the Nite Ize Inova STS Headlamp back in late June I've managed to use it on 7 night hikes. These ranged from 1.5 to 3 hours. All took place in our local desert preserves in Phoenix, Scottsdale or Cave Creek, Arizona. The hottest temperature experienced was 95 F / 35 C back in July and the coolest was 75 F / 24 C just last weekend. In all but one outing I had clear weather; the exception was a crazy down pour where we had several in/cm fall in less than an hour. I was heading toward the trailhead at the time so my exposure was only about 20 minutes but I was completely wet to the core by the time I reached my vehicle.
**The picture on the right was taken by a hiking friend, Patrick McHugh, the last night hike I took with the Inova Headlamp. I personally have not managed to get any decent pictures of me wearing the lamp so I thought at least a beautiful shot of our desert would spiff up this report.
Field Notes Back to contents
I'll be honest, my opinion of the Nite Ize Inova STS Headlamp is very mixed so far.
The STS Feature
I think it most fitting to comment first on the Swipe-to-Shine feature since this is, after all, the most unique aspect of this light. Initially I was concerned I would not be able to remember how to lock and unlock the light without a refresher read of the directions. Thankfully this was not an issue. With a bit of repetition at home I was able to recall the sequence in the field without incident. Remembering to lock the headlamp before storing it in my pack was the real trick. I was usually pretty good about doing this after a night of use but on one occasion my son borrowed the light to look for something in our backyard and he did not know about the lockout mode. Later that evening I discovered the Inova shining bright as can be inside my pack. I'm not certain how long it had been running (at high power mind you) since I don't know at what point it turned on after my son returned it to my backpack. Unfortunately, this flub-up affected me quite negatively on my next hike when about an hour into the walk the light output became drastically lessened. I did not have replacement batteries with me so I just had to make do.
Where the touch control became the biggest inconvenience for me was in attempts to fine tune the light output while walking. First off, it took me forever to find the right combination of swipe speed and finger pressure. Until I got the hang of this I had to swipe the interface multiple times before it would respond. That was very frustrating! I still have to make several attempts to get it into lockout mode when I'm putting it away.
Second, I found it annoying that I only had 2 seconds to decide how bright I would like the light to be. That didn't seem like a big deal when I was playing with the headlamp at home but out on the trail I often wanted to switch between settings based on my changing needs, map reading, watching for snakes, etc. Once set, however, the only way to adjust the brightness was to turn the lamp off and then turn it back on again. This process was very tedious and not very comforting when a brighter setting was needed in a hurry.
Lastly, I learned I had to keep my hand away from the face of the lamp when swiping, otherwise the very bright light hitting my hand would nearly blind me. Given the shorter run time at max output, the possibility of the light turning on while stored if not properly locked and this blinding issue, perhaps the start setting should be the dimmest mode instead of the brightest?
Comfort and Usefulness
I've found the Inova Headlamp to be perfectly comfortable. It's relatively low weight I think contributed to keeping the lamp in place on my forehead. The headband is soft and plenty stretchy, easily fitting over a ball cap and my ponytail. It's also very painless to fine-tune the fit once it's on, at least loosening, which can be done with one hand. Two hands are needed to tighten but that was simple as well. Adjusting the lamp angle was also a one-handed affair; however, I had to be careful not to swipe the STS interface while fiddling with positioning.
Having two different colors and five different settings for each was very handy. I found myself using the brightest setting the most while actively hiking because it's still snake season around here but medium power has also been sufficient for safe travel on our type of trails. Low worked fine for map reading, observing non-poisonous critters we didn't want to blind and for finding things inside my pack. Conversely, the red light was not effective with my maps as they all have red lettering making them indistinguishable under that color. Rest stops were where I found the red LED choice to be the most valuable. Among my hiking companions I was the only one able to keep my light on while standing with the group without worry of blinding everyone else.
The only real upkeep I've had to do with the headlamp is battery changes. I've had to replace them twice so far. The design Nite Ize uses is very secure, in fact it's so secure I've had a hard time getting it open with my fingers alone. Even with 50 degrees of tilt away from the headband portion of the bracket, getting my finger under the battery compartment latch so that it can be flipped up has been tricky. In fairness, I do keep my fingernails quite short, maybe if I had longer ones that would help. Ultimately, I have been able to get the latch open without assistance from a tool so it is doable, just not has fingernail friendly as I'd like.
Pros and Cons Thus Far Back to contents
Collective Use and Field Conditions Back to contents
In this last portion of the testing period I was able to get three more nights out with the Nite Ize Inova STS Headlamp, giving me a total of ten uses of varying lengths in the field.
Trip #1 - Hike/fishing trip to the Verde River near Fountain Hills, AZ, elevation 1,500 ft (460 m). Conditions were clear with temperatures between 84 and 75 F (29 and 24 C). In order to capitalize on the early evening fish activity my family and I stayed out past dark using the headlamp as our only source of light for the return trip to our vehicle. Use time was about 45 minutes total.
Trip #2 - Evening hike at Cave Creek Regional Park in Phoenix, AZ. Elevation is around 2,000 ft, (610 m), slightly lower at the creek. This was a 2.5 hour trek through Sonoran Desert terrain with some added boulder hopping along the creek. Temperatures were in the upper 70's F ( 26 C). I used the light for about 1.5 hours to navigate the creek, search for critter tracks, remove one very lethargic rattlesnake from the trail (pictured on the right) and to avoid way too much Jumping Cholla cactus on the hike back to the trailhead.
Trip #3 - Afternoon/evening hike through Sabino Canyon in Tucson, AZ. Elevation runs between 2,800 ft up to 3,300 ft (850 m to 1,000 m). Three hours of hiking on dirt track, in and out of the creek and on paved paths. The average temp was about 75 F (24 C). The headlamp was used for the last hour as we made our way down the mountain and back to the parking lot.
Long Term Conclusions Back to contents
These last few opportunities to use the light haven't yielded much new information from what I spelled out in my Field Report. One thing I did purposely tried to evaluate these final few months was the effectiveness of the light at lower settings. As we moved out of snake season into the cooler months I felt safe enough to attempt hiking with the headlamp on Medium and even Low power. Low, or as Nite Ize calls it, Variable Dim, was not effective at all. Medium was doable but not great. The trails on which I was using the light were rocky but for the most part not steep. Had I been on something with a higher risk of mechanical injury, I'd definitely want the high setting.
As far as durability the Inova Headlamp remains in good condition in spite of being dropped a couple of times. Once, as previously mentioned, while taking it out of the box and once while taking it out of my backpack at a trailhead. Both drops appear to have had no negative effects. The elastic headband is still in great shape and has not, thus far, accumulated any odor from my sweaty forehead. The bracket the lamp fits into which connects it to the headband and allows up and down tilt continues to work perfectly. I haven't had any problems with the light slipping out of place or popping off the bracket.
Final Thoughts Back to contents
My overall opinion of the Inova Headlamp remains mixed. On one hand it does, very competently, serve its main function as an exceedingly bright and versatile light source. I was especially pleased with the red LED option. The lamp is also lightweight enough so as to be completely comfortable on my head even under hot and humid conditions. Where the path goes dark for me is the somewhat temperamental nature of the STS or Swipe-to-Shine feature. I love the innovative technology; I just feel there are a few more kinks that need to be worked out before this lamp becomes hands free awesomeness. I would especially like to see the sequence of light output reversed so that dim is first. I think this would save quite a lot of battery power and mitigate a few other potential negatives as well.
I do plan to keep using the Inova Headlamp, primarily because it is the only lamp I own with a red light choice. This feature alone makes it worth it. Now if Nite Ize would only add a black light to the options list, then we'd really have something. Although, I'd be hard pressed to keep my kids from stealing it, they do love looking for scorpions on our night hikes!
Thanks for reading. . I hope you found the information helpful. My thanks for Nite Ize and Backpackgeartest.org for allowing me to be part of this test series.
- Jamie J. DeBenedetto
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