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Reviews > Lighting > Headlamps - LED > Nite Ize INOVA STS Headlamp > Test Report by Larry Kirschner

NiteIze Inova STS Headlamp

TEST SERIES BY LARRY KIRSCHNER

NiteIze Inova Headlamp
(Image Courtesy of NiteIze)


INITIAL REPORT - July 27, 2014
FIELD REPORT - November 9, 2014
LONG-TERM REPORT - Jan 2, 2015



TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Larry Kirschner
EMAIL: asklarry98 at hotmail dot com
AGE: 50
LOCATION: Columbus, Ohio
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 210 lb (95 kg)

I've been an intermittent camper/paddler since my teens, but when my kids were avid Boy Scouts, I caught the backpacking bug. Now that they have grown up, my wife and I plan to continue our adventures on the trail. I consider myself a mid-weight backpacker because I like comfort, but I can always learn to go lighter and longer.


INITIAL REPORT
July 27, 2014

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: NiteIze
Year of Manufacture: 2013
Country of Manufacture: designed in USA, manufactured in China
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.niteize.com
MSRP: USD $34.99

Color: Blue, Charcoal, Orange
Weight: Measured 95 g (3.35 oz), including headband and batteries (non-digital scale)


ITEM DESCRIPTION

The NiteIze Inova STS Headlamp is a traditional headlamp with a twist-there are no buttons controlling the light source. Instead, the light is turned controlled using "Swipe to Shine" (STS) technology, which basically involves a small touch pad on the top of the lamp. The light is adjusted by swiping across the pad or holding pressure on the pad, depending on what is the adjustment being made. I will discuss STS more below, but let me first describe the basic features of the headlamp. There is a plastic casing for the lamp, and a 1 inch (2.54cm) wide elastic headband. The headband is threaded through a plastic clip which has arms to hold the lamp casing. The headlamp was not attached to the band when I removed it from the packaging, but it was a snap to put it together. The headlamp can pivot from horizontal to 50 degrees of arc by a ratchet mechanism which holds it at the desired angle. The light is rated waterproof to 1 m (3.3 ft) and impact resistant also to 1 m (3.3 ft). Per the manufacturer's specs, it has a range on the brightest setting of 84 m (276 ft). The other specs are as follows: High Low Lowest (dimmer) Lumens Run time Lumens Run time Lumens Run time White 142 4h 40 min 40 26 h 40 min 3 255 h Red 8 36 h 2 317 h 0.2 602 h


High
Low
Lowest (dimmer)

Lumens
Run time
Lumens
Run time
Lumens
Run time
White
142
4 h 40 min
40
26h 40 min
3
255 h
Red
8
36 h
2
317 h
0.2
602 h


The LED headlamp has the white light located centrally in the case, as well as two small red lights which are located on either side.

front of headlamp

The red lights are used together, so either both are on or both are off. The controls of this lamp are set up so that white and red cannot both be on at the same time, which makes a lot of sense. Both white and red have a high and a low setting, and can also be set to flashing mode. In addition, both lights can be fully adjusted to a level anywhere between the maximum and minimum. There is also a lockout mode, which means that the headlamp can be set so that it does not accidentally get turned on when it is bumped. I think this is an important feature of this headlamp, especially given the control mechanism for the lamps.

The top surface of the headlamp has two arrows, a leftward pointing white arrow, and a rightward pointing red arrow.

inova arrows

If I swipe to the left, the white light goes on. If I swipe to the right, the red light goes on. Simple! The other light modes are also fairly straightforward. When the light is off, one swipe to the left sets the headlamp on its brightest setting, two swipes in a row gives the low setting, and three swipes sets the flashing mode. To make the light level adjustable, I have to swipe once then hold the pad down. The light level cycles smoothly from brightest to dimmest, then back again. If I keep holding, the light level will continue to cycle from bright to dim. However, when I reach the level I like, I just take my finger off the pad and the intensity is fixed. Once the light is on, sweeping once in the other direction turns it off. The function is exactly the same for the red light, except all the swiping is in the opposite direction.

With all this swiping to turn on and off, I would be worried that the headlamp would get jostled and turn on and off a lot in my pack. However, NiteIze has also thought of this, so they have developed a lockout mechanism. To engage the lockout, I can press with two fingers on the top of the pad until the red light blinks. Swiping to one side (either way) will engage the lock. To disengage, I again press with two fingers until the white light blinks once, then swipe right or left depending on if I want the white or red light on.

For power, the Inova STS uses 3 AAA batteries. There is a small metal cam locking mechanism which holds the batteries into the headlamp. The batteries can be changed while the lamp is attached to the headband.

battery gasket




INSTRUCTIONS and WARRANTY

I have described the use of the STS mechanisms and how to change the batteries, which were explained in the instructions that accompanied the headlamp. Instructions are also included in a variety of other languages, including French, Spanish, Italian, and a few others. The instructions also indicate that the STS system may not work if my finger or the headlamp is wet.

The instructions also include the "No worries guarantee", which states "We want you to be happy with your purchase of an INOVA headlamp, and that includes having confidence that we stand behind our product 100%. We use only the highest quality materials and designs, but it doesn't change the fact that some things-LEDs, rechargeable batteries, switches-don't last forever. We'll replace these for the first three years and we got your back on everything else as long as you own the headlamp, no worries." There is also a Warranty which spells things out more clearly, basically stating that NiteIze will warranty against manufacturing defects for the life of the product, and replace the items noted above for 3 years, as stated. They also indicate that the warranty does not apply if the headlamp is damaged by abuse or misuse, or if the product is damaged by faulty batteries.


INITIAL IMPRESSIONS and TRYING IT OUT

I was a little uncertain how the STS technology would work, but I have been pleasantly surprised that it all runs quite smoothly in my hands. It is fairly intuitive to get the lights on and off, and adjusting is fine. In terms of the light output, I tried turning the light on and off a few times in my kitchen. 2 or 3 people in the house commented how bright the light was (and asked me to stop shining it in their faces!). I haven't taken it on the trail yet, but I don't think that low light output will be a problem! The headband is comfortable and I like the ability to adjust the angle of the lamp.




EXPECTATIONS for the NiteIze Inova STS headlamp:

I'm intrigued by the STS technology, so I'm anxious to see how this light works on the trail. I'm wondering if I will remember to engage the lockout before I throw it in my pack in the morning, but I will have to see. I'm also intrigued to see how long the batteries last, because the lifetime seems quite long, which is a good thing.


THE STORY SO FAR
    Impressive
  • Interesting technology that works well
  • Different lights and light modes
  • Comfortable to wear
    Concerns
  • none at the moment
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FIELD REPORT

November 9, 2014


FIELD CONDITIONS

During the past 2 months, I have taken the NiteIze with me on three trips. The first was a weekend backpacking trip on the Twin Valley Trail in Germantown, Ohio in mid-August. We hiked 12 miles/19 kilometers over 2, doing most of the work (10 mi/16 km) on day 1 and the remainder on day 2. The weather was surprisingly cool the first night (low of 49 F/9.5 C) but beautiful for backpacking during the day (high of 77 F/25 C) although we did get some rain late in the afternoon and early evening. The second night was warmer and humid, with an overnight low of 64 F /18 C and a high of 75 F/24 C, with threatening skies which did not rain on us the rest of the trip. The second was an overnight camping trip at a local park which did not involve any backpacking. It was nice camping weather (53 F/12 C) with a few sprinkles in the morning. The third trip was another weekend backpacking trip on the Wildcat Hollow trail in Corning, Ohio, where we hiked 15 miles. It was rainy and dark when we got to the trailhead to set up on Friday, with temperatures down to about 47 F/8.3 C). It had stopped raining in the morning, and the rest of the trip wasn't bad, with sunny and cool weather with a high of 62 F /16.6 C and a low of 39 F/4C overnight on Saturday, and temps up to 62 F on Sunday.


FIELD EXPERIENCE

The first thing I noticed about the NiteIze when I used it on the trail is that the white light on this headlamp is BRIGHT. Even the lower setting provides a lot of light, making it uncomfortable to look someone in the eye (uncomfortable for them, that is) when I'm wearing it. On the trail, the higher (default) light setting sends a beam that makes it easy to see for >100 feet, and even the lower setting provides more light than I typically need. What I found myself doing was using the variable setting and bring the level down about as low as it could go. At this setting, I still had plenty of light to manage around the campsite or read when in my sleeping bag. I don't tend to use the right light a lot, but I found that it was also pretty bright. When I tried it out, I typically used the lower static setting, which provided plenty of illumination.

The second thing about the NiteIze is that the controls are not especially intuitive. It is simple enough to swipe once to turn on or off. However, when I wanted to adjust the light setting or set it in lock mode before packing in the morning, it usually took me 2-3 tries before I remembered the sequence of swipes, holds, or pushes to get the desired effects. This is not really a big problem, but when I get to camp tired from backpacking, I like things to be simple.

In terms of battery life, I have now used the headlamp 5 days on the trail, and it shows no signs of running out of juice. I typically lock the headlamp before putting it my backpack, and I have not had any problem with it turning on by itself. I need to check to see if this is necessary or not, which I will work on for the long-term report. The headlamp shows no visible signs of wear and tear. Given that I am pretty careful with my gear, I wouldn't expect to see any in a headlamp, but it is always nice to be sure.


FIELD IMPRESSIONS

To date, I think the NiteIze Inova is a really nice headlamp. Although I still think the swipe-to-shine technology is neat, I'm a little less enamored of it on the trail, as it requires me to be able to remember how to adjust it, and higher thought is not always completely functional on the trail. Still, it is quite bright and I really do like its functions once I have them figured out.

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LONG-TERM REPORT
January 2, 2015

FIELD CONDITIONS AND EXPERIENCE

The long-term phase of the reporting period has been fairly quiet. I spent a weekend in mid-November cabin camping in the Newark, Ohio area. It was a cold weekend, with outside temperatures that ranged from 25 F/-3 C up to about 35 F/2 C. The little lake outside the cabin was frozen over, but the ice was not thick enough to walk on (although I admit that I did not try to test it). The cabin had a wood-burning stove for heat, although it was cold when I arrived on Friday night. It was probably around 40 F/4 C the first night, but closer to 60 F/15 C most of the weekend.

snowy cabin

In addition to using the NiteIze on that trip, I have also used it to provide lighting for projects around the house, including some plumbing work and some work in the small cedar closet. Both of these are small spaces with poor lighting, so the extra light was definitely necessary.

When I took the NiteIze camping, it had been a couple of weeks since the prior usage. I didn't look at the instructions (who would?) so it took me a few minutes to recall how to use the features of the headlamp. As before, I generally found the regular setting much too bright, so used it mostly on the lowest setting I could get. I also got up during the night to check on the fire, at which time I used the red light, which was quite handy and did not disturb my sleeping cabin mates.

When using the headlamp under the sink, I found the ability to adjust the angle of the light quite handy. Whether I was using it on my head or had it sitting on the ground pointing upwards at the pipes, the adjustability was quite helpful.

Lastly, because it is now winter in Ohio, I wanted to test to see if I could use this headlamp while wearing gloves. First, I tested a pair of lightweight polyester gloves (DeFeet Duragloves, which I have previously tested for BackpackGearTest.org). These gloves would be the type I might use for cool weather hiking, with temperatures in the upper 40's or 50's F (8-12 C). With these gloves, the Swipe-to-Shine pad worked quite well. Next, I tried a pair of somewhat thicker gloves with a polyester lining and a thicker nylon covering. These are gloves I might wear with temperatures in the 30's - 40's F range (2-7 C) and were the gloves I wore on the trip described above, because I thought I might need to use my hands for an outdoor project. Although these gloves have polyester pads on the fingertips, use of the Inova was very spotty. If I concentrated hard, I was able to get the Inova to turn on or off, but it usually took a couple of tries. However, I couldn't get the advanced features to work. Finally, I tried a pair of thick nylon gloves, which I might wear for temperatures in the mid 30's or lower, or for skiing or other types of snowsports. With these gloves, I needed to take my hands out in order to use the headlamp. I also have ski mittens for colder days, but I didn't even try them. Besides, I can't see myself needing a headlamp under those conditions (at least I hope so). My conclusion from this testing is that the technology works OK with lightweight gloves, but for anything beyond that, I would probably need to remove the gloves to make the STS work.

In terms of longevity, I haven't used this headlamp extensively, but after 6 nights plus a bunch of other assorted usage, there is no sign that the batteries are wearing out. As mentioned above, usually the dimmest setting is sufficient, so with a projected usage of over 250 hours, there should be no problem with battery life for trips lasting less than a few weeks, assuming usage of up to a few hours each evening, which is typical for me.



SUMMARY

Overall, I think this is a well-made headlamp with a lot of nice features, including adjustable light intensity and a sturdy and adjustable case. Although I think the Swipe-to-Shine technology is cool and it generally works quite well, I don't think I prefer it over a 'standard' button-operated style. The reason I say this is because every time I pick up the headlamp, I have to try to recall the sequences of sweeps and taps to turn it on and off, adjust the setting, and get the lock on or off. Plus, as I described at the end of the report, using the headlamp with gloves is much trickier than other headlamps I have used that have large buttons on them.

Things I liked about the NiteIze Inova headlamp:
  • Good range of light--from very bright to low light
  • White and red lights
  • Light can be locked to prevent it accidentally turning on
  • Good battery life
  • Light case and headband are well made and comfortable
  • Locking cam system makes changing the batteries easy
Things I disliked about the NiteIze Inova headlamp:
  • Requires brain function to recall correct sequences of swipes/taps to get functions
  • Difficult to use while wearing gloves


Thanks to NiteIze for providing this headlamp for testing, and to BackpackGearTest.org for giving me the chance to participate in the evaluation process.

-larry kirschner


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