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Reviews > Lighting > Headlamps - LED > Nite Ize INOVA STS Headlamp > Test Report by Theresa Lawrence
NITE IZE INOVA STS HEADLAMP
Field Report - Oct 7/14
I have more than 15 years of backpacking experience. Day hikes and 2-3 day backpacking trips take place on most weekends throughout the year while longer trips are only occasional. I backpack predominantly in mountain terrain (Coast Range, Cascades and Canadian Rockies) with the goal of summiting peaks. Activities I use my gear with include mountaineering, ski touring, rock climbing, kayaking, biking, trail running, Search and Rescue and overseas travel. I like my gear to be reasonably light, convenient and simple to use though I would not claim to be a lightweight hiker.
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DESCRIPTION & FEATURESThe Nite Ize Inova STS headlamp showed up in blue color at my door looking like any typical hands free headlamp. It has a tight woven stretchy adjustable strap to accommodate a range of head sizes and helmets. The headlamp itself has a mount with 50 degrees of adjustable angle. The battery compartment comes with 3 AAA Energizer batteries and has a clasp and hinge opening. The headlamp is waterproof and impact resistant to 1 m (3.28 ft). The farthest range of light covered is 84 m (275 ft). Getting more technical, this headlamp has many unique features. First off there is both red and white light and each has 5 different settings (high power, variable dim, medium power, strobe and lockout). These settings are accessed by the swipe of a finger or the holding of two fingers on the top (where a button would normally be). The high powered setting provides 142 lumen of light (8 lumen for red light) with a run time of 4 hours and 40 minutes (36 hours for red light). Medium power provides 40 lumen (2 red) with a run time of 26 hours and 40 minutes (317 hours for red). The variable dim (low) setting provides 3 lumen of light (0.2 red) and 255 hours of run time (602 hours of red).
TRYING IT ON & FIRST IMPRESSIONS
Following the instructions I was able to go through all the settings and lock it out. I learned that swiping to the right, in the direction of the red arrow on the swipe pad, brought on the first setting of the red light and left, in the direction of the white arrow, brought on the white light. But unfortunately, while it's on my head, I couldn't see the red or white arrows, so I have committed them to memory. Right for red (R for R) and left for light (L for L), that should do the trick. Now to go between modes was one swipe for high power, 2 swipes for medium power and 3 swipes for strobe. The swipes I learned must be repeated within 2 seconds to register the command. Also, in any mode after 3 seconds, swiping once turned the light off. Now, getting into the variable dim setting was really interesting. Swipe once into high power (red or white), then immediately hold anywhere on the swipe pad. The light would start to dim and blink once when lowest dim was reached then started increasing brightness to maximum. It continued progressing dim to bright and vice versa until I released my hold at the light dimness of my choosing. Pretty cool feature. That was rather sneaky, but I think I've got it. So, on to putting it into lock mode so that I could store it without it accidentally going off. The trick was while in off mode, I place two fingers on the swipe pad and hold it there till the red LEDs blinked once. Then within 1 second I had to swipe in either direction causing the red LEDs to blink rapidly, signaling that I was locked out. If the pad is swiped in locked mode the red LEDs will blink rapidly then turn off. To get out of locked mode, the actions were the same, but with the white light signaling instead. Very technical and fancy, but once the secret is known, it was not so difficult to use. Well, I'll be able to tell more when I'm out and about using it.
The instructions also had a worrisome statement in bold indicating that the swipe pad and fingers used to swipe must be dry. Naturally, this is a little concerning given that weather isn't so cooperative in my experience. And another concern comes up as to whether I will be able to swipe with gloves. Stay tuned to find out my observations in a couple of months.
Over the past couple months I have used the Nite Ize Inova STS headlamp on four backpacking nights, ten car camping nights and one Search and Rescue training practice. Fortunately for me all were dry, warm and lovely summer nights. Temperatures ranged from 3 to 25 C (37 to 77 F) and terrain encountered was mainly uneven hiking trails and grassy meadows.
I've noticed on a number of occasions that the swipe interface didn't respond immediately and took quite a few swipes from me to register the command. I wasn't sure if it was my swiping being too light or too hard because I haven't found a consistent pattern to lead me to any conclusion as to what type of swipe best gave a response. It seemed to me that the sensitivity was random. On one occasion I could not for the life of me get a successful swipe with my right hand, but on the first try with my left, the light came on. That's just one example of the many scenarios that had me scratching my head. Needless to say these types of observations were very frustrating and very distressing when in the dark and the swiping was not resulting in any light.
However, once the light was on and I had managed to achieve the desired setting for the task, the light worked great. The field of visibility and amount of light was always sufficient for what I needed to do. From cooking or setting up a tent in the dark, to walking a trail, I was happy with the light and the variety of settings offered. I found that I didn't use the red light as I haven't really found a use for it yet. Being able to adjust the angle of the light was helpful and accommodated a useful range of angles.
I did have a malfunction issue occur where the headlamp would not turn on and I thought it was the battery. After stressing about what it could be and replacing the batteries to no effect, I discovered that the metal contact point for one of the batteries had slipped off of its secured spot. Once I discovered this I was able to click it back into place and haven't had a problem since. I did find that it was difficult to reach the clasp to open the battery compartment due to the direction it was facing. In fact the only way I was able to open it was with my finger nail, luckily they weren't too short.
I've been fortunate with great weather during this test period that I have not had the opportunity to test it in the rain. I did submerge it in water in my sink and went on to successfully turn it on and off with my wet hands despite that the instruction manual said fingers and swipe pad MUST be dry. However, once when washing dishes when I had wet hands, I wasn't able to successfully turn on the headlamp. I hope to have more experience with this headlamp in wet conditions with the predicted rain in the next couple months. I did discover the headlamp could be used with gloves, thankfully. Actually I've found that any material could activate the swipe. Which meant, it did need to be successfully put in to locked mode. Otherwise just about anything inside my pack that brushed up against it would turn it on. I say successfully, because sometimes when I thought it was in lock mode, as in I saw the signal that it was locked, it actually wasn't. I now test the locked mode to make sure it is indeed locked. Again, patience and persistence required.
- Multiple light options
- Adjustable for many head and helmet sizes
- Waterproof (works after being submerged and dried)
- Usable with gloves
- Swipe pad sensitivity not consistent enough (doesn't always register the desired command)
- Requires a fair bit of mental effort and hand coordination to get the solicited response (not ideal when exhausted back at camp after a harrowing day)
- Difficult to reach clasp for battery compartment
- Not easy to use
- Inconsistent response in wet conditions
LONGTERM FIELD CONDITIONS
For the longterm field test I've been able to use the Nite Ize Inova headlamp quite a bit with the days getting dark early. I ventured out on one more 2-night 3-day backpacking trip at the end of October and the rest of my use was with Search and Rescue (SAR). All SAR practices were at night out in the field. One scenario was tracking for sign in light bush and long grass, another was a scenario searching for a subject in a wooded forest with underbrush. Both scenarios we packaged and carried out a subject in a stretcher. Another scenario was a rope rescue with a stretcher on a steep slope. All these scenarios required enough light to perform intricate tasks in the dark such as spotting missing person signs on grass and brush, performing first aid on subjects, packaging a stretcher and setting up rope rigging. Temperatures were between -5 C (23 F) and 5 C (41 F) and weather conditions were light snow and rain. Uneven ground and light underbrush was the terrain that was mainly encountered.
The light settings were versatile and the ability for the level of light to be adjustable based on my needs was appreciated. Changing the settings and using the swipe was still a bit challenging, though not as much as before. The headlamp still required me to stop and think about my plan to obtain the correct setting. Lines such as 'low level, 3 swipes left, 2 seconds apart, ok, go', would go through my head. And more often than not I would get it on the second try. Once on I had no problems. I did use it quite a bit with gloves in the cold and wet gloves in fact. And to my surprise and delight, it worked just fine, or at least as well as without gloves.
I did try the red setting while tracking footprints on a dirt road and learned that it changed the way the defined impressions in the dirt looked, which helped with making observations about them. Other than that, I can't say I really use this setting, the level of light isn't bright enough for tasks. It was also a good setting when I didn't want to blind or disturb my partner when getting out of the tent in the middle of the night. Though I could really take it or leave it.
Overall, I have had some significant challenges with the swipe mechanism, which did improve over the course of 4 months. I can now successfully use it with minimal frustration, but I would still prefer an on-off button that was more reliable. I would agree with the specs for brightness, power and run time. The Inova does have a lot of versatility in light settings, but has limited reliability in wet weather, which was pointed out by the manufacturer in the instructions. I believe following completion of this test, future use of this headlamp will be relegated to that of my back-up light and not my go-to light. My pros and cons remain the same as above.
Thank you to Nite Ize, Inc. and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to take part in this test series, it has been quite an interesting adventure.
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Reviews > Lighting > Headlamps - LED > Nite Ize INOVA STS Headlamp > Test Report by Theresa Lawrence