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Reviews > Lighting > Headlamps - LED > Primus PrimeLite Compact Trekk > Test Report by Edwin L. Morse

PRIMUS PRIMELITE CT
TEST SERIES BY ED MORSE
LONG-TERM REPORT
November 09, 2008

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Edwin Morse
EMAIL: ed dot morse at charter dot net
AGE: 70
LOCATION: Grawn, Michigan USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 8" (1.73 m)
WEIGHT: 145 lb (65.80 kg)

I started backpacking in 1979 with two weeks in northern Michigan along the Lake Superior shore. My gear was cheap, heavy and sometimes painful. My starting pack weight was 70 lbs (32 kg) with food but no water. Since that first time I have made one and two week trips in Michigan, Maine, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. Late last summer I did a 2 week hike on Isle Royale. My starting pack weight was 32 lbs (14.5 kg), including 10 days of food and 3 qt (2.8 l) of water. I am slowly learning what lighter gear works for me.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Primus
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.primus.se/
MSRP: US$ 55.00
Listed Weight: 2.4 oz (68 g)
Measured Weight: 2.4 oz (68 g)
Measured Weight: 3.5 oz (99 g) with the 3 included AAA batteries installed

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

While I try not to have preconceived expectations, the PrimeLite really is just about what I expected from reading the description on the website. I did not have any good idea what the Luxeon diod might be.

The Primus PrimeLite CT came sealed in a clear plastic package made for hanging on a display rack. I got so excited to see how the headlamp operated that I forgot to take a picture before I cut the package open.
PrimeLite with stuff sack
packaging removed

Here is the picture I got after I removed the clear plastic.
My first thought was that the PrimeLite CT looks heavy and bulky. The PrimeLite CT does not feel heavy or bulky when I put it on.
Front view
Look for details


The headlamp is described by Primus as:
"PrimeLite™ CT
This headlamp is for anyone who wants maximum light output but doesn't need red light. It is equipped with six white light-emitting diodes as well as a powerful Luxeon™ diode. The brightness is adjustable on five levels with six diodes: 25% and 100% brightness, a Luxeon™ diode with 50% and 100% brightness, and six LED blinkers. This model comes with 3 AAA batteries (that fit in the light bulb holder) and a storage bag that can also be used as a light dampener.

FEATURES
" Dimensions: 50 x 66 x 32 mm - 2'' x 2.6'' x 1.3''
" Weight: 68 g - 2.4 oz
" Alkaline batteries: 3 AAA
" Water resistance: Waterproof IPX7
" White diod: 6 White
Range: 16 m - 17 yd
Burn time: 80 h
" Luxeon diod: Luxeon™ (45 lumens)
Range: 75 m - 82 yd
Burn time: 12 h "

The headlamp itself appears to be made of a hard plastic material. The front part is light gray and the back part (closer to my head when I put it on) is a darker gray.
Top view
top view PrimeLite and headstrap

At the back center the headlamp is fastened with a pivot to a black plastic piece which is about 2.5 in (6.4 cm) wide and 1.5 in (3.8 cm) high.
Back and pivot hinge
Pivot hinge is light gray at bottom

The soft black plastic material glued to the harder plastic is a nice touch for user comfort.
back and soft cushion
soft cushion for comfort

There are two round button switches on the top of the PrimeLite. The right switch, when I'm wearing the headlamp, is the "on/off" switch. This button is protected around the top three fourths of the button by a low projection or wall. The button is also marked on top by a raised circular projection with a short line through the back of the circle.
The front view picture shows all the LEDs and the two switch buttons.
The left switch controls the five functions of the light. There are three LEDs ("White diod")s on each side and one brighter one in the middle. When the right button is pressed the 6 LEDs are turned on at the low power. Pressing the left button once turns the 6 (3 on each side) LEDs to the brighter power. I can easily read a paperback book at either setting. Pressing the left button a second time will turn off the 6 LEDs and turn on the "Luxeon™ diode at half power and pressing the left button again, a third time, turns it up to full power. Pressing the left button a fourth time causes the 3 LEDs on each side to flash. The right button (the on/off switch) can be used at any time in the cycle. The PrimeLite always turns on in the same low power, six LED, setting.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

There was a sheet of instructions, printed on both sides, folded in the back of the display package.
The instructions were printed in five languages.

Paraphrasing from the English part of the included instructions:
Pressing the right button:
The lamp's LEDs (all 6 of them) are switched on with minimum light strength.

Pressing the left button once:
The lamp's LEDs (all 6 of them) light up with maximum light strength.

Pressing the left button a second time:
The lamp's super-powerful LED is switched on (50%). The LEDs (all 6 of them) switched off.

Pressing the left button a third time:
The lamp's super-powerful LED is switched on 100%. The LEDs (all 6 of them) switched off.

Pressing the left button a fourth time:
The lamp's LEDs (all 6 of them) flash. Super powerful LED is switched off.

Pressing the left button again:
Back to the lamp's LEDs (all 6 of them) with minimum light strength.

Pressing the right button again at anytime turns the lamp off.

TRYING IT OUT

I cut open the display package and took out the headlamp, stuff sack and the three batteries. I looked over the PrimeLite CT headlamp and decided operation was obvious. I opened the battery compartment and installed the batteries.
Partly open to batteries
Opening battery compartment

Batteries installed
installed batteries


Then I put the headlamp on and tried the light. It took a few minutes of experimenting for me to learn that one button turned the light on and the other controlled the functions. I finally did read the instructions to be sure what I was doing with the left button.
side view
Wearing the PrimeLite CT


The PrimeLite CT is comfortable to wear. I used the headlamp to read in bed that night. I found one advantage over other lights I've used for backpacking. I can see the whole page of a book without turning the light or my head back and forth.

SUMMARY

I see the Primus PrimeLite CT as a very interesting headlamp. The functions all appear to be useful. I am looking forward to using and testing this headlamp out for many nights on the trail.



FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I've carried the Primus Primelite CT on at least 25 day hikes (it helps to be retired), used it on one night hike and 2 backpacking hikes.
The first backpacking hike in the last 2 months was a 7 day - 6 night hike in the Pigeon River Country State Forest, mostly on the High Country Pathway in late July. This trail is in NE Lower Michigan. The weather varied from hard rain at the start to clear and sunny, with temperatures from a low of 47 F (8 C) one morning to a high of 76 F (24 C). The terrain varied from hilly pine and oak open forests to swampy areas with wet mucky trails and thick undergrowth. I used the headlamp every night, usually just for reading and writing, a few times for rehanging my food bag after I cleaned up from eating a late supper. I have a bad habit of waking up early, often at 5 AM and sometimes as late as 6 AM. I did not see another person until late in the fourth day when I got to a State Park. It was strange camping between big RVs after 4 days and 3 dark nights alone in the woods. I was packed and leaving the campground before most people were awake. I used the headlamp every morning to start packing inside the tent and to get down the food bag for breakfast.
Around camp I mostly use the first two settings for camp chores and reading. I often used the fourth setting to locate my food bag in dark mornings. My rope glows brightly with the slightest light but I like to see the food bag so I can watch where it will come down within reach. I often had to use the headlamp to set up the stove and make my coffee in early mornings. The following picture was taken at the Grass Lake campsite. I had backtracked 2 miles (3 km) to find a place to camp near water. Until I looked at this picture I did not realize that the headband is reflective.
early morning breakfast
before morning light

At the end of a few long days I had to use the headlamp to clean up after eating supper. This picture was near the south end of Tomahawk Creek Flooding. I had sat at the beach watching Purple Martins and reading until sunset. Then I hurried back to eat.
late super in the woods
after sunset

In this picture I have the headlamp in my pocket to use for cleanup and hanging the food.

The second backpacking hike was in early September in the Manistee National Forest, mostly on the North Country Trail (NCT) and partly on the Manistee River Trail. The days are getting noticeably shorter with later sunrise and earlier sunset. This was a 3 day and two night hike. I used the headlamp more each day than on the previous longer hike.
On the first night in camp on this trip I set up the tent and put most things inside that I would want for the night. Then I walked up the nearest high hill and tried to call home but only got to say a few words before losing the signal. When I got back to camp I fixed supper, cleaned up and re-hung the food bag, about 300 feet (91 m) from my tent, with the rest of the food and my spoon. Back in camp it was getting dark. I blew up the air mattress and arranged things in the tent. Then I could not find the little black sack for the food bag rope. Now it was completely dark. With the headlamp and one hiking Stix I went back to the tree where I hung the food. It took almost ten minutes to find the black sack in the deep grass. I was really glad I had the Primus headlamp.

For the last month I have used the headlamp every morning at home to go out to the road and get the morning paper. Our house is 110 feet (33 m) back from the road and there are no street lights in this rural area.

Very recently I went on a relatively short night hike just to experiment with the headlamp. I have not intentionally hiked at night in several years. I went to a nearby and very well used trail in the Pere Marquette State Forest. I started walking about ten minutes before the 8:28 sunset.
There was heavy cloud cover with rain in the forecast for the night. The temperature stayed at about 70 F (21 C) all the time I was hiking. The rain started when I was about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from the parking lot. I always wear a broad brimmed hat when hiking so the headlamp did not get wet.
I could see to walk on the wide trail for the first 15 minutes without the headlamp. By 8:30 I had to turn it on in order to see the trail at all. The first setting is not enough for me to hike with. I like the second setting with the 6 LEDs on bright for hiking when the trail is rough or there are a lot of roots to stumble over. When the trail is straight and open the fourth setting lets me look ahead from 50 to 75 feet (15 to 23 m) for obstructions and details. The third setting with the center bulb on low power is good enough for reading signs close to the trail. With the fourth setting, the center bulb on bright, I can see and identify trail markers on trees at over 80 feet (24 m).
The humidity was very high and rain predicted for the first half of the night. I walked through areas of first light mist and then a few times heavy fog. When there was any fog at all no setting of the headlamp allowed me to see ahead more than about 10 feet (3 m).
When there was no fog I could use the fourth setting with the center bulb on bright to look up in trees and easily see branches 40 or 50 feet (12 or 15 m) high.
I hiked a total of 5 miles (8 km) in 2 ½ hours.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The Primus Primelite CT has performed very well for me during the last two months. I like it for reading more than any light I've used for backpacking. The 6 LEDs light up the whole page so I don't have to keep moving the light back and forth. Last year was the first I have used a headlamp. Before that I always used a hand held light.
Either of the first two settings worked well for camp chores when it was dark. It worked very well for getting down my food bag each morning. The 'rope' I use to hang my food is not much thicker than heavy string. When I got a taut line hitch tied too tight and the rope tangled the bright setting really was a help for getting the knot untied in early morning dark.
The night hike was an interesting experiment. I haven't intentionally hiked at night in over 50 years. The headlamp worked well except for those areas where it got foggy. The trail was hazy at best at any distance more than 10 feet (3 m) at any setting in the light fog. I know, both from driving and from night hunting long ago that lights work best in fog when the beam is closer to the ground. I would have taken the headlamp off and held it low down but it was raining and I did not want to take off my hat.

SUMMARY

I think the Primus Primelite CT is a comfortable and easy headlamp for me to use. I find the first four settings all to be useful and I have used them all at different times. I have not yet found a use for the fifth (blinking) setting.
Good points:
The two switches - one for on/off and one for beam adjustments,
The first four light settings are all useful,
Light weight for so much useful light.

Negatives:
I see no use for the last (blinking) light setting,
The stuff sack is cute but I don't carry it - the headlamp is easier to find in the pack or in the tent without the stuff sack.

Please check back in about 2 months to read about my Long Term experience with this interesting headlamp.

I would like to thank BackpackGearTest.org and Primus for giving me the opportunity to test the Primus PrimeLite CT.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

The locations where I've used or carried the Primus Primelite headlamp are the Manistee National Forest, Consumers Energy property adjacent to (and northeast of) the MNF, the Pere Marquette State Forest and doing projects around home.
The weather has varied from a sunny high of 65 F (18 C) to dark and starry 23 F (-5 C) on the two backpacking trips, one of two nights and the second just one night, six day hikes and one night hike.

I used the headlamp for reading in bed on the first backpack trip. In the morning I used the Primelite to start packing in the tent and to get down the food bags.

I used the Primelite on one relatively short night hike of about 5 miles (8 km). This was on a very curvy and hilly trail in the Pere Marquette State Forest that I haven't hiked in over a year. I wanted a good idea of the Primelite capabilities before I went backpacking again. I chose a very cloudy and dark night for this hike.

The days are getting shorter. On the second overnight hike I used the headlamp to fix my bed and arrange things for the night. I was up in the morning nearly three hours before sunrise. I had used the Primelite twice during the night to go outside and it worked fine. When I started to get up in the morning it would not turn on. I tried several times to turn on the Primus headlamp to go outside but it would not turn on. I finally put in the spare batteries. It was hard to see which way to put the batteries into it. It took three tries to get them oriented correctly. I think the original batteries had been weak and slowly fading. When I finally got the batteries right and turned it on the lowest setting was bright enough.

I used the Primelite headlamp to get my food bag down (hung about 300 ft (91 m) from my tent) and to fix and eat breakfast. I needed the fourth (high beam center LED) to find the food bag, then I used the second setting (six outside LEDs on bright) to untie the knot in the thin rope I use to suspend the food bag and finally I used the first setting to fix and eat breakfast. Then used it, on the same low setting, to see to take down the tent and finish packing. I started hiking an hour and a half before sunrise so I used the headlamp to find and follow the trail. I had camped about 250 feet (76 m) from the trail so just finding the trail was harder than hiking on it. I hiked mostly with the first setting. Several times I switched to the bright center beam setting to search for trail markers on trees.

I've carried the headlamp for all hikes in the last two months, whether I expect to be out after dark or not. Last year I started carrying a headlamp in my pack from October through March, just in case.

I've also used the headlamp on a home project to keep winter weather out of our screened deck. I often start while it is still a little dark and generally start picking up and putting away my tools after sundown. The deck is roofed but the temperature has generally been around 30 F (-1 C) when I start each day. It is always a little dark under the deck roof and the headlamp makes it possible to see lines to make saw cuts without shadows on my cut line.

I am still using the headlamp at home to get the morning paper every day. Our deck lights are intentionally arranged so they provide very little light outside the deck. The drive has a slight double curve so for nearly half the year it is a dark walk out to the road for the morning paper. I would really prefer not to disturb a skunk or step on a porcupine. I've seen both in the driveway on several occasions.


PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

When I used the Primelite headlamp as a reading light I thought it was better than any light I've used when camping. In the first setting when it is turned on the light is both wide and bright enough so I can see to read the whole page without turning my head back and forth.

When I used it to do camp chores, again, usually the first setting let me see well, find things and do what I had to do. When I was walking through the woods to retrieve my food bag in the early morning dark I used the fourth setting (pushing the left button three times) for the longest and brightest light possible to find the hanging food bag. I was able to spot the hanging food bag at nearly 100 ft (30 m). This "high beam" setting saved a lot of searching as I've had to do a few times.

When I was hiking on trails the first setting worked very well most of the time. I could easily see the roots and rocks in the trail. I could usually see when the trail made a turn. There were times when I had to use the "high beam" setting to locate trail markers on trees to be sure I was on the trail. One trail I hiked partly in the dark is hard to follow in full daylight sometimes even with the markers nailed on trees.

When using power saws I've used shop lights in the past and never quite had the light I wanted. The Primelite headlamp is great for this use. It puts the right amount of light just where I need it. This may not be field use but it is a new and valuable use to me.

SUMMARY

The Primus Primelite headlamp has done very well for me. I am pleased I was selected for testing this headlamp. I've found a few new uses for a headlamp I probably never would have found without the testing procedure. The Primelite headlamp is one item I make sure is in my pack when I go hiking.

Features I like;
All the different settings, except one,
Comfort because the headband is easily adjustable and the headlamp is padded enough,
The headlamp easily adjusts up or down which is a big help following a trail in the dark,
When I adjust the headlamp to a position it stays in place.

Features that could be improved;
I have no need for the flashing light setting,
The plus or minus markings for the batteries should be bigger and easier to see - if I have to change batteries in the field I will have little or no light for the task.

This concludes my Long Term Report. I have really enjoyed testing the Primus Primelite headlamp!
I am glad to add this headlamp to my hiking gear.
I would like to thank BackpackGearTest.org and Primus for giving me the opportunity to test the Primus Primelite headlamp.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Read more reviews of Primus gear
Read more gear reviews by Edwin L. Morse

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