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Reviews > Lighting > Headlamps - LED > Princeton Tec Byte 2011 > Test Report by Andrew Henrichs

Princeton Tec Byte Headlamp 2011

Test Series by Andy Henrichs

November 19, 2011

Initial Report - 7-11-11
Field Report - 9-12-11
Long Term Report - 11-19-11

Biographical Information

Name:  Andy Henrichs
Age: 30
Gender:  Male
Height:  6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight:  185 lb (83.9 kg)
Email address:  andyhenrichs(at)gmail(dot)com
City, State, Country:  Boulder, Colorado, USA

Backpacking Background

   Most of my backpacking has been in the mountains of Colorado and the deserts in the southwestern US.  I have gone winter camping several times but I still prefer backpacking in the warmer months.  Most of my trips are 2-3 days, but I have taken several trips of 5-6 days.  In the summer of 2004, I was fortunate enough to have thru-hiked the 476 mile Colorado Trail over 35 days.  Recently, I have been leaning towards the lightweight side of the spectrum. 

 

Initial Report

 

Product Information

Manufacturer:  Princeton Tec (www.princetontec.com)

Year of Manufacture: 2011
MSRP: $19.99 US
Manufacturers Stated Weight: 2.25 oz (64 g)
Measured Weight (including batteries): 2.20 oz (62.3 g)

 

the Byte

The 2011 Princeton Tec Byte

Product Description

This Princeton Tec Byte Headlamp is a slightly redesigned lightweight headlamp designed for camping, climbing, or running. It features a single Maxbright LED and a single Ultrabright Red LED. The Maxbright LED emits a standard white light and features a high and low setting. The Byte runs on two AAA batteries (alkaline or lithium), which are included. The Byte is initially packaged in three "pieces." These are the batteries, the headlamp body, and the adjustable elastic headband. The headband is black with small red squares and features the Princeton Tec logo in white, as well as the letters "PTEC," also in white. The headband adjusts from approximately 13 in (33 cm) to 24 in (61 cm) in circumference. The headband attaches to the headlamp body quite easily by slotting the band thorough small openings on each end of the headlamp body.

The body itself is black and is approximately 2.25 in (5.7 cm) by 1.5 in (3.8 cm) at the widest points. There is a slightly curved section (where the headband attaches) connected to one end of the body at a pivot point. This pivot point allows approximately 45 degrees of upward rotation and approximately 80 degrees of downward rotation. The other end of the body contains the battery compartment door. This light gray door secures with a simple "tab in the hole" mechanism. It is incredibly easy to open and seems to secure quite well. The top of the headlamp body is home to a light gray power button. The first push turns on the Ultrabright Red LED, the second turns on the low setting of the Maxbright LED, the third turns on the high setting of the Maxbright LED, and the fourth turns the headlamp off.

There appears to be a discrepancy in regards to the burn time of the 2011 Byte. According to the packaging, the batteries will last for 80 hours on the high Maxbright LED setting, 96 hours on the low Maxbright LED setting, and 146 hours on the Ultrabright Red LED setting. The website, however, lists 2 hours burn for the high Maxbright LED. The other two burn times were the same between the website and packaging. Due to my experience with the 2010 version of this headlamp, I believe the website has the correct information. I will test this burn time with fresh batteries to see what I actually experience. The packaging also states that fresh batteries will illuminate 98 ft (30 m) on the high Maxbright LED setting, (49 ft) 15 m on the low Maxbright LED setting, and 20 ft (6 m) on the Ultrabright Red LED setting.

The pivot point The battery compartment (open)

The gray plastic to the right of the LEDs is the pivot point.

The open battery compartment illustrating the tab (on the body) and the hole (on the cover door) that secures it.


LED view

The Maxbright LED is on the left and the Ultrabright Red LED is on the right.

Initial Impressions

While simple, the 2011 Princeton Tec Byte appears to be a nice compact LED headlamp. It's very easy to adjust the headband to fit my head, and it appears there is enough adjustment available to fit over a climbing helmet. During my test of the previous incarnation of this headlamp, I found that I used the red LED occasionally, but not excessively. I'll see if use of the red LED grows on me any more during this test. When using it around the house (without having first established my night vision), the red light allowed me to make out objects just out of arms reach. Both of the Maxbright LED settings provided much more illumination, as one would expect. The pivot point of the Byte seems to pivot more easily than the 2010 model, and it moves to each incremental pivot position with a click. I feel like this may be a more user-friendly pivot mechanism than the previous model. One thing I did notice is that the body cannot rotate far enough to cover the power button. This theoretically could allow the Byte to become accidentally switched on in my pack, although the force necessary to actually depress the button to turn it on makes me think this won't be an issue. The battery cover door closes very securely.

Field Report

Field Conditions
I have used the Princeton Tec Byte on four days during the Field Report phase. The first was during an overnight river trip on the Arkansas River in Colorado. The elevation on this trip ranged from 8300 ft (2500 m) to 7300 ft (2200 m). Temperature ranged from a low of 50 F (10 C) at night to a high of 80 F (27 C) during the day. I used the Byte around camp for a total of probably 45 minutes the night that we spent on the river. My second use was while car camping at the base of the Sawatch Range just west of Salida, Colorado. The elevation here was approximately 8600 ft (2600 m). Temperatures were again quite nice, with a high of approximately 80 F (27 C) and a low of approximately 45 F (7 C). I used this headlamp for about an hour on this trip, primarily while putting the finishing touches on some dutch oven desserts and while helping wash our dishes. My third use was on an early morning run around my neighborhood, which happens to lack streetlights. The elevation here is approximately 5300 ft (1600 m), and the temperature during the run was approximately 55 F (14 C). I ran for about 30 minutes and had to rely on the Byte for the entire run. My final use during the Field Report phase was while car camping at the edge of the Lost Creek Wilderness in central Colorado. I camped at an elevation of 8500 ft (2600 m), and the temperature dropped to 40 F (4 C) at night. I used the headlamp for general camp tasks and a little bit of bedtime reading.

 

Field Observations
I have been happy with the illumination provided by the Byte so far. I've found the low setting to be adequate lighting for just about anything I've had to do at night so far. I was especially impressed that I never felt like I had to switch to the high setting during my early morning run. As I mentioned previously, I ran for approximately 30 minutes around my streetlight-free neighborhood. I stuck to the pavement to minimize any chances of injuring myself on uneven terrain. The low setting of the Byte illuminated just far enough to allow me to see and adjust to any obstacles in my path. While camping, the low setting also proved more than adequate for general camp tasks such as cooking, cleaning, finding my way around obstacles, and locating my toothbrush, water bottle, and other items. I have used the high setting a little bit around camp, but it was generally overkill. I did find myself using the Ultrabright Red LED a few times when I needed to make my way around camp without disturbing my sleeping friends. It allowed me to make out general obstacles just enough to avoid them.

Not all of my experiences with the Byte have been positive, however. During my last outing (the car camping trip near the Lost Creek Wilderness). I finally decided to dig out the Byte once the sun had set and darkness was upon me. I dug it out of my pack, pressed the power button, and nothing happened. After a few choice words, I scavenged two AAA batteries from a spare headlamp and replaced the dead ones in the Byte. It turned on instantly and seemed to work just fine. I suppose I should take the blame for not checking the batteries before I left on the trip, but I didn't think that only two hours and fifteen minutes of use (primarily on the low setting) out of the included batteries would completely drain them. This is a far cry from the 96 hours of use that the Princeton Tec website claims. I will be sure to fully charge a set of rechargeable batteries before my next outing with the Byte.

Likes (so far):
The red LED is useful for relatively obstacle-free camp use when you don't want to wake others
The low setting for the Maxbright LED provides adequate use for almost any camp task (even running)

Dislikes (so far):
The battery life has been dismal with the included batteries

Long Term Report

Field Conditions
I've been able to use the Princeton Tec Byte on three additional nights during the LTR phase. The first was an overnight rafting trip in eastern Utah. The elevation was approximately 4500 ft (1400 m), and the nighttime temperatures hovered around 45 F (7 C). I was up quite late and relied on the headlamp for navigating around camp. I used the Byte for approximately 40 minutes total between the red LED and the low Maxbright LED. The second night was during an overnight backpacking trip in the Sawatch Range of central Colorado. We camped at an elevation of approximately 9000 ft (2700 m). Temperatures on this trip were quite a bit cooler, the low reached approximately 15 F (-9 C). I used the headlamp for finding my way around camp, putting the finishing touches on dinner, and a little bit of reading before bed. I used the Byte for approximately 60 minutes on the low setting. My final use during the LTR was on a pre-dawn bike ride to catch the bus. I left my house around 5:30, and rode for approximately 20 minutes on a stretch almost completely free of street lights. I used the high beam of the Maxbright LED for the entire ride.

wearing the Byte wearing the Byte under my helmet

A face off: wearing the Byte without and with a bike helmet.

Field Observations and Summary
The Byte has been quite reliable during my final three uses. I continue to find the low Maxbright LED setting perfect for normal camp chores including navigating, cooking, cleaning, and reading. The more time I spend with the Byte, the more often I find myself using the Ultrabright Red LED around camp when I don't want to blind myself or my camp mates. Given my experiences with the previous model of this headlamp (tested last year), as well as my premature battery failure during the Field Report phase, I was a little nervous to set out on my pre-dawn bike ride with the Byte. I threw an extra headlamp in my pack, but was very pleased with how the Byte worked. As I mentioned previously, I used the high Maxbright LED setting for the entire 20 minute bike ride and was very happy with the level of illumination it provided. I felt like I could maintain my normal (daytime) cycling speed because I could easily see any obstacles in my path. I was also pleased to find that the Byte worked reasonably well under my cycling helmet. I was left with just enough room to switch the Byte on or off underneath the brim of my helmet.

I was also able to test some of the battery claims for the Byte. For the sake of time, I only tested the battery life on the high Maxbright LED setting. Using a set of fully-charged rechargeable batteries, I turned the Byte on high and let it burn. After 2.5 hours, I found that the intensity had decreased. After cycling through the settings, the high setting was outputting the exact same brightness as the low setting. I was pleased with this, given the burn times provided by Princeton Tec. I continued to let the Byte run on high for 45 more minutes to see if the same "weak strobe" failure that I experienced with the previous incarnation of this headlamp occurred with this version. To my delight, the Byte never began to strobe. Instead, it just continued to fade until there was very little light output. In my view, this is how a headlamp should indicate low battery life. Fading illumination is a gradual warning, as opposed to switching to a faint strobe or simply turning off.

All in all, I feel that this 2011 incarnation of the Princeton Tec Byte is a decent little headlamp. It is lightweight, easy to operate, and comfortable to wear. Despite my most recent experiences, I still have some lingering doubts about its reliability. These are primarily based on my experience with the battery failure I experienced during the Field Report. I will contine to keep the Byte around for use as a spare headlamp, but I don't see myself using it as my main backpacking headlamp. When I do use it, I will probably limit it to shorter backpacking trips and will always make sure I have extra batteries.

Thank you to Princeton Tec and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this headlamp.



Read more reviews of Princeton Tec gear
Read more gear reviews by Andrew Henrichs

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