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Reviews > Lighting > Headlamps - LED > Princeton Tec Fuel 2009 > Owner Review by Chad G Poindexter

PRINCETON TEC FUEL HEADLAMP
By: Chad Poindexter
OWNER REVIEW

March 21, 2010

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Chad Poindexter
EMAIL: chad (DOT) poindexter (AT) yahoo (DOT) com
AGE: 32
LOCATION: Corinth, Alcorn County, Mississippi, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 10" (1.78 m)
WEIGHT: 200 lb (90.70 kg)

I am a fairly new hiker and have hiked in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, and at a few state parks in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama. Initially I have obtained slightly heavy gear, but I am making efforts to go lighter. I love my tent and appreciate a warm drink in the morning, as well as a warm meal at night. So far my distance has averaged around 10 mi (16 km) per day, depending on terrain. My wife or my son typically tag along with me on my hikes.

PRODUCT SPECS / INFORMATION

IMAGE 1
Courtesy of Princeton Tec


Manufacturer: Princeton Tec
Year of Purchase: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: www.princetontec.com
MSRP: (US) $ 26.99
Listed Weight with 3 AAA Batteries: 2.75 oz (78 g)
Measured Weight with 3 AAA (Lithium) Batteries: 2.3 oz (65 g)
Listed Power: 43 Lumen's
Lamp: 4 Ultra Bright LED's
Listed Burn Time: Up to 146 Hours
Waterproof Rating: Level 1 (Equivalent to IPX4 in the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards)
Color Owned: Charcoal / Green (Other Colors Available: Black / Charcoal, Pink / Charcoal, and Olive Drab)

Princeton Tec has designed the FUEL Headlamp (hereafter referred to as the "headlamp") to be an easy-to-use, light-weight headlamp but which also boasts a wide range of applications to its user. Simply put, this headlamp was built simply to shine brightly, in all areas.

TURN ON THE BRIGHT LIGHT

The headlamp is comprised of two separate pieces. The first of which is the black and charcoal-colored elastic headband which features the Princeton Tec name and logo sewn in with a white-colored stitching. The headband utilizes a black-colored sliding plastic locking mechanism to allow the headbands circumference to be adjusted between 14 - 23.5 in (35.6 - 60 cm). (This locking mechanism is also the key which unlocks the battery compartment door ~ very important, more later.)

The second piece is the actual headlamp body. The body consists of a few pieces which are all attached. First is the green-colored arm bracket which connects the headlamp body to the elastic headband simply by sliding the elastic headband through the two slits cut into both sides of the arm bracket. The green arm bracket also extends out towards the front of the headlamp and wraps around one end of the battery / LED housing body. This provides the headlamp with the ability to swivel. There are 11 notches grooved into the swivel to provide stability to the headlamp. The headlamp is also able to be swiveled (a total of) approximately 150 degrees up or down. The word "FUEL" is printed vertically along the front of the headlamp on the green arm bracket in a light gray color.

Next is the battery / LED housing. The actual housing body is a light gray in color. The large rubber button located at the top of the housing body is dark gray in color, and features three raised ridges. These raised edges serve as a point of reference as well as providing an extra grip which assists in easy operation of the headlamp.

Both the battery compartment door as well as the opposite end of the battery compartment is dark gray in color as well. The recommended, and easiest method of opening of the battery door, is to use the tip of the sliding plastic locking mechanism (on the headband) to pry the door of the battery compartment open (however many things will work, including fingernails if I needed to.) Once inside the battery compartment the three AAA batteries can be inserted (or changed). To make it simple still, there is a "+" and two "-" symbols marking each slot as to which direction to insert the batteries.

Finally looking at the front of the headlamp I see the four high quality, ultra bright LEDís staring back at me. As a result of the LEDís being grouped so close to one another, a smooth, white light which is more powerful and concentrated is created. This also enables a wide beam to form which enhances peripheral vision and results in a wider field of vision.

The headlamp has 5 settings on it. They are: High, medium, low, blink and off. The levels are cycled through (in the above order) by repeatedly pressing the button. The website lists burn hours and provides a picture diagram with a range of distance for each setting. Below is the listed burn hours along with an approximate range of distance that I have figured using the supplied diagram.

High: Burns 50 hours and at a range of approximately 138 ft (42 m)
Medium: Burns 90 hours and at a range of approximately 102 ft (31 m)
Low: Burns 146 hours and at a range of approximately 75 ft (23 m)
Blink: Burns 96 hours and at a range of approximately 102 ft (31 m)

FIELD USE

I have carried this headlamp with me on a total of 6 backpacking trips totaling 17 nights. I have used the headlamp on every one of those nights. I have also carried this headlamp on 4 car camping trips with the family, which again was used each night. Other than this I have used the headlamp multiple times around the house including a 1.5 hour journey under the hood of a truck.

I have carried the headlamp with me on two separate overnight trips to Big Hill Pond State Park in Tennessee. The conditions have ranged from rainy and cool to sunny and warm with average temperatures between 50 - 80 F (10 - 27 C). General elevation listed here is 500 ft (152 m).

IMAGE 2
At Big Hill Pond State Park


The headlamp accompanied me on a 5 day backpacking trip last September along the Appalachian Trail that runs through the mountains of North Georgia. The highest elevation that I used the headlamp here was while atop Blood Mountain at an elevation of 4,450 ft (1,356 m). The temperatures here maxed out at around 90 F (32 C).

Near the end of November of last year I ventured out on a 3 day backpacking trip with my son to the riverbanks at Sipsey Wilderness in Alabama. Then shortly after, I headed back out with my wife to bring in the New Year's. Both times the temperatures were cold. While on our trip over New Year's the temperature dropped down to right at 10 F (-12 C), not counting the wind chill or the fact that the wind was blowing off the water onto us! General elevation listed here is 700 ft (213 m). I carried the headlamp each of these times, however I did not have to use it so much over the New Years trip due to the abundance of moon light. It was magical....

Last, but definitely not least, I carried the headlamp with me again, this time to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee this past January for a three day backpacking trip. We reached an elevation of 6,593 ft (2010 m) when we summitted Mt. LeConte, in the snow, lots of snow (and ice)! The temperatures dipped down to near 20 F (-7 C) our first night out while atop Mt. LeConte.

I HAVE SEEN THE LIGHT

When I first purchased this headlamp I thought to myself "It's just a tiny flashlight on a headband. Woohoo!"

I took the light home from the store and opened the package. The only assembly I saw was to attach the headband to the headlamp and insert the batteries. Easy enough. After assembly (shew!) I played with it a little bit, walking into a dark room just checking things out. Neat. It worked. The head swiveled up and down nicely allowing me to easily adjust the light towards my feet, towards the front of me in the direction I was walking and of course above me. The swivel locked firmly in place at which ever level I chose to leave the light pointed in and did not budge unless I intended it to. The light went through the different settings just as promised with a simple push of the button. The headlamp checked out A-OK. So, I put the headlamp with my pile of gear and didn't really mess with it much again until my next trip.

The first time I carried the light with me was on the trip with my son trip to Big Hill Pond State Park. I almost forgot I even had it with me. Once darkness started to fall, then a little light bulb went off and I remembered it. I am glad I did. It shed all the light I needed on whatever task I was trying to accomplish. I was even able to walk down the trail at a moderate pace (for me) with no difficulties, however I had to point the headlamp slightly down towards the trail rather than straight out in front of me. While I have not measured the range of distance that the headlamp sheds its light on, for me it is a more than sufficient range. Even in the low and medium settings the headlamp still shines plenty bright.

Since then the light has continued to perform in exactly this same manner. I have decided to replace the three alkaline batteries with three lithium batteries for an even lighter weight (which is seen in the product specs at the beginning of the report) as well as longer battery life. (However, I have contacted Princeton Tec through e-mailand they informed me that using lithium batteries is not recommended in the Fuel headlamp.) Also, I have sometimes taken to hanging the headlamp around my neck at the beginning of a hike so that I will not forget about my headlamp as it gets dark. The elastic headband is soft and does not irritate my skin nor does it bother me in any other way while wearing the headlamp in this manner, even while wearing my backpack.

The only change I would recommend making to this light is for a red light to be added to the lights. Even if it would mean giving up one of the white LED's I would be happy with that. I have thought about trying to find a red sheet or something another to place over the headlamp at times, but it seems to be too much trouble for me to actually carry through with.

So, at my conclusion, "It's just a tiny flashlight on a headband. Woohoo!"

THINGS I LIKE

1. Light-weight.
2. Super bright.
3. Multi-settings.
4. Adjustable headband.
5. Is comfortable to wear.
6. Easy on the wallet.

THINGS THAT NEED IMPROVEMENT

1. I wish it had a red light built in.

SIGNATURE

IMAGE 3
Chad Poindexter
"Stick"

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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