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Reviews > Lighting > Headlamps - LED > Princeton Tec Fuel 2009 > Test Report by jerry adams

PRINCETON TEC FUEL HEADLAMP
TEST SERIES BY JERRY ADAMS
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - September 17, 2009
FIELD REPORT - November 21, 2009
LONG TERM REPORT - February 02, 2010

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Jerry Adams
EMAIL: jerryaadamsatyahoodotcom
AGE: 55
LOCATION: Portland, Oregon, USA
GENDER: m
HEIGHT: 6' 1" (1.85 m)
WEIGHT: 190 lb (86.20 kg)

Backpacking Background: I started hiking about 45 years ago. My first backpack was 40 years ago. I currently try to do one backpack trip of 1 to 5 nights every month (which can be tricky in the winter). Mostly I stay around Mount Hood, Columbia Gorge, Mount Adams, Goat Rocks, and the Olympic Peninsula. In recent years I have shifted to lightweight - my pack weight without food and water is about 15 lb (7 kg). I make a lot of my own gear - silnylon tarp-tent, bivy, synthetic bag, simple bag style pack. My sleeping pad is a Therm-a-Rest air mattress.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Princeton Tec
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: http://princetontec.com/
Specified weight: 2.75 oz (78 g)
Measured Weight: 2.8 oz (79 g) including 3 alkaline AAA batteries
Other details:
Headlamp Head Size: 1.1x2.25x1.4 in (3x5.6x3.5 cm)

The Princeton Tec Fuel headlamp I am testing (henceforth referred to as "the headlamp") is supposed to be available in August 2009. I don't see it yet on their website, so it should be available shortly.

The headlamp is similar to the Princeton Tec Fuel headlamp sold previously, except it has 4 LEDs, rather than the 3 in the previous version. Princeton Tec says that it is brighter (43 Lumens) than the previous version (35 Lumens). The headlamp I am testing is specified to have a 146 hour burn time vs 164 hours for the previous version.

IMAGE 1

The headlamp uses 3 AAA batteries. I will test it with Alkaline batteries.

The headlamp has an adjustable elastic strap to go around the head.

To replace the batteries, there is a tool that is part of the elastic strap that is used to pry open the battery compartment:

IMAGE 2
IMAGE 3
IMAGE 4

The head rotates straight to see distances:

IMAGE 5

The head rotates down to see close up:

IMAGE 6

There is a push button on top of the head. When the button is pushed, the light comes on to high intensity. If the button is pushed again within about 1 second, the light goes to medium intensity. If it's pushed again within about 1 second, the light goes to low intensity. If the button is pushed again within about 1 second, the light flashes. If the button is pushed after about 1 second, the light goes out.

The headlamp is water resistant.

TRYING IT OUT

I installed the batteries. It's a bit difficult to get the battery door open and closed back up, but this is probably good so it doesn't open accidentally.

I wore it on my head and it feels good, stays up, the length is easily adjusted.

I turned the light on to its various modes and it works great.

I'm looking forward to testing it over the next 4 months.

Thanks to Princeton Tec and backpackgeartest.org for letting me test this.

Look forward to my field report in about 2 months.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

9/20/2009 - 5 night car camp, central Oregon coast, used it in my tent on low. It worked well. I did 5 miles of night hiking - low worked fine on regular paths. When I went off the trail a bit, high was useful in finding a route. Used it for reading in bed - good but main spot could have been a bit bigger. Total of about 3 hours on low, 15 minutes on high.

10/12/2009 - 5 night backpack on Mount Hood in northern Oregon, 27 to 55 F (-3 to 13 C), used it a little at 27 F (-3 C) and it worked well. Total of about 1 hour on low.

10/20/2009 - 4 night backpack in Mill Creek Wilderness, central Oregon, 27 to 65 F (-3 to 18 C), 35 miles (56 km). Used the headlamp for a total of about 6 hours, mostly on low for setting up camp, walking to the bathroom, etc. Did some exploring in unfamiliar territory and found the high setting very useful.

11/15/2009 - 40 mile (64 km) backpack up Deschutes River in Northern Oregon, 32 to 55 F( 0 to 13 C), rocky gravely trail, dry. Used the headlamp about 5 hours on low.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The Fuel LED headlamp fits comfortably on my head, is very lightweight, frees up my hands, and the light goes to where I need it. I will never use a regular flashlight again.

The Fuel lasts a long time on a set of batteries. I only did about 15 hours on low and 1 hour on high. It's spec'd to have 146 hours on low or 50 hours on high, so I shouldn't be anywhere near using them up. At the end of the long term test, I will intentionally use up the batteries, just to see how it performs at the end of battery life.

The Fuel elastic band is just barely big enough to go around my head while wearing a hat, but I have a large head size so this probably shouldn't be an issue for almost all people.

When my hood is up it blocks the light some from other LED headlamps I have used. The Fuel is better because it sticks out a little further.

Like other LED headlamps I have used, the low intensity is enough for 99% of my tasks, and I never use medium. I wish medium was lower and low was way lower with corresponding longer battery life.

The high intensity is good when I am trying to negotiate an unfamiliar trail. The high intensity would also be good for signaling other people or in emergency situations. The Fuel I tested has 4 LEDs rather than 3 in the previous model. This results in a brighter light on high. I tried covering up one LED on my light and it made hardly any difference.

Like other LED headlamps that I have used, push the button once to get high intensity, press it a second, then third time to get medium and low intensity. Since I use low intensity 99% of the time, I wish that when the button was pushed once, I would get low intensity, etc.

It's a little hard to open the battery compartment, or rotate the head to see shorter or longer distances, but then it won't accidentally open or change rotation, so maybe that's a good thing.

SUMMARY

So far so good. The Princeton Tec Fuel LED headlamp is a good LED headlamp. I will never go back to using a hand-held flashlight.

I like the low weight and long battery life.

The Fuel is good because it sticks out a little further than other LED headlamps I've used, so the light isn't blocked when I put up my hood.

The only negative is that the strap on the Fuel is just barely big enough to fit when I wear a hat, but I have a large head size so this shouldn't be a problem for most people.

I used the light a little at 27 F (-3 C) and it worked fine. Hopefully, in the long term test, I'll get a little more colder temperature use.

Look forward to the long term test report in about 2 months.

Thanks to Princeton Tec and backpackgeartest.org for letting me test this.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

12/5/2009 - 6 night backpack and camping trip on the beach of the Olympic Peninsula in Northern Washington state. Used it on low for about 5 hours. 20 to 25 F (-6 to -4 C).

1/13/2010 - 4 night backpack on the Deschutes River in Central Northern Oregon. 35 to 45 F (2 to 7 C). Used it on low for about 8 hours.

1/24/2010 - end of battery life test - turned on high for 30 hours, low for 28 hours, still works pretty good. Did another 30 hours on low, dimmer but still usable. Another 2 hours on high, becoming so dim as to be unusable.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

During the Field Report and Long Term Report periods, I used the Fuel Headlamp for a total of 56 hours on low and 31 hours on high on one set of batteries. This is very close to the specified lifetime of 146 hours on low or 50 hours on high. I think that the light is beginning to get dim but it gets dimmer so slowly that I hardly noticed.

To test end of battery life, I did another 30 hours on low and it gradually got quite dim, but still usable for around camp but less useful for following a trail at night. I switched to high for 2 hours and it became very dim so I threw out the batteries. This is a good characteristic - there is a long period after the light is noticeably dimmer before it is unusable.

After the batteries died, I replaced them with Lithium batteries. The headlamp now weighs 2 3/8 ounce (67 g) which saves 1/2 ounce (14 g) which is slightly more comfortable when worn around my head. Lithium batteries are supposed to last twice as long, their shelf life is much higher, and they last longer in colder temperatures. The Princeton Tec website says that Alkaline, NiCad, or NiMH batteries can be used but doesn't mention Lithium. Lithium batteries have a slightly higher voltage so this may be a mistake. I used the light on low for about an hour and it's working fine so far. If they destroy my headlamp I'll file an amended report to let other people know not to do this.

I've used the headlamp for about 5 hours when the temperature was between 20 and 25 F (-6 to -4 C) and it worked fine.

Nothing has broken during the test period.

It feels comfortable around my head. It stays in place without slipping and without any constricting feeling.

Like I said in the Field Report:

The light sticks out further than other LED headlamps I have used, so my hair or hood don't block the light as easily.

The elastic band is just barely big enough, but I have a large head, so it should be big enough for almost all people.

The on-off button still works like it did initially - it takes a lot of pressure to push, but that means it didn't ever accidentally come on when in my backpack.

It takes a lot of pressure to rotate the head to adjust the light for close up or far away illumination. This is just a minor criticism.

SUMMARY

This headlamp has met my expectations. Any criticisms are minor.

I will continue to use this on my backpack trips in the future.

I will never go back to a hand-held flashlight. The headlamp is much more usable.

I will never go back to a non-LED light - it lasts so much longer on a set of batteries than older technology lights.

Thanks to Princeton Tec and backpackgeartest.org for letting me test this.

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

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