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Reviews > Lighting > Headlamps - LED > Princeton Tec Fuel Headlamp > Test Report by Mark Wood

Princeton Tec Fuel
Test Series by Mark Wood
Last Updated June 27, 2008
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Biographical Information
Product Information
Field Conditions
Initial Report - Jan 25, 2008
Field Report - April 18, 2008
Long Term Report - June 27, 2008

Biographical Information
Name: Mark Wood A Brief Introduction
I grew up camping with my parents and had taken a few short backpacking trips, as well as a couple of 10-day trips before I got married. While my wife and I have enjoyed car camping and day hiking for close to 6 years, we have both decided to make backpacking a permanent part of our lives. Our trips are generally shorter (2 - 5 days) over rocky, hilly terrain. My general pack weight for a 3 day trip is around 25 lb (11.4 kg) including food and water.
Age / Sex: 27 / Male
Height: 5 ft 11in (1.8 m)
Weight: 250 lb (113 kg)
Email Address: mwood_bgt at markandkc dot net
Web page: http://www.markandkc.net
Location: Chenango County, NY, U.S.A.

Product Information
Fuel Headlamp
Manufacturer: Princeton Tec
Year of Manufacture: 2007
URL of Manufacturer: http://www.princetontec.com
MSRP: $24.99
Listed Weight: 2.75 oz (78 g)
Weight as Delivered: 2.75 oz (78 g)
Light Output: 16 lumens
Battery Life: Low: 160 hours
Med: 110 hours
High: 50 hours
Flash: 130 hours
The Princeton Tec Fuel headlamp features 3 Ultrabrite LEDs and is designed as a lightweight headlamp for active outdoor use. It is water resistant and is covered by a 5 year warranty.

Field Conditions

Numerous locations will be visited during the testing time frame. My usual backpacking areas are the Catskill and Adirondack regions of New York as well as some Northern Pennsylvania trails such as the West Rim Trail. Also, the Finger Lakes Trail passes very close to my home and I often incorporate this into my "regular" destinations.

In general, temperatures will range from around -10 F (-23 C) to 60 F (16 C) during the testing time frame. Over the last few years, Upstate New York has experienced very heavy rains in the spring and a decent amount of very cold weather throughout the winter months.

Elevations in my normal hiking areas generally range from 500 - 2500 ft (150 - 750 m).

The Princeton Tec Fuel will accompany me on all my backpacking trips as well as any car camping or day hiking where carrying a headlamp is appropriate. It will also see extensive (daily) use around my home during my evening walks.


Initial Report - Jan 25, 2008

First Impressions

The Princeton Tec Fuel came in a simple cardboard package. Inside was the headlamp unit, the headband and the necessary 3 AAA batteries. There was also a simple fold-out instruction sheet with directions in English, French and German.

Batteries, Headlamp and Headband
Batteries, Headlamp and Headband

Assembling the headlamp was a very simple affair. The headband slid easily under the plastic fingers on the rear of the headlamp unit. The plastic adjustment slider on the headlamp also doubles as a tool to open the battery compartment. The three batteries were slid into the unit and the battery door snapped closed. Total assembly time was under 5 minutes and that included reading the simple but complete instructions.

Operation

Operation of the headlamp is all accomplished with one rubberized button. Pressing the button repeatedly cycles through all four settings (high, medium, low, flash). Pressing it a final time turns off the headlamp. If one setting has been enabled for more than two seconds, pressing the button turns off the headlamp.

Summary

My initial likes and concerns can be found below:

Likes

  • Batteries very easy to install
  • One button operation is very simple

Concerns

  • I've never used a headlamp where the headband is removable. While this may be simple for cleaning the headband, I am uncertain if the headlamp will stay in place during active use.

This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report will be amended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information.

Field Report - April 18, 2008

Field Conditions

I have used the Princeton Tec Fuel for over two months now in just about every condition imaginable. I've used it hiking in rain, snow and sleet. I've used it recently in 75 F (24 C) weather. In January and February, I had the opportunity to use the Fuel in -10 F (-23 C) weather. I've used it when working on my car or searching for something under the couch. In short, I've used it a lot!

Backpacking trips included multiple day hikes and two overnight trips. These trips occurred in the areas surrounding my home. Most of the day hikes occurred in the gorges around Ithaca, New York. Whether on these hikes as been relatively mild. Temperatures varied between 35 F and 55 F (2 C and 13 C).

In an effort to give some idea of my usage, I'd say I use it on average for about 6 hours a week. Over the 2.5 months since the Initial Report was posted, this gives me approximately 60 - 70 hours of use. Thus far, I've had to replace the batteries twice. Most of my usage was on the highest output setting.

Product Impressions

I'm happy to report that this has been one of the easiest test series I've ever participated in. Not so much due to the amount of thought I put into using the gear, but more so the lack of thought I have regarding the Fuel. As long as I remember to pack it, it's just there, ready to work. The one button operation is fantastic and the design of the button is great. I can use it with thick gloves or even mittens without a problem. Everything just works.

Battery life has been excellent. As I mentioned earlier, I use the lamp mainly on its highest output setting. One of the benefits to this headlamp over others I've used is that it doesn't simply die -- it tapers out slowly (over the course of an hour or so) making it very easy to not get left stranded with no light. Also, the battery compartment is very easy to use once you realize that the headband clip doubles as a sort of pry bar to open the latch. While it may sound difficult, it's actually very easy.

Comfort has been wonderful. I often forget I'm wearing the lamp when I come in from outside or enter my tent -- usually blinding anyone around me. I've worn the Fuel over a winter hat, a baseball cap and with no headgear and found that the elastic band has been comfortable and required no real adjustment after initially finding a good setting. Also, the head of the lamp adjusts through a far greater range of motion than other lamps I've tried making it possible to focus the beam anywhere from a couple feet in front of my boots up into the trees. Also, my initial concern with regard to the removable headband was thus far, unfounded. The lamp has stayed securely attached throughout a wide range of motions.

While I haven't purposely exposed the Fuel to excess water, it's gotten very wet on a couple of occasions during some hard rain / sleet. The secure battery compartment is weather sealed as is the rest of the lamp from what I can tell. Regardless, there have been no issues with such exposure. On one such occasion (2 hours of use in very hard rain), I opened up the battery compartment after reaching shelter and found no dampness at all.

Summary

This product is utterly simple in the best possible way. It's one of those gear items a person forgets about since it just does its job.

Likes

  • Very good battery life
  • So simple -- yet so useful
  • Huge range of motion for adjustment of the beam

Concerns

  • If only it were slightly brighter

This concludes my Field Report. The Long Term Report will be amended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information.

Long Term Report - June 27, 2008

Field Conditions

Over the last two months, the Fuel has been used almost daily for hiking, camping, household chores or other miscellaneous tasks. Select field conditions include a 3 day backpacking trip in the Adirondack region of New York as well as a weekend hiking / camping trip to Allegheny State Park.

Conditions on these trips included plenty of rain. Average temperatures varied between 40 F (4.5 C) and 85 F (30 C). Humidity was high most days. Usage included a couple hours of night hiking, various camp chores as well as reading in my tent. The night hiking occurred in the rain so the headlamp got quite wet.

Product Impressions

Throughout the last two months of testing, I have managed to kill two full sets of batteries. I've varied the usage of the fuel from its highest setting to a good deal of use on its lowest setting (perfect for late night reading). I would say I've gotten close to 85 hours of usage out of the two sets of batteries. Compared with the battery life noted in the field report, this shows that batteries do indeed last longer when using lower output settings.

With regards to the output settings, I find that the highest setting is perfectly adequate for night hiking on relatively easy trails. I do believe I would like a bit more output for more complicated trails. Once in camp, I find that I often would turn the headlamp down to medium or even low when doing camp chores. These setting seemed to be less harsh on my eyes and allow me to still preserve a small amount of night vision. I still haven't found a use for the flashing mode of operation during my use.

As stated in the Field Report, I still thoroughly enjoy the one button operation. I never have to worry about finding for which button to use and find that operation becomes second nature. The other feature of the Fuel which I have really enjoyed is the range of tilt provided by the lamp. I can sit up in my tent and point the beam almost straight down -- prefect for reading or playing cards.

Summary

Overall, this headlamp has been a joy to test!

Likes

  • Very good battery life
  • Very simple operation!
  • Can point almost straight down

Concerns

  • If only it were slightly brighter for hiking tricky trails at night

This concludes my Test Report.



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Reviews > Lighting > Headlamps - LED > Princeton Tec Fuel Headlamp > Test Report by Mark Wood



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