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Reviews > Lighting > Headlamps - LED > Princeton Tec Spectrum Fuel Headlamp > Test Report by Derek Hansen

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Photo courtesy princetontec.com

Princeton Tec — Spectrum Fuel Headlamp

Test Series by Derek Hansen

TESTER INFORMATION

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NameDerek Hansen
Age36
GenderMale
Height5' 10" (1.78 m)
Weight170 lb (77 kg)
Email Address pix-obfuscated
City, State, CountryFlagstaff, Arizona, USA

BACKPACKING BACKGROUND

I am a lightweight backpacker with a typical overnight pack weight of 15 lb (7 kg) and a multi-day weight of 20 lb (9 kg), which includes food and water. Because I pack less than 20 lb (9 kg), I prefer lightweight trail-running shoes. I prefer backpacking with a hammock as part of my sleep system.


PRODUCT INFORMATION

Manufacturer Princeton Tec, New Jersey, USA
Year of Manufacture 2012, made in USA
Manufacturer’s Website princetontec.com
MSRP $35.00 USD
Listed Features
  • Customized design (color choice)
  • 70 Lumens
  • 3 AAA batteries (alkaline or rechargeable NiCad or NiMH)
  • 146 hour burn time
  • 4 Ultrabright LEDs
  • Four modes: high, medium, low, flash
  • 1 switch operation
Manufacturer Recommendations
  • Never mix fresh and used batteries
  • Remove batteries during long periods of storage
Measurements
Specifications What They Say What I Say
Weight (Large) 2.75 oz (78 g) 2.8 oz (79 g)
Dimensions N/A 2.3125 x 1.75 in (6 x 4.5 cm)
Color Choices pix-color-choices
Sizes One size, adjustable headband
Warranty 5-year warranty


INITIAL REPORT

1 May 2012

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION

The Princeton Tec Spectrum Fuel is an LED headlamp featuring four ultra-bright white LEDs that can be switched to four modes: high, medium, low, and flash on high. One unique feature of this headlamp is that the plastic body components can be customized by color at the time of ordering.

The headlamp's elastic band is easily removable, allowing the light to be used or attached in different places like on a pack's sternum strap.

The power button is located on the top, center of the light. Repeated presses on the button cycle through the different modes and then turn the light off. If more than two seconds elapses between presses, the next press will turn the light off.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

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Here is a screenshot showing my color choices before ordering.

ORDERING ON THE WEB -- My first task was to customize and order the headlamp. For this test, I was contacted by Princeton Tec and given a unique code to use at purchase time, plus instructions on ordering. The website is actually very easy to use and the customization process is straightforward.

There are limited styles for the band. Most of the customization is for the plastic parts. There are a number of color choices for most of the components offering multiple combinations of color.

I opted for a yellow-orange-green combination, although it was difficult to choose. I didn't opt to create an account, although I could save my choices and even share them to social networks. Instead, I went straight to ordering. The shopping cart and order process was done with minimal steps. I was very happy with how easy it was to order. I use a Macintosh computer and was running the Safari browser. I had no problems with any of the forms or fields.

CUSTOMER SERVICE -- I was told it would take several weeks for the custom light to be manufactured and mailed. I was happy to hear that the parts are custom molded in the factory in New Jersey. While the website gives the impression of a big company, the knowledge that my light was being hand-made gave me the feeling that I was somehow unique and cared for throughout the process.

Within a day or two I was surprised to receive an email from the company that told me my light was made and ready to ship. The message included a photo of my light next to the rendering from the website. While I'm sure the message is sent to all customers, I liked their personal style.

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The photo from the email showing the rendering and physical piece completed.

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TRYING IT OUT -- Getting the headlamp was much quicker than anticipated. One thing I love is quality packaging. The Fuel headlamp is packaged in an unassuming black cube with the company's logo and tag lines printed on different panels. Opening the box revealed the Fuel "staring" back at me. Behind the light and beneath a flap in the box were the instructions, batteries, and elastic band.

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Without reading the instructions, I attempted to install the batteries. The battery cover is obviously marked and it looked like a coin could easily open the panel. Sure enough, my coin worked and I was able to identify the polarization marked on the case.

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The instructions also indicate that the plastic buckle doubles as a tool to easily open the battery compartment. I was delighted to see this design detail worked into the light. This will really make it easy to change batteries in the field if necessary.

The light swivels stiffly up and down on the casing, meaning I can direct the beam in a certain regard.

My initial tests pushing the button proved that the light is easy to operate and switch between modes. The light is very bright in these first tests.

INITIAL SUMMARY

I love that I can pick and choose the color design on this headlamp. I feel it is more personal and distinctive. I like the simplicity and attention to detail on the light.

PRO—Customized colors, bright, easy-to-use

CON—None so far

FIELD REPORT

21 Aug 2012

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

May 5-6: Flagstaff, Arizona. No moisture, just a hot, dry day in Flagstaff. The high temperature was 72°F (22°C) and the overnight low was 45°F (7°C). Elevation was 7,000 ft (2,130 m).

May 15-19: Damascus, Virginia. I participated in the Appalachian Trail Days and backpacked and camped along the Appalachian Trail every night (I only hiked about 2 miles (3 km) each day to return to town). I enjoyed the refreshing humidity and rain showers. Elevation was 2,400 ft (732 m).

May 24-26: Near Heber, Utah. Backpacked 4 mi (6 km) at an elevation of 8,000 ft (2,440 m). I experienced a wide-range of temperatures and conditions including rain, hail, deep fog, and sun. Temperatures ranged widely from near freezing to the 70s°F (20s°C).

Jun 22-23: Kachina Peaks Wilderness, Flagstaff, Arizona. I spent the weekend with fellow BGTer, Kurt Papke backpacking the San Francisco Peaks. We hiked 26 mi (42 km). Elevation ranged from 8,000 ft (2,438 m) to 12,635 ft (3,851 m) at the summit. It was hot, dry, and very windy at the summit.

Jul 15-20: Camp Geronimo, near Pine, Arizona. Summer camp with the Boy Scouts! Thanks to the monsoon rain season, overnight temperature was a cool 40°F (4°C) with the high during the day in the high 60s°F (15s°C). Elevation was roughly 5,000 ft (1,500 m).

Aug 9-10, 17-18: Coconino National forest, near Flagstaff, Arizona. These were both family camping trips with minimal hiking. Elevation was 7,000 ft (2,100 m).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I have really enjoyed using this headlamp. The band is comfortable and I can wear it for hours before I feel any pressure. I typically remove it before that ever becomes an issue, but there have been a few nights recently when I read a book long into the night.

I'm especially fond of the "tool" that is incorporated into the plastic buckle. This small detail has made it easy to open the case and replace the batteries. Speaking of the batteries, I've used the original set throughout almost the entire field test. In early August I began to notice the light seemed dim, but I had grown accustomed to it so I couldn't be sure. While I was doing some work in my attic, I decided to replace the batteries and I was surprised at how bright the lamp became. I've used the fresh batteries on my last two camping trips.

The lamp is bright, and most of the time I use the lowest setting to do all my nightly camp chores and reading. Clicking through the different modes is easy and familiar.

The beam is broad and casts a wide area, so hiking and moving around camp has been pleasant. I've also used the light on a few occasions when bicycling at night. The beam shines pretty far, making it visible a hundred or so feet (30 m) in front of me. It isn't a focused beam, but does provide a fairly wide area of illumination.

I've grown fond of my personalized choice as well. At first, I was a little skeptical about choosing my own colors, but it feels more personal and I'm very attached to the light.

FIELD USE SUMMARY

A very bright light with a comfortable band. The batteries seem to last a long while, although I cannot confirm if I achieved the 140+ hour burn time. I know I've used at least 60 hours, plus dozens more in odd uses around the house.


LONG-TERM REPORT

16 Oct 2012

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I've taken the headlamp on three additional overnight trips and a few day hikes, totaling more than 40 miles (64 km) of backpacking. This has been a great light and I'm very happy with the design and aesthetics.

Aug 24-25: Sycamore Canyon, near Williams, Arizona. The elevation was 6,500 ft (2,000 m). During the night, the temperature dropped into the mid-50s °F (10 °C).

Sep 3: Mount Elden, Flagstaff, Arizona. I went on a 10.5-mile (17 km) day hike with my children. We had lunch once we made it to the ridge. The temperature was in the 70s °F (21 °C), but a storm was threatening, which forced us to quickly go down the mountain. Heavy rain and hail greeted us when we made it back to the car, but luckily we only endured misting rain on the trail.

Sep 14-15: Kachina Peaks Wilderness, Flagstaff, Arizona. I joined a Venture Crew on a 20-mile (32 km) backpacking trip along the Inner Basin Trail and the Weatherford Trail. The overnight low was in the upper 30s °F (3 °C) and around 70 °F (21 °C) in the day. Elevation ranged from 8,600 to 11,300 ft (2,530 to 3,400 m).

Sep 28-29: Coconino National Forest, Flagstaff, Arizona. I went on an overnight camping trip with my Boy Scout troop. The overnight low was in the upper 30s °F (3 °C) and around 70 °F (21 °C) in the day. The elevation was 7,000 ft (2,134 m).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

My field experiences during this long-term phase mirror the great experiences I had during the last field test. This is a great, all-around performing light. It has a good field of light, good battery life, and an easy-to-adjust dimmer setting.

Battery Life - I have only replaced the batteries once more. The alkaline batteries perform well with this light and I am much more aware of the dimming when the batteries need replacing. This was evident on my backpacking trip on the Kachina Peaks when my light was very dim in comparison to my companion's. When I am alone, I don't notice as much since I primarily use the light for camp chores or reading and I typically use the lowest setting. I must admit that I've used this light a lot at home, during bicycle rides, and with my children, so the hours of use are right in par with the expected life listed by the manufacturer.

Durability - The band continues to work well. The width is comfortable and the elastic is appropriate. At home, my kids use the light often (another reason my battery seems to run out faster) and so the light has been knocked about. However, the light appears as good as new and has proven very durable.

FINAL SUMMARY

I have no complaints about the headlamp. Adjusting the fit around my head is easy. Replacing the battery is easy, thanks to the built-in "tool" on the band. The light can move or adjust up and down with a firm twist. Overall, a great light that I'm happy to use in the future.

PRO—Durable, great visibility, good battery life, custom coloring options are fun.

CON—None.


I would like to thank Princeton Tec and BackpackGearTest.org for providing me with the opportunity to test this product.



Read more reviews of Princeton Tec gear
Read more gear reviews by Derek Hansen

Reviews > Lighting > Headlamps - LED > Princeton Tec Spectrum Fuel Headlamp > Test Report by Derek Hansen



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