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Reviews > Lighting > Headlamps - LED > Princeton Tec Spectrum Fuel Headlamp > Test Report by Katie Montovan

PRINCETON TEC SPECTRUM FUEL HEADLAMP

Princeton Tec Spectrum Fuel Headlamp
TEST SERIES BY KATHRYN MONTOVAN
INITIAL REPORT: April 26, 2012
FIELD REPORT: August 21, 2012
LONG TERM REPORT: October
16, 2012

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Kathryn Montovan
EMAIL: sull0294(at)gmail(dot)com
AGE: 29
LOCATION: Groton, New York, USA
GENDER: F
HEIGHT: 5' 5" (1.65 m)
WEIGHT: 150 lb (68.00 kg)

I have been backpacking, climbing, kayaking, canoing and winter camping for over 10 years. My excursions are mostly weekend and occasionally weeklong backpacking and kayaking trips in the wooded and often wet, rolling terrain of western New York. I usually tarp camp with a small to large group and love to cook fun and delicious foods on my trips. In general, I strive for a compact and light pack and value well-made and durable gear.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS


Product information

Manufacturer: Princeton Tec
Manufacturer's Website: http://princetontec.com/
Model: Spectrum Fuel
Year Manufactured: 2012
MSRP: $35.00 US
Listed weight: 2.75 oz (78 g)
Measured weight (total): 2.9 oz (82 g)
Measured weight (headband): 0.6 oz (17 g)
Measured weight (light housing without batteries or strap): 1 oz (28 g)
Listed Power: 70 Lumens
Batteries: 3 AAA
Listed Burn Time: 146 hours
Lamp: 4 Ultrabright LEDs

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION

IMAGE 6
The headlamp and headband

The Princeton Tec Spectrum Fuel is a custom colored compact headlamp that can be attached to the removable elastic headband, pack straps, or other similarly shaped gear. It has 4 ultrabright LEDs with 3 brightness levels (high, medium and low) plus a strobe function. The body of the headlamp is made out of a combination of Xenoy and Xylex plastics. The angle of the light is adjustable and is designed to stay in position during use. The light is water resistant to splashing and quick dunking.

IMAGE 7
The back bracket
The power button is a simple press button with a water resistant cover. The number of times the button is pressed initially determines the brightness level. I press once for high, twice for medium, three times for low, four times for strobe, and five times will turn the light off again. The light will also turn off if the button is pressed when it has been more than 2 seconds since the last button press.

CUSTOMIZATION PROCESS

My first step with this test was to use the manufacturer's website to design my headlamp. I picked my own colors for the headlamp housing, button and headband, but could not change the features or functional parts of the light. The Princeton Tec website made it easy to try out different color combinations and to preview the result. I could choose one of ten colors (teal, yellow, pink, green, red, blue, orange, black, white and gray) for the door, body, arm, end cap, and bracket. The button could be either gray or black and the strap could be black and gray checker or banded dark and light gray. At first it seemed like the color choices were fairly limited, but when I played with them I quickly created multiple designs that I liked. I think that Princeton Tec did a nice job selecting appealing colors that can be combined in many different ways without providing an overwhelming number of options.

Once I created a headlamp design, there were three options: share, save, or buy. I tried to save my design and found that a “My Spectrum” account was required. Creating this account was much easier than I expected. It only asked for an email address and a password and then I was registered and ready to create and save my headlamp designs. After I created my account and logged in, I was able to save designs and then look at all of them next to each other. The screenshot shows the headlamps I designed across the top and the headlamp that I chose is in the center. Viewing designs side by side made it easier to compare possible options and choose my favorite.

IMAGE 2
The My Spectrum website

Overall, I found the website to be very user friendly and intuitive. Signing up for a my spectrum account was easy and has not resulted in any email solicitations. I have only two suggestions for improving the website. The first is that it would be very nice to be able to delete designs from my account. I also wish that it was easier to change which headlamp is displayed in the middle in the “My Designs" page. When I clicked on one of them, it left the “My Designs" page and displayed only the chosen design. It would be much nicer if clicking on a design simply made that the one displayed largely below all the others.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

IMAGE 5
The image the manufacturer sent

IMAGE 3
The tool being used
to open the battery compartment
When I received the information about placing my order, there was an estimate that it would take approximately 3 weeks to arrive. That seemed like a long time to wait for a headlamp, but I didn't think it was unreasonable for a custom built design. I placed my order during the afternoon of April 23, 2012. I was surprised when I received a nice email with shipping confirmation and a photograph of my completed headlamp on April 24. Then flabbergasted when the headlamp arrived on April 25, 2012.

The headlamp arrived in a little box with 3 AAA batteries and a small instruction booklet. The colors are slightly brighter than they appeared on the website, but overall the headlamp meets my expectations. It looks like a sturdy headlamp with a good range of light angles. The only thing that bugs me about the headlamp design is that there is a part of the arm that sticks out when the headlamp is turned away from the neutral position. My complaint is mostly cosmetic, but I wonder whether this point will be likely to catch on things or more likely to break if the headlamp is dropped.

IMAGE 4
The inside of the
battery compartment

The first step was to install the included AAA batteries. There is a “tool” built into the headband buckle that opens the battery compartment opens. This tool is really just a thin tab on the buckle, but is essential for getting the battery compartment open. The batteries are arranged in a triangle within the housing. The polarity is clearly marked on the end cap and is much easier to read here than when I have seen it marked within the battery casing. It took me a minute to match the markings on the cap with each open slot; then I inserted the batteries and snapped the compartment shut. I switched the headlamp on and confirmed that it works and that I could get it to turn onto high, medium, low and strobe.

SUMMARY

I am looking forward to using this headlamp on all of my trips this summer. I often take trips with large groups and it will be nice to know that I have a unique headlamp that will not get confused with anyone else's. I will test how well it works for cooking, finding the bear bag line in the dark, reading in my sleeping bag, and finding my way out of the tent in the middle of the night. The customizable bracket is a feature that I am particularly excited to try out by searching for things within my gear that it could attach to that might add functionality to the light. The durability of this light will also be determined through extended field use in rough and often wet conditions.


FIELD REPORT


FIELD CONDITIONS

I have used this headlamp while camping, around the house, for reading at night, and on runs after dark. I have used it for something almost every day since I got it.

Trip 1:
5-night canoe camping trip in the boundary waters near Ely, Minnesota (MN). Temperatures ranged from 70 F (21 C) to 95 F (35 C) and weather covered most options including high wind, beautiful sunny days, drizzly rain, and sudden downpours. I used the

Trip 2: 2-night car camping trip with a group to Stillwater Reservoir, near Lowville, New York (NY). Weather was sunny and 75 - 85 F (24 - 29 C).

Trip 3: Solo 2-night backpacking trip along the Finger Lakes Trail, near Ithaca, NY. It was sunny and humid for the whole trip and temperatures ranged from 57 - 88 F (14 - 31 C).
Elevation ranged from 400 - 1700 ft (120 - 520 m).

FIELD REPORT

General Use: This headlamp worked well for me for doing tasks around camp after dark. It is bright enough to use for cooking, finding my way down a trail, and hanging a bear bag. The highly adjustable angle makes it easy to point where I need it, and usable even when it is upside down.

Custom Color Design: I enjoy the color scheme that I chose and like that my headlamp no longer gets confused with everyone else's. Before this headlamp I had a very popular headlamp that almost always was present on my trips in multiples. Now, my headlamp is very easy to find. I don't think that the colors that I chose really help me look cool around the neighborhood- there is only so much that well chosen colors can do to make a headlamp look less goofy in town (but it is so helpful that I use it anyway).

Customizable Attachment Bracket: This back bracket has held up well during use and I have not had any problems with the headlamp slipping off of what it was attached to. I take this headlamp for runs with me after dark and dislike how hot and sweaty I get with the elastic headband. One night I decided to try attaching the headlamp directly to myself. I looked at my clothing and decided that my sports bra strap looked like the right size for the mounting bracket. I slipped it onto the strap and headed out. It worked great! I hardly noticed that it was there and had no problems with it bouncing around. The one challenge is that it was oriented sideways when attached to a vertical strap, so I could adjust it to shine left or right but not towards the ground. It was great for my visibility for cars, but not so great for seeing my path. During this phase of testing I did not do any hiking after dark, and cannot attest to how well it works when attached to a pack. When
I do use it for this purpose, I will probably try to attach the light to the sternum strap so that the angle can be adjusted to point at the ground.

Reading at Night: I discovered a long time ago that headlamps work great for bedtime reading. I especially like ones with a dim and/or red light setting for this purpose and was excited about this headlamps multiple light settings for this reason. However, I have found that there is not a large difference between the bright light and the dimmest light and that all three light settings are much brighter than I prefer for bedtime reading (both for allowing my tentmates to sleep while I read, and for letting my eyes adjust to the dark and get sleepy). I wish that this light had a larger difference between bright and dim so that it worked better for this purpose.

Water Resistance: I often keep this headlamp in my purse and one day had a water bottle spill and soak everything. The elastic strap of the headlamp was wet but the light had no troubles and lived up to it's water repellent claims. I also have had no problems using this in the rain.

Changing the Batteries: The tool built into the strap made it very each to open the battery compartment, but the battery compartment was so close fitting to my batteries that I really had to work to get the batteries out. One slipped out fine, but the other two required tapping the headlamp on a hard surface and gently coaxing the batteries out. The markings for battery direction were easy to read if I had another light to use while changing the batteries, but would have been impossible if I had been on a solo trip and not had a backup headlamp.

SUMMARY

This is a standard headlamp that works well in most of the conditions I have used it in. It is bright, water resistant, easy to use, dependable, and distinctive. For running I find myself searching for it over my other headlamp because of the back bracket that allows me to attach it directly to my clothing. But I keep my other headlamp next to the bed at night, because this one is too bright (even on the dimmest setting) for reading and preserving any sort of sleepy lighting. Overall, I have found this to be a good headlamp and enjoy using it. 

LIKES

  • Distinctive colors make it easy to find and hard to confuse with other people's headlamps
  • Highly adjustable bracket angle makes it possible to point it in a wide range of directions and to use it while it is upside-down
  • Back bracket make it easy to take it off the elastic band and attach it to another, more convenient, strap.

DISLIKES

  • Low setting is too bright for my nighttime reading

LONG TERM REPORT


FIELD CONDITIONS

Trip 1: 2-night kayak camping trip to Cranberry Lake in the Adirondacks of western New York. Temperatures ranged from 55 F (13 C) to 75 F (24 C) and with high winds and drizzling rain.

In addition, I have continued to use the headlamp for night-time runs, reading in bed, and nighttime car repair.

PERFORMANCE

In the long term testing of this headlamp it continued to perform as it had in previous phases of testing. I only encountered one problem which occurs when I use rechargeable batteries. A few trips after I replace the batteries with fully charged ones, the headlamp starts to dim. It works fine for the first few minutes and then diminishes quickly until I realize that I am functioning without much light at all. If I let it sit, it will turn on with good light output then diminish again. I have not experienced this with any of my other headlamps using the same rechargeable batteries. I am always careful to carry a set of extra headlamp batteries, so when I notice this starting to happen I now know that it means the batteries are dying and it is time to change the batteries before I am suddenly stuck somewhere away from my extra batteries with no light.

SUMMARY

This has become my headlamp of choice because of its distinctive color, adjustable bracket, small size, light weight, and water resistance. I have to say that when I initially realized that the only customizable parts of this headlamp were the coloring I thought that it was a little frivolous. After all, I don't go to the woods to show off my fashion. But I have come to appreciate the distinctiveness of my headlamp on group camping trips where there are many of the standard headlights that often get mixed up. I have also enjoyed the back bracket that allows attachment customization. Overall, the Spectrum Fuel Headlamp has been reliable and has worked well in the conditions I have encountered.

LIKES

  • Distinctive colors make it easy to find and hard to confuse with other people's headlamps
  • Highly adjustable bracket angle makes it possible to point it in a wide range of directions and to use it while it is upside-down
  • Back bracket makes it easy to take it off the elastic band and attach it to another, more convenient, strap.
  • Light weight
  • Small size

DISLIKES

  • Low setting is too bright for my nighttime reading
  • Light diminishes quickly when rechargeable batteries become low on charge

Thank you to Princeton Tec and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the Spectrum Fuel headlamp. It has been an enjoyable test of a nice little headlamp.



Read more reviews of Princeton Tec gear
Read more gear reviews by Katie Montovan

Reviews > Lighting > Headlamps - LED > Princeton Tec Spectrum Fuel Headlamp > Test Report by Katie Montovan



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