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Reviews > Lighting > Headlamps - LED > Princeton Tec Spectrum Fuel Headlamp > Test Report by Michael Mosack

Princeton Tec Spectrum Fuel Headlamp
Test Series by Mike Mosack
LONG-TERM REPORT
May 03, 2012

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Mike Mosack
EMAIL: mosack@earthlink.net
AGE: 48
LOCATION: San Diego, California, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 6' 1" (1.85 m)
WEIGHT: 240 lb (109.00 kg)

I've been backpacking for over 30 years, doing solo and group trips, with and without kids. I do day trips, weekenders and week-long or longer trips throughout the year. I backpack in all climates and seasons and in various locations within the USA, to include my favorites being Yosemite and Sierra Nevadas, California. I also have worked in Afghanistan for 4 years and rely on my backpacking equipment constantly. I go lighter whenever possible. Quality and reliability of items I carry are paramount to me over price and weight.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Princeton Tec

IMAGE 1
Princeton Tec Fuel from website


Year of Manufacture: 2012
Manufacturer's Website: www.princetontec.com
MSRP: US $35.00
Listed Weight: Two different weights given on the website - 79 g and 78 g (2.75 oz) but no explanation for the difference.
Measured Weight: 78 g (2.75 oz) with three included AAA size Energizer brand alkaline type batteries (lithium are lighter than alkaline)
Measured weight without batteries: 43 g (1.5 oz)

Other details:
This is a customized headlamp designed by the purchaser via the manufacturer's website.

SPECIFICATIONS
Power: 70 Lumens
Lamp: 4 Ultralight LEDs
Burn Time: 146 Hours
Batteries: 3 AAA size and accepts alkaline, lithium, rechargeable NiCad or NIMH

Seems the manufacturer is concerned about the environment as they include a message on their site about battery recycling and provide the link as well which I found impressive.
USA International warranty which seems pretty standard. No surprises and it covers the headlamp for as long as I (the original purchaser) own it.

Return policy is included with full instructions and contact information for the manufacturer.
Waterproof rating to level 1 which is water resistant to splashing and quick dunkings.
The manufacturer's product website states that the headlamp utilized "Ultra-Bright LEDs which by design puts out focused wide beams of light. At close range, focused wide beams simulate normal daylight conditions and allow [me] to take advantage of [my] peripheral vision.
The manufacturer states they are an "American manufacturer since 1975."
The Fuel is constructed from a combination of Xenoy and Xylex plastics.

IMAGE 2
Image from website of customizer page

ONLINE ORDERING EXPERIENCE

Let me first begin with "wow." This was a very cool experience for me. I played and played with changing the different color combinations so much that it became difficult for me to decide on a singular idea. I even went back after ordering my customized headlamp and played some more. I felt a little like a product designer and the experience allowed me to really give my headlamp what I felt was my own personal touch. I picked a mostly white colored headlamp because for me, it is easier to locate in subdued lighting. Most of my other headlamps are black colored.

The customizable Fuel headlamp comes in many color options. There are also many individual pieces that make up the headlamp which can be ordered in different colors so I was able to have a lot of fun using the interactive website as I changed colors on "my" headlamp as I was designing it. Additionally, there are two different designs available for the elastic headband making the options even better.

I found it interesting that the manufacturer included a descriptive breakdown of the individual components of the Fuel headlamp. I am not used to finding this level of information on such an item. I am used to seeing this on much larger or more technical items like stoves, tents and backpacks.

The website is clean and simple and navigating around I felt at ease. My confidence in the company became stronger and I felt that we (Princeton Tec and I) worked together to make a headlamp just for me.

I customized my headlamp and submitted my order. Within 24 hours, I received an email confirmation that Princeton Tec had received my order and they confirmed my color choices and provided a photo of my headlamp. They then shipped my headlamp to me all very quickly from an east coast address. I live on the west coast of the US and I received my headlamp without any obvious delay. Over all, I am very impressed right from the start.

IMAGE 3
Actual item received

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

My customized headlamp arrived in a small box. The light and headband arrived unattached so I was required to put them together, but that was incredibly easy. The batteries went in just as smoothly and I was ready to go. I am very impressed by the speed my light was delivered to my door from the time I ordered it. The light I received was exactly as I had ordered it and much brighter than any of my many other headlamps of similar weight and power supply. I am a sucker for having the brightest light available so this has rapidly become my favorite headlamp already.
IMAGE 4
The brightest headlamp I own

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

Full user manuals are available through the manufacturer's website in English, French and Dutch languages.

The instructions seem to cover everything I would expect. Description of the headlamp, its capabilities, how to install the batteries properly and obvious warnings if they aren't installed correctly, how to turn it on, troubleshooting, warranty information, etc., are a few of the available topics of information included. The instructions seem pretty straightforward as I would expect. Having owned many headlamps, there were no real surprises here.

TRYING IT OUT

The headlamp provides a tool to aid in opening the battery compartment of the headlamp. The tool is part of the friction buckle! What a cool idea and it goes right along with my preference to find items that have multiple uses in order to condense number of items carried in my pack. This was a very pleasant surprise for me.

To turn the headlamp on, it has a button type switch on the top. Pushing the button once turns it on high power, twice for medium power, three times for low power and four times to have the headlamp flash. Pressing it a fifth time in quick succession will bring the headlamp full cycle and turn it off.

The elastic headband adjustment has a friction type sliding buckle. The material of the headband is soft and seems to be comfortable against my skin.

The back bracket to the headlamp can be detached from the elastic headband. I am able to attach the headlamp to a pack strap or similar option for those times when I might want to get the headlamp off of my head.

SUMMARY

I really liked being able to customize my headlamp. That is a huge plus in my book. I like that I had so many color options to pick from.

I really appreciated the personal touch that I felt receiving an email from Princeton Tec in receipt of my order, confirming my color choices and providing a picture of my newly constructed headlamp. My confidence in the company and my relationship with them grew strong immediately.

I would have preferred to have had more elastic headband design options in line with those that are included with the standard factory Fuel headlamps and can be seen on the website.

I would have also preferred to have a red lens option or a flip lens cover as I historically prefer to hike with the red lens to reduce glare to other hikers.

This headlamp is incredibly bright and I love it. The adjustable light intensity makes it user friendly and allows me to save battery life.

I was very impressed by the speed in which the headlamp shipped (less than 24 hours) after I ordered my customized headlamp,


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Location #1 - Pacific Coast Trail section in Laguna Mountain region of Southern California, USA
Conditions: Ungroomed foot trails and forest access dirt roads. Temperatures ranging from 55 to 90 F (13 to 32 C)
Duration: Two trips, 2 and 3 days (and nights) respectively.

Location #2 - Numerous areas in Occotia Wells and Anza-Borrega Springs, California, USA
Conditions: Typical desert including rocky, sandy, ungroomed, open, and dry terrain. Temperatures ranging from approximately 70 to over 90 F (21 to over 32 C).
Duration: Four days, three nights.

Location #3 - Numerous miscellaneous day hikes ranging from 2 - 5 miles (3 - 8 km) in the area of Eastern San Diego County, California, USA.
Conditions: Maintained trails, grassy areas, some concrete sidewalks and maintained roadway shoulders. Temperatures ranging from 70 to 80 F (21 to 27 C).
Duration: Day hikes only.

IMAGE 5
Campsite off the PCT

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I have used this on the trail, in the tent, around the campsite, at home, in the garage, even while working on my bike. I have used this as my primary light source when ambient lighting is not available or bright enough and I always know where it is. In the above photo, my headlamp is on my backpack.

Already, this has become my favorite headlamp. Going hands free while lighting up a specific area, enables me to not have to hold a flashlight. I can concentrate on using both of my hands for the task at hand. I like being able to set the headlamp's adjustable beam angle and the brightness of the light output. I also like the very bright white light that it produces. The headband keeps my headlamp secure on my head and is comfortable to wear. I have received many compliments on the color of the headlamp as well as on its performance. I had never seen a white colored headlamp available and this color that I picked in the design makes it easy for me to locate it in low-light situations - like in the middle of the night on the floor of my tent. The switch is solidly built as is the entire light and so far, I have yet to find a negative.

SUMMARY

I think one of the best things I can say about this light is that I always know where it is and I keep it handy as I use it all of the time. It is one of the very few pieces of backpacking equipment I have that I use in almost every activity. My knife, water bottle, and GPS are the others.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Two trips, 2 and 3 days (and nights) to the Pacific Crest Trail section in Laguna Mountain region of Southern California, USA
Conditions: Ungroomed foot trails and forest access dirt roads. Temperatures ranging from 55 to 90 F (13 to 32 C)

A four day trip to Napa and Sonoma Valley California USA where the daily temperature was approximately 75 F (24 C). The terrain here consisted of rolling hills and grassy / groomed trails and walkways. The elevations were from sea level to approximately 1500 ft (450 m).

A three day trip to the Sierra Nevadas in California and Nevada, USA. The dry terrain consisted of grassy fields, to rocky mountainous areas. The weather there consisted of sunny and clear to partly cloudy skies and temperatures from 68 F (20 C) to 80 F (27 C). Elevations I have traveled during this test period have ranged from approximately 4000 ft (1200 m) to over 6500 ft. (1980 m). When not on trips afield, I have often worn these boots as daily walkers around town.

Numerous miscellaneous day hikes ranging from 2 - 5 miles (3 - 8 km) in the area of Eastern San Diego County, California, USA.
Conditions: Maintained trails, grassy areas, some concrete sidewalks and maintained roadway shoulders. Temperatures ranging from 70 to 80 F (21 to 27 C).
Duration: Day hikes only.

IMAGE 6
My Princeton Tec at work

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

This headlamp has been my primary field light and I have kept this with me day and night for the past four months as I work, hike, camp, etc., and have had it with me constantly.

I switch between the different intensity levels and pick the best one for the conditions I am in at the time. I have started hikes at night and begun with the light at its highest setting and then adjusted it to the lowest as my night vision improved or have returned the headlamp to a higher setting to see a difficult area or to view something further out.

I noticed that with the lowest setting, the light beam reaches out approximately 8-10 feet (2.5 - 3 m) in front of me, depending on the angle adjustment and at the highest setting, the beam reaches out approximately 18-20 feet (5.5 - 6 m), but these measurements are dependent on the darkness level and my sensitivity to night vision prior to turning on the lamp. The beam appears to reach farther and is brighter when my night vision is more sensitive.

I have worn the headlamp pointing backwards and set it to flash mode to warn oncoming traffic of my presence while cycling or walking near roads. I have worn this headlamp on my head as it is designed, let it hang around my neck, held it in my hand, attached to my hard hat, and attached it to my gear, depending upon the given situation. This headlamp has worked reliably throughout.

SUMMARY

Throughout this test series, I have continually found this headlamp to be top notch. It goes everywhere I go. I use it both while at work and play. I tried to find a negative, but just cannot. I think it would be a nice option to have a red lens version or option on the light. Maybe Princeton will add this in the future? I hope so anyway. I am confident that I'll be getting another of these headlamps, should something ever happen to this one.

Pros -
Personal design
Lightweight
A very bright light
Adjustable beam intensity and angle
Elastic band that is quite comfortable

Cons -
None.

I would like to thank Princeton Tec and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this very cool headlamp.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

Read more reviews of Princeton Tec gear
Read more gear reviews by Michael Mosack

Reviews > Lighting > Headlamps - LED > Princeton Tec Spectrum Fuel Headlamp > Test Report by Michael Mosack



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