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Reviews > Lighting > Headlamps - LED > Princeton Tec Vizz headlamp > Test Report by Brian Hartman

PRINCETON TEC VIZZ HEADLAMP
TEST SERIES BY BRIAN HARTMAN
LONG-TERM REPORT
November 07, 2015

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

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Brian Hartman
EMAIL: bhart1426ATyahooDOT com
AGE: 47
LOCATION: Westfield, Indiana
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 145 lb (65.80 kg)

I have been backpacking for over 20 years throughout Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and most recently in Western USA. In addition to backpacking I enjoy family camping with my wife and kids and being outdoors in general. I would describe myself as a mid-weight backpacker. I use fairly light weight equipment and gear but still like to bring more than the bare essentials with me while on the trail.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS


Manufacturer: Princeton Tec
Year of Manufacture: 2015
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.princetontec.com/
MSRP: None
Listed Weight: 3.25 oz (92 g) includes batteries
Measured Weight: 3.35 oz (95 g)
Colors: Black, Green, Red
IMAGE 1


The Princeton Tec Vizz is a lightweight, compact, backpacker friendly LED headlamp. It has several nice features including operation with standard AAA batteries,165 lumen output on its brightest setting, and three lighting modes (one of which is dimmable). The Vizz also has waterproof construction, a low battery indicator, and regulated circuitry for consistent brightness.

Going into more detail on these features, the Vizz operates on three AAA batteries including alkaline, lithium ion, rechargeable NiCad and rechargeable NiMH. The headlamp assembly contains a total of five LEDs: one 165 lumen Maxbright LED, two white Ultrabright LEDs, and two red Ultrabright LEDs. The Maxbright LED has a spot beam for illuminating distant areas while the two white Ultrabright LEDs are dimmable and provide a wider beam spread. The two red Ultrabright LEDs are intended for close range task lighting and/or night time trail hiking while still maintaining night adjusted vision.

IMAGE 2 IMAGE 3

The burn times stated by Princeton Tec are impressive and I'll be checking these during Field Testing to see how my headlamp compares. I'll also try different battery types to see if it makes a difference in how much burn time I get. The headlamp has a durable molded plastic design and the front lens, mode button and battery compartment are all sealed, giving it an IPX7 waterproof rating. This rating basically means that the headlamp can be submerged underwater for 30 minutes at one meter (3.3 ft) and still remain dry inside. The low battery indicator is a red LED that's built into the power button. When the headlamp is turned off with approximately 20% battery life remaining, the LED flashes for around twelve hours. This same LED flashes when the headlamp is locked to prevent accidental turn on.

Even with all of the features mentioned above, the Vizz is still a very lightweight and compact headlamp. Princeton Tec offers a lifetime warranty on the Vizz for customers in the USA and 10 years for international customers.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The Vizz headlamp (hereafter called Vizz or headlamp) arrived in a cardbard package along with a 1" (25.4 mm) wide nylon adjustable headband, 3 AAA alkaline batteries and a small instruction sheet. Although this headlamp is loaded with features the first thing I noticed was its light weight and the five LEDs behind its front lens. Upon closer inspection the Vizz appears to be well crafted and has a sharp design and sleek appearance. Despite its good looks its molded plastic body feels rugged enough to handle the backcountry.

IMAGE 4

I had no problems accessing the battery compartment as it has a knurled thumb screw closure that is easily opened using the plastic tab on the headband. The Vizz came with alkaline batteries but I will also try rechargeable NiMH batteries to see how well they perform and how long they last between charges. Of course, the best and most expensive batteries are lithium ion, which the Vizz supports since it has regulated circuitry. Lithium batteries provide the best performance and last the longest of all battery types in cold weather and in storage. They also weigh less than other battery types.

Regarding fit and comfort, the headband on the Vizz is easy to slip on and adjust and pretty much stays put once it's on my head. I've only worn it briefly but so far it seems to fit fine and is comfortable. I'm used to a headlamp that has an additional strap over the top of my head so this one is taking me a little while to get used to but once again I've had no problems with it.

The translucent mode switch/button is flush with the top of the headlamp and requires firm pressure (and small fingers) to activate. As such, the first few times I wore the headlamp I had trouble finding the button with my finger and had to take the headlamp off and look to make sure I was pressing in the right place. Looking closely there is a pattern on the button but it is too subtle for me to feel with my finger. Raising the pattern or adding a few bumps on the button would help make finding it a lot easier, at least for me.

Operation of the headlamp is very intuitive. A single press of the button activates the 2 red LEDs. A double press activates the Maxbright white LED. Holding the button activates the Ultrabright white LEDs, which start in the lowest setting and get brighter. A triple press of the button locks the headlamp so that it cannot accidentally be turning on. My initial inspection has revealed the LEDs to be very bright with nice defined patterns. Given that I'll talk in much more detail about light output and beam pattern in my Field Report I'll stop right here with the diagram below on switch operation.

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SUMMARY

Overall I really like the Vizz and am looking forward to Field Testing (as is my wife; apparently I've been turning all of the lights off in the house and walking around with the headlamp on blinding her). My only concern at this point is being able to quickly find and activate the mode button with the headlamp on my head.

This concludes my Initial Report for the Princeton Tec Vizz headlamp. Please come back in two months for my Field Report. In the meantime, my thanks to Princeton Tec and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this product.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

During the past two months I used the Princeton Tec Vizz on three backpacking trips for a total of nine days. I also used it on two night hikes and on several late night bike rides.

Brown County, Indiana: This was a three day backpacking trip of approximately 11 miles (18 km). The weather was warm and wet with temperatures in the upper 70s F (26 C). Rainfall during this trip was almost 2.1 inches (5.3 cm). The terrain was heavily forested and quite rugged. The Vizz came in handy while setting up camp, cooking each night, and doing some late night reading in between rain storms.

Hoosier National Forest, Indiana: Daytime temperatures reached 98 F (37 C) on this backpacking trip through the Charles Deam Wilderness Area. I hiked approx. 5 miles (8 km) on this trip, mostly on trail with a brief bushwhack to our campsite on the shore of Lake Monroe. The terrain was forested and moderately hilly with elevations ranging from 530 ft (161 m) to 780 ft (238 m). One interesting note on this trip is that as soon as I turned on the red LEDs I was immediately attacked by several quite large flying bugs that continuously dive bombed my face. Needless to say I quickly switched modes.

Franklin County, Indiana: This was a two-day backpacking trip through the rolling fields and mature forests of Southeastern Indiana. I hiked 5 mi (8 km) on the first day and 4 mi (6.4 km) on the second day. The weather during this trip was comfortable with partly sunny skies and temperatures in the mid 70's (24 C). The Vizz came in quite handy while cooking dinner as well as when starting the campfire. It was also used, successfully, for a late night bathroom break away from camp.

Cool Creek Park, Indiana: I went on two night hikes at this park. While hiking I used the Vizz along with my GPS to search for Geocaches. I covered approximately 2.5 mi (7.2 km) while hiking in the park both nights. Evening temperatures were in the lower 70s F (22 C).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The Black Diamond Vizz headlamp performed wonderfully during the past two months of testing. In addition to accomplishing its normal tasks it continued working even after going through two rain storms and a hard fall on the ground. Below are details regarding its light output, battery life, comfort, and lamp controls.

Light Output: The Vizz provided plenty of light for all of my backpacking needs including: hiking at night, setting up and breaking down camp, starting a campfire, cooking, reading and the occasional late night bathroom break. For most activities I used the two white Ultrabright LEDs and simply adjusted their brightness based on what I was doing. Hiking at night = high setting; setting up and breaking down camp = high setting; Starting campfire = low setting; Reading = low setting. I really only used the Maxbright LED when I was looking for my campsite after hiking after dark, and of course, when riding my bicycle at night. I didn't use the red Ultrabright LEDs much given the fact that they didn't give off much light or seem to help my night vision. They also seemed to excite/agitate bugs. Several times I was immediately attacked by large flying bugs after turning the red lights on.

In an attempt to show the headlamp's light output and beam pattern, I took the following photos using a white backdrop, tripod and time delay. The headlamp and camera are 10 ft (3m) away from the target wall and the three photos (from left to right) are of the red LEDs, the white Ultrabright LEDs and the Maxbright LED.

IMAGE 1IMAGE 2IMAGE 3

The three photos below are of a large walnut tree from approximately 50 ft (15 m) away. The first photo shows the tree unlit, while the second and third photos shows the tree lit up by the Ultrabright LEDs and Maxbright LED respectively.

IMAGE 4IMAGE 5IMAGE 6

Battery Life: So far I've gone through two sets of alkaline batteries and just started my first set of NiMH. For awhile I kept track of every time I turned the headlamp on and off and what mode I used in order to see if the claimed runtime specs were true, but eventually I stopped. What I can say is that the Vizz is judicious about battery usage. Both sets of alkaline batteries lasted a long time (very scientific, I know!) and so far the rechargeable NiMH batteries are running strong. Based on my testing I'd say that the manfacturer's burn time specs of one hour regulated for the Maxbright LED and six hours regulated for the Ultrabright LED are fairly accurate. For example my evening bicycle rides were thirty-five minutes each, using the Maxbright LED, and I was able to get two rides plus some backpacking out of each battery pack before recycling them. I am happy to report that there doesn't seem to be any leakage current and so when I'm not using the Vizz, I regularly leave the batteries in it.

Comfort: The Vizz was comfortable to wear and, once the headband was adjusted for proper fit, it stayed in place and did not loosen. Throughout testing I had no problems with the headlamp moving around or sliding down my forehead while bending over or moving quickly. This was something I was initially concerned about as my other headlamps have straps that come over the top my head to prevent them from sliding down. The light weight design of the Vizz, I'm sure, has a lot to do with the fact that it stays in place. I wore the headlamp over my baseball cap while biking and had no problems but I haven't worn the headlamp over my skull cap, so I'm not sure if the slippery surface will create problems. That will have to wait until the weather gets cold which may be a while as the temperature today is supposed to hit 92 F (33 C). One final note is that the headlamp was easy to tilt up or down and stayed in place once adjusted. I'll continue to monitor the hinge to see if it loosens over time but so far it has not been a problem.

Lamp Controls: As discussed in my Initial Report the Vizz has three lighting modes for use of the Maxbright LED, two white Ultrabright LEDs, or two Red Ultrabright LEDs. In addition the White Ultrabright LEDs can be brightened or dimmed and the headlamp can be locked so that it can't accidentally be turned on. Selecting one of these modes as well as switching between modes is simple and intuitive on the Vizz. There is nothing complicated to remember and the controls are fullproof meaning there is really no way to mess things up. The problem I've had with the lamp controls is being able to quickly find and activate the mode button. Because the button is flush to the top of the headlamp and there's no obvious distinguishing feature on it, it's often times hard for me to find. I end up pushing on one side of the button or the other which does nothing. After several seconds of pressing really hard in the wrong spot I move my finger left or right and try again until I figure it out, but I wish Princeton Tec would add a significant raised feature to the center of the button to make it stand out. Even more so since the button requires so much force to activate and it has to be pushed in the exact center or it will not turn on. Pushing even 0.5 in (1.3 cm) to the left or right of center does nothing. I have even found myself pushing in the center of the button but then moving left or right, thinking I was in the wrong spot, when the reality was that I was not pushing hard enough.

SUMMARY

The Princeton Tec Vizz is a great headlamp. It's lightweight, compact and provides plenty of light for most nighttime activities. In addition, it has proven to be water-resistant and durable with above average battery life.

This concludes my Field Report for the Vizz headlamp.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I had many opportunities to use the Princeton Tec Vizz headlamp during Long Term Testing as fall arrived and nights became longer. Most of my testing took place in Central and Southern Indiana with a two day backpacking trip to Franklin County and several trips to local parks in the area. In addition I used the Vizz on eight nighttime bike rides and while doing a small renovation project at my house. Temperatures during this test period ranged from 39 to 80 F (4 to 27 C) while weather conditions varied from warm and sunny to cool and rainy and everything in between. Most of the time however it was warm and sunny as weather patterns shifted in the Midwest and we received far less rain the past two months then we did earlier this year. The elevations I backpacked in ranged from 710 to 911 ft (216 to 278 m). Further details of my trips are highlighted below:

Trip One: (2 days, 2 nights) Backpacking in Franklin County, Indiana
Weather: Mild and sunny with temperatures of 66 to 78 F (19 to 26 C)
Elevation: 710 to 860 ft (216 to 262 m)
Distance: I spent most of this trip wandering through forests and following a couple of creeks in the area. Total distance hiked was 8 mi (13 km).
Pack Weight: 27 lb (12 kg)
Brief Comments: I also used the Vizz while setting up camp at night, starting my camp fire, cooking and while reading in my hammock.

Trip Two: I did a total of eight nighttime bike rides during this test period, and used the Vizz on its Maxbright setting during each ride.
Temperature: 39 to 80 F (4 to 27 C). Temperatures varied significantly from my first bike ride in early September to my most recent ride last night.
Elevation: 794 to 855 ft (242 to 260 m)
Distance: I rode approximately 40 to 45 minutes on each ride, covering around 12 mi (19 km) per trip. Total distance biked was approximately 96 mi (154 km).
Brief Comments: The Vizz did an excellent job of lighting my way.

Trip Three: Various day trips to local parks in the area including Strawtown Koteewi Park in Noblesville, Indiana, Cool Creek Park in Westfield, Indiana, Freedom Trail Park in Westfield, Indiana and Macgregor Park in Westfield, Indiana.
Temperature: 65 to 78 F (18 to 26 C)
Elevation: 833 to 911 ft (254 to 278 m)
Distance: 6 to 8 mi (9.5 to 13 km) per trip
Pack Weight: 4 to 7 lb (1.8 to 3 kg)
Brief Comments: The local trails were mostly dry and very well maintained. The changing fall leaves during the last month of testing made for some great scenery while hiking. Since park hours are sunrise to sunset I typically arrived a few hours before sunset and stayed as long as allowed.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

IMAGE 1 The Vizz headlamp continued to perform well throughout Long Term Testing. In fact it provided more than enough light for every task I had and still offered great battery life and durability.

When using alkaline batteries my headlamp seemed to easily exceed the manufacturer's specs for regulated burn time of the Maxbright and Ultrabright LEDs of one hour and six hours respectively. Unfortunately I can't provide a definitive amount of time that I was able to get on regulated power because I simply don't know when the headlamp circuitry switched power over from regulated to unregulated. What I can say is that I used the same set of batteries for all six of my park trips and all eight of my bike rides, more than twelve hours in total, and noticed no discernible difference in light output from my first trip to my last. I can also say that I used the Ultrabright LEDs, on high power while in the park and I used the Maxbright LED exclusively on all eight of my bike rides, which were approximately 45 minutes long each.
Moreover, once the Vizz reduced its light output it still allowed for many more hours of usable light. How many hours, I lost track, but it was a lot! Probably fifty or sixty hours of light in total before I changed the batteries.

As great as the Vizz performed while using alkaline batteries, burn times weren't nearly as long when I switched to rechargeable NiMH batteries. Specifically I used Energizer 750mAh batteries and found that the low battery light came on after only a few hours of use (maybe six or eight) and the headlamp's light output diminished steadily thereafter. I ended up removing the rechargeable batteries after approximately twelve hours because the light output had dimished too much to be of use. I suspect the issue may be due to lower amp hour capacities in the NiMH batteries versus what the alkalines provided. Regardless it's disappointing that the NiMH's didn't seem to last that long. At some point I intend to try Duracell rechargeables and see if that makes a difference. At this time it's too early to tell if it's is a battery issue or a problem with the headlamp.

When using the Vizz on my backpacking trip in Southern Indiana, it did a great job of illuminating my campsite and easily allowed me to find dead twigs and branches to start my campfire. It also provided plenty of light while setting up camp, making dinner on my stove and reading in my hammock. The ability to adjust the brightness of the Ultrabright LEDs was most welcome while reading as I was able to adjust the LEDs to their lowest setting so that there was absolutely no glare on my book pages.

One last note in regards to durability is that the Vizz was once again subjected to rain during this test period as well as at least two accidental drops, the worst of which was a siz foot fall off my head onto the pavement, and it never missed a beat.

SUMMARY

Overall I really like this headlamp and plan to continue using it on my fall and winter backpacking trips. It's lightweight, reliable and provides great light output. It also offers great battery life when using alkaline batteries.

This concludes my Long Term Report for the Vizz headlamp and this test series. Thanks to Princeton Tec and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this headlamp.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.

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