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Reviews > Lighting > Headlamps - LED > Underwater Kinetics Vizion > Test Report by James E. Triplett


Underwater Kinetics
Vizion™
3AAA eLED Headlamp
Waterproof All Weather LED Headlamp

Vizion Headlamp

by James E. Triplett
Initial Report - July 18, 2008
Field Report - September 29, 2008
Long Term Report - December 2, 2008



 


Personal Biographical Information:

Name: James E. Triplett
Age: 48
Gender: Male
Height: 6' 2" (188 cm)
Weight: 195 lb (88.5 kg)
Email address: james_triplett@hotmail.com
City, State: Cedar Rapids, Iowa - USA

 

Backpacking Background:

I am an experienced hiker, backpacker, and camper, and am gaining more experience with winter camping every year.  I hike every day, and backpack when possible, which leads to many weekends backpacking and camping each year.  I try and take at least one annual week-long backpacking trip in addition to many one to three-night weekend trips.   My style can best be described as lightweight, but not at the cost of giving up too much comfort.  I generally sleep in a tent, and seem to be collecting quite a few of them to choose from.


Manufacturer Information:

Manufacturer: Underwater Kinetics, California USA
URL:
www.uwkinetics.com

 

Product Information:

Year of Manufacture: 2008
Date Item Received: July 11, 2008

Item being tested:
3AAA Vizion eLED Headlamp
Model number: 17004
Color: Eco Green
Other colors: Black, Denim, Desert, and Olive Drab Green
MSRP: $31.95 US
Listed weight: 3.9 oz (110 g) with Alkaline batteries
Actual weight:
4.0 oz (113 g) with 3 included Duracell AAA batteries



Additional UK Vizion information:
(from the Underwater Kinetics website)

  • Waterproof to 10 meters.
  • 3 Selectable beam patterns - Spot, Diffuse and Red Diffuse
  • High and Low power settings
  • Advanced Compound Path Optics (CPO) focus the beam and are contained internally so that there are no lens parts to lose
  • Large push button control switch works with heavy gloves
  • Powered by 3 alkaline or lithium AAA cells
  • Energy conservation design transfers heat back into batteries for longer burn time and improved cold weather performance
  • LED lamp module can be removed from head mount for use as camp light
  • Rotating beam angle adjustment knob, no hinge to break
  • Extra wide head band for comfort
  • High Impact ABS, LEXAN®, polyurethane rubber, and stainless steel construction for durability
  • Limited Lifetime Warranty
  • Made in the USA
  • Earth friendly retail packaging


Underwater Kinetics Vizion

Initial Report
July 18, 2008


Initial Inspection:
This headlamp is pretty cool looking, and nothing like any of the several other lights I have used over the years.  UK (Underwater Kinetics) specializes in injection molded materials, and LED lighting, specifically for wet or underwater applications.  The Vizion was found in the "Utility" section of their website.  The single LED light source is housed in a plastic cylinder which has angle and beam adjustments incorporated into the ends of the cylinder, and the three AAA batteries and the light source itself are within the cylinder.  This assembly fits into a 2-piece injected molded housing which is what holds the lamp to a wide, over one inch (2.8 cm), headband.

Two components make up the "camp light"
The two cylinders simply pull apart and can then be removed from the headband and holder.

The Underwater Kinetics website lists the colors available for the Vizion, but doesn't show any examples other than the black model in the picture.  I took a shot in the dark and requested the Eco Green model, and it is a nice color.  Opening the specification sheet (downloadable PDF file) from the Underwater Kinetics website I later learned that some models have a Black/Silver headband (like the one I received), while a couple of models have a camouflage strap listed.  I would have requested a different color if I had realized this, but the one I received still looks pretty cool.  Also on the specification sheet (and not on the website) I found the Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price of $31.95 US.

Vizion Injected molded housing
2-piece injection molded housing.

Further Inspection:
While I have found most headlamps to be rather intuitive as to their operation, this one is a little different.  To adjust the beam from "spot" to "diffuse" to "red" a cylinder is rotated so that the outer most material rotates around placing different filters over the light source.  In a somewhat similar fashion, the beam direction can be adjusted by rotating the entire lamp assembly up and down.  The power switch is incorporated into one end of the cylinder and is activated by pressing a big soft rubber cover.  Interestingly, to switch from high power to low power you must activate the button three times.  The sequence is High-Off-Low-Off.  Not what I'm used to but certainly simple enough to use.

Using the Vizion as a camp light
Camp lantern setup, with the red filter rotated over the LED.

Another innovative idea is the fact that the lamp cylinder assembly can be removed from the headband and molded plastic frame, and used as a camp light.  By pulling on the two ends of the lamp assembly, the batteries, LED, and beam angle adjustment core comes out one side, and the power switch and beam diffuser cylinder comes out the other side. These two halves can then be reassembled without using the holder, and at least at first glance, the lamp module seems rather stable sitting on one end with the power switch pointing upward.

Lens on the left, LED on the right
The Vizion uses a single LED which is mounted in the black material in the center of the picture.

Batteries, LED, and even Further Inspection:
Removing the three Duracell AAA batteries (which came installed in the headlamp) I can see the single white 0.5 watt LED sitting under a lens.  While many headlamps designs are going to more and more LEDs, the Vizion only has one.  The lens mounted over the LED disperses the light into a broader pattern, kind of like a headlight lens would on an automobile.  The three batteries mount in typical fashion, with a spring contact on one end of the battery and a fixed contact on the other end.  However, two of the three batteries go in, in the opposite direction of what I would expect.  I am accustom to the negative end of the battery, the flat end, being installed against the spring, while the positive end, with the little nub, goes against the fixed contact.  One battery goes in this way, and the other two go the opposite way.  This is conveyed with "+" stickers at the appropriate end, and I sure hope the stickers stay in place. 

Be careful of battery orientation (see the +?)
Despite all three battery springs at the same end, one of the batteries mounts in the opposite direction.  There are + signs for each battery.

Comfort and 
Fit:
The headband is soft and wide, and trying the Vizion headlamp on for the first time indicated it would be comfortable to wear.  The batteries, LED, and housing are all at the front of the setup, so all but the weight of the headband itself is against the wearer's forehead.  Still, the model I received weighs in at 4.0 oz (113 g) with the included alkaline batteries, and despite that being as much as a quarterpounder hamburger, it's not that much weight and the headlamps sits securely in place.

Additional Claims:
Brightness: 29 lumen on high, 18 lumen on low
Distance Seen: 305 ft / 93 m
Burn Time: 74 hours on high, 127 hours on low
Depth Tested: 33 ft / 10 m

Test Plan:
I plan to use the Underwater Kinetics Vizion 3AAA eLED Headlamp for all my illumination needs during the test period.  Initially this will be primarily as a camp light since we're having fairly long days of daylight during the summer.  Later in the test period I anticipate hiking with the Vizion lamp, as in, actually using it to light my path going down a trail.  I intend to report on the battery life and illumination distances per the information above, although I don't have the equipment to take measurements on such things.  Most if not all testing will be done in Iowa and Missouri.  The average temperature and precipitation data for Eastern Iowa is in the table below.  The elevations here range from around 480 feet (145 meters) near the Mississippi river, to around 800 feet (245 meters) around my house.


Month
Temp Range
degrees F
Temp Range
degrees C
Precipitation
(inches)
Precipitation
(cm)
July
64 to 85
18 to 29
4.2
10.7
August
62 to 83
17 to 28
4.5
11.4
September
53 to 75
12 to 24
3.5
8.9
October
42 to 64
6 to 18
2.4
6.1
November
29 to 47
-2 to 8
2.2
5.6

Underwater Kinetics Vizion with ruler

Initial Report Summary:
The UK Vizion is a sharp looking headlamp which appears to be made out of high quality materials.  The design is innovative and seems good in theory.  That being said, while playing with the headlamp, including removing the core to see how it works for an area light, I have already experienced an issue.  After reassembling the nesting cylinder halves back on the holder and headband I have observed the two halves unscrewing from each other when I try and adjust the beam type or angle.  (Note: These cylinders don't thread together, they are just a tight press-fit, but the effect is as if they are unscrewing from each other.)  I am very curious to see if the headlamp is waterproof (at least in the rain) and in fact, whether it stays together when making beam adjustments.  I hope so!




Underwater Kinetics Vizion 3AAA eLED Headlamp

Field Report

September 29, 2008

Test Conditions:
I have taken the Underwater Kinetics Vizion 3AAA eLED Headlamp on all my backpacking outings since receiving it in July.  This has included a 1-day 1-night trip, and a 3-day 3-night trip.  Additionally, I have worn the Vizion more and more on morning hikes near my home as the sun comes up later and later and I am now often times back before daylight.

The temperature has ranged from 42 to 90 F (5.5 to 32 C), and I have used the headlamp in a variety of weather conditions.  Primarily the weather has been dry, but I have used the Vizion for a total of three hours in the rain, one hour of which was in a fairly heavy downpour..  Total burn time for the headlamp so far is estimated at 12 hours.

Field Testing:
The Vizion has been typically worn over a baseball cap during hikes down well-know trails in the area.  When hiking in the rain, the Vizion has been over a cap, and under the hood of my rain-shell.  In camp, the Vizion has again been worn over a cap, except for a few times of short use when I put it directly on my head.  I have also used the headlight in lantern mode, on the ground, a picnic table, or in my tent.

So how has this single LED headlamp worked?  I would have to say pretty well.  The light is very bright and in the "diffused" mode lights up a broad area, even in the dimmer of the two brightness settings.  In the "spot" mode it casts a beam well down the trail.  What I have noticed in "spot" mode is that I can't angle the lamp down as far as I would like, so to see directly in front of me I need to tip my head fairly significantly to illuminate the ground in the area I'd be taking my next step.  This is partially due to wearing the headlamp over a cap, which I typically do, as the bill of the cap prevents the headlamp from going any lower on my forehead.  (I've used headlamps both with and without this issue before.)  However, this isn't as noticeable on the Vizion when in "diffused" mode, and that is where I tend to leave the headlamp.

The third mode is the "red diffused" mode.  I know a little bit about the fundamentals of light and the purpose of the red light for nighttime use is based on the how the human eye functions.  As I understand it, the human eye has two types of receptors; rods and cones.  A simplified explanation of how the red light is effective is that the cones are sensitive to red light, and the rods are sensitive to blue - white light.  Using a red light source for illumination allows the rods to stay "nighttime adjusted" (since they aren't sensitive to the red light) and the cones can pick up the red light and see whatever it is that is being illuminated.  In practice, this actually does work.  I have been able to hike down some familiar trails with the red light on, and my peripheral vision stays quite well adjusted to the darkness.  That being said, the output of the "red diffused" light is pretty dim, so I have only done this where I have known the area.  A more practical application is in camp, when using the Vizion to illuminate things close at hand.

Another way in which the Underwater Kinetics Vizion Headlamp is designed to be used, besides the three lighting modes described above, is as a "lantern".  I have tried this out a couple of times.  It does cast out a lot of light when set up on end on a table, or on the ground.  I've tried it this way in a tent too, but it's easier to keep track of with the headband on it when I'm lying down in my sleeping bag.  Since the headlamp by definition leaves both hands free anyway, I don't see lantern mode as a big advantage.  However it is kind of neat, and it does offer a little bit of ambiance to the campsite, not to mention gives you some relief from blinding your hiking partners when turning to talk to them.

Underwater Kinetics Vizion JET

Summary:
This is the prefect time of year for using a headlamp in Iowa.  The days are short, making for lots of morning and evening hiking in the dark, and the trees are still fully leafed out making it difficult for moonlight or starlight to filter down to the ground.  I love walking down the trail and seeing deer and raccoon eyes light up across the forest.

As for the headlamp itself - the Underwater Kinetics Vizion is a pretty cool headlamp.  I like they way it fits close to my head in a compact package.  It is very comfortable to wear.  I have used it in the rain and it has remained water tight through the conditions I have exposed it to.  The light output is very bright, and so far I haven't noticed any significant dimming due to the batteries being used up.  The only dislike I have is that it takes both hands to rotate the tube around to change between "spot", "diffused", and "red diffused" modes, but so far this hasn't presented much of a problem.  Oh, and I wish I could angle it down a little farther.


Long Term Report

December 2, 2008

Test Conditions:
I have continued to use the Underwater Kinetics Vizion LED Headlamp as my sole lighting device for daily hikes before sun-up and on two overnight trips to Pinnicon Ridge Park here in Eastern Iowa.  Temperatures have ranged from about 55 F down to 16 F (13 C down to -9 C).  On the overnight trips there wasn't any precipitation.  On my day hikes I have been caught twice more in the rain, and have worn the headlamp on two short hikes with snow falling.  Estimated burn time for this portion of the test is approximately 25 hours, bringing the total for the complete test to 37 hours.

Test Results:
The Vizion Headlamp, as previously reported, has three beam adjustments, "spot", "diffuse", and "red diffuse". These beams are selected by rotating a cylinder with the left hand so that the outer most material rotates around placing different filters over the light source.  After using the Vizion for four months now I seem to be able to make these changes without too much difficulty, although I do think it is somewhat cumbersome and possibly the biggest drawback of the headlamp.  It takes both hands and a hard twist to get the beam filters to rotate.  The beam angle is quite easy to adjust, although it takes two hands as well.  The rubberized power switch is not only easy to use, but now that I know it goes on the left it is incredibly simple to orient the headlamp correctly on my head without looking at it.  Both the angle adjustment and power switch are very nicely done.

This headlamp also has the ability to be converted into a tabletop "lantern", which is kind of slick.  But in all honesty I haven't used it in this configuration for much more than curiosity reasons.  Taking the two halves of the lamp assembly apart and putting them back together seems a little imprecise.  Since they don't seem to snap, or lock, into place I am concerned that the waterproofness could be compromised with improper alignment, or possible damage to the seal.  I haven't found this to be a problem as when I need the light on, while not on my head, I simply turn it on and set it where I want it without taking it apart. 

I have worn the Vizion Headlamp in the rain and snow without incident.  The headlamp continues to perform well and shows no signs of ill effects from water, and it has gotten soaked.  (On one dry day it did flicker, just once, and that hasn't ever happened again, so I am at a loss to explain what caused it.)  Wearing the headlamp during precipitation I discovered that the red diffuse beam can reduce reflection off the drops of rain or flakes of snow.  It does throw out considerably less light in red mode, so I generally only use that when I know the trail, or the weather is causing a problem.

I have used the headlamp for approximately half of its rated battery life, and the light output is slightly, although perceptibly, reduced.  It still seems like a bright headlamp to me and I don't feel the need to install new batteries at this point.

Summary:
The Underwater Kinetics Vizion LED Headlamp has been fun to test.  It has worked well, become easy to use, and it is quite comfortable to wear.  The light output is more than adequate, and it is waterproof.  Additionally, it offers different beam choices, intensities, and can be used as a table lantern.  This is a very nice product from Underwater Kinetics.

Thank you BackpackGearTest.org and Underwater Kinetics for allowing me to participate in this test.

Respectfully submitted,

-James T.





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