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Reviews > Lighting > Headlamps - LED > Underwater Kinetics Vizion > Test Report by Larry Kirschner

Underwater Kinetics Vizion 3AAA eLED Headlamp

TEST SERIES BY LARRY KIRSCHNER
UK VIsion


INITIAL REPORT - July 23, 2008
FIELD REPORT - October 1, 2008
LONG TERM REPORT - November 29, 2008



TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Larry Kirschner
EMAIL: asklarry98 at hotmail dot com
AGE: 44
LOCATION: Columbus, OH
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 200 lb (90.70 kg)

I've been an intermittent camper/paddler since my teens, but now that my kids are avid Boy Scouts, I've caught the backpacking bug. I typically do a few weekend hikes per year, and have recently spent time over the past 2 years backpacking at the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico and canoeing the Atikaki wilderness in Manitoba. I like to travel "in comfort", so I often pack a little heavier than needed, but I'm trying to cut down. With all of my investment into these ventures, I expect my wife and I will continue to trek long after the kids are gone…


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Underwater Kinetics
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: www.uwkinetics.com/
Model: Vizion 3AAA eLED Headlamp
MSRP: USD $31.95
Listed Weight: 3.9 oz (110 gm) with alkaline batteries or 3.5 oz (99 gm) with lithium batteries
Measured Weight: : 4.0 oz (113 gm) with alkaline batteries supplied) / 2.8 oz (79.5 gm) without batteries
Listed Dimensions (confirmed by Measurement):
     L 2.90 in / 7.37 cm
     H 1.47 in / 3.73 cm
     D 1.82 in / 4.63 cm


INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

I received the Underwater Kinetics Vizion 3AAA eLED Headlamp, packaged neatly in "environmentally friendly" packaging, which basically means fairly simple packaging with the specs listed on the package. I received the Eco-green lamp, which has a black/silver strap emblazoned with the UK logo and some fancy patterning. The headlamp also comes in other color combinations, including black, denim blue, desert tan, and olive drab, with either a black/silver or camouflage strap.

The specs on the headlamp include the following:

 
Hi
Low
Brightness
29 lumens
18 lumens
Burn time
(Note that the product literature is somewhat inconsistent on this point)
74 hours
127 hours


The headlamp is rated to be waterproof to 33 ft (10 m), and is noted in the product literature as providing illumination up to 305 ft (93 m) when used on the trail. Underwater, the headlamp provides light up to 42 m on the high setting, and up to 33 m on the low setting. As noted, the headlamp is powered by 3 AAA batteries, which can either be alkaline batteries (which are supplied with the headlamp) or can be lithium batteries, which are apparently a wee bit lighter

The casing of the headlamp is make from molded "high impact, non-corroding ABS, LEXAN, and polyurethane", which are all hard plastics. The strap supporting the lamp is 1 1/8 in (29 mm) wide, providing a reasonable level of comfort for wearing the headlamp.
UK Vizion-lamp casing

The LED (light emitting diode) apparatus is somewhat interesting. It has 3 light settings: a focused beam, a diffuse beam, and a red, diffuse beam for preservation of night vision. The setting is changed by means of rotating the knob at the right side of the headlamp (marked as the "angle" side in the picture). The ends do not slide easily and it took me a few minutes to figure out how to change the output setting, but after seeing how it works, it is really quite simple to do. The different light effects are achieved by a clear plastic casing which sits outside the LED itself. The spot beam has a lens apparatus etched into the casing, whereas the diffuse beam setting is a frosted-type glass which serves to spread the beam. The red setting is just like the diffuse, only the plastic is red. The light turns on by pushing a button (really the whole knob) on one end, and the light goes on in the pattern of hi-off-low-off, meaning it takes 4 pushes to get from the high setting back to the high setting. The LED apparatus can also rotate in an arc from straight horizontal down to about 60 degrees downward, in case you need to look down while walking.
vizion beam settings

The light apparatus also has the capability to be removed completely from the housing and head strap. In order to do this, both sides are pulled out from the sides of the casing. One side has the battery case and the diode, and the other carries the casing with the different focus settings. This feature may be useful for using the headlamp like a free-standing camp lantern. The top panel of the photo below shows the Vizion after pulling out just one side of the lamp casing. The lower photo shows the lower casing out and re-assembled with the other half to form a stand-alone lantern. I took the photo above using the lantern in this fashion.
Vizion apart

The brief instructions that accompany the headlamp show how to adjust the headlamp, including how to open and close the headlamp. The lamp needs to be opened in order to change the batteries, and the battery chamber for the three AAA batteries is clearly marked for polarity. Information is also provided about the care and maintenance of the headlamp. Briefly, the instructions indicate that the seals and O-rings need to be kept clean. If the lamp is flooded, it should recover after a quick wash with clean water and adequate time to allow all the inside parts to dry completely. The instructions also recommend removing the batteries from the lantern if it will not be used for an extended period, as this may prevent corrosion of the batteries and the terminals. The lantern comes with a limited lifetime warranty to be free from defects under normal use. The plastics are warranteed for 10 years, the fabrics and rubber for 3 years, and the LED for 30 days. Information is provided about how to arrange returns/exchanges if needed.

TRYING IT OUT

After checking out the specs of the headlamp, I played around with the various light settings. The pushbutton side of the lanterns is very easy to turn on, and the fact that there is a rounded button on one side and a smooth side on the other means that I don't need to be able to see to turn it on. I played around with the beam settings, as noted above. At first, it took a bit of cranking to change from spot to diffuse to red and back again, but after doing it a few times, I don't anticipate any problems in the future. After a little bit of playing, I was also able to note the difference between the high and low light settings, although there was not a big difference, at least none that I could appreciate while trying out the lamp inside. It was not inherently obvious to me how to separate the lantern from the casing, but the flat (non-button side) of the lantern clearly states "pull to access batteries". When I did this, it was obvious how to remove the light element from the casing and use it as a stand-alone light source.


EXPECTATIONS FOR THE UK Vizion

I am generally unfamiliar with Underwater Kinetics products, so I didn't really know what to expect for this headlamp. My initial impression was that the lamp assembly was a little weak, and that I wasn't sure if it would hold up underwater. Now that I have had some time to play with it, I think it will do fine. The materials and construction seem quite solid, although the headlamp feels very light when I have put it on. So far, I am positive about this headlamp, and I'm excited to see how it functions on the trail.


TEST PLAN

For the field report stage of the test, I will be taking the UK Vizion headlamp with me as my primary light source on all my upcoming camping trips, including the one this weekend to the Ohiopyle State park in Pennsylvania. I will see how the headlamp does on the trail, trying to get a feel for the difference between high and low, and trying to see how long the lantern lasts on a single pair of batteries. If the weather is rainy, I will see how the headlamp holds up in the rain, but (unfortunately) I don't anticipate any diving with the lantern.


This concludes my Initial Report on the Underwater Kinetics 3AAA eLED headlamp. Please check back in 2 months for my Field Report on this item.

Thanks to Underwater Kinetics for providing this lantern for testing, and to BackpackGearTest.org for giving me the chance to walk in the light.

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FIELD REPORT

October 1, 2008


FIELD CONDITIONS

So far, I have taken the UK Vizion headlamp with me on three trips. The first was a weekend trip to Ohiopyle state park, in southwest Pennsylvania (PA). The weather was sunny, and the temperatures ranged in the 80's F (27-30 C) during the day and down to about 55 F (13 C) overnight. The second trip was a 4 day/3 night weekend trip to the Gettysburg battlefield in south-central PA. That trip was also mostly sunny and the temperatures were similar to the prior outing. The third trip was a weekend jaunt up to Put in Bay, Ohio, located on South Bass island in the corner of Lake Erie. The temperature range was again pretty similar, but we got fairly heavy rain during one of the evenings. I got some additional use out of the Vizion when we lost our power here for 5 nights due to winds from one of the recent hurricanes. I carried the Vizion with me when I was out at night, and then wore it a few hours per night when I was in the house.

FIELD EXPERIENCE

From my usage to date, I have found that the UK Vizion provides quite substantial light on either setting, and I generally have only used the lamp on the low setting. This provides plenty of light for walking around, and I have had no trouble reading at night with the light on low. The weight of this headlamp is low enough that I hardly notice when I am wearing it, and the strap is quite comfortable. I have also not had any problems at all with the headlamp slipping or falling off when I have worn it. The only comment I have regarding the lamp and the strap at this point is that it is not uncommon for me to put it on upside-down. The headlamp has an "up" side and a "down" side, so that when I put it on upside-down, the light is pointed up towards the sky. I am doing this less now that I have more experience with the lamp, but it still happens fairly often.

In terms of battery usage, I have used the Vizion about 7 nights outside plus the 5 nights at home without power. As far as I can tell, the light is still as bright as ever and shows no signs (yet) of wearing down the batteries.

This headlamp also has a variety of additional features, so let me comment on some of them individually:

  • Waterproof: I have not had the opportunity to try this lamp out underwater, although I did wear it while it was raining quite heavily out, and had no problems at all.
  • Different lamp settings: As mentioned above, I have only really needed the lamp on the low setting. I can tell the difference between high and low, but I do find it a modest annoyance to have to click through on-off-on-off all the time. My suggestion to the manufacturer would be to make the sequence hi-low-off, and save the extra button push.
  • Different lens settings: Maybe I'm simple about these things, but I have left the Vizion on the diffuse white setting the whole time I have used it. I haven't found any need for either the "spot" setting or the "red" setting, but maybe if I was doing more exotic activities (like night snorkeling) these would have gotten more action.
  • Ability to use as a stand-alone lantern: Again, this is a cool feature, but one I haven't had any opportunity to use. If the removable part had a hook or loop so that I could hang it in my tent, I might have more use for this feature, but I'm not sure.


WEAR AND TEAR

The UK Vizion has performed well for me so far. As noted, there is no sign of wearing out my batteries at this point. There is no significant wear or tear that I can see on the lens, casing, or strap. So far, I would call the durability of this unit excellent.

FIELD IMPRESSIONS

To date, the Underwater Kinetics Vizion Headlamp has functioned very well for me. It provides a good amount of light, and I barely notice it when I'm wearing it on my head. The simple, durable construction makes using the headlamp a snap. I have the minor quibble noted above about having to push the button many times, but this is not a big issue. Also, this headlamp has more features than I have needed, but maybe I will come up with some better uses during the long-term phase of the report.


This concludes my Field Report on the Underwater Kinetcs Vizion Headlamp. Please check in back in about 2 months for my final report on this item.

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LONG-TERM REPORT
November 29, 2008

FIELD CONDITIONS

During the long-term phase of the report, I used the Vizion for one additional weekend trip to Yellow Springs, Ohio. The weather during the trip was in the 40's F (4-6 C) during the day. The temperatures fell to around 30 F (-1 C) overnight, but I was staying in a primitive cabin which had a wood-burning stove which we used the second night only. It was still plenty cold outside at night when I went outside to wash up before turning in.

FIELD EXPERIENCE

On this trip, I had the chance to test out some of the features which I hadn't used before. Specifically, I spent some time playing with the different lighting settings. I found that there was a significant difference between the diffuse white and the spot white lenses, with the spot providing me much better lighting for distance. For walking around, it didn't really seem to matter, as I could see the ground in front of me well either way. I also tried the red light while walking around. On this setting, I had to keep the lamp focused within about 5-6 feet (<2 meters) in order to see the ground on which I was walking. I found this to be uncomfortable, and quickly switched back to one of the clear lenses. I also tried the different lenses for reading at night. The clear (white light) lenses were pretty indistinguishable, and the red provided a much lower level of light. However, I did find that it was adequate for reading, and I got fewer complaints from my colleagues about the light keeping them up.

I also tried the Vizion as a lantern for providing area light. It provides plenty of light (as shown in the photo in the Initial Report) and functions reasonably in this capacity. However, it is a little unsteady when standing up on its side, and tended to fall over when the table got bumped. It was plenty durable, though, as there were no marks or problems with the diode, even after it fell off the table once. In general, I have found the Vizion to be very sturdy, and it looks much the same after 4 months of testing as it did when I took it out of its original packing.

In terms of battery usage, I have used the Vizion in total for about 13 nights, and there has been no sign that I need to replace the batteries. So, even though I might bring some extra batteries to be safe, I would expect I could make it through a 10+ day trip to the backcountry with a single set of fresh batteries.


SUMMARY

Overall, I found the Underwater Kinetics Vizion 3AAA headlamp to be a solid piece of gear, providing plenty of light for my evening camping activities without taking up a lot of space or weight. The simplicity of the design makes using it a snap, and I expect I will continue to carry the Vizion with me on future backcountry trips.

Things I liked about the Vizion:
  • Excellent light source
  • Easy to adjust direction of light
  • Different light settings useful for different conditions
  • Durable
  • 1 set of batteries lasts a long time
Things I disliked about the Vizion:
  • Didn't care for the high-off-low-off button functionalilty
  • Still a little tricky to change the lenses

This concludes my report on the UK Vizion headlamp. My thanks once again to Underwater Kinetcs for providing this equipment for testing, and to BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to participate in the evaluation process.

-larry kirschner

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