Owner Review: Black Diamond Polar Star headlamp
- Owner Review: Black Diamond Polar Star Headlamp
Review date: April 18, 2005
Personal biographical information
Name: Richard Christiana
Height: 5' 11" (180 cm)
Weight: 165 lbs (74.8 kg)
Email address: splitchard@...
City, state, country: New Paltz, New York, USA
Backpacking background: My first experiences were short weekend
trips with a heavy pack over 40 lbs (18 kg) in the Adirondack
Mountains of New York (NY). Since then I have had the opportunity to
embark on longer backpacking excursions lasting up to two weeks, and
I have become a subscriber to the remarkable benefits of ultra
lightweight backpacking. I bring only essentials such as an
oversized daypack with a tarp and a sleeping bag inside. My usual
pack weight is about 20-25 lbs (9-11 kg) during the summer and 30-35
lbs (14-16 kg) during the winter. I have worked as an outdoor guide
where I lead backpacking, canoeing, and rock climbing trips. I also
have experience winter mountaineering and ice climbing on Mt
Washington in New Hampshire, Mt Hood in Oregon, and the Catskill
Mountains in NY.
Manufacturer: Black Diamond Equipment
Year of manufacture: 2003
Manufacturer web site: http://bdel.com
Listed weight: 5 oz (150 g) without batteries
8 oz (219 g) with batteries
Weight as delivered: 5 oz (150 g) without batteries
9 oz (255 g) with batteries
Power source: 3 AA batteries (included)
Burn time: 2 ½ hours with the bright xenon bulb
500 hours with the LED
MSRP: $45 US
- Hybrid headlamp including a bright xenon bulb housed in the
middle of a reflector and one LED positioned to the side of the xenon
bulb, both enclosed in a plastic lens
- Plastic lamp housing can be tilted up or down in order to shine
the beam of light where you need it
- Includes one extra bright xenon bulb that is stored inside of the
- Lamp turns on with a push button on bottom of plastic lamp
housing that can be used with gloves
- Fully adjustable two strap headband construction with one
wrapping around the circumference of the head and the other over the
top of the head
- Includes 3 AA batteries
- Batteries are located in a separate pack from the headband and
can be attached to a separate strap that can be placed around the
waist or around the neck
- Battery pack is wired to the lamp through a 3 ft (91 cm) long
insulated electrical wire that wraps around from the back of the head
to the lamp, connected to the headband by plastic clips
- Bright xenon bulb shines a beam of light 430 ft (130 m)
Locations used: I have had this headlamp for two years and have used
it for cooking, map reading, and route finding on winter
mountaineering and peak bagging trips on Mount Washington in New
Hampshire and the Adirondack Mountains of New York as well as for
long day snowshoeing hikes. I have also used this headlamp on ice
climbs in the Adirondack Mountains of New York.
Description of location: Rough trails, mountainous terrain, steep
cliff face, with altitudes from 1,000 ft to 6,500 ft (300 m to 1,980
Weather conditions: A lot of different conditions from rain, sleet,
and snow. Temperatures of use range from 40 F to 35 F (-40 C to 2
Comments: I have owned this headlamp for two years now and have used
it mostly on extended (1 week or more) winter mountaineering trips.
I have found the weight of the headlamp to be too heavy for use
during the spring, summer, and fall. It is also a little too bulky
and the detachable battery pack is too awkward for use during these
seasons or for short winter overnight trips when battery power
consumption due to cold weather is not an issue. I prefer to use a
smaller, lighter headlamp with the battery pack located either in the
lamp housing or on the back of the head. The headlamp has a push
button on the bottom of the lamp housing that turns it on and also
switches from the xenon bulb to the LED. I have found that I can
press this button even with gloves on, although it requires firm
pressure. I also have had no problems with the headlamp turning on
accidentally inside of my pack.
This headlamp does a great job of conserving battery power during
cold weather use. This is where the Polar Star really shines. I
have had a problem with other headlamps that I have used with
batteries dying very quickly due to cold temperatures (below
freezing). Since I can place the battery pack of the Polar Star
around my waist or neck, close to the body for heat, I have found
that the life of the batteries is extended considerably. I have used
this headlamp on a two week trip, starting out with fresh batteries,
and I didn't need to change them for the entire time. It is possible
that battery life in cold conditions could be extended with the use
of lithium batteries, effectively negating the need to keep the
battery pack close to the body for warmth, but I have not tried
this. I have only used alkaline batteries.
The bright xenon bulb is said to have a lifespan of about eight
hours. While it is hard to estimate, since I am continuously
switching from the xenon to the LED, I would say that I have used the
xenon bulb for a total of nine to ten hours and I have not had to
replace the bulb. I have found the xenon bulb to be too overkill for
most activities such as setting up camp, cooking, map reading, and
hiking on well marked trails. For these activities I always use the
LED, which shines just enough light. The xenon bulb puts out a
focused beam of light for about 430 ft (130 m). I switch to the
xenon bulb when I am going to be bushwhacking or hiking on a hard to
find trail. Black Diamond says that the Polar Star's LED will shine
for 100 hours once the battery power has diminished enough so that
they cannot power the xenon bulb. I cannot attest to this since I
have not had to replace the batteries during any trip.
I have also used this headlamp while ice climbing at night. The
headlamp fit perfectly around my helmet and the battery pack was
around my waist, away from the swinging of sharp ice axes. The
headlamp did not obstruct my movements at all and the LED was all the
light that I needed to see where I was swinging my ice axes and
placing my ice screws.
This headband is very comfortable, even when used for many hours.
The elastic straps do not irritate my skin at all. Once fitted
properly, the headlamp does not move or bounce at all during
activities such as hiking, jogging, and ice climbing. The light
stays right where you want it.
I have really put this headlamp through some heavy use, and it has
held up very well. It is made incredibly strong and the electrical
wiring and connections are all still in perfect condition.
Summary: All in all, this headlamp works great for longer winter
mountaineering trips where battery conservation is important.
o Has a detachable battery pack that can be worn close to the
body to keep them warm
o LED can be used for most activities and does not require much
o Very comfortable to wear on head
o Very specialized for extended cold weather use and therefore it
is not versatile
o Heavier and bulkier than most hybrid headlamps
o Can be awkward to put on and use because the battery pack is
separate from the headlamp
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- Hi Richard,
Nice job. I've made some edits to your review. Once you've made the
appropriate changes please repost it to the group with REPOST in the
subject line. I'll grab it for another look before approving it for a
test upload to the test/owner review folder on BGT. After that checks
out (quick look to make sure hyperlinks work, formatting isn't too
wild, etc.) I'll setup a place for you to upload it to its final
Thanks again for the nice work.
--- In BackpackGearTest@yahoogroups.com, "splitchard"
>### Welcome to the fray. Nice to see another east-coaster ;-)
> City, state, country: New Paltz, New York, USA
> Burn time: 2 ½ hours with the bright xenon bulb### Their website lists 3.5 hrs for the bright xenon and 2.5 hours for
the super bright xenon. Please clarify.
> 500 hours with the LED#### Their website lists $49.95 as the MSRP
> MSRP: $45 US
> - Plastic lamp housing can be tilted up or down in order to shine### Unless this is a direct quote (in which case it should be noted
> the beam of light where you need it
that this, or this paragraph, are copied from BD) eliminate the use of
"you" to avoid projecting...for instance I often need a light behind
me but I don't think this is going to tilt that far.
> - Lamp turns on with a push button on bottom of plastic lamp### "pushbutton"
> - Batteries are located in a separate pack from the headband and### I think you mean separate from the headlamp. It can attach to the
> to the lamp, connected to the headband by plastic clips### Their specs list 140 m for the effective distance of the super
> - Bright xenon bulb shines a beam of light 430 ft (130 m)
bright xenon bulb. Please clarify.
> The bright xenon bulb is said to have a lifespan of about eight### Who said this? BD? If so, note that.
> hiking on well marked trails. For these activities I always use the### The super bright xenon is listed as 140 m with the standard xenon
> LED, which shines just enough light. The xenon bulb puts out a
> focused beam of light for about 430 ft (130 m). I switch to the
listed at 100 m. Please clarify. Also, when referring to the xenon
bulb please make sure you note whether it's the super bright or the
standard bright xenon (or the long life one if you use that one at all).
> they cannot power the xenon bulb. I cannot attest to this since I### Do you replace them between trips?
> have not had to replace the batteries during any trip.
> headlamp did not obstruct my movements at all and the LED was all the### Does the wire running up your side from your waist to the headband
> light that I needed to see where I was swinging my ice axes and
> placing my ice screws.
cause any issues?
> properly, the headlamp does not move or bounce at all during### "where I want"...also, how easy is it to tilt the headlamp since
> activities such as hiking, jogging, and ice climbing. The light
> stays right where you want it.
it doesn't move when jogging (which could be expected to jar it up &
>### Any idea how thick the wiring is? Have you ever gotten it caught
> I have really put this headlamp through some heavy use, and it has
> held up very well. It is made incredibly strong and the electrical
> wiring and connections are all still in perfect condition.
and pulled the lamp or battery pack off? I assume if you did that it
survived without incident in which case you might want to note that.
Do you know if it's water resistant? Any exposure to water that caused
a problem or did rain, etc. not have an effect?
> Cons:### What do you mean "specialized for extended cold weather use"? I
> o Very specialized for extended cold weather use and therefore it
> is not versatile
didn't see anything mentioned about any cold weather specific design
features (except being able to push the button with gloves).
> o Heavier and bulkier than most hybrid headlamps### "than most hybrid headlamps I have seen" unless you've got an
exhaustive list of hybrid headlamps with weights and sizes so we can
compare to make sure this isn't just an observation based on the
number of lights you've examined.