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Headlamp suggestion - Black Diamond Spot

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  • John Ladd
    I try to avoid the temptation to review gear that I have not thoroughly tested in the field, but I m convinced this is a gear choice that others might find
    Message 1 of 1 , May 9, 2011
    I try to avoid the temptation to review gear that I have not thoroughly tested in the field, but I'm convinced this is a gear choice that others might find useful, the Black Diamond Spot headlamp.



    I've used a variety of headlamps over the years, ranging from nano-sized ones that run off watch batteries to those with up to 3 AAA batteries.  My favorite "large" headlamp (Petzyl Zipka) recently had its housing crack, so I had to research a new purchase. (Yes, I know I could return it to REI, but I hate to abusing the system when I have got adequate life out of a product.)

    I wanted a headlamp that used AAA batteries since my other electronics (except the Spot Tracker) use that size.  I suspected that the light intensity/duration I wanted would require 3 AAA's.

    REI had a good comparison chart of headlamps (not online - you can find it in stores) and it helped me realize two things I had not previously known / thought about much:

    1) Not all headlamps are compatible with Lithium batteries.  Since I wanted to use Lithiums for their longer life, I eliminated almost half or REI's listings.

    2) There was considerable variation in how long a given headlamp would burn with one set of batteries.  Some of the (slightly) more expensive headlamps got longer life out of a set of batteries.  I use a headlamp enough that the cost of batteries, not the cost of the headlamp, was the main driver of my total cost, so I could pay somewhat more if it would make more efficient use of batteries.

    The Black Diamond Spot has three lighting levels (plus strobe features):

    1) a super-bright LED which I don't anticipate using often, but which would be good if I wanted or needed to hike on a cloudy or no-moon night.  It has a 75 lumen output and is rated to give you the equivalent of full moonlight out to 70 meters.  (For me, biggest safety feature of this would be the ability to find trail blazes if I was snowshoe camping and night fell before I reached my destination.) 50 hour battery life at that lighting level.

    2) two conventional LED's for use around camp. 16 lumens, plenty for setting up camp, cooking, reading the map to plan the next day, etc.  90 hour life at that level.

    3) two red LED's to have some lighting without impairing night vision.

    (I think that battery life is rated with alkaline batteries - should be considerably longer with lithium batteries)

    It's possible to dim the light in the first 2 modes from the maximum brightness down to 4 Lumens (quite dim - can replace moonlight to only 4 meters) which allows you to use no more battery than you absolutely need. Max battery life 250 hours at lowest light levels.  This is one of the reasons you can get a lot of life out of your batteries. 

    It has a number of other non-critical but nice-to-have features like the ability to "lock" it so that it doesn't accidentally get turned on inside your backpack (happened to me once).  I particularly liked the red LED's since I love moonless nights with good stars and hate ruining my view of the stars for a long time after I need to temporarily use a headlamp for something.  (Look at the links provided for more info on the added features.)

    Weight 1.9 oz. without batteries -- 3.1 oz. with batteries

    Cost: $39.95 at REI

    I find it more comfortable to wear than other headlamps I have used.

    Downside: It's kind of complicated on how you shift between modes.  I plan to take the instructions with me until I am used to it.

    Looks like this


    Link to picture if it doesn't appear


    I also carry a small cord lock light which stays attached to a particular place on my bivy so that I can always find it.  (I've had the experience of needing a light to find my headlamp.)


    Link to cord lock picture if it doesn't appear:


    John Curran Ladd
    1616 Castro Street
    San Francisco, CA  94114-3707
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