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Thread: Ultralight backpacking going into winter backpacking....need suggestions.

  1. #1

    Sigh Ultralight backpacking going into winter backpacking....need suggestions.

    I am a gram weenie... I want the lightest out there to get the job done minimally. My concerns are occasionally needing to hike on well established trails at night and foraging for twigs in the snow during the long night hours to feed a minimalist wood stove. Temps will be low of -10F, generally around 0F at night for a low.

    Is Normal an option? I'll be in camp feeding a wood stove twigs all night and then occasionally hiking at night, but on a well established trail (no bushwhacking). I need to see my feet and a little ways down the trail.

    Battery Type:
    In order of preference:
    Single AAA (maybe 2 x AAA?)
    Single AA

    Battery Placement:
    Front/on the headlamp.

    Beam tint & artifacts:
    Whatever gives me the longest batt life and best lumens combo.

    Brightness (lumens)
    I feel like I must have moonlight mode, but perhaps not if I already have the woodstove working and throwing off some light. Here is my stove (but please note, there is no pot on there, that will significantly limit the light output to grab sticks from my pile and add to the stove): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvlpmm9MaFQ

    Maybe I need just a few lumen in low mode to forage for twigs around camp at night to feed to the stove and forgo the moonlight mode? (for reference, in 3 season backpacking I use a photon freedom microlight around camp with no troubles at all, but I don't have to find sticks as I carry a different stove for 3-season) I don't read in camp or do anything else special. Turn on the light to go to bathroom, turn on the light to find sticks. ~Maybe~ I'll need the light on while cooking/melting snow if light output from wood fire is not enough.

    Runtime & Regulation:
    I need the ability to hike at night in the cold (will use lithium batteries) at times for a few hours if the sun sets too quickly. I suppose in an emergency need the ability to hike out in the dead of the night. My trips are 3-4 days in the winter. I want a regulated light and ideally would have a 1 x AAA headlamp and a backup AAA battery for when the regulated output falls off the cliff.

    Headband Attachment & Comfort:
    I will have a light headlamp such that it only needs one band around my head, not up and over my head. I generally set the headlamp angle to hike and leave it, or set it at a different angle for around camp and leave it. I'm interested in some tiny flashlight's features, but wonder if there is an ultralight (home made?) headband to affix them to the temple area of my head and how that will work out when wearing a big fluffy down balaclava while in camp.

    User Interface:
    Would be nice to have it remember where I set it's output last, but not a deal breaker.

    Price & Reliability:
    I'm open to anything...though this sucker better be IPX8 or IPX4.

    Currently have researched:

    Zebralight H501 (too floody for when hiking? Not low enough setting?)
    Maratac/ITP A3 EOS AA and AAA (homemade headband needed? Is there a kit out there? Do I need moonlight?)
    iTP H01 (heavy headband for AAA. Do I need moonlight?)
    Quark X AA2 (Do I need XM-L CREE? Nice run time in Moonlight...needed?)

    Help! My GF is going to kick me off the laptop because I sit here researching on this website too much!

  2. #2
    Flashaholic* Bolster's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2007

    Default Re: Ultralight backpacking going into winter backpacking....need suggestions.

    Your needs are not really so different from many other people's. Many of us are looking for the smallest, lightest, max lumens headlamp for minimum battery, that will work in any weather and is waterproof. On top of that, you probably want a "directional flood" type beam such as the Zebralight H51F that can switch hit with a bit of throw for trail hiking and a bit of flood for camp duty.

    You can force a handheld into headlamp duty but most people are not too happy with the results. I never have been and I've tried many times.

    DavidT has an ultralight version of a headband in the Zebralight Mods thread, check it. It's a bit of cord with a finger bandage to hold the light. Super minimalist.

    If you insist on 1AAA your selections are much more limited. The 1AA gives you quite a bit more runtime and the weight increase is fractional.

    Yes you do want a sublumen setting. (BTW, how did you figure the H501 didn't have a low enough setting? It's sub lumen. All the Zebras have sublumen settings I think.)
    Last edited by Bolster; 12-10-2011 at 02:46 PM.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Ultralight backpacking going into winter backpacking....need suggestions.

    I think my head was spinning on the H501 not having a sub-lumen mode after reading too long, my bad. I guess the 501 does what I need, but comes down to if i want to pay that much, when the 502 hits? (it is "4th quarter 2011," right?), and if it projects enough down the trail. I'd rather not go to the H51 series as it weighs more than the H501. I wonder how much more throw the H51 stuff has. I'll have a look at the headband mod, thanks for the tip.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Ultralight backpacking going into winter backpacking....need suggestions.

    I think Shorty66, the OP of the "Zebralight Mods" thread, has the most UL headlamp setup.

    EDC: ZL H52w, H502w

    The only useful tool is the one you have with you when you need it.

  5. #5
    Flashaholic* kevinm's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2006

    Default Re: Ultralight backpacking going into winter backpacking....need suggestions.

    Either the H51w or the H51Fw is the one you probably want. The warm will make seeing easier on trails (better color rendering makes a difference). The H51w has a normal flashlight beam; the H51Fw is a directional flood. I use these as backup light for caving. There, we're all gram weenies.

    You might consider the Spark ST5's as well. Very similar to the Zebralights, but a little more throw. With those, you can swap the lens and get either traditional beam pattern or directional flood. They are slightly more expensive, though.

    Unless your GPS runs on AAA's, I'd go with AA. Much higher energy density.
    Last edited by kevinm; 12-10-2011 at 03:39 PM.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Ultralight backpacking going into winter backpacking....need suggestions.

    sounds like Zebralight H31F territory to me. the light with battery is under 44 grams (1.5 oz) - which is about 8 grams less than an H51 with a lithium primary. that's without the headband, but as has been mentioned there are a lot of ultralight solutions for that. at 0 F, you should use lithium primaries, and CR123 batteries are cheaper than AA or AAA lithiums.

    something cheaper and actually lighter is the Mammut S-flex. i think it would weigh 38-40 grams with a lithium AA. that includes the headband. it doesn't have moonlight mode, but it has a red mode. but the thing about the S-flex is that it might not work with a lithium.
    Last edited by robostudent5000; 12-10-2011 at 04:44 PM.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Ultralight backpacking going into winter backpacking....need suggestions.

    Zebralight H31 series is beginning to appeal to me a bit more. Thank you for the suggestion. I guess I'll be buying Li batts online anyway, so what the diff if CR123 or AA? Actually...I am having trouble with that one. The beam of the H31 aside (I think it throws farther, prob better for hiking at night), I'm trying to compare the H501 battery life to the H31 series. But the Zebralight website does not compare apples to apples when listing run times. H501 run tests are run with Sanyo 2700 mAh NiMH, H31 run tests are run with Panasonic 1550 mAh CR123A lithium.

    I guess if you take the cold conditions out of it, the H31 series is a more efficient light since it is running around the same lumens/hr (diff. variations of H31, I don't want any of the "flood' versions, right?) with a battery that is lighter, cheaper, and less mAh? Am I thinking about this correctly? And...the body of the H31 is lighter than the H501, correct?

    LI CR123 are roughly 1/2 the capacity and 1/2 the cost of AA from looking at battery junction for their generic Li bats, so a wash, no?

    As for the throw of the H501 vs. H31 I looked here:

    he throw of the H31 stuff looks great!

    I appreciate the advice everyone.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Ultralight backpacking going into winter backpacking....need suggestions.

    Now that I think about it, I wonder what Lumens/mode the comparison shots of the H31 are taken in? It's great to have great throw, but if the battery is toast in .9 hours...err...

  9. #9
    Flashaholic DIΩDΣ's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011

    Default Re: Ultralight backpacking going into winter backpacking....need suggestions.

    For smallest size and weight I'd say H31 but I prefer AA so I got an H51w since I have other AA devices when I'm hiking, and there isnt much difference in weight. If you dont need it soon I would probably wait on the H502 though. Sparks seem like great lights too (I have no experience with them however) but they are slightly larger/heavier I think.

    Trail hiking at night... I havent done any of that I try to sleep at night and hike when I can enjoy the scenery... but just wanted to point out a flood light might be ok for a well established trail but a difficult trail to follow you might need something with more throw to find the way, see trail markers and blazes, etc. I plan on getting the H502w when it comes out and take it and my H51w. Always good to have a backup, and that way I have both a regular spot+spill pattern and a floody light so depending on what I'm doing I can pick the best one. I'm going to cary at least one extra battery anyhow, might as well have it in a 'functional holder'.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Ultralight backpacking going into winter backpacking....need suggestions.

    I think one of the Zebralight H31 "spill + spot" models would give me that extra throw I might need while hiking.

    The Mammut is lighter, but after reading this post, where the guy is hiking away from a bear, I wonder if it would be sufficient?

  11. #11

    Default Re: Ultralight backpacking going into winter backpacking....need suggestions.

    your first post says you'll be hiking established trails and doing camp chores. you don't need much throw for that IMO. the best beam for those situations is a directed flood with a soft edge - like the beam of the H31F/H51F.

    the H31(F) has many modes to choose from. both of the Medium modes are long running and should be sufficient for hiking established trails.

    btw. the H501 is lighter than the H31. the H31 is lighter than the H51.

    Sanyo 2700 mAh NiMH AA = 1.2 Volts x 2.70 Ah = 3.24 Watt hours
    Panasonic 1550 mAh CR123A = 3.0 Volts x 1.55 Ah = 4.65 Watt hours

  12. #12
    Flashaholic* B0wz3r's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    San Francisco Bay Area

    Default Re: Ultralight backpacking going into winter backpacking....need suggestions.

    It sounds like you're going to be where there's snow. For those kinds of conditions, the warmer the tint you can get, the better. I'd suggest either of the Zebralight 'C' model headlamps, either the H31(F)c or H51(F)c. They're slightly warmer than the neutral models. Regardless, Zebralight is going to be your best bet.
    What? Me? Derail a thread?

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2009

    Default Re: Ultralight backpacking going into winter backpacking....need suggestions.

    The H501FW is fine for hiking established trails on medium beam. I have used it for XC skiing at night as well. And it is an outstanding task and reading light in camp. What it does NOT do is identify the growly noises coming from the bushes 50 yards down the trail. (For that, I carry a MiniAA.)

    Whatever you choose, I agree with those who recommend a warm tint.

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