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Thread: Search And Rescue Headlamp Suggestions

  1. #1

    Default Search And Rescue Headlamp Suggestions

    Hello,

    I am looking for a headlamp to use while performing search and rescue duties in thick mountainous terrain. I have a hand held thrower for long distance illumination. So, the headlamp should be floody in order to illuminate the area around me for my own ability to navigate either on an established trail, or in thick forest. Here are some of the requirements for the headlamp:

    Single cell cr123a
    Needs to operate in temperatures from 20 below to 100 degrees farenheit
    Needs to be rugged and utterly reliable in all weather (pouring rain, sleet, snow, scorching hot sun exposure above treeline, high winds, etc.), waterproof, drop proof, etc.
    Needs to be very light. Every ounce counts. Has to be comfortable hiking with it in very difficult terrain for 10+ miles at a time
    Has to have at least 12 hours of run time on a low setting that has atleast around 20 lumens. Has to be able to run with useful light for hiking through a complete night

    Any suggestions? Some of the zebralights look attractive. Although, I know nothing about their ruggedness or reliability. And, their one year warranty seems a little short.


    Thanks!

  2. #2

    Default Re: Search And Rescue Headlamp Suggestions

    I just ordered the zebra light H32F should be at the house next couple days will let you know what i think. I値l be using it for night shift maintenance on aircraft in Afghanistan.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Search And Rescue Headlamp Suggestions

    Quote Originally Posted by jlittle View Post
    I just ordered the zebra light H32F should be at the house next couple days will let you know what i think. I値l be using it for night shift maintenance on aircraft in Afghanistan.
    I was looking at that one. That would be great to hear how it functions. Thanks!

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Search And Rescue Headlamp Suggestions

    I've got two Armytek Wizard Pro headlamps. I can't say enough good stuff about them. They have taken a beating and been used a lot. Still working without issue. I know those are 18650 format, but you could check out the Tiara line for 1xCR123.

    I'm always surprised that Zebralight has such a following. Their UI is so complicated it makes my head spin. Who needs all of that programmability? Just my 2 cents.

    If you want durable and US made, Malkoff has a headlamp strap for his lights. Probably a little heavier than other options though.
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  5. #5

    Default Re: Search And Rescue Headlamp Suggestions

    How are the Armytek headlamps for durability and reliability?

  6. #6

    Default Re: Search And Rescue Headlamp Suggestions

    I looked at the armytek lamps and almost got one just seemed like every other comment in threads was they have quality issues. That being said. I may still get one if I知 not fond of the H32F

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Search And Rescue Headlamp Suggestions

    Quote Originally Posted by jlittle View Post
    I looked at the armytek lamps and almost got one just seemed like every other comment in threads was they have quality issues. That being said. I may still get one if I知 not fond of the H32F
    And I've seen plenty of negative comments about Zebralight's quality. That's life though right? People in general post many times more negative comments than they do praising a product.

    I'll say I haven't had any issues with my Armytek lights and hope I never do. My neighbor has 3 Wizard's and no problems either. I can't personally comment at all on Zebralight products as I've never owned one, and won't because of their UI.
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    Default Re: Search And Rescue Headlamp Suggestions

    I would go with the Zebralight H32Fw personally if you want to stick with CR123A's. It has all the attributes you want and don't worry about the one year warranty. ZL will fix any light after the warranty period for a nominal fee of $15US. I have owned and used many models and brands of headlamps over the years doing everything from backcountry camping and rock climbing to mechanics and carpentry and ZL is all I use now. Between their many output levels, light weight, compact size, long runtimes(driver efficiency), and great beam quality I think they beat most other options out there.
    Last edited by Tachead; 11-14-2017 at 01:48 PM.

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    Default Re: Search And Rescue Headlamp Suggestions

    Quote Originally Posted by mckeand13 View Post
    And I've seen plenty of negative comments about Zebralight's quality. That's life though right? People in general post many times more negative comments than they do praising a product.

    I'll say I haven't had any issues with my Armytek lights and hope I never do. My neighbor has 3 Wizard's and no problems either. I can't personally comment at all on Zebralight products as I've never owned one, and won't because of their UI.
    Years ago when ZL first started their company they had some issues but, over the last bunch of years very few people seem to have issues and I follow most flashlight forums and Reddits year round. The ones that do, always get their lights fixed even years after the warranty is expired and seam to be happy with their dealings with them. I will say, my ZL's have been nothing but reliable so far.

    Armytek on the other hand, seems to constantly have reports of issues(mainly driver and switch glitches/failures) as well as people having problems with their "no hassle warranty". Just search on here, Reddit, Youtube, and other forums. I tried them and still have 2 models including the Tiara C1 Pro V2 which has been reliable thus far and is a nice headlamp. But, out of the five lights of theirs I bought, 3 had issues in the first year of ownership and required warranty. This is more failures then I have had with any brand in my 25+ years of being into lights so, I don't trust them much anymore. I also did not have a "hassle free" experience in a couple of my dealings with them and I live in the same province as their HQ. I think their bodies, designs, and UI are really nice but, in my experience they have quality control issues or something going on with their drivers or firmware.
    Last edited by Tachead; 11-14-2017 at 01:49 PM.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Search And Rescue Headlamp Suggestions

    Quote Originally Posted by Lumen83 View Post
    How are the Armytek headlamps for durability and reliability?
    out of four of the armytek wizards i bought, i only have one that works. The rest are either sent back or in the process of going through their "hassle free" warranty.

    On the other hand, i've got more than that amount of Zebralights in different formats and have only had an issue with one which was replaced/repaired under warranty.

    For outdoors, i'd recommend a 18650 light for longer runtimes, but for closeup you might get by with a smaller light for lower weight. Perhaps check out obne of the AA Zebralights. They are pretty bright now at around ~300 lumens. Try a H53

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    Default Re: Search And Rescue Headlamp Suggestions

    Quote Originally Posted by MX421 View Post
    out of four of the armytek wizards i bought, i only have one that works. The rest are either sent back or in the process of going through their "hassle free" warranty.

    On the other hand, i've got more than that amount of Zebralights in different formats and have only had an issue with one which was replaced/repaired under warranty.

    For outdoors, i'd recommend a 18650 light for longer runtimes, but for closeup you might get by with a smaller light for lower weight. Perhaps check out obne of the AA Zebralights. They are pretty bright now at around ~300 lumens. Try a H53
    I would second this opinion. Although the CR123A models are smaller, the output and runtimes of the 18650 models are just way better and they are still quite light and compact.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Search And Rescue Headlamp Suggestions

    Quote Originally Posted by mckeand13 View Post
    I can't personally comment at all on Zebralight products as I've never owned one, and won't because of their UI.
    The Zebralight UI can be as simple as the Armytek UI in that you hold the button to cycle through the L, M, & H modes, but the UI can be so much more. Although it seemed daunting at first, the UI is/was quite intuitive once you spend the time to get familiar with it.

    They have actually changed their UI where you can program it to be the way you want. Unfortunately that takes time to figure out as well so i see your point there. I haven't sat down to mess with it yet, but i plan to when i get the chance.

    Armytek's UI isn't that easy either really.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Search And Rescue Headlamp Suggestions

    Quote Originally Posted by Tachead View Post
    I would second this opinion. Although the CR123A models are smaller, the output and runtimes of the 18650 models are just way better and they are still quite light and compact.
    The real reason I need to use a primary over an 18650 is because of extreme temperatures. There has been times when I have been above treeline when it is below 0 degrees F. The 18650s just do not handle that the way that a primary cr123a does.

    I'm glad I learned more about Armytek issues. I really need a light that is not going to fail. Even though I take a handheld for searching, when we are doing a litter carry, I want that free hand to be there in case of falling, to grab trees, or use a pole for support. Having a head lamp that will not fail ensures that hand is free.

    The Armyteks seem to beat the zebralights in terms of lumens and run times for the cr123a lights. But, it sounds like zebralight might be more reliable. Are there any other alternatives?
    Last edited by Lumen83; 11-14-2017 at 02:01 PM.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Search And Rescue Headlamp Suggestions

    I was advisor to the Polish Medical Air Rescue in case of choosing lights for pilots and rescue personnel - after consideration and testing some lights (petzl/nitecore/fenix/armytec/some others) I've sugested Armytec Wizard PRO with magnet USB charging option and 2 pcs of fast mount holders.
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    Default Re: Search And Rescue Headlamp Suggestions

    Quick note on the Zebras:
    Spec say they will hit the target, but both of the models still considered current are cold and low cri (H32 and H32F). The warmer ones has a tad higher cri, and are still available I think (H32w and H32Fw). If you want the two latter, now might be the best time.

    The 18650 versions and also AA versions does offer better performance in those regards. The AA lights with L91 primaries could perhaps be worth considering if you池e managing your own batteries, but I get that it might be a poor fit if everyone else in your group has standardized on CR123As.

    I fully admit to not having experience with search and rescue, but I知 used to mountainous terrain. Personally I feel the warmer temperature and higher CRI makes a difference, so I figured I should at least mention it.

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    Default Re: Search And Rescue Headlamp Suggestions

    Quote Originally Posted by Lumen83 View Post
    The real reason I need to use a primary over an 18650 is because of extreme temperatures. There has been times when I have been above treeline when it is below 0 degrees F. The 18650s just do not handle that the way that a primary cr123a does.

    I'm glad I learned more about Armytek issues. I really need a light that is not going to fail. Even though I take a handheld for searching, when we are doing a litter carry, I want that free hand to be there in case of falling, to grab trees, or use a pole for support. Having a head lamp that will not fail ensures that hand is free.
    Although CR123A's are definitely superior for temp extremes, I find as long as you keep 18650's warm when not in use(in an interior pocket next to you), they work fine and you will just see a lower capacity then you would in normal temps. Using your headlamp on the higher modes will warm the battery while in use. Just fyi, I live in Canada where the winter temps can drop below -40C at times although I try to avoid being out for long when its that cold lol.

    Keep in mind any light can fail so, I highly recommend having a backup considering your uses. I too use my lights in mission critical uses in remote places so, I always carry two headlamps and two flashlights. I think for your uses an 18650 headlamp and a CR123A headlamp for backup would be a great combo. That way you have the CR123A's in case there is an issue with you main 18650 headlamp or the batteries for it.

  17. #17

    Default Re: Search And Rescue Headlamp Suggestions

    Quote Originally Posted by Tachead View Post
    Although CR123A's are definitely superior for temp extremes, I find as long as you keep 18650's warm when not in use(in an interior pocket next to you), they work fine and you will just see a lower capacity then you would in normal temps. Using your headlamp on the higher modes will warm the battery while in use. Just fyi, I live in Canada where the winter temps can drop below -40C at times although I try to avoid being out for long when its that cold lol.

    Keep in mind any light can fail so, I highly recommend having a backup considering your uses. I too use my lights in mission critical uses in remote places so, I always carry two headlamps and two flashlights. I think for your uses an 18650 headlamp and a CR123A headlamp for backup would be a great combo. That way you have the CR123A's in case there is an issue with you main 18650 headlamp or the batteries for it.
    I think those are some great points and I will have to consider them. Do the cr123a lights fit in the 18650 headband? That way I could just pack the small cr123a light as a backup and use the same headband setup.

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    Default Re: Search And Rescue Headlamp Suggestions

    Quote Originally Posted by Lumen83 View Post
    The real reason I need to use a primary over an 18650 is because of extreme temperatures. There has been times when I have been above treeline when it is below 0 degrees F. The 18650s just do not handle that the way that a primary cr123a does.

    I'm glad I learned more about Armytek issues. I really need a light that is not going to fail. Even though I take a handheld for searching, when we are doing a litter carry, I want that free hand to be there in case of falling, to grab trees, or use a pole for support. Having a head lamp that will not fail ensures that hand is free.

    The Armyteks seem to beat the zebralights in terms of lumens and run times for the cr123a lights. But, it sounds like zebralight might be more reliable. Are there any other alternatives?
    Just to warn you, myself and several others have tested the actual runtimes and/or outputs in our lightbox setups and Armytek is known to overstate/inflate both specs. In fact, some Armytek models have been proven to have up to 33% less then their claimed output. They also use an inferior driver to Zebralight that is less efficient, generates more heat, and has less sophisticated thermal regulation. ZL's specs are usually very accurate on the other hand.

    As for other options, if you don't mind bad tints and very cool white beams, Petzl makes very reliable headlamps from my experience and has some neat features like automatic brightness control on some models. I'm not sure if they offer any CR123A options however. Fenix also makes some nice headlamps and get pretty good reports for reliability and customer service.
    Last edited by Tachead; 11-14-2017 at 05:02 PM.

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    Default Re: Search And Rescue Headlamp Suggestions

    Quote Originally Posted by Lumen83 View Post
    I think those are some great points and I will have to consider them. Do the cr123a lights fit in the 18650 headband? That way I could just pack the small cr123a light as a backup and use the same headband setup.
    The silicone holders are different but, their headbands are pretty light and compact(especially the smaller ones without the top strap) so, it wont increase your pack weight and volume much carrying two.

  20. #20

    Default Re: Search And Rescue Headlamp Suggestions

    Quote Originally Posted by Tachead View Post
    Just to warn you, myself and several others have tested the actual runtimes and/or outputs in our lightbox setups and Armytek is known to overstate/inflate both specs. In fact, some Armytek models have been proven to have up to 33% less then their claimed output. They also use an inferior driver to Zebralight that is less efficient, generates more heat due to lower efficacy, and has less sophisticated thermal regulation. ZL's specs are usually very accurate on the other hand.

    As for other options, if you don't mind bad tints and very cool white beams, Petzl makes very reliable headlamps from my experience and has some neat features like automatic brightness control on some models. I'm not sure if they offer any CR123A options however. Fenix also makes some nice headlamps and get pretty good reports for reliability and customer service.
    Tint is important to me and I hate cool white beams. I was wondering how fenix compared to ZL. They do have a model that interests me.

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    Default Re: Search And Rescue Headlamp Suggestions

    Here is my backcountry setup. The entire thing including 2 x 18650 headlamps, 2 x headbands with top straps, 2 x 3500mAh 18650's, and the carry case weighs in at 305 grams.


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    Default Re: Search And Rescue Headlamp Suggestions

    Quote Originally Posted by Lumen83 View Post
    Tint is important to me and I hate cool white beams. I was wondering how fenix compared to ZL. They do have a model that interests me.
    Ok, then stay away from Petzl(they are great other then that though). Fenix makes pretty nice stuff but, they are definitely a step down in build quality and features(beam types, available modes, tint and CCT options, weight, etc.) compared to ZL. They do have pretty good quality still though, good customer service, and they make some nice headlamp models although not many are available in neutral white.

  23. #23

    Default Re: Search And Rescue Headlamp Suggestions

    Quote Originally Posted by Tachead View Post
    Here is my backcountry setup. The entire thing including 2 x 18650 headlamps, 2 x headbands with top straps, 2 x 3500mAh 18650's, and the carry case weighs in at 305 grams.
    Nice Set up! I'll have to post mine when its complete. Right now its an older ZL floody cr123a. Not sure what model anymore. And, a yellow surefire g2X pro (the beam is a good combination of spill and throw for the distances I am searching and the 2 cr123a's are a good option for the temp range). I have a lot more powerful surefire hand helds but this one seems the best all around for the task. Cheapest too which is kind of funny. But, hey it works.

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    Default Re: Search And Rescue Headlamp Suggestions

    Quote Originally Posted by Lumen83 View Post
    Nice Set up! I'll have to post mine when its complete. Right now its an older ZL floody cr123a. Not sure what model anymore. And, a yellow surefire g2X pro (the beam is a good combination of spill and throw for the distances I am searching and the 2 cr123a's are a good option for the temp range). I have a lot more powerful surefire hand helds but this one seems the best all around for the task. Cheapest too which is kind of funny. But, hey it works.
    Thanks, I normally just leave the batteries in the headlamps with the tail caps cracked. But, I threw that extra cell on top for size reference and to show that an extra 2 or 3 cells can fit in the case too in addition to the ones in the lights.

    Nice setup too

  25. #25

    Default Re: Search And Rescue Headlamp Suggestions

    Checking out the zebraligt 18650s. Theres a lot to choose from. XHP35, High CR!, XML-2, XPH50.2. I have no idea what the differences are. And, what is considered neutral white? 4000K or 5000K?

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    Default Re: Search And Rescue Headlamp Suggestions

    Quote Originally Posted by Lumen83 View Post
    Checking out the zebraligt 18650s. Theres a lot to choose from. XHP35, High CR!, XML-2, XPH50.2. I have no idea what the differences are. And, what is considered neutral white? 4000K or 5000K?
    That's a bit of a loaded question. And yes, ZL has a lot of models and options. Which is part of the reason why a lot of us like them so much.

    The MK IV are the newest models and are available for pre-order. They start shipping in about a month, are the brightest, most efficient, and have the new fully programmable UI. They use different emitters depending on the model(I wont talk about the cool white models). "w" models use the XHP35 and are 4500K at 80+CRI. They are the standard neutral models. "c&d" are the High CRI models(93-95CRI) and are 4000 and 5000K respectively.

    There isn't really a set definition for neutral white. They are all neutral really but, you have options. IMO the "w" 4500K is probably what most consider the most neutral but, is the lowest CRI and will have the most tint variation(tint lottery). The "c" 4000K will be towards the warm side of neutral and the "d" 5000K will be towards the cool side of neutral. The "c&d" will have the nicest tints and highest CRI.

    Feel free to ask if you have any more questions or need further clarification of anything.
    Last edited by Tachead; 11-14-2017 at 06:20 PM.

  27. #27

    Default Re: Search And Rescue Headlamp Suggestions

    Oh wow. Thanks for going into all that detail. Definitely leaning toward a ZL 18650 at this point. Just got to figure out which model. Any thoughts on how tight the beam or how pronounced the hot spot is on non-floods lights? Trying to figure out if I should go all flood or if I should go standard model. Seems like that kind of light would have a good amount of spill anyway.

  28. #28
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    Default Re: Search And Rescue Headlamp Suggestions

    Quote Originally Posted by Lumen83 View Post
    Oh wow. Thanks for going into all that detail. Definitely leaning toward a ZL 18650 at this point. Just got to figure out which model. Any thoughts on how tight the beam or how pronounced the hot spot is on non-floods lights? Trying to figure out if I should go all flood or if I should go standard model. Seems like that kind of light would have a good amount of spill anyway.
    I have a H602w and a H600w (MK2 i think).

    The breakdown of the beams is as follows:
    H600(w): This is as much of a throw that the headlamps will throw, they most likely will go out to 100 to perhaps 150m would be my guess although it wouldn't be lit up much after that.
    H600F(w): This is basically the H600 with a frosted lens to even out the hotspot. Although i don't have one, i would think the beam pattern might be similar to my Wizard which has a "checkered" pattern instead of a fner frosting. Check out the thread on the lenses cracking though and make your own call on that. I've almost been talked into trying this lens, but then i'm now a Zebralight junkie and need a fix from time to time
    H60X(w): Flood beam, almost a mule. Basically the reflector is a GITD reflector. No hotspot, just one even beam throughout the 120 degree range. X=2 thru 4 now.

    Few other things...the 'w' designates warm, The newer models have warm around 4500k, but the older models like my H602w are around 4000k. I found i really like warm tints, so the 4000k is nice, but i like warmer than that. Since the newer models are coming out, the older models are on sale now. Even though they are on backorder, you can get a H602w for close to $50 now!. The H603w is $10 off and of course the new models are full price. For seeing the close proximity around you, the H60X might be good, especially if you have a thrower to complement it. Even with its sheer power, it will not throw out past 10 to 20 feet or so or if it does it lights up everything closeby and causes to much glare to see beyond it. When i work in the yard, i wear the H602w around my neck for close up light and a H600w as a bonafide headlamp with the beam pointing where i want to see in the near distance. I like my handheld throwers a whole lot though and the H600w can't touch them. There are lots of threads about Zebralights, but you should check out the one where they mod them, there are some interesting ways people have come up with to make their lights more practical. These idea can also be applied to other lights. I could go on, but I better stop for now before i popen up a window and order the H604c Zebralight I've been drooling over.

    Back to Armytek. Even though i'd had bad luck with the headlamps, i've had really good luck with the handheld lights. I keep wanting to give them a try and indeed i do carry the wizard from time to time, i just have the Zebralight with me to ensure i have light...lol. The Armyteks will take 2 CR123s so that would be a reason to still consider them.

    I also have a Fenix HP12 that i liked quite a bit before i got the H602w. It now resides as a backup though. It also can take 2 X CR123s so it might be worth considering. They don't come out of the headband though so its not a light you can carry separate from the headband which is why mine doesn't get used that much. The beam profile on the HP12 is similar to the H600, but it is a cooler tint.

    I hear good things about Nitecore and even Olight. The Olihts i have are much cooler than i prefer.

    Hope this helps.
    Last edited by MX421; 11-14-2017 at 08:30 PM.

  29. #29

    Default Re: Search And Rescue Headlamp Suggestions

    For a dedicated headlamp, the Zebralight H600F (floody) models are great, they don't throw quite as far as the clear lens versions, but they do a very good job of blending the hotspot with the spill while still giving most of the range of the hotspot that the clear lens version provides.
    The pure flood versions are much too specialized, they're awesome for working at arm's length in the dark, using power tools in the dark, etc, but they give a pronounced dim zone in your central view because your peripheral vision works well with less light, while your central focal area benefits from more light, the floody (F) models hit that balance nicely.
    With an old, discounted H600Fw MK II, you can get nearly 30 hours of 60 lumens.
    Also, if you check the version details, the newer ones accept up to 6 volts input, which means that you could use 2 CR123 primary cells in place of an 18650 in a pinch.

    For reliability, don't mess around with Armytek til they get their act together, imo.
    ZL are light and strong, meticulously designed, and the one year warranty is 60+X longer than you need to find out if you've got one of the rare lemons...
    The Armytek 10 year "No,... (it's a real) Hassle" warranty doesn't hold a candle to ZL customer service.

    There was a short window of time where a few people here were getting cracked lenses on the floody versions, those were repaired and i haven't heard of any more instances, there was speculation that the frosting process might have made the lenses more vulnerable to stresses in the glass.
    If you're worried about that, get the clear lens version and cut some diffuser tape in a circle to stick over the clear lens, you can rationalize that the added impact protection will balance out the slight loss in efficiency vs the frosted lens.
    Mine is holding up fine to daily pocket carry and drops.
    I suspect the ZL warranty department is looking for anything to fill the time between orders much of the time... or they've offloaded that job onto a couple engineers.

    - I'm sorry, I misread the OP as saying single cell OR CR123... but honestly that's a terrible requirement, a non rechargeable CR123 has 1/2 or less the watts of an 18650, and they're pricy, really pricy compared to a decent 18650 and a basic charger.
    I can see the logic of wanting CR123 if you're getting them for free when you show up for the S&R, but it's pretty limiting, and you are'nt going to save much weight or volume at all, and you won't get as high a max level when you need It.
    It might make good sense as an exercise in justifying stockpiles of aging CR123 batteries, but getting one of the newer ZL that can handle 6v fills that void... just use the same single 18650 again and again,
    and maybe swap it out with a spare
    18650 to even out the wear between them, and hold the accumulating pile of unused CR123 back for emergencies... by all means keep two CR123 primaries with you in case your 18650 run down.

    - in all fairness, I should try an AT Wizard Pro, I just know about the two Predators I bought a few years back, the QC and warranty situation and the steps involved.
    Looking at the Wizard's exposed switch boots though, I don't think they'll last very well in my care.
    Last edited by eh4; 11-15-2017 at 01:29 AM.
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  30. #30

    Default Re: Search And Rescue Headlamp Suggestions

    Thanks for all of that info on the beams. I am not leaning toward two models at that "floody" but not flood models. That sounds perfect for my use case. These are the two:

    H600Fw Mk IV 18650 XHP35 Floody Neutral White (pre-order)
    H600Fd III High CRI Floody Neutral White

    I like the lumen ratings and 4500K tint of the H600Fw. But, there are no run times listed yet and the CRI is rated at 70+, which I was hoping more for 80+. I wonder if they will update those stats when the light is released.

    And, I like the 80+ CRI of the H600FD, but it is nowhere near as bright as the H600Fw. Both look like awesome lights. Decisions, decisions...

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