budget caving light

Avatar28

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Found my way back here from flashlight reviews (signed up years ago to research something but haven't been around since I'm afraid). Anyways, after looking through several months of posts and not finding an answer, thought I would just ask. What headlamp would you recommend for caving for someone on a budget?

Currently I have a RR .5 watt headlamp. It's okay, but I'm not real enthused by it. It started out good but dimmed fairly quickly with a new set of alkaline AAAs. By the time I had been in the cave for an hour or so, I was resorting to also using my primary handheld light as well (3 watt Luxeon model from Lowes), though it too had dimmed noticably by the time we left. I know the light is supposed to be regulated, but obviously it still leaves a bit to be desired compared to some of the Inovas, a Stenlight, et al. One of the guys from our local grotto I went with last time had a Stenlight and it really impressed me with it's regulation but I just can't justify that sort of price no more than I go caving at this point in time.

Something like the Fenix P1D-CE would be my ideal light, but I also realize they don't have a headlamp version. I've considered modding one (or two) to fit onto a helmet (duct tape anyone?) but it would probably look a little tacky, plus I would be afraid the light would end up covered with tape residue. Are there any other lights with similarly high brightness and flat runtime. A good regulator is a must, that much I know. I'm also not adverse to modifying something to make it work if it would expand my possibilities.
 

ringzero

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Avatar28 said:
Currently I have a RR .5 watt headlamp. It's okay, but I'm not real enthused by it. It started out good but dimmed fairly quickly with a new set of alkaline AAAs.

I have that headlamp and really like it, but would never consider it for caving because its output is too low, even with fresh batteries it's only 14 lumens. It'd make a decent secondary, backup light source.

PT Corona is well-liked by some cavers. Rugged, decent runtime, and over 30 lumens of floody output. About $45.

PT Apex is recommended by some. More output than Corona, but also more of a spot beam. Lower output with more flood is available. About $65.

Streamlight Argo and Septor look decent for lower-priced headlamps. For casual, light-duty caving, the PT Quad or PT Eos also might be suitable. Lower outputs, shorter runtimes, and lower prices.

Avatar28 said:
Something like the Fenix P1D-CE would be my ideal light, but I also realize they don't have a headlamp version. I've considered modding one (or two) to fit onto a helmet

Although I don't own one, the P1D-CE does not strike me a decent primary light source for caving. Maybe it'd be OK for a backup light, but even that is questionable.

Short runtime, questionable reliability when muddy and wet, and for the price there are so many excellent lights more suitable for caving.

For less than half the price of one P1D-CE you could get the waterproof, rugged UK Mini Q40 eLED: http://www.brightguy.com/products/Mini_Q40_eLED_Plus.php

Or, the rugged, far-throwing SL PP 4AA Lux: http://www.brightguy.com/products/Streamlight_ProPolymer_4AA_LUXEON_LED_Flashlight.php

Plenty of other, better caving lights on that site.

You could get a decent headlamp AND a decent flashlight for little more than the price of one P1D-CE.

For the price of two P1D-CEs you could outfit yourself with a great primary headlamp, a decent lightweight backup headlamp, and a great flashlight for spotting and backup.
 

lexina

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Avatar28 said:
Something like the Fenix P1D-CE would be my ideal light, but I also realize they don't have a headlamp version. I've considered modding one (or two) to fit onto a helmet (duct tape anyone?) but it would probably look a little tacky, plus I would be afraid the light would end up covered with tape residue. Are there any other lights with similarly high brightness and flat runtime. A good regulator is a must, that much I know. I'm also not adverse to modifying something to make it work if it would expand my possibilities.

I think a headlamp using the Cree would be ideal for brightness and longer runtime. Since, to my knowledage, no manufacturer has come up with one yet, a possible work-around might be to match a small (1 AA/ 1 R123) light such as the Jetbeam-CLE or Fenix L1D/P1D with a Nite-Ize head-band shown here:-

http://www.rei.com/online/store/ProductDisplay?productId=863&storeId=8000&catalogId=40000008000&color=NONE&img=/media/410215Lrg.jpg&view=large
 

mdocod

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I just ordered a StreamLight Argo HP with caving and various other duties in mind.... you can get one delivered for about $35 from various online retailers.

Compared to the price of some of the really fancy lights, this isn't a bad deal. It is fully regulated, runs for almost 5 hours on either 2xCR123 or 1x17670. has a low mode that should run for almost 20 hours... The downside of this light is that they aren't quite as bright as some of the other similar headlamps available, probably due to the use of a side-emitting luxeonI... A simple swap to good lambertan LuxI (S bin if possible) or possibly an XR-E/P4 type star will make this light scream.

I'm sure I'll have more to say when it arrives.... I'll see if it can stand up to caving come the first week in march..
 

jtice

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PT Corona if you want a nice pure flood of light.

But I would recommend the Apex,
it has a spot when needed, and the 5mm leds do a surprisingly good job for flood.
Seems well made, and has a couple brightness levels.

~John
 

Beaker

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Avatar28 said:
What headlamp would you recommend for caving for someone on a budget?

IMHO, lights are something you shouldn't be TOO frugal with when it comes to caving... a failed headlamp can ruin your whole trip, and a sucky light can make it way less fun.

If you can spare $65 or so then the PT Apex is definitely the way to go -- good light output, good runtime on NiMH batteries, nicely suited to cave work (it's been my primary caving light for the past year). I get about 8 hrs runtime on a charged set of 4 AA NiMH (using mostly the hi flood setting, and occasional spot usage).

If that's more than you can spend, then the PT Quad ($25 or so) is nice if you're not doing big rooms (it's been my backup headlamp), though the lack of a spot function is a drawback.
 
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GCBStokes

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I have the Streamlight Enduro (Same as the River Rock 0.5 watt headlight). Steamlight use to made the RR 0.5 with the Target Name Brand "River Rock" on it for Target to sale. It's a darn good little light. My thinking is that low beam in not regulated like the high beam. I found after about 20 minutes runtime on high, or an hour on low, the low beam in down to about 40% of what it starts out as. The high beam on the other hand is regulated, and will put out good light for 5 hours to 50%, then hold just under 50% for 45 minutes more, then jump back up for 15 or 20 minutes more just above 50% before going dropping out of regulation and going below 20% of it start out brightness. So, if you don't need a lot of light, it should give you what your asking for on high beam.

But I agree with jtice, in that it would be a much better backup. If you want a flood type light (Broad beam), then the Corona that jtice talked of would be an great pick. Then you could get a Streamlight Argo HP for a long range light when needed. The Corona would be a bright flood of light, and with short range and good for close to medium range work only.

I also agree with jtice, and the Princeton Tec Apex would also be the light that I would recommend. In fact, I would highly recommend it above all other headlights. You could use rechargeable Ni-MH AA Batteries and get close to 4 hours of regulated runtime on high beam (3 watt Luxeon LED), and get 12 hours on low beam. And you also would have the 5 mm LED that are very bright on high and would give you about 9 hours runtime on hight and well over 18 on low with the Ni-MH rechargeble AAs. Then if you needed or wanted, you could use Lithium AA Batteries and get ever better runtime, and cold weather performance. Then you could carry a set or two of Alkaline AAs as spears. And you could use your River Rock 0.5 watt headlight that you already own as your back-up headlight.

The Apex is my favorite headlight hands down. To me, it's the most versatily and best all around headlight out there, with the best power options. You can use Alkaline AAs, Ni-MH Rechargeable AAs or Lithium AA Batteries. It's 5 mm LEDs give a very bright, broad beam of light and they're not a blue as many other 5 mm LEDs. And the 3 watt Luxeon LED is very bright with great lux (Long range), and at the same time has a wide spill beam. So, you not only see down the trail, but to both sides as well. And you can the Princeton Apex online for under $65.00.

It sounds like your on a budget and your looking for a less expense light. But if your going to be crawling around in caves, I would seriously think about getting an Apex. Caving is seriouse business and you need a good light. If not get the Streamlight Argo HP for $30.00 at Brightguy.com. Then you can get CR123A Lithium Batteries at BatteryJunction.com for $1.00 each or less. But I higly recommend you check into the Princeton Tec Apex.
 

wasBlinded

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I've used the Pelican 2630 for caving and it worked very well. It has a 1 watt Luxeon, runs on 3AA cells, three fully regulated levels and an LED battery meter (only useful with alkalines).

I think I got a 3.5 hour runtime on 2500 mAh NiMh cells on high, but caving I used it mostly on medium (7 hour runtime?).

The battery pack is on the back of the headstrap, which helps keep the weight balanced. It comes with rubber headstraps for helmet use, and stretchy nylon ones for non-helmet use.

They go for about $45 from OpticsPlanet.
 

vtunderground

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I use the Pelican 2630 too, and have been very happy with it. I usually keep it on medium, and rarely ever have to change the batteries while underground.

peli-helmet.jpg
 

Avatar28

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UK I'm familiar with, I have had a couple of their dive lights in the past (a mini-Q40, not sure where it is now though) and a Sunlight SL4. Actually the owner of a local dive shop has offered me some really good, nearly at cost, prices on some lights. I guess I should go back and see him about those.

I'm looking at the reviews of some of the other lights mentioned right now. How is the color on some of these others? I prefer a nice, pure white light. I don't care for the lights with a significant bluish tinge. I guess my Luxeons have spoiled my on that regards. For the same reason, I don't care much for the yellowish color of most incandescents either.

Thus far, I don't believe that the Corona is really the right light for me, though I might consider it if they have improved the whiteness and/or brightness of the LEDs.

The PT Apex does look like a contender, however. I also like the strap idea. Much nicer than duct tape. :) That might also work if I wanted to use a small light as a secondary helmet mounted light source with a head lamp of some kind.

What is the output curve like on that Pelican, that sounds intriguing as well. I just want a light that will maintain consistent output to the very end.

RZ, why do you say the Fenix has questionable reliability?
 
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wasBlinded

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The Pelican 2630 has flat output until the end.

It also has another nice feature: The Luxeon Star LED inside is very easy to get to and upgrade when the urge hits you.
 

Avatar28

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wasBlinded said:
The Pelican 2630 has flat output until the end.

It also has another nice feature: The Luxeon Star LED inside is very easy to get to and upgrade when the urge hits you.

What sort of an upgrade and what benefit would it give me? And for how much? I'm always interested in tweaking my stuff. I unlocked and put a cooked rom on my phone within a couple of weeks of getting it. When I had it replaced a few weeks ago, I did that the same DAY I got it. :)
 

paulr

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Avatar28 said:
What sort of an upgrade and what benefit would it give me? And for how much? I'm always interested in tweaking my stuff. I unlocked and put a cooked rom on my phone within a couple of weeks of getting it. When I had it replaced a few weeks ago, I did that the same DAY I got it. :)
LED's are high tech semiconductor devices just like microprocessors, and they are continually technologically improving in the same way. Today's best easily obtainable leds (Cree XR-E, Seoul SSC-P4) are at least 5x as bright and have much better color than the best easily obtainable Luxeons of 3-4 years ago. So some CPF'ers are constantly upgrading the leds in their flashlight just like computer users keep installing faster cpu's in their computers. A good P4 or XR-E these days is in the $8-$10 range from CPF dealers, so it's a fairly affordable upgrade path.
 
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vtunderground

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Avatar28 said:
What sort of an upgrade and what benefit would it give me?

Replacing the stock Luxeon star can improve the beam tint, brightness, runtime, and beam shape (if you swap a high dome emitter for a side-emitting LED).
 

ringzero

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Avatar28 said:
UK I'm familiar with, I have had a couple of their dive lights in the past (a mini-Q40, not sure where it is now though) and a Sunlight SL4.

The UK I pointed out is a LED light. Did you have the LED miniQ40 or the incan version?

Avatar28 said:
I'm looking at the reviews of some of the other lights mentioned right now. How is the color on some of these others? I prefer a nice, pure white light. I don't care for the lights with a significant bluish tinge.

I have the UK 4AA eLED Zoom, which is also available from Brightguy. It has a very nice warm white output, much less blue than my other Luxeon lights. Others with this light have commented on how nice the ouput color is.

Another great light for caving backup is the UK 4AA eLED. Has a 1W side-emitting LED that produces a very wide, bright spillbeam that is good for walking, and for close to middle distance tasks. Regulated to run at constant output for well over 10 hours - probably more like 20 hours from my experience. However, its output is on the bluish side.

Avatar28 said:
RZ, why do you say the Fenix has questionable reliability?

From reading various threads on CPF a fair percentage of these lights have poorly-fitting threads. Slop in the threads produces erratic operation in some of these lights.

When caving you often have wet, muddy hands. Have you ever tried manipulating a twist head metal keychain light with wet, muddy hands?

Consider that each time you twist the head on the light to turn it on or off, or to change levels, you may be grinding water and mud along the threads.

Eventually there is an excellent chance for contaminants to work their way past the O-ring into the light's head. Even if that doesn't happen, the threads may pack up to the point it becomes difficult to impossible to twist the head.

All of these scenarios have happened to me with various twist head lights while caving. Small diameter twisty head lights seem to be the most susceptible to this type of failure.

Personally, I'd go with the UK 4AA eLED Zoom or SL PP 4AA Lux for their click switches. I have both of these lights and don't hesitate to recommend either for caving use.
 

Avatar28

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I'm assuming I can find out more about those LEDs in the LED forum, no? Also, I realize that LEDs are constantly improving, I just assumed that the Luxeons would as well. Like I said, I'm certainly not adverse to working with the LEDs, I have swapped the LED in my mouse in the past and even installed some into my power supply, though that ended up being rather short-lived unfortunately (I suspect my resistor value might have been off resulting in it being overvolted. That or they were just crappy LEDs. I've still got a whole bag of them I bought off ebay and never used).
 

Avatar28

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ringzero said:
The UK I pointed out is a LED light. Did you have the LED miniQ40 or the incan version?
It was the Xenon bulb version. I don't believe white LEDs really existed at the time I purchased it (circa 1991).

ringzero said:
I have the UK 4AA eLED Zoom, which is also available from Brightguy. It has a very nice warm white output, much less blue than my other Luxeon lights. Others with this light have commented on how nice the ouput color is.
Sounds promising. Though, personally, I like the pure white light that my Luxeons have given me. They have very little if any blue tint to my eye. I wouldn't really call it warm either though.

ringzero said:
Another great light for caving backup is the UK 4AA eLED. Has a 1W side-emitting LED that produces a very wide, bright spillbeam that is good for walking, and for close to middle distance tasks. Regulated to run at constant output for well over 10 hours - probably more like 20 hours from my experience. However, its output is on the bluish side.
Again, sounds like my best bet might be to go to a dive shop and have a look at the output.

ringzero said:
From reading various threads on CPF a fair percentage of these lights have poorly-fitting threads. Slop in the threads produces erratic operation in some of these lights.

When caving you often have wet, muddy hands. Have you ever tried manipulating a twist head metal keychain light with wet, muddy hands?

Consider that each time you twist the head on the light to turn it on or off, or to change levels, you may be grinding water and mud along the threads.

Eventually there is an excellent chance for contaminants to work their way past the O-ring into the light's head. Even if that doesn't happen, the threads may pack up to the point it becomes difficult to impossible to twist the head.

All of these scenarios have happened to me with various twist head lights while caving. Small diameter twisty head lights seem to be the most susceptible to this type of failure.

Personally, I'd go with the UK 4AA eLED Zoom or SL PP 4AA Lux for their click switches. I have both of these lights and don't hesitate to recommend either for caving use.

Fair enough. I will probably have to wait for awhile at this point anyways, unfortunately. My last caving trip I injured my shoulder. I didn't think it was that bad but since it was still hurting after a month I went to an orthopedist. Turns out I tore the cartilage in a major way, like halfway around the socket. I'm currently scheduled for surgery on the 21st of this month and it will be a couple of months before I can go caving again; plus I found out today my wife needs a few thousand worth of dental work. So, yeah, it may be awhile. :-( Hopefully someone will come out with a Cree/P4 based headlamp in the meantime.
 

mt_vertcaver

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I've used a few caving lights (PT Corona, PT Yukon HL, Petzl Mega and others) and I highly recommend the PT Apex. I'm getting about 7-8 hours of light out of the alkaline batteries. Nice broad light with the little leds and nice spot with the Luxeon. Great light!

Here's a link to what cavers think of it: (beware, 20+ pages of posts)

http://forums.caves.org/viewtopic.php?t=600&highlight=
 

Avatar28

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Good find, vertcaver. Thanks! Reading through some of that and a lot of what people here have said, I think it looks like the Apex is probably the light for me. I may try to get one or two of those headbands and maybe add a couple of single CR123 lights like my little Dorcy I carry around in my pocket for supplemental light. Thank you, everyone.

I know it's a bit off topic but since there seems to be several cavers on here, what should I look for in a good helmet?
 

wasBlinded

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The Petzl Ecrin Roc is a very nice helmet for caving and perhaps the gold standard, though there are several other nice ones out there. It also has tabs on the outside for keeping headlamp straps down where they belong.
 
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