Help selecting a multipurpose headlamp

rmacman

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Apr 9, 2014
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Hello,

I'm not sure if this belongs in the Headlamp forum or "Recommend me a light' forum. Hopefully it's found.

I'm looking for a LED headlamp for use working under my basement, safely navigate my yard at night, general outdoor household and dark garage navigation, riding my bike at night (currently have a cheap little handlebar light), and occasional camping. It will reside in my backpack which I carry to work every day.

Budget

Although the zebralights look nice, my budget is $20-$35. I realize there will have to be some compromises at this price.

Flood vs. throw
For the tasks I'm using it for, I think I want a light with more flood than throw. But, I don't think I want a pure flood. I think dual led (flood&throw) lights are out of my price range and therefore I'm thinking of getting the flood effect with a diffuser lense or tape with the option to take it off if I want to. I wear glasses every day so I anticipate some glare from a standard flood light or use of diffuser. I understand I can put some black tape along the base of the light or diffuser to make this a non-issue. I don't care if it's pretty, as long as it's functional.

OTF Light and Modes
Realistically I think 50 lumens would be good enough 95% of the time I will use it (I actually don't know. I have no idea how many lumens the cheap flashlights I've used put out). It'd be nice to have a mode with more lumens, but not essential. A low mode with 3-10 lumens would be nice. Neither red light nor SOS is needed.

Tint/color
I would rather have a warmer light as opposed to everything looking blue.

Batteries
I'll be using conventional rechargable AA or AAA bateries (eneloops). Not more than 3AAA or 2AA. I think 1AAA is too little runtime.

Water resistance
The IPX-8 on the Fenix seems nice, but I don't plan on dropping it in water. If it happens to rain on my bike ride home I don't want the thing to get ruined. Maybe this isn't really a concern. I'm usually not out in the rain.

Switch
Preference for a button rather than twisting. If it doesn't turn on in high mode that's a plus.

What I've looked at so far:
Petzl Takkina - Decent light output, low price, good runtimes, but it looks to not be very floody and the tint is blue. I don't think any diffusers fit that light shape and I'm not sure how I could make a flippy diffuser so I'd have to use tape. Does anyone have an idea for making an easy on-off diffuser lens for this? Also, will diffusing the light also warm the tint so things aren't so blue?

Fenix HL21 - At $35 it's still just in my budget. It comes with a diffuser lens which gives me the option of flood or throw which I think is nice. But I read that the diffuser is cheap and will break off. I guess once it breaks I'm back at the tape option. Too bad, I like the idea of easily being able to flip between flood and throw.

Fenix HL10 - Good flood light. I like that I can use it as a hand held. A always wanted a a small AAA handheld. This could fit both needs. I like this light, but the runtimes are too low. 2.5hrs when on medium is just not sufficient.

Black Diamond Gizmo- At $20 it's not too expensive. I read it has a good flood, but max output is 35 lumens.

What are some more options? Any opinions on the lights above?

Thanks
rm
 

Michael_qrt

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Joined
Oct 31, 2010
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I use headlamps for outdoor activities, e.g. camping, climbing, hiking and well understand the need for some throw if you're trying to get around outdoors. Many users do prefer floody lights or pure flood lights for close tasks, so of course it depends on your application but for an all rounder I think you're on the right track by avoiding the floody lights. Another issue with pure flood lights when camping is they are quite blinding to anyone looking towards you in the broad cone of light and they can't really be angled down out of peoples faces. I find the spot/spill beam from reflector type lights (if using a small OP reflector) is still useable for close tasks as long as there is a low enough low mode.

Out of the lights you've listed the Fenix HL21 looks the most suitable to me. Single AA is a plus, good high mode, good throw, medium is a bit high for my preference, I'd rather see it around 20lm but the low looks ok at 3lm. It's a slightly unwieldy design in my opinion but maybe that's just me and I'm sure it works fine.

Other suggestions might be if you could find a Black Diamond Spot on sale. Flood and Spot beams, well known light and company but uses 3 AAA cells which I find much less convenient. A bit of a left field suggestion would be the Sunree Ree headlamp (http://www.sunree.cc/english/products_view.asp?id=610). Single AA, good output, flood and reflector beams, build quality actually looks very decent and it's cheap (about $18 on ebay) but it's not a well established brand and a bit of an unknown, though they do have a decent website and a good range and I've seen some of their lights being sold as rebranded store brand lights in camping store chains.
 

Steamer

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Jan 21, 2008
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Northeast Ohio
My go to light almost every night when I take the dog out for her poopy walk is the Fenix HL21. I've been using it for over a year and the diffuser is still attached even after getting caught on my hooded jacket over and over during cold weather. Light output is good on the medium setting. I almost always have the diffuser up and out of service. The diffuser would be good for in the house. I would get it again.
 

jvh

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Apr 6, 2014
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The 'around the yard' type stuff is 90% of what I use my light for, and I didn't need to be too picky with that (although I was anyway!). The one that I would really hang my hat on is whether you can bike with it. That may be worth investing the extra ~$20 to get the brightest lamp available in the price range.

I recently ended up getting a zebralight ($90) anyway, but I also got a coast hl27 before that ($50). That said, I think two lights you might want to look at - both within your price range - are the:

Coast HL7 ($36 on Amazon) - which has adjustable flood vs. spot (throw), has 196 lumens, continuously adjustable light output and a battery pack on the back of your head (which makes balance a little easier). Takes 3xAAA
Black Diamond Spot ($29 @ REI, MooseJaw) - dead simple, basic, easy to use headlamp. 90 lumens, flood/spot, 3xAAA - mounted all in front. Also has red light. Button operated.

Check out: http://www.outdoorgearlab.com/Headlamp-Reviews/

I found this super informative, but I realized that I care more about sheer light output in a compact package, and saved up for the zebra. If you are sticking with the $20-35, I'd check out the two above. Good luck!
 

Yamabushi

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Joined
Apr 16, 2012
Messages
761
Location
Canada
+1 on the HL21. I've had mine for 2 years with no problems. If you do break the diffuser, just buy another; the AD401 diffuser is sold separately as an accessory.

EDIT: Get the 3rd generation AD401 diffuser. It has a black collar and the diffuser lens sits flush inside; there's a little tab to flip the lens out. On older versions, the diffuser sat in front of the collar, creating more back scatter glare.
 
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rmacman

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Apr 9, 2014
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Thanks for the feedback. +2 for HL21. I'm just wondering if the mid setting with diffuser on will be too bright for up close work. I'll be in my crawl space under my house doing some work soon and am hoping it won't be too bright when working at arms length. I'm having trouble finding some beam shots or videos of the HL21 with and without diffuser.

The 'around the yard' type stuff is 90% of what I use my light for, and I didn't need to be too picky with that (although I was anyway!). The one that I would really hang my hat on is whether you can bike with it. That may be worth investing the extra ~$20 to get the brightest lamp available in the price range.
Actually the brightness for biking isn't too big a concern for me. I bike at night, but it's on lit streets. I have a handlebar light. Sure brighter is better, but the headlamp while biking is partly for me to help the cars notice me.

T

Check out: http://www.outdoorgearlab.com/Headlamp-Reviews/

I found this super informative, but I realized that I care more about sheer light output in a compact package, and saved up for the zebra. If you are sticking with the $20-35, I'd check out the two above. Good luck!

Wow. That's a great site. I'll definitely be looking at the lights you suggested. I just wish they had the fenix lights in their beam comparison photos&charts.
 

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