Small hiking, waterproof, uber reliable headlamp recommendations

De-Lux

De-Lux

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I don't know why you would get slammed for sharing your own experience but mine is exactly the opposite too.
Yeah, I guess everybody's mileage varies. Ironically, one of the most problematic brands I have owned happens to be HDS. I had issues with 2 out of 4. Meanwhile, I have a cheap Dorcy that I purchased 20 years ago and keep in my glove box that is still going strong. Go figure.
 
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tex.proud

tex.proud

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2 brands already mentioned, Zebraligt and Armytech, are highly recommended by me. I have a few models of both and had zero issues. I've even dropped them into the 9ft deep end of a pool for 5 minutes, and still running strong. Just clean dirt from the crevice between the cap and body before opening either.

The Armytech with the TIR optic seems to me to be a bit more for close up applications. Say within a room or around the camp site. The Zebralight seems to work better for seeing down the trail, or longer distances. Still works fine up close mind you.

Both brands have headlamp models in AA, CR123, and 18650 so take your pick. As for recharging, the new Armytech models have magnetic recharging, so no port/plug to open up or leak. Zebralight does not yet have that feature. With a charger and power bank or solar panel you can recharge easily.

Run times are long on both, and comparable for practical uses. I prefer the "Memory" one click on feature of the Armytech UI though.

What I carry while camping, hiking, or off-roading with a group.
Armytech on left, Zebralight right both 18650

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That particular ZL was lost one night while off-roading. Fell off my head into about 3 feet of mud while getting my vehicle out of it. Found it the next day. Battery was dead, because I had it on high when I lost it, but after 13 hours in the mud, I just cleaned it off, and back in business after a recharge.
 
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rickypanecatyl

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Thanks so much everyone for the excellent ideas!
 
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rickypanecatyl

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I would take, however, a couple Folomov A1 chargers and at least one spare 18650 (I carry a spare 18650 in a ZL SC64c, but I guess there are other battery carriers!)

In all seriousness, there are relatively small 18650 lights with built-in USB charging--the light itself becomes a spare cell holder and a backup charger, besides obviously being a flashlight.

Thanks for this! I hadn't seen the Folomov chargers before and the spare 18650 light as a battery holder is a great idea!
 
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rickypanecatyl

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I would think that a light with external battery pack would have a greater chance of leaking and even though built in USB charging is convenient it also would be another place to leak but then most lights have rubber caps on the switches a place to leak.

I've noticed 3 different styles of charging built into lights and am curious which one is the most reliable/waterproof:
1. micro or C USB under a rubber flap.
2. USB port protected under under screwed threads.
3. Magnetic charging cable that attaches to the outside.

I've assumed the magnetic charging cable would be the most waterproof - but it does require an extra cable to bring.

(On that note, I'm curious if anyone has any tough/waterproof power banks you'd recommend? I've tried several brands of lightweight dry sacks to keep electronics dry and am not happy with any of them. Osprey/Sea to Summit have to treated EXTREMELY delicately to not tear; the thicker ones really add up in weight fast. For the expense of the lightweight versions they barely beat incredibly cheap ziploc bags. Random side topic: I remember watching a Bear Grylls show with my girls where he started with a large group and was eliminating 1 pair per episode. In one episode with river crossings and hard rain everyone's gear was wet and he yelled at them for not making sure their gear was waterproof. I think they were all using his label of waterproof packs. I was disappointed he never went into HOW to make sure everything in your pack is waterproof when we live in a day of products with big claims but poor performance. I was hoping to learn something... everyone I do this stuff with frequently uses plastic trash bags but I'm thinking/hoping there has to be an improvement on that for those willing to pay the money?)
 
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rickypanecatyl

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Your story of your child going without you just made my heart drop. My neighbor on the next block down lost his only daughter of highschool age to an explosive device while delivering books to a school over there in the middle east for an NGO. We memorialize it every year. I walk past their house daily. Something I'll never forget. I know the probability is low and such, but this sticks with me any time someone goes over there.

I am so sorry to hear about your neighbor's daughter - that is heartbreaking! The risk is real of course - a good friend of mine was shot/wounded in Baghouz a few months ago and a friend/translator was killed in Mosul last year. The casualties of the people we're going to help are so much greater of course. FWIW though my daughters deeply love and respect me they think of me as "hyper over protective!" What they mean by that is I won't let them have a smart phone, watch TV and stuff like that!
 
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rickypanecatyl

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2 brands already mentioned, Zebraligt and Armytech, are highly recommended by me.

Thanks for the pics Tex Proud - they look loved! :)

I've actually had pretty bad experience with Armytek's reliability and worse with their "hassle free 10 year warranty." Mine have been good as far as waterproof goes but the tail cap switches constantly break. I've bought new ones and even gotten 2 with LOTS of work and back and forth communication with their "hassle free warranty" guys. 1 replacement (3mos later?) was dead on arrival; the other lasted 2 days.

From talking with Army tek I think they may actually believe their product is reliable... the way they explain it to me, their LIGHT is still good, it's just the tail cap that broke... almost like my light didn't work at all because it had a defective battery in it and they try to explain that's not them?

I see from your picture though the switch on the HL's looks quite different than on the Predator/Viking series so maybe they fixed it?
 
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rickypanecatyl

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As I think about it, despite the weight I'm leaning towards sending her with 3 lights; a big 18650 HL, a small, backup HL and a 18650 flashlight with built in charging to charge! :)

In the category of the 18650 light I'm considering the light I vetoed in the first post - the Fenix HP 12. It's now discontinued, but I don't see any replacement products that beat or tie the features that I liked about it earlier:

Qualities I liked about the HP12:
- Has higher durability claims than any current Fenix HL. 2M water AND 2M drop. Best new "claims" seem to be 2M water and 1M drop proof? It could be they're just as good with more realistic ratings?
- Weight balanced between the light in front and the 18650 battery at the back. It's the heaviest HL I trail run with but it works because of the balance. I don't see any current models that split the light and battery for balance?
- I liked the simplicity of it with no disco modes.

How I'd update it:
- XPL-Hi emitter for more throw; (I'd buy a 2nd one if they had a Hi CRI version as well); I'm guessing most would prefer the non-Hi... perhaps they could make 3 versions? :)
- Add a moonlight mode with simple instant access. (For NGO's with no weapons in combat zones, simple, intuitive access to a discreet moonlight mode is probably the most important when needing to be discreet!)
- Add the best, waterproof charging with no drain!
- Add some of those cool, sticky rubber dots they have on the back of my Polar H10 heart rate monitor chest strap that keeps the band in place!
 
Lynx_Arc

Lynx_Arc

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I've noticed 3 different styles of charging built into lights and am curious which one is the most reliable/waterproof:
1. micro or C USB under a rubber flap.
2. USB port protected under under screwed threads.
3. Magnetic charging cable that attaches to the outside.

I've assumed the magnetic charging cable would be the most waterproof - but it does require an extra cable to bring.

(On that note, I'm curious if anyone has any tough/waterproof power banks you'd recommend? I've tried several brands of lightweight dry sacks to keep electronics dry and am not happy with any of them. Osprey/Sea to Summit have to treated EXTREMELY delicately to not tear; the thicker ones really add up in weight fast. For the expense of the lightweight versions they barely beat incredibly cheap ziploc bags. Random side topic: I remember watching a Bear Grylls show with my girls where he started with a large group and was eliminating 1 pair per episode. In one episode with river crossings and hard rain everyone's gear was wet and he yelled at them for not making sure their gear was waterproof. I think they were all using his label of waterproof packs. I was disappointed he never went into HOW to make sure everything in your pack is waterproof when we live in a day of products with big claims but poor performance. I was hoping to learn something... everyone I do this stuff with frequently uses plastic trash bags but I'm thinking/hoping there has to be an improvement on that for those willing to pay the money?)
I think that the magnetic charging is probably the best and the rubber flap the worst. 100% sealed means no chance of leaks but typically that isn't possible or isn't the best option over all due to I prefer being able to replace batteries in lights because having to wait for a battery to be charged enough to continue long enough to suffice makes the light useless when simply swapping in a 100% charged battery allows for only a short interruption of use. The battery can then be recharged in a separate charger.
As for all the other waterproofing issues I've not gone beyond a ziplock bag in my thinking perhaps a plastic food jar. I was at one time looking at those waterproof boxes but since I have a phone case and a holster on my phone they either didn't fit or was way too big.
With bluetooth and small power banks and large ziplocks unless they leak you shouldn't need to have cables "leaking" out of a wateproof container I would think. I once saw a cheap device that runs off of batteries that can seal plastic by melting a seam in it that could be interesting as you could buy large bags and seal smaller devices into the plastic from them and just tear open the sealed bag when you need to use it and reseal it when done to waterproof it.
 
De-Lux

De-Lux

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2 brands already mentioned, Zebraligt and Armytech, are highly recommended by me.

Thanks for the pics Tex Proud - they look loved! :)

I've actually had pretty bad experience with Armytek's reliability and worse with their "hassle free 10 year warranty." Mine have been good as far as waterproof goes but the tail cap switches constantly break. I've bought new ones and even gotten 2 with LOTS of work and back and forth communication with their "hassle free warranty" guys. 1 replacement (3mos later?) was dead on arrival; the other lasted 2 days.

From talking with Army tek I think they may actually believe their product is reliable... the way they explain it to me, their LIGHT is still good, it's just the tail cap that broke... almost like my light didn't work at all because it had a defective battery in it and they try to explain that's not them?

I see from your picture though the switch on the HL's looks quite different than on the Predator/Viking series so maybe they fixed it?
I am curious exactly how the tailcaps broke. I ask this because both Zebralights that I had fail were from a failure at the tailcaps. I didn't bother trying to get it covered under warranty, instead I just purchased new tailcaps.
 
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finn

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Well, I am probably going to get slammed for saying it but I would stay away from Zebralight if Uber dependability is important. Had a couple fail and one after lite use. Don't get me wrong, I love my Zebralights, I own 4, fit and finish are excellent. Not super crazy about the UI and definitely would be reluctant bathing or showering with any of my Zebra lights.I would look at ArmyTek otherwise buy two Zebralight to have one as back up JIC. I would also go with a Head lamp that runs AA primaries especially for the environment you will be using the light. A dozen AA's would roughly be the weight and space of a LiPo charger and you can get AA's just about anywhere.

I am just one data point, but I've had the same experience. I wouldn't depend on one as a sole light. If you have a backup, then they are pretty nice. Lights with extreme runtime at low level are great for multi-day camping and backpacking and zebralight was one of the first to figure that out.
 
Stefano

Stefano

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I've noticed 3 different styles of charging built into lights and am curious which one is the most reliable/waterproof:
1. micro or C USB under a rubber flap.
2. USB port protected under under screwed threads.
3. Magnetic charging cable that attaches to the outside.

I use Zebralight and Armytek.
I bought Armytek (Wizard basic version with magnet) the first time because it was a discount offer, then I bought many other basic Wizard and Elf C2 (Elf has the Micro USB port)


After an initial skepticism I can guarantee the waterproofness of these Armytek, I used them in the rain but above all frequently washed under a jet of tap water.


Elf C2 has a non-durable USB port protection grommet but it is guaranteed to work without it and it seems to be true.
I'm a guy who loves Zebralight but I'm using Armytek more often, they cost me little so I don't care if they fall on the ground or if I risk losing them.


For your daughter's use, perhaps Armytek is better because it has the glass that is more protected (recessed), the magnetic recharge or Micro USB convenient because you don't have to take out the battery and you can use a solar panel or a powerbank directly.


Keep in mind that my positive experience has been with Basic version of Wizard and with ELF.
Of the professional version I read on the web of frequent failures (I have no idea if this has improved over time)
Excuse the bad translation.
 
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LittleBill

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maybe i am biased , but i have never had a single fenix failure, EVER. with any part of the light, and they see mud and water regularly, i have 0 hesitation of going underwater with them, and do so when the need arises.

that said i would never carry only 1 light nor would i only carry 1 battery, everything fails or can get damaged, get 2 lights and 4 batteries or more, i personally would go 18650, and that's coming from eneloops for many years, get the lights with the charger built in, or the battery with the charger built in, and you don't need a charger period.

good luck
 
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Gallen1119

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I've had an Olight H1R for a about 2.5 years with no problem. Backpacking + everything around the house with no issues. I really like the magnetic charging attachment. Some moisture exposure but I've never dunked it. Rated as IPX8, but as stated, I haven't tested this. I am not associated with Olight, but they do have a Christmas sale starting 12/16/19. I don't think the HR1 is going on sale, but I will be ordering one for my son with some other stuff!
 
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bbltint

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I am curious exactly how the tailcaps broke. I ask this because both Zebralights that I had fail were from a failure at the tailcaps. I didn't bother trying to get it covered under warranty, instead I just purchased new tailcaps.

I am curious how your ZL tailcaps broke? Which batteries you had in use?
 
De-Lux

De-Lux

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I am curious exactly how the tailcaps broke. I ask this because both Zebralights that I had fail were from a failure at the tailcaps. I didn't bother trying to get it covered under warranty, instead I just purchased new tailcaps.

I am curious how your ZL tailcaps broke? Which batteries you had in use?
AW 18650 protected in one (SC64w) and your standard AA primary in the other (H503c). Upon closer inspection it was definitely a shoddy solder job with both where the spring is soldered to the pcb. Fortunately getting a replacement tail cap was pretty painless. I still think they are great lights but wouldn't hurt to have a backup aroung just in cas.
 
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Lynx_Arc

Lynx_Arc

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Always have a backup light for sure regardless of how reliable a light is you can break or lose it leaving you in the dark plus if you have the same type of battery for both lights you can swap them back and forth if one light quits working you still have 2 batteries for the good one.
 
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WalkIntoTheLight

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AW 18650 protected in one (SC64w)

That could be part of the problem. The SC64 requires an unprotected flat-top cell, not much longer than 65mm. A protected cell, being longer, would put a lot of pressure on the tail spring. I think almost all the new Zebralights require unprotected flat-top cells. They did this to allow them to make the lights as small as possible.
 
Lumen83

Lumen83

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Always have a backup light for sure regardless of how reliable a light is you can break or lose it leaving you in the dark plus if you have the same type of battery for both lights you can swap them back and forth if one light quits working you still have 2 batteries for the good one.

This is what I do. My primary headlamp for hiking is an Olight H1N. And my spare battery carrier for the Olight H1N is a second Olight H1N.
 

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