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Thread: Need some guidance in choosing a new headlamp. Searching has only confused matters..

  1. #1

    Default Need some guidance in choosing a new headlamp. Searching has only confused matters..

    I am on the search for a new headlamp. I would prefer a single AA type if possible, but multiple AA's is acceptable. I could work with a rechargeable unit if it met my other criteria. A fully-adjustable rheostat-type switch would be ideal; like the Icon Irix used, where you twisted a knob to click it on, and then the more you twisted, the brighter it got, and vice versa for dimming and turning the light off. Simple and effective. No clicking through a million useless modes and colors and strobes. No crazy sub-levels to navigate with multiple clicks in a certain amount of time. Just an intuitive switch. If variable brightness is not available, at least 2 or 3 easy to access modes would suffice, with no battery-crushing super high mode and a usable medium mode and a low that is actually low (like 2 lumens or less).

    My current favorite headlamp is a Fenix HL20. My only real knock on it is that the mode levels are ridiculous. The lowest level (4 lumens) is way too bright for use in a tent or for cooking or reading a book, but just a little bit dim for trailfinding, especially in rougher terrain. I have no issues with how much throw it has and how little spill it produces. I prefer it that way, as with limited lumen output, I want mostly throw so a lumen or two can actually light something up that is several feet away, and the spill is just enough to give me some spacial awareness on the trail. The real problem is that the medium setting (45 lumens) drains the battery way too fast to use it very much, and is really overkill for trailfinding with such a throwy beam. The High setting (100 lumens) is useless. It doesn't appear to be much brighter than medium, if any at all, and kills the battery in less than 2 hours.

    I have looked at the Saint Minimus, but it has no throw, so it is out.
    I have the Icon Irix I and II, and even though I love their design, the led's are severely dated, and neither has much throw or very good battery life if you want enough light to see anything, so they are out.
    The dimmable LED Lenzer and Coast lights seem to all use AAA's, and the ones I have tried had terrible build quality, as well as no spill at all when put in throw mode (due to their fresnel lenses), which makes it hard to not trip over rocks and roots when looking down the trail for the next blaze on a tree, so they are out.
    I have the Zebralight with the warm tint and the floody throw beam. I thought it would be what I am looking for after reading all the great reviews on here. I actually dislike it intensely. The beam is not nearly as throwy as I want, and the bazillion modes and sub-modes are awful to navigate. The lack of a memory for the last mode used is terrible. It just starts in night vision-ruining high, unless you remember to hold the switch down long enough to start in low mode, but not loo long, or it goes to medium mode, and you have to cycle through the blinding high mode to get back to the low mode. Oh, and if not long enough, it blasts you with high mode again, which it can barely handle for any time before the battery is run down too far to go into high mode any more. I frankly find it tedious, unrewarding, and with terrible run time unless I walk around with it in the pathetically dim low mode that doesn't produce enough light or throw to do anything other than make people think you are a lightning bug.

    So, I don't think I am looking for an impossible product. I just want a light with an easy-to-use user interface that has logically spaced brightness levels (or infinitely-adjustable dimming), and a lot of throw. Something like 1 lumen low/ 10 lumen medium/ 50 lumen high (not that I care what the high mode is as I will probably never use it at all). If I could find one that uses AA's that would be perfect. I can't be the only person who thinks this would be a good combination, but sometimes I feel that way, with headlamp makers constantly clambering for more modes, more buttons, more clicking through menus, and the every-increasingly common low mode of 30 lumens. Who the heck needs 30 lumens to find their toothbrush in a backpack or to light their camp stove at night? I guess people that were just blinded by the 1600 lumen blast they had to navigate through to get to the low mode would be the answer to that. Am I going to have to try to build/mod my own light? That is beyond my skill set, but if anyone can give me some ideas or sell me a product/mod that will fit this description I would be ecstatic.

    Thanks in advance guys.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Need some guidance in choosing a new headlamp. Searching has only confused matte

    I almost want to make fun of you for being so picky but i have been there. "I cant be the only one who wants exactly this feature set!!!" And spend days searching when i would almost rather be hiking in the dark. I have grown to endure or even enjoy the clicking through modes. Most of the new clever ones have a way around blinding yourself on the way to ultralow/low. But i do miss the press-and-hold ramp up brightness i had on some of my REI headlamps.
    The necessity for AAs is puzzling to me, and limits your options to more mainstream. My first thought would be Zebralight but that's a kinda crazy UI as you said, and if i remember from my ZL headlamp, even the direct access to low gives you a little flash of high.
    Have you looked at the Nitecore HA20? Runs on two AAs, It has a dual-stage button, red lights (only operate at 16lm), good mode spacing. No direct access to low, but it has memory function. Still, to get back to low you need to cycle through brights.
    Another Nitecore is the rechargeable HC90, which has a slide on top that gets you variable light (starting at 0.2lm and up to 900lm) and 3 colored LEDs by sliding in the other direction. That's the closest thing i can think of to a dial. That light runs on one 18650. I have heard good things about the slide function.
    Anyways, i will keep an eye out for the perfect AA light. I have never looked before. Good Luck.

  3. #3
    Flashaholic Gryffin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need some guidance in choosing a new headlamp. Searching has only confused matte

    Quote Originally Posted by Sphinxxx View Post
    I have grown to endure or even enjoy the clicking through modes. Most of the new clever ones have a way around blinding yourself on the way to ultralow/low.
    Thankfully, some newer lights have "shortcuts" to low mode directly from OFF. Haven't seen it on many headlamps yet, unfortunately.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sphinxxx View Post
    The necessity for AAs is puzzling to me, and limits your options to more mainstream.
    I guess it depends on the sort of hiking he does. If he's only out for a night, he'd be fine with a single battery. If he's say, through-hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail, it's a lot easier to but fresh AAs in the town off-trail, than to carry multiple 18650s and a charger.

    (Personally, I stick with the AA format for my EDC pocket light, and the headlamp in my bag; I'm looking to do the same for my truck carry as well. It does simplify logistics when everything takes the same, easily sourced batteries.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Sphinxxx View Post
    Have you looked at the Nitecore HA20? Runs on two AAs, It has a dual-stage button, red lights (only operate at 16lm), good mode spacing. No direct access to low, but it has memory function.
    As it happens, I've been eyeing that one myself. I'm disappointed there's no direct access to low (there *is* direct access to red LEDs, so there's that), especially since every light they've introduced lately seems to have that feature.

    A little birdie told me the HA20 is at EOL, and Nitecore is coming out with a replacement of some sort. That's all I know, however; hopefully, many Bothans won't have to give their lives to get more info soon…
    "I'm not afraid of the dark. The dark is afraid of ME!"

  4. #4
    Flashaholic
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    Default Re: Need some guidance in choosing a new headlamp. Searching has only confused matte

    I've been in this boat. There are not many thrower headlamps in single AA format that I have found.

    I went to flood for headlamp and handheld for thrower.

    Princeton Tec Apex is multiple AA but I think the low would still be to hi for your uses.

    I personally cant handle a thrower headlamp. But I sure will keep an eye out next time I am surfing the china shops.
    I just pre-showered. Preserve my night vision , wait I have night vision ?

  5. #5

    Default Re: Need some guidance in choosing a new headlamp. Searching has only confused matte

    Quote Originally Posted by Gryffin View Post
    As it happens, I've been eyeing that one myself. I'm disappointed there's no direct access to low (there *is* direct access to red LEDs, so there's that), especially since every light they've introduced lately seems to have that feature.

    A little birdie told me the HA20 is at EOL, and Nitecore is coming out with a replacement of some sort. That's all I know, however; hopefully, many Bothans won't have to give their lives to get more info soon…
    Ya thats what i was saying. They really ruined the light by giving direct access to a 16lm red rather than the ultralow. There does need to be direct access to both though, so i don't know the answer, im just complaining. The two stage button is awesome, i love it on the MH20, but its totally different on the HA20. No direct access to low is an absolute deal-breaker for me.

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