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Headlamp recommendations? Princeton Tec, anyone?


Original Post
Sam Day · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2015 · Points: 0

Just as I get ready to leave for a trip, both of my headlamps have started acting up. One is a BD, the other is a Petzl. I think I'd like to look outside of those brands. Anyone recommendations would be great! I've heard good things about Princeton Tec in terms of performance and customer service. Can anyone chime in re: PT lamps?

Cheers,
Sam

Adam Fleming · · Keystone, CO · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 303

I had a PT Fred. It was alright. You're right about the customer service. A year after I bought the light, the battery cover broke. PT send me out a new light, asking only for shipping cost. Still, I don't think a headlamp should break after a year of normal use.

My sister got the new BD Spot and I'm insanely jealous. Brightest light for the price by far. Seems durable, but time will tell. The flood light seems great for nighttime descents. It has tons of nifty features for a headlamp that only costs $40.
I would buy a Spot if I had to buy one again.

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

Yeah, I've had the BD Spot for a few years and like it. Why would you avoid BD headlamps? Just because one stopped working? You have to put batteries in them. :)

Mathias · · Loveland, CO · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 308

I have a PT, I don't use it much because it's dedicated to climbing activities and I try not to get benighted. It's definitely my favorite headlamp. Made in the USA too, apparently.

Jonathan Kao · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 0

the coast hl7 is awesome and pretty cheap

Luc Ried · · Batesville, AR · Joined Mar 2014 · Points: 440

Check steepandcheap for some good deals on headlamps right now. Got a Mammut SpotX for ~$25. Great deal for 200 lumens.

mattm · · TX · Joined Jun 2006 · Points: 1,390

The big name outdoor companies are a few generations behind in the LED tech department. They do occasionally offer features one might like but you often pay more money for less lumens and inferior power options aka 3xAAA. I have almost completely moved over to modern tech power; Single AA, rechargeable Lithium packs or 18650 powered options for my "big gun" lights. Some of Petzl's yet-to-be-released lights are getting there.

Take a look at Zerbralights H52 series, Thrunite TH20 for AA
Depending on planned use, a rechargeable option might be nice. I've been surprised by a cheapo Foxelli light on Amazon. Buttons are a bit rough but it works well - I got it as a cheap running low get as I prefer the rear mount battery and too strap for that.
Fenix has a new HP25r that looks really good as well.

Dan Africk · · Brooklyn, New York · Joined May 2014 · Points: 285

Agreed with Matt, I'm continually amazed by how far behind pretty much all outdoor brand lights are. Why none of them use a Cree LED (the brightest and most efficient LEDs) is beyond me- when you look at high performance flashlights, pretty much every single one uses Cree, and for good reason. And most headlamps seem to be packed with frivolous features and multiple LEDs to compensate for using mediocre LEDs..

My #1 headlamp recommendation, hands-down, is Zebralight. I've been using them for years for hiking, climbing, and backpacking (including a full PCT thru-hike), and have always found them simple, reliable, rugged, and extremely bright. All metal, no plastic, no frivolous flashing or red light modes to clutter up the interface. I love that it uses a single battery, which makes changes and carrying spares super simple- I often change the battery without even taking it off my head, and it only takes a few seconds. And you can lock it out by slightly unscrewing the battery cap, so that it won't turn on in your pocket and drain the battery. Several of my friends have bought Zebralights after seeing me use one (really I should be getting a commission..).

The best models I think are the H32Fw or H52Fw, depending on your battery preference. They have a good compromoise between spot and flood, and good color temperature. The H32 is slightly smaller and brighter, and uses CR123 cells, the latter uses AAs, which have the obvious advantage of being available everywhere.
The thing people don't realize about CR123 batteries is that while they are super expensive in retail stores, they are dirt cheap online ($1 each on batteryjunction). And they are smaller, much more powerful, lighter, work better in cold weather, and have a longer shelf life than alkaline AAs. And while you can use lithium AAs to get some of those benefits, those are very expensive, since no one seems to make generic lithium AAs.

The one downside I'll mention is that if you use it on high most of the time (and who has the discipline not to?), the battery life is pretty short. But the batteries are cheap, light, and tiny, so that doesn't bother me. You can use rechargeables, which I started doing mostly for environmental reasons, but rechargeable CR123s at least don't last very long.

If you look into something other than Zerbralight, at the very least insist on something that uses a Cree LED- I really think anything else isn't worth the money.

Zerbralight H32Fw

Zebralight H52Fw

CR123 cell
Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 483

Dan how much resistance to turning in the housing do those zebralights have? I could see them either rotating down while running or being a pita to turn when you're going from up to downhill if they didn't nail the tension.

Personally I've had nothing but trouble with BD lights. Their lock mode doesn't work for shit, it's very easy for the main button to get depressed by other items in your pack and the light to come on. I had a storm, the screw holding the panel closed made installing batteries in the field annoying. I tried the last generation spot, hoping I could leave batteries out until I needed the light. After one season of light use the tension on the battery terminals is low. The tension on the plastic clip when you pop it closed is high. At least half the time I close it a battery slides out of place and looses contact.

Mathias · · Loveland, CO · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 308

Not sure if it was mentioned (I just scanned the posts), but the big downside I've found with CR123 cells in a flashlight is that although they give consistent power throughout their life cycle (the flashlight doesn't dim as the cells are used), they will simply quit when they are out of juice with no warning at all. This has happened to me in Surefire lights. Though on lights with two brightness settings, even when the cells won't power the high setting any longer, they will still power the low setting for a while longer. This has been my only form of low power warning.

Otherwise, I really prefer the CR123s.

Parker Wrozek · · Denver, CO · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 83

Petzl Tikka 2 works fine for me. I use it for camping and climbing and working around the house. I would rather have 1 lamp than a bunch so I like red light mode and variable brightness.

Dan Africk · · Brooklyn, New York · Joined May 2014 · Points: 285
Nick Drake wrote:Dan how much resistance to turning in the housing do those zebralights have? I could see them either rotating down while running or being a pita to turn when you're going from up to downhill if they didn't nail the tension.
The holder is silicone and grips it pretty well, not super tight but I've never had a problem with it slipping out of place. But I don't run with a headlamp, so I can't say for sure that it wouldn't move from the vibration. I've done lots of hiking and climbing by headlamp and never had an issue. I imagine that if you did, worst case you could wrap it with some kind of tape to make increase the body diameter and increase the tension, but I doubt you'd need to.

One of my zebralights more or less permanently lives on my climbing helmet. When I'm not using it, I keep it rotated so that the lens is facing the helmet and more protected, and I rotate it out when I use it.
Dan Africk · · Brooklyn, New York · Joined May 2014 · Points: 285
Mathias wrote:Not sure if it was mentioned (I just scanned the posts), but the big downside I've found with CR123 cells in a flashlight is that although they give consistent power throughout their life cycle (the flashlight doesn't dim as the cells are used), they will simply quit when they are out of juice with no warning at all. This has happened to me in Surefire lights. Though on lights with two brightness settings, even when the cells won't power the high setting any longer, they will still power the low setting for a while longer. This has been my only form of low power warning. Otherwise, I really prefer the CR123s.
It's not really an issue with CR123s, as with the light itself. Most high performance lights, including the vast majority of lights that use CR123s, have circuitry that provides 'regulation', meaning it will regulate the power output so that you get a flat discharge and a constant level of light, until the battery voltage is so low that the circuitry can't compensate, and the light output drops very steeply. This is an intended feature. Lights without regulation have the light output drop gradually as the voltage drops, pretty much from the very beginning, especially when using alkaline batteries. Also as you mention, when there isn't enough power for high, it will still light on low for a while.

Anyway there are two ways to address the sudden loss of output:

- Always keep spare batteries handy, and be familiar with your light so you can change batteries easily. I keep a spare battery in the pocket of my chalk bag, and more in my climbing pack. If I'm planning to do night climbing or hiking, I usually keep a spare battery in my pocket also (especially in the winter, since it keeps the battery warm!).

- If suddenly losing light would be critical (i.e. in the middle of leading a trad climb), make sure you check the battery level or put a fresh battery in it before climbing, and maybe use it one of the lower brightness settings until you're almost done with the climb. The H32Fw on 95 lumens lasts 4 hours, and is still brighter than many headlamps out there..

Btw there is also a rough battery level indication, you tap the power button a few times rapidly, and it flashes 1-4 times to tell you the battery level.

Also, there's a trick that works with most lights: when the light suddenly dims, turn it off for a minute or two (or more of you can). The battery will 'recover' voltage and give you full brightness when you turn it back on. It won't last long, probably a minute or two or less, but it's something.
Using the light intermittently and turning it off when you don't need it will increase the run time also- batteries like to rest also, and constant use will drain it more than the same amount of total run time broken up. This goes for any type of light or battery.

But I just carry a spare battery, so I run it on high as much as I want and don't worry about it.
sonvclimbing · · bolder city · Joined Dec 2008 · Points: 25

Fenix hp12

Dan Africk · · Brooklyn, New York · Joined May 2014 · Points: 285
sonvclimbing wrote:Fenix hp12
Looks like a very good light also, if you don't mind a separate battery compartment on the back of your head/helmet. As such lights go it's pretty compact, and the second battery or 18650 cell adds a lot to the runtime.
For running, the balance from distributing weight to the back of the head, along with the removable strap on top of your head might work better.

Fenix makes excellent flashlights, I have a few and in fact just bought a new PD35. For headlamps I still prefer the compactness and simplicity of the Zebralights, and there's no cords or battery compartments to worry about, but I don't think you'd be disappointed with this one. And I like how they show the HP12 on a climbing helmet, the exact same one I use no less!

Fenix HP12
Trevor. · · Boise, ID · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 849
Fenix HL60R

Throws 1000 lumens of high quality white light, runs for 10+ hrs at 150 lumens, is IPX8 waterproof, and has a built in USB charger for the included 18650 battery(can also run 2x CR123). The top head strap is completely removable. The only real downside is that it's kinda bulky and heavy, but it's in a whole different class than any other headlamp I've used. Definitely worth the weight for most of my uses. Also, if you sign up for Fenix's member thing, they give you a coupon bringing it down to around $60.
Daryl Allan · · Sierra Vista, AZ · Joined Sep 2006 · Points: 1,065

I found a Princeton Tec headlamp at the base of a formation buried under at least four seasons of leaf litter, sticks and debris (I was looking for some tape I dropped from the 1st anchor). It looked like it had been dropped from way up, had gobs of scratches, etc. Took it home, cleaned the batteries and corrosion out of it, put new ones in and it's been working ever since. Ymmv..

Rick Blair · · Denver · Joined Oct 2007 · Points: 268

Got a princetontec, its my favorite lamp. Petzl is next and I have a few BDs. What the hell, they all work.

I like a lamp with a red option, awesome in mixed lighting conditions (dusk/dawn) or strong moon light, etc.

Systematic · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 321

I really like my Petzl Tikka RXP. On constant mode you can get 130 lms for 6hrs or 220 lms for 3.5hrs, which is already great, but I've used it for over 10hrs on a single charge by using reactive lighting. I think it can run for days in low intensity (red). Don't need to carry spares or worry about it burning out in the middle of a route. It charges off USB so you can use one of those power banks to recharge if away from outlets. The interface can be confusing, but you'll get it eventually.

Ryanb. · · Chatt or WA · Joined Mar 2014 · Points: 5

Felix HP 15ue has been decent. Up to 900 lumens on AA's, a bit heavy but not unreasonable with lithiums

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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