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headlamps and rechargeable batteries

Original Post
mike again · · Berkeley, CA · Joined Dec 2015 · Points: 40

I vaguely remember reading somewhere that it's not recommended to use rechargeable batteries (e.g., the Eneloop AA's and AAA's that I use for most everything) in headlamps. I have found out the hard way that they die very quickly (I have a small selection of BD headlamps vintage 5 years ago or so, and they have faded within a single descent, a few hours, so it's a dramatic reduction from alkalines).

My question is - why, and more importantly is there a workaround? Is this specific somehow to headlamps or am I just not noticing the battery life difference in other things I use them for around the house? I'd strongly prefer from an environmental perspective to use rechargeable ones.

Thanks for any thoughts.

Ronald Beimel · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 0

Not sure why, but the workaround would be to use a headlamp that takes a lithium rechargeable battery (instead of the Eneloops that are Nickel metal hydride). For example I saw the Nitecore HC60 recommended recently on Reddit.

cyclestupor · · Woodland Park, Colorado · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 93

Here's another vote for Nitecore, and lithium rechargables. I haven't tried the HC60, but I love my HC30.

Brian L. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 90

Some thoughts, related to the NiMH batteries you're using:

1) Old batteries have less capacity from going through many recharge cycles. This could be an impacting factor.

2)Maybe what's happening is the batteries are discharging while in the device (self discharge). NiMH tend to lose significant charge over a short period of time. We're talking a few percent a day vs. a few percent a year for regular alkaline.

3)Batteries could have been damaged through overcharging.

Chris C. · · Seattle, WA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 296

Rechargeable batteries aren't reliable enough for something that I trust my life with. I roll with a rechargeable Petzl lamp as my main, but a AAA BD lamp as a backup. It's amazing how many times the AAA BD lamp gets used.

Then I buy one of these once every year or two:…;qid=1485984865&sr=sr-1&keywords=lithium%2Baaa&th=1

batguano · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 135

Alkaline cells are typically 1.5 volts each, while rechargeable nimh and nicad cells are usually 1.2 volts. I suspect the voltage discrepancie is the source of your problem. A lot of modern headlamps will shut off completely when the voltage drops below a certain point.

"Canada" Eric Ruljancich · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2007 · Points: 375

I use Eneloop AAA batteries in all of my headlamps and they work great. Both Petzl and BD headlamps. I have been doing this for years. It's great because I can charge the batteries before I go out instead of guessing how much juice I have left in my alkaline ones. However, I always like to have a set up back up alkaline ones just in case.

trevor stuart · · Aurora, Colorado · Joined Mar 2014 · Points: 105

i recommend this guy:…;psc=1

super powerful light. uses rechargeable batteries which i've had no issue. i've read that lithium batteries are able to provide more power/light than regular batteries and are preferable.

Alex Rogers · · Sydney, Australia · Joined Sep 2010 · Points: 40

My BD Revolt head torch uses 3x NiMH rechargeable batteries, and can be recharged by plugging in to USB, which I love. It has a charge status indicator so easy to tell if it is getting low - and if you carry a backup set, you can use regular disposable or rechargeable NiMH batteries. I really like this solution. Torch itself is decent rather than spectacular, perfectly adequate for normal use (but not the best for spotting sugar gliders 100m up a blue gum).

I use Eneloops and other rechargeables in my families other torches, and get good mileage out of them. After 3-4 years of use, they don't recharge as well, at which point I recycle them.

So you certainly can use rechargeables, go for it!

anotherclimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 70

I've been using an older revision Black Diamond ReVolt head lamp for three years with the included rechargeable NiMH AAA batteries very successfully. With a full charge I've never had the batteries run out when climbing into the night.

With that being said, I have learned the hard way that the device draws phantom power as it does not have a true on off switch. And the batteries possibly also lose some charge over time. So I've learned to charge the batteries the evening before I go climbing, in addition to storing the device with the batteries outside of the unit when not being used for long periods of time and keeping backup alkaline batteries with me just in case.

Another thing I learned about this is that if you over discharge the batteries, the head lamp goes into a "resurrection charge cycle" that takes up to twelve hours to finish.

I just learned the other day that the rechargeable NiMH batteries that Black Diamond includes with it and sells separately are rated at 1000mA-Hr. This is more than most typical NiMH batteries. The majority of them tend to be around 750 or 800.

With that said, my next upgrade will likely be a Nitecore or Fenix rechargeable headlamp. Those things seem to be miles ahead of what climbing gear companies are making. And that's what I would recommend for others looking into a rechargeable head lamp.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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