Black Diamond ReVolt
$60, 3.5 oz. (with 3 AAA batteries, included)
Updated in 2017, Black Diamond’s ReVolt rechargeable headlamp quickly became the one I grabbed from a drawer full of headlamps, for trips ranging from backpacking 40 miles in May through Utah’s Dark Canyon Wilderness, to backcountry skiing for four days in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains and camping in Idaho’s Sawtooth Valley. Beyond the convenience of running on either its USB-rechargeable NiMH batteries or standard AAA alkaline batteries, it offers a variety of modes and features not found in other headlamps—including BD’s PowerTap technology to instantly cycle between brightness settings, plus being waterproof—at a competitive price.
A single click of the power button turns on the TriplePower white LED, a focused beam with a range that I found effectively illuminates objects at a distance of at least 100 feet on a dark night in the backcountry when using the rechargeable batteries (BD claims 68 meters/223 feet on a full charge). Holding the power button depressed dims and brightens that bulb; and at the upper end of brightness, the DoublePower white LED kicks on in tandem with the TriplePower white LED. BD states that they deliver together a max brightness of 300 lumens, but that’s only with alkaline batteries; the rechargeables deliver a max brightness of 175 lumens, still plenty bright enough for most backcountry needs.
The DoublePower white LED is a proximity bulb—which can be turned on alone by double clicking the power button—that disperses light more broadly over a shorter distance, and is also dimmable. Alone, the proximity bulb illuminates a trail well enough for hiking, but I usually prefer using the TriplePower white LED and its dimming/brightening function for most purposes. When the two white bulbs are both on, at the ReVolt’s max brightness, they throw more light, of course, but the proximity bulb does not increase the maximum distance of the headlamp’s light; it simply better illuminates a wider area immediately in front of you. Still, the two white-light modes, along with the dimming function, provide more than enough range and variety for dayhikers, backpackers, climbers, trail runners, and backcountry skiers, whether you’re hiking a trail, searching for rappel anchors, or trying to follow an off-trail route in the dark.
The unique PowerTap technology is something I found myself using often: In either of the two white modes, you can dim the light, then tap the right side of the headlamp casing with a finger to instantly toggle back and forth between that dimmed level and max brightness—very helpful whether you’re in camp or on the move and need to briefly see something at a distance.
When the headlamp’s off, holding the power button down for a couple of seconds switches between the white TriplePower LED and the DoublePower red LED—which brightens your immediate surroundings while allowing your eyes to remain adjusted to darkness. When in red mode, holding the button down dims/brightens that light, and triple clicking it activates the red strobe mode.
Like other BD lamps, the ReVolt locks off by depressing the power button for several seconds—a critical feature to prevent accidentally draining your batteries inside your pack, which I’ve seen happen with headlamps that lack a lockout feature. Depending on how you use the ReVolt’s modes, the rechargeable batteries last anywhere from six to 75 hours on a single charge, and fresh alkalines 20 to 175 hours, according to BD. Using the rechargeable batteries, I got through the three aforementioned backcountry trips with the ReVolt’s meter still showing green—meaning at least 50 percent charge remaining.
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The IPX8 rating means it’s waterproof in water more than a meter deep for 30 minutes—which effectively means in any precipitation or anyplace most backcountry users might accidentally drop it and still be able to retrieve it (like a creek or fairly shallow lake). The three-level power meter lights up green, orange, or red to give an approximation of remaining power in the batteries. The widely adjustable strap fits even the biggest skulls and helmets and is comfortable to wear for hours. Rechargeable batteries typically last for several hundred recharges before reaching the end of their lifespan, but they can also lose effectiveness over time, even if not used much.
An excellent value for its versatility and features, BD’s ReVolt headlamp is ideal for most outdoor activities and eliminates the cost and waste stream of throwaway batteries—thus, erasing over time its higher price compared to non-rechargeable headlamps.
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NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.
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