Gear Review: Black Diamond Storm Headlamp

Black Diamond Storm
$50, 3.9 oz. (with 4 AAA batteries, included)

As darkness and light rain both fell on a partner and I for the last couple of miles of a 27-mile dayhike the length of western Maine’s brutally rugged Mahoosuc Range, I slipped the Storm onto my head—which helped prevent my shuffling and occasional staggering from turning into falling. I also used this ultralight headlamp in campsites from Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve and Yosemite National Park to backpacking the Grand Canyon’s Thunder River-Deer Creek Loop. Through all that field testing, the Storm proved itself one of the best high-performance headlamps on the market today. Here’s why.

Few backcountry headlamps have the Storm’s range of features and power, and perhaps none do at its price. For starters, it sports 350 lumens of power in its two LED bulbs—a very bright spotlight and an excellent LED proximity beam for illuminating a campsite, tent interior, or a map or book page. That’s brighter than most headlamps in this weight class. Night vision mode offers three colors: the most common, red, plus green (useful for hunters because it doesn’t disturb game animals), and blue (which cuts through fog). The Storm is rated IP67, meaning it’s both dustproof and waterproof to one meter for up to 30 minutes.

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Black Diamond Storm headlamp.
Black Diamond Storm headlamp.

As with other BD headlamps, the Storm has a couple of features I use frequently: Power Tap technology, which allows you to switch instantly between a dimmed level (that you set) and full brightness simply by tapping the side of the casing; and Brightness Memory, which lets you power the light on and off at a chosen brightness level without having to go to full power (draining batteries).

While the instructions can appear complicated at first glance, using the Storm is fairly intuitive; and anyone who’s owned a BD headlamp of recent vintage will find it familiar. Depress the power button once for on-off, twice to change modes—for instance, from spotlight to proximity beam in white, or from red to green to blue when in a night mode. Press it three times to enter strobe for whichever mode it’s in. In any mode, hold it down when turned on to dim and brighten. Hold two seconds to change between white and red LED modes, and double-click in red mode to switch to green and blue; all three colors have a strobe option.

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Black Diamond Storm headlamp open.
Black Diamond Storm headlamp open.

Like other BD lamps, the Storm locks off by depressing the power button for four seconds (a blue light will blink rapidly for three seconds when it’s locked off)—a very useful feature to prevent accidentally draining your batteries inside your pack.

Operating on four AAA batteries, it has a longer battery life than many ultralight competitors: BD puts it at 40 hours of battery life at high power, and says that’s based on testing battery life down to the threshold of what is considered “usable” light, for which the industry standard (also used by other companies) is 0.25 lux at two meters. At low power, battery life is up to 120 hours, according to BD.

But that leads to a minor drawback of the Storm: Four batteries make it slightly heavier than the lightest headlamps, and it feels a little bulkier on your head. Although it never bobbed, even when hiking fast, runners may find it a little large. A lever lock provides easy access to the battery compartment without requiring a tool. Any rechargeable batteries can be used in the Storm.

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Whether you’re hiking or descending from a climb after dark, route-finding, starting a dawn-patrol ski run long before sunup, firing up a stove, or just kicking around the campsite at night, the Storm is one of the two or three most versatile, high-performance ultralight headlamps on the market.

At just $10 more than the popular Black Diamond Spot, the Storm has more features and brightness, along with slightly more weight. Some users may not need that enhanced performance. But hard-core wilderness backpackers, climbers, hunters, and ultra-hikers will appreciate the brightness boost, watertight housing, and rangy feature set that can handle any adventure—at a competitive price.

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See my “Gear Review: The 5 Best Headlamps,” and all of my reviews of headlamps, hiking gear, and backpacking gear at The Big Outside.

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.

—Michael Lanza

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