Princeton Tec Sync
$30, 2.9 oz. (including three AAA batteries)
Hiking down the steep, rocky, frequently slippery trails of Mount Washington in the dark for the final 90 minutes of a 17-mile, 6,000-vertical-foot dayhike over the four summits of New Hampshire’s Northern Presidential Range, the last thing I needed was a headlamp that wasn’t bright enough or lost power. With the Sync, those issues weren’t a problem. In fact, its brightest setting threw a broad beam that illuminated the lower Tuckerman Ravine Trail well enough that two teenagers in our party who had forgotten their headlamps could see. Considering also that the Sync is one of the lightest, cheapest, and simplest headlamps on the market today, and it’s hard to find fault with it.
I also used the Sync on a four-day, 34-mile family backpacking trip on the Rockwall Trail in Kootenay National Park in the Canadian Rockies, and a three-day, 34-mile backpacking trip on the Royal Arch Loop in the Grand Canyon; and I carried it (didn’t need to use it) on a 25-mile dayhike in the Grand Canyon, from Hermits Rest to Bright Angel Trailhead.
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If you don’t need a headlamp that requires reading a manual and costs more than your hiking shoes, the Sync may be just what you’ve been looking for. It has five modes that deliver all the versatility that virtually any backcountry user could need: dual beam (max output 150 lumens and max range 58 meters on fresh batteries), spot, high flood, low flood, and red. One dial spins quickly through the modes—no multiple clicking—and there’s a lockout position that prevents accidental turning on inside a pack or a pocket.
Burn time ranges from 75 to 200 hours—so you not only won’t lose power at a crucial moment, you don’t even really have to carry extra batteries (unless you’re on a long, committing expedition). It’s not rechargeable—it runs on three AAA batteries (included). And that’s about the only negative comment I can think of making about the Sync.
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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.